Rideal Travel Bursary Recipient, Jacek Wychowaniec, Reports from New York

In 2016, Jacek Wychowaniec was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary for his attendance at the Bio|Nano|Med 2016 Symposium which took place between 23 and 24 June at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Centre, New York. Here, he explains that by attending the conference he was able to discuss the results of his research to a non-European audience for the first time.

‘The Bio|Nano|Med 2016 Symposium was held in the recently opened CUNY Advanced Science Research centre in the heart of New York - Manhattan. The symposium was opened by a warm welcome from Rein V Ulijn, Director of the Nanoscience Initiative. The conference covered cutting edge science, merging interdisciplinary fields of biology, nanotechnology and medicine, covering everything from fundamental science governing peptides, such as variation of alpha and d amino acids affecting the self-assembly of the formed fibres in hydrogels, through bio-inspired materials, such as super hydrophobic coatings, machines capable of creating ~10nL droplets for cell culture, up to variety of tissue engineering and biomedical applications. The two days of exceptional science started with a talk by Prof Rui Reis from the University of Minho, who covered many aspects of the nano-tools and bio-inspired approaches developed by his research group, such as electro spun fibre scaffolds with tuned alignment affecting the cell responses. The first session continued with a very interesting medical talk from Lane Gilchrist, who noticed that cholesterol content in patients correlates with Alzheimer’s disease and discussed the therapeutic intervention for this disease.

‘At the end of the first session, the stage was taken by a colleague of Rein Ulijn from the University of Strathclyde - Prof Duncan Graham, who entertained the audience with not only jokes, but mainly his Scottish accent. Indeed, he gave a very interesting insight on surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy in biological and chemical systems. The first day continued with nanotechnology talks, particularly focussing on the advances in imaging probes for biomedicine (Michelle Bradbury) and newly developed microscope objectives with sub cellular resolution (Gail McConnell). The afternoon session focused on biomaterials (my field of work). David Kaplan started this session by offering a journey through the development of fibrous silk biomaterials for all kinds of biomedical applications. The session followed with my presentation, in which I was happy that the pre-prepared movies of my work worked just fine. Indeed, I was discussing the development of the theory, originally invented by the next speaker of the conference - Dr Joel Schneider. Indubitably, his talk was very informative and entertaining. It was the first time I have ever seen such a highly engaging scientific talk, where the audience had to make choices throughout the presentation. His talk provided lots of ideas for my future research. Afterwards, all delegates were invited for a poster session and the welcome reception, which lasted for over 2 hours and gave me an opportunity to chat with students from the local areas, meet new people and exchange research ideas.

‘The second and final day of the conference continued with a high standard of talks relating mainly to biologically responsive materials. It started with Joanna Aizenberg, presenting work on novel environment-responsive hydrogel surface materials that created a generation of self-persisting materials. The session was finished with a talk by Samuel Sia on very promising micro fluidic based devices for personal health diagnostics, which might be seen in every doctor’s office in the world in the near future.

‘I was selected to present my work and my talk was entitled ‘Shear thinning properties of β-sheet nano-fibrillar peptide hydrogels.’ This conference was my first opportunity to discuss my results with other academics in this area outside of Europe. Particularly, it allowed me to interact with two top groups in my field - Dr Joel Schneider and Prof Rein Ulijn. It was pleasure to meet them in person and have fruitful science conversations. Undeniably, this conference allowed me to form new ideas for future research and gave an opportunity to consider options of my future career after finishing my PhD in September 2017.

‘I would really like to thank the organisers of the conference for the invitation and the rest of the delegates for the exceptional science presented over these two days. The symposium was a big success merging a lot of people from different places and backgrounds and invoking new collaborations. I would like to acknowledge my supervisor Prof Alberto Saiani for giving me this opportunity to participate and support on the project. Finally and most importantly, I would also like thank the Institute of Physics (IOP C R Barber Trust Fund) and the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI/RSC Sir Eric Rideal Trust) for awarding me the travel bursaries that made my attendance at this symposium possible and enhanced my knowledge and future career prospects.

Jacek Wychowaniec
University of Manchester

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