21 June 2012
Catherine Cooper sends her report from the 14th Conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists in Sendai, Japan, 13-18 May 2012.
Held every three years, the IACIS Conference provides an opportunity for scientists from all over the world to meet and share ideas and expertise. It was an honour to be able to deliver an oral presentation on my current work, and I enjoyed the chance to find out about the research being undertaken in other countries.
Although Sendai and the surrounding area is still recovering from the terrible damage done by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the hope and optimism of the inhabitants struck me as an important lesson to learn from the Japanese people. Sendai is not generally considered as a tourist destination, but there were interesting historical sites to visit and the International Convention Centre provided an excellent venue for the conference.
I was very impressed by the organisation required to cater for over 900 attendees, complicated by the fact that there were five simultaneous sessions - Molecular Assemblies in Solutions; Fine Particles and Colloidal Dispersions; Supramolecular Organised Systems; Nanostructural Surfaces and Materials; Technologies and Applications and Products.
My presentation came under the theme of Fine Particles and Colloidal Dispersions, and was entitled ‘Particle vs. Particle Competition; using solvent relaxation NMR to examine polymer adsorption in systems containing a mix of colloidal particles’. Although initially daunted by the fact that I was presenting in the same large lecture theatre as the plenary speakers, it was a very useful experience for me and I was able to explain some of the highlights of my PhD research to a range of international researchers. New ideas for my project were also generated from valuable discussions with some of the more experienced researchers attending the meeting.
I presented data on aqueous systems where there are two different types of colloidal particle in competition for the adsorption of a polymer. I appreciated the chance to showcase how the solvent relaxation NMR technique enables the observation of polymer moving between two similar sized particles in dispersion, and was encouraged by the positive comments I received from fellow researchers.
Another valuable aspect of the conference was the wide range of talks to attend. There were a few presentations that were related to my project, either through the technique or the materials used, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to learn about other aspects of colloid and interface science such as supra-amphiphiles and encapsulation.
I also appreciated the cultural experience that was provided by the conference being held in Japan. The local living history group were enthusiastic in their advertisement of nearby historical sites, and their display at the conference banquet was informative as well as entertaining. Despite my limited knowledge of the Japanese language, I was able to communicate reasonably well with Sendai residents – although sometimes the exact identity of the food that I ended up ordering was a bit of a mystery! I also enjoyed a karaoke night with other Postgraduate students from a range of different Universities, and hope to keep in touch with them in the future.
I would like to sincerely thank the SCI/RSC Rideal Trust for providing the financial assistance that has allowed me to take part in such a wonderful experience, giving me the opportunity to present my results to an international group of researchers as well as allowing me to find out more about both colloid science and the fascinating culture of Japan.