Taking active parts in conferences is an essential part of the scientific maturing process. Now, after my first large conference taking place in person, I can truly confirm that the discussions with various experts of the field and presentation of own research results is an inspiring and scientifically, culturally and personally enriching experience. That is why I would like to share some of my impressions gathered during the Intermag conference that took place in Sendai, Tohoku, Japan in mid-May.
It took only the time after landing to the immigration queue, until I met the first friendly faces familiar to me since the European School on Magnetism last year. In the subsequent days I catched up with many friends from Leuven, Grenoble, and Gothenburg, that I met thanks to the great exchange within the SPEAR program. Maybe even more importantly, I met many colleagues from all around the world working on very similar topics, that I was only partially aware of and I am most thankful for broadening my horizon in this regard. Lastly, meeting and talking to people that are famous within the spintronics community and whose publications I studied during the last two years was very motivating.
My own oral contribution dealt with the study on using unconventional pulse shapes employed for SOT-switching of MTJs and I am quite satisfied with the outcome, stimulating several questions that lead to more extended conversations and exchange after my talk.
Travelling and meeting people from around the world is not only about science: The Intermag organisers prepared interesting evening programs that provided us e.g. a deeper historical background knowledge of Japan and Sendai in particular, a Kimono wearing or a chopsticks crafting experience.
Everyone who knows me a bit, knows that I have a weak spot in my heart for food and for Japanese culture. Thus, you can imagine how grateful I was for the plethora of great Japanese meals I could enjoy. During my master’s degree, I had spent six months as an exchange student in Kyoto and I highly enjoyed the opportunity to again make use of my basic Japanese, visit some temples, shrines and onsens (traditional Japanese thermal baths).
Of course, during such a large conference, it is impossible to follow all interesting presentations and posters, so that now I am looking forward to the complementary online offer with recorded versions of all contributions to continue enjoying the exchange even after the in-person conference. It makes sense to exploit all advantages of online options and search for a responsible balance of online and onsite events, since large onsite conferences leave an immense carbon footprint.
To summarize, the participation in Intermag was a very valuable experience that to my perception cannot be entirely replaced by pure online formats. Science is taking place globally and for it to proceed and thrive, it needs to be discussed globally exploiting all different perspectives and insights.