The combined IACIS/ACS Colloid and Surface Science symposium promised to be a very interesting event. The conference attracted over 1300 attendees, making it the most popular conference to date. The credit crunch had no effect here!
The large number of presenters meant that presentations had to be run in a total of 15 consecutive sessions, grouped by subject matter. This was the best feature of the conference, as it meant that you could choose to see relevant presentations, rather than sitting through ones that did not interest you as much. You could choose from sessions such as Biomineralisation, Clustering, Structured lipids, Interfacial rheology, and dynamics. I found that during the start of the week, there were often many sessions which I wanted to attend such as clustering, rheology, and colloidal gels and microgels, and so ended up having to miss some things that were of interest to me, whereas towards the end of the week I found myself attending quite random subjects, which were interesting, but not directly relevant to me. It is always interesting though to get an insight into what is happening in other areas.
Each day started with a plenary lecture, which was given by either Gabor Somorjai, Yoshio Okahata, Ivar Giaever, Matt Trau, or Brian Vincent, and covered a wide variety of topics. There was a lot of movement within sessions, as people flitted from one session to another, trying to cram in as many interesting presentations as possible. Unfortunately there was nowhere for people to congregate at coffee breaks and during lunch, and so mingling was somewhat limited. The more forceful of us created our own opportunities though!
The campus at Columbia University was very attractive, and did not feel like the centre of New York City. The poster sessions took place in the original University Library, which was very grand. Although originally built to function as the library, a local student informed me that it was never actually used as a library, as the mass of the books was not taken in to consideration when building, and so the building started to sink as books were loaded in! There were many posters on display, and a lot of work had been put in to them. The poster sessions were enjoyable and well attended, with every poster attracting attention.
My own presentation went well and there were some interesting questions/comments. The presentation session was done with the aid of a whiteboard, and managed to be informative and enjoyable.
In summary, I would say that this is the most useful conference that I have attended so far. The content was varied, and the structure meant that you could attend which ever session you preferred. I met lots of people, and it was nice to be able to put a face to a name in several cases. I met several people whose work I follow, and with whom I might hope to work with in the future, and so this was a very valuable experience.
University of Bristol