Report from the International Congress on Ceramics, Beijing, China

27 Oct 2014

Xiaojing Chen, from the Dental Physical Sciences Unit, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, reports on the 5th International Congress on Ceramics, which took place on 17-21 August 2014 in Beijing, China and was partially sponsored by the SCI Richardson Travel Bursary.

I am a final year PhD student under the joint Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC)-Queen Mary scholarship working on developing novel bioactive glass for dental application supervised by Prof Robert Hill and Dr Natalia Karpukhina. My PhD has been quite fruitful so far, I have published three papers in the leading journal and authored one patent. As the first researchers worldwide developing a new range of bioactive glasses and glass-ceramics with application in both medicine and dentistry, I have actively attended ten conferences to present our research outcome.

The multi day International Congress on Ceramics is the flagship conference in ceramics; it is held every two years and attracts tremendous interest internationally. It is dedicated to the future of the ceramics and glass industry and technology in areas including biology and medicine, aerospace, environment, nanostructured ceramics, infrastructure, security and strategic materials. This year, the 5th International Congress on Ceramics introduced a new symposium on 'Ceramics for Medicine, Biotechnology and Biomimetics' which aligned well with my research interest. The world leading scientists David R Clarke and Wilhelm Antonius Maria Siemen were invited as keynote speakers. An exhibition was also organised onsite to showcase the latest commercially available products including materials, equipment, products and services in the field of ceramics and glasses. As a Chinese student, such an international conference in my field held in China offered tremendous opportunities not only in presenting my research, networking with academics and industry but also for potential collaborative opportunities and meeting prospective employers.

Thanks to the financial support from SCI's Richardson travel bursary, I attended the conference and gave an oral presentation with a topic on 'The Influence of Fluoride Content on the Crystallization of Sodium Free Fluorapatite Glass-Ceramics' in the symposium of Ceramics for Medicine, Biotechnology and Biomimetics on day three. The symposium started with Prof Du's invited talk on Biomimetic Synthesis of Calcium Phosphate and Cellular Response which provided an overview of the properties and applications of calcium phosphate. My presentation was directly after Prof Du's talk, focusing on part of my PhD study in developing a specific calcium phosphate Fluorapatite from bioactive glass for dental application. This offered a smooth transit for the audiences from the general overview of calcium phosphate to the Fluorapatite for Dentistry.

I structured my talk in a simple way to allow just enough scientific information to keep it accessible to audiences with a different background, and it was well received. I had quite a lot positive comments, discussion and suggestions.

I was touched as quite a few researchers queued up after my talk asking for my contact and the papers related to the talk. One PhD student came to me and thanked me for answering one of the problems he came across during his PhD. It was great to have those positive comments which reassure the success of my research and my presentation skills. Discussion and suggestions were also extremely valuable, offering ways to improve my research and contributing towards generating new ideals and research directions.

The talk has also generated potential collaborations. Two Chinese groups specialised in cell study showed big interest in in vivo cells response of my fluoride containing bioactive glass-ceramics. Knowing that no cell study has yet been completed, they offered to collaborate and were quite happy to host me to carry out the work in their lab. This will be a great opportunity for me to broaden my skill sets. It was great that I paid a visit to one of the groups after the conference to get to know the team more and further explore the potential collaboration in detail.

It is also worth highlighting that I had the opportunity to speak to a large number of academics and members from industry, both from China and other countries, for a better understanding of the career prospects after my PhD. I am quite glad to discover that I don't have to go straight back to China after my PhD. A lot of doors have been opened.

My experience of the 5th International Congress has been wonderful. It has broadened my horizon, increased and reinforced my contacts both in academic and industry, strengthened the reputation of my department especially Prof Hill's group which is well known for its high impact research outputs in bioactive glasses and glass-ceramics. It has also provided various opportunities for me.

I am currently busy working on a manuscript on the work that I presented at the conference and concluding the remaining experiments for my PhD. I am also following up the potential collaboration with the team I visited in China. If not in my PhD, it will be as part of my post-doc work.

Finally, I would like to thank SCI again for supporting my attendance at the 5th International Congress on Ceramics in Beijing, which is extremely significant and meritorious for the research project, my PhD and research career.

Xiaojing Chen,
Queen Mary University of London

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