Microscopy & Microanalysis 2016 Report

Blog

Columbus, OH, was the recent host of the annual meeting known as Microscopy & Microanalysis, hosted by the Microscopy Society of America (MSA), Microanalysis Society (MAS) and International Metallographic Society (IMS). Many consider it to be the highlight event in the microscopy calendar, showcasing the most recent advances in science and microscopy analysis techniques.

One entrance to the huge Columbus convention centre

This year was no exception and it kicked off with two excellent lectures from Dr Drew Berry and Prof Mark Miodownik. First was Berry who is an animator, based at the Walter and Eliza Hall centre in Australia. His work brings the stuff of life to life in the form of animations that demonstrate the processes and mechanisms in cells. Over the course of the forty-five minute lecture the audience were kept captivated by Berry’s stunning work, which is always based on current research. Drew makes it a point to keep his work free from jargon, which non-experts often find off-putting or confusing. Sometimes the animations are accompanied by animation, but this again serves to guide the viewer rather than to blind them with science. Berry who now has a team of students often takes a year to carefully craft these animations, using the same a software used in Hollywood productions. All of their work is free to view and has been used in museums, digital textbooks and can be found at Wehi.tv

Interspersed between the two plenary lectures were the MSA, IMS AND MMS awards to recognise contributions to science by established and early career scientists and service to the societies from their members. There were also many awards to students, post docs and technical staff in recognition of their submitted abstracts, which they receive as a bursary of $1000 to enable their travel to present their work. They also get the opportunity to give a platform presentation in one of the parallel sessions. This recognition of dedication and talent struck a chord with me as I feel that it is crucial that the next generation of microscopy users and enthusiast are encouraged and rewarded for their hard work.

The second plenary speaker was Prof Mark Miodownik from University College London, UK, who gave an inspiring lecture on the design of next-generation materials. Mark who did his PhD in the area of steels, admitted he had always used microscopes and although he may not be considered as a microscopist, he was glad to be back in the microscopy world! His lecture focused on the design of future materials (from everything from plastics, steel and glass to concrete) with an emphasis to making all future materials smarter and more environmentally friendly both in terms of the sustainability of the raw ingredients used. Mark explained how the design of self-healing materials could help to minimise maintenance costs and also reduce human intervention, allowing people to do other things. In addition to highlighting these savings, he promoted a more cross-disciplinary approach to design of materials by involving not just scientists and engineers but also adding expertise and insight from colleagues from humanities or other disciplines, leading to greater understanding of the needs of a material beyond mechanical or chemical characteristics. At the finish of his lecture there was a touching tribute to Mark’s father who passed away the week before. I’m sure like me, many in the audience applauded not only the content of his lecture but also the fact that he had come to give it despite the circumstances.

M&A's booth at MM2016

With the plenaries over the meeting and the exhibition hall opened and the assembled throng of microscopy users and enthusiasts went to explore the array of impressive array of vendor booths that had taken shape over the preceding few days. As usual they did not disappoint and the booths were alive with color and movement on huge screens and boards. The biggest booths were manned with twenty or so eager sales, marketing and product specialists, who were ready to answer questions and showcase the latest hardware and software solutions. Over the course of the week, I offered a number of the vendors the opportunity you let us know what was new in their world for MM 2016. A number of them did just that and we've added them here for you to see.

VIDEOS

John Williams, FEI

Jeff Gelb, Carl Zeiss

Tara Nylese, EDAX

Jaap Brink, JEOL

Michael Hassel-Shearer, Gatan

Keith Thompson, Thermo Fisher

Heather Dyson, Quorum Technology

In addition to the plenaries and exhibition hall the annual meeting offers hundreds of scientists and engineers the opportunity to spotlight their work in an oral session. Invited speakers get 30 minutes with selected abstracts offered 15 minutes to present and answer any questions. As an attendee this is arguably one of the highlights of the conference albeit it can be difficult to decide which of the multiple parallel sessions you’d like to attend when there are so many interesting sounding talks. The breadth of subjects covered was as wide as ever with a few new areas included that I hadn’t seen before and a good showing of trending themes such as in-situ microscopy, and phase plate imaging.

Toward the end of the meeting, I managed to grab a few minutes with Dr Joe Michael the chair of the scientific programme to get his thoughts on the meeting. Joe was very content with how things had gone and was quick to acknowledge the meeting management team and the session chairs, who were tasked with planning the scientific sessions. I asked Joe about the planning of the meeting and how he’d achieved what seems a huge task. He told me that early on he’d realised that nobody can know all the trending areas in microscopy and so he had asked the MSA membership for suggestions for sessions at this year’s meeting. In response he’d received 40 to 50 suggestions and this had helped him pick the themes (and some session chairs) for new sessions over and above the more established ones, which have been run before. On Thursday afternoon shortly before the exhibition closed Joe was able to give me the final attendance numbers of 1626 scientific attendees and 1179 exhibitors for the meeting, totalling 2805 individuals. The 2017 meeting is scheduled for 6th-10th August in St Louis, Missouri where the MSA will celebrate its 75th anniversary.

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