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Conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists

Polly Keen

25 May 2012

Thanks to the Rideal travel bursary awarded by SCI and RSC and support from Downing College, Cambridge, I was able to take advantage of a brilliant opportunity to attend the triennial IACIS (Conference of the International Association of Colloid and Interface Scientists ) Conference in Sendai, Japan in May 2012. It was a great pleasure to give an oral presentation of my PhD research, attend a multitude of fascinating talks, converse with many scientists from all over the world and sample life in an exciting new country.

The long journey to Sendai was undoubtedly worthwhile. The organisation of the conference was excellent, and I was much impressed by the extremely friendly and accommodating nature of the Japanese people. Considering the catastrophic damage to the city by the earthquake and tsunami only a year previously, it was encouraging to see the fine state of recovery.

We were honoured to be welcomed to the city and the conference by the presence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan at the opening ceremony. This highlighted the importance of the conference to the city and country, and the importance of colloid science in today’s society.

IACIS 2012 was huge: there were more than 900 participants from over 40 countries and approximately 500 presentations. The diversity of these presentations was enormous too; they were under five sections: Molecular Assemblies in Solutions; Fine Particles and Colloidal Dispersions; Supramolecular Organised Systems; Nanostructural Surfaces and Materials; Technologies and Applications and Products. Hence there was an incredible range of research to broaden my knowledge.

I mainly attended talks on capsules and vesicles, and learnt about the diversity and complexity of the many capsule-manufacturing techniques. One of the most interesting presentations discussed the development of synthetic cells.

It was an honour to be able to give my own oral presentation was entitled ‘Encapsulation of viable microorganisms in water-core colloidosomes’ to many distinguished scientists at the conference. I presented an introduction to one of the areas of my PhD research including my methods and results on the creation of microcapsules (colloidosomes) with living yeast or bacteria cells inside.

I highlighted that the work has demonstrated the suitability of colloidosomes as a simple, gentle method of encapsulating microorganisms; there is a transport resistance of substances into the microcapsules which can be controlled; and that encapsulation in colloidosomes protects the microorganisms from harsh external conditions.

Following my presentation, the open questions session was very valuable; my thoughts on the next stages of the research were reinforced and some interesting points on other aspects to experiment with were brought up. Positive feedback on my presentation and the experimental results achieved so far was also very encouraging and inspiring.

The conference as a whole acted as a great platform for general discussion of colloid and interface science with highly respected scientists from all over the world – this was a fantastic learning experience for a young researcher like me in only the second year of my PhD.

As well as colloid science, travelling to Japan was also an opportunity for a cultural adventure. Time was taken to explore the city and learn about its history and traditions. Despite the language barrier and incomprehensible menus, we had no difficulty finding delicious foods such as Gyutan (grilled cow tongue) for which Sendai is famous, and obviously plenty of sushi!

I am extremely grateful to SCI, RSC and Downing College for their financial assistance. The opportunity to make a public contribution to my research field, with the added bonus of sampling the exciting culture of another country, is much appreciated.

Polly Keen
University of Cambridge

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