Science@FELs 2020 virtual conference attracted record attendance

Biannual conference hosted by DESY and XFEL this year went online

Rebecca Boll won FELs of Europe prize

Rebecca Boll from the European XFEL won this year's FELs of Europe prize, which was awarded by EuXFEL scientific director Serguei Molodtsov (left) (Credit: DESY).

The Science@FELs conference is organised biannually by the 'FELs of Europe' collaboration and has evolved into one of the most important international conferences in free-electron laser (FEL) science, highlighting scientific progress made in this field. With a record registration number of more than 700 participants for this first virtual conference, the internet cables were 'running hot' from 14-16 September 2020 to host the exchange of most recent results from FELs around the world. The preparations for the conference at DESY and European XFEL were already in full swing to welcome participants in Hamburg, when the Covid-19 pandemic required a re-organisation of the whole event as a virtual format.

The virtual Science@FELs2020 conference featured a lively exchange within nine invited sessions across the many fields of science that are conducted at FELs. Participants joined in to listen to talks on new developments, imaging, materials science, magnetic and correlated materials, femto-chemistry, catalysis, atomic and molecular physics, bioscience and laser physics. Taking place largely in the afternoon for European participants, also scientists from America got up early in the morning, while Asian colleagues stayed up until late at night to participate in the sessions.

The conference was accompanied by three focus tutorials led by eminent FEL scientists in order to teach younger scientists. Furthermore, everybody got a chance to present most recent results in two poster sessions. While this virtual poster session was a novel experience for nearly everybody, fruitful discussions took place and participants enjoyed the event.

During a virtual tour through FLASH and European XFEL facilities, the participants were also able to witness a behind-the-scenes experience with a live stream from the FLASH accelerator tunnel, experimental halls and laser hutches as well as special insights into all instruments at XFEL in dedicated videos and Q&A sessions.

During the Science@FELs2020 conference, this year’s FELs of Europe prize in recognition of recent work for scientific excellence in the area of FEL science and applications was awarded to Dr. Rebecca Boll (European XFEL) "for her outstanding research on multiple ionisation of rare gases and photoinduced dynamics of ring-type molecules. The results obtained demonstrate the rich and unique potential of X-ray science at FELs."