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Report on the first van der Waals Materials Meeting

The first in a series of ‘van der Waals Meetings’ took place in Fribourg, during the afternoon of January 24, 2020. It was organized to bring researchers in the field together so as to enhance their collaborations, stimulate new innovative ideas, and increase the competitiveness of Swiss researchers as a whole. Fribourg was chosen as the sole location for all talks because it is sufficiently central, allowing anyone interested to have equally minimal travel time. This first meeting attracted between 75 and 80 participants, who listened to five talks and took part in discussions throughout the afternoon. Approximately 10% of the participants, and 20% of the speakers, were female.

The five invited talks were:

  1. Ataç İmamoğlu (ETHZ): Strongly correlated electronic states in transition metal dichalcogenide bilayers
  2. Fabian von Rohr (UniZH): Unconventional superconducting properties in black phosphorus and layered transition metal dichalcogenides
  3. Felix Baumberger (UniGE): Electronic structure of ultra thin van der Waals materials from micro-focus ARPES
  4. Antimo Marrazzo (EPFL): Is there really room at the bottom? Application-driven screening on novel exfoliable 2D materials
  5. Ana Akrap (UniFR): Optical view of van der Waals materials

There was a very high interest amongst the participants, as evidenced by the lively discussions during the coffee break, and apero afterwards. The feedback we received was unequivocally positive. One could feel how this exchange of ideas was creating a positive, fruitful scientific environment. Researchers who might otherwise not build connections were synergising the research of different groups, stimulating new innovative ideas, creating new bonds and possibilities.

Our hope is that over time, these meetings will bridge the gap between various Swiss groups working on van der Waals materials. The next round of speakers will include PhD students and postdocs, so as to represent our vital junior participants. To further boost our junior researchers, we also plan to have a round table lunch preceding the meeting for them to receive guidance and inspiration from a selected speaker. This first round table speaker was A. Imamoglu, who in a more informal environment allowed the junior participants to ask questions and learn about what it takes to become a successful researcher.

The second meeting had been scheduled for May 28, 2020. Unfortunately, we had to postpone it for a later date because of the coronavirus situation.

Globally the field is developing very fast, yet in Switzerland there was no structured initiative for support, and to stimulate contact and exchange between groups doing related research. As this event continues, over time we foresee greater possibilities and successes for Swiss researchers in this field, creating greater results and prominence for them and their institutions.

Ana Akrap and Alberto Morpurgo

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