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Meetings

A whirlwind of science

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
September 16, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 37

 

The past few weeks have been busier than normal. At the end of August, just a couple of days after the ACS national meeting ended, I left for Liverpool, England, to attend the 7th EuChemS Chemistry Congress. I had never attended before, and I’m very glad that I decided to go this year. Despite the cold and wet weather—not unexpected for the end of August in the U.K.—the vibe at the convention center was very positive.

I was impressed by the quality of the speakers—C&EN was proud to sponsor the European Young Chemists’ Network track—who covered topics as varied as amorphous metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) and methods to elucidate reaction mechanisms. The crowd was diverse, with the U.K., German, and Spanish contingents being the largest. Many scientific celebrities attended: Nobel laureate Ben Feringa—who was also part of the organizing committee—kicked off the event with an inspiring keynote that took us on a journey through his research on molecular machines. Frances Arnold and Jin-Quan Yu also made an appearance, and Wolf Prize winner Omar Yaghi delivered a superb lecture about MOFs and their many applications.

And speaking of celebrities, one highlight was a performance by a Beatles tribute band in the convention center. Another highlight was the congress banquet, which took place inside Liverpool Cathedral. The setting was spectacular—high ceilings, stained-glass windows—if unusual.

The meeting did not go without a certain level of controversy. On social media, there were comments about the appropriateness of holding a meeting starting on a Sunday or over a bank holiday, as was the case with the EuChemS meeting. The argument was that those days should be avoided—or that free childcare should be provided—to allow individuals with family responsibilities to attend and participate. The choice to start on a Sunday is, of course, not exclusive to that event. The ACS national meeting, for example, starts on a Sunday, with many traveling on Saturday afternoon to ensure they make it for the 8 AM start the following morning. It is never the intent of organizers to exclude anyone, but providing childcare is part of fostering a diverse workforce, and it is something that people organizing scientific gatherings need to consider.

Regardless, I look forward to the next edition of the EuChemS congress, which will take place in Lisbon in 2020.

Shortly after I returned from Liverpool, I was back on the road again, this time en route to Oslo to attend the Kavli Prize celebration. The week-long celebration includes lectures by the laureates, a reception at the Norwegian Academy of Science & Letters, a classical concert, and more. But the centerpiece of the week is the award ceremony, which is broadcast on Norwegian TV and attended by the king of Norway. Part of the celebration is a black-tie banquet in Oslo’s city hall, a spectacular location that is also the venue where the Nobel Peace Prize is announced every year.

The Kavlis did not disappoint this year, as two of the three awards had a very strong connection with chemistry. As you may know, they are awarded in three disciplines—astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience—with each field receiving $1 million in prize money. The astrophysics award went to chemist Ewine van Dishoeck for her studies of the life cycles of interstellar clouds and the formation of stars and planets. The nanoscience award went to Emmanuelle Charpentier, Jennifer Doudna, and Virginijus Šikšnys for the discovery of CRISPR. Unrelated to chemistry, the neuroscience award went to Robert Fettiplace, A. James Hudspeth, and Christine Petit for deciphering the workings of the inner ear.

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And the excitement continues. With Nobel season almost upon us, C&EN will host its annual predictions webinar on Sept. 27.

It has been a whirlwind of science.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.

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