22 August 2014
In August 2014, I was fortunate to attend the 248th ACS National Meeting and Exhibition held in San Francisco, California. This was the first time I had visited the West Coast of the USA and also my first time attending an (American Chemical Society) ACS meeting. Despite having an idea of what to expect following a number of recommendations from colleagues who had attended previous meetings, I was still staggered by the sheer size of the whole event. Over 15,000 delegates attended a programme comprising in excess of 1,000 scientific sessions on a variety of subject areas ranging from agricultural chemistry through to polymeric materials science and engineering. Considering this, the meeting provided me with the unique opportunity to hear work on a diverse range of topics from individuals at all career stages ranging from students to eminent professors. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine another event in which talks on diverse subjects such as chemokine receptors, spectroscopic microscopy, peptidomimetic 'triplex' metallohelices, DNA nanotags and controlled radical polymerisation methodologies, could all be heard before lunch on the first day!
As a final year PhD student working on multidisciplinary projects comprising polymer and organic chemistry, together with biomaterials science and cell biology, I was particularly excited by the prospect of presenting my work to a wide scientific audience. Specifically, I described some recent developments in the area of 'isothermally responsive polymers for therapeutic delivery and diagnostics'. Given the increasingly popular nature of stimuli- responsive materials, I was pleased that my work prompted interesting debate with a number of fellow researchers whose valuable input has helped shape some future research ideas. In addition to those within academia, the input I received from scientists working in an industrial environment, whose research ideas/directions are sometimes a little different, has also helped develop some new potential applications for the areas in which I am currently working. Moreover, scientific discussion aside, I also learnt the ins and outs of the American education system, as well as the intricacies of baseball otherwise unknown to me!.
Despite the hectic conference schedule, there was still some time to explore San Francisco. Particularly worthwhile was a 13 mile walk encompassing Fisherman's Wharf (and the famous crab chowder!), the incredibly impressive Golden Gate Bridge and the beautiful town of Sausalito, followed by a ferry trip back to the San Francisco shore past the historical wonder that is Alcatraz. Seeing it up close, it is easy to see how no prisoners managed to escape (or at least how the few that did were never seen again to tell the tale!). For anyone considering it, I would highly recommend San Francisco as a place to visit; though I did underestimate the chill of the sea breeze so was thankful for the last minute decision to pack some long-sleeved shirts!
Ultimately, my attendance at this conference has really opened my eyes to the huge range of research areas being explored throughout the world particularly beyond those in which I have found myself particularly engrossed throughout my PhD. Particularly inspiring was the number of symposia held in honour of scientists winning a range of high profile awards from the ACS. Hearing these success stories has certainly provided extra motivation towards succeeding in Science, be that in research, both academic and industrial, or elsewhere. Moreover, the vast array of subjects discussed throughout the event also taught me a number of new concepts and helped me further place my work in context with that of others in both mine and surrounding fields - it always surprises me how hearing just one small piece of information can unexpectedly trigger a multitude of new ideas, or can simply help provide a missing piece to one's current research dilemma! In addition, the chance to communicate ideas to individuals whom one may not ordinarily come across was invaluable and has generally contributed to enhancing my research profile.
Finally, heartfelt thanks go to my supervisor, Dr Matthew Gibson, and particularly to SCI for providing financial support, without which my attendance would not have been possible. I can only reflect on my trip in a positive light - the whole experience was excellent and I would thoroughly recommend it to my fellow students. I am now looking at ways of attending another ACS meeting in the near future!
SCI Messel Travel Bursary recipient