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Brazil hosts Latin-American Hercules edition

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An interview with Jean René Regnard, one of the creators of the Higher European Research Course for Users of Large Experimental Systems


The Higher European Research Course for Users of Large Experimental Systems (Hercules), a training course for doctors and post-doctors in the field of synchrotron radiation, celebrates its 20th year with a Latin-American edition, the first outside of  the European continent. The course is being conducted at the Brazilian Synchrotron Radiation  Laboratory (LNLS), in Campinas, between July 12 and 30, with the participation of 63 Brazilian and Latin-American researchers.

“The LNLS is the single source of Synchrotron Radiation  in  Latin America, putting Brazil on the list of countries that have mastered this kind of technology. In addition to the  equipment infrastructure, the lab also develops technologies, carries out  human resources trainning, counts on a scientific instrumentation and has strategic importance for the scientific development of the continent”, explains Jean René Regnard, one of the creators and director of the 20th Hercules edition. Besides Latin America, the intention of the organizers is to also get Hercules  to Asia and the Pacific .

The project was conceived in Grenoble, France, a city where its traditions maintain close links with  industry, research and teaching. “Since the sixties, neutrons and x-rays were used there for  the characterization of materials and in biomedical research”, says  Regnard. The main object is to offer training for doctors, post-doctors and seniors scientists from  different universities, in areas that use applications of synchrotron radiation , such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Geosciences. “The need for the training of scientists is still very important, since the number of synchrotron radiation  sources is  increasing”, he explains.

During  the three weeks, the 63 Hercules students will take  lectures on  some research concepts and the most recent advances of research in  the uses of synchrotron radiation in condensed matter, chemistry and biology.

The participants will also have the opportunity to present a poster of  their thesis or investigation topic, as well as participating in experiments on the beamlines of LNLS and in courses of data analysis. “The fascination  in the training of researchers is to see their potential talents,  interest in learning,  their ways of  solving esearch problems and how they embrace the developments of science”, says Regnard. Read below his full interview.

Ten years has passed since the first Hercules class. What is your evaluation of  the course’s evolution for Science?

Regnard – The Hercules course has evolved considerably over the past twenty years and should continue to do so, continuously to adapt science and technical development to  the state of the art. Some conquests can be observed, in  the worldwide leadership positions, in terms of education, of mastering the uses of neutrons and synchrotron radiation. Besides,  the 1680 graduated students and the other 2600 subscribed, some have become renowned scientists in the studies of synchrotron radiation and many of them are lecturers in schools. The scientific papers of each Hercules edition were well received by the international scientific community and became the model for  practical courses in European countries. Another fantastic bonus is the formation of informal networks of collaboration among scientists with a substantial amount  of the remaining participants being connected to large installations.

Why Brazil was chosen to  host  the first Hercules edition outside of the European continent. What were the criteria for choosing?

Regnard – Brazil houses the single source of Synchrotron Radiation  in Latin America. That puts Brazil  on the list of countries that have mastered this kind of technology. In addition to the equipment infrastructure , the lab develops technologies, carries out  human resources training, counts on a scientific instrumentation and has strategic importance for the scientific development of the continent. Additionally : I have had the opportunity to work with Brazilian scientists abroad and  I know the quality of the work developed  here. What is the international impact of Hercules school in the formation of young scientists?

Regnard – Hercules is, today, internationally known. This acknowledgement is associated with papers, the work of ex-participants– around the world that indicates the same level of formation received in the past years. Note that the need for  the formation of scientists remains important, since the number of Synchrotron Radiation  sources  is increasing . Also, the current sources are being updated and  new types of sources are being developed in Europe and worldwide.

The 21st  edition will also take place outside Europe?

Regnard – We intend to take Hercules to Asia and the Pacific . There is a strong demand for student  formation, not only European but also of other countries. Even twenty years later the role of the course is still very important in training young scientists. It’s fascinating to work on the continuous formation of researchers; be able to see talents with potential, interest in learning and their finding of ways to solve research problems and embrace the developments of science.

Teachers and lecturers are Europeans? How are they selected?

 Regnard – The speakers are selected from  countries around  the world because what matters is a solid scientific formation. The lectures are complemented with practical classes and tutorials conducted by small groups of students under the supervision of about 100 scientists. This group of teachers and scientists of a  wide variety of nationalities  have  a high degree of competence. Commitment and enthusiasm are the cornerstones of  this course