29 Sep 2017
Daniel Morphew was awarded a Rideal Travel Bursary in April 2017 to attend UK Colloids 2017, Manchester, UK, 10 - 12 July 2017. Daniel is a PhD student at the University of Birmingham. Here, he describes how his attendance has broadened his scientific interests and the opportunity to take advantage to engage with the academic community.
‘An International Colloids and Interface Science Symposium, a wet yet welcoming Manchester, possibly the perfect combination for a life-long Manchester United fan and a final year PhD student who has spent the past 3 years looking to rationally design and understand the processes behind colloidal self-assembly.
‘With delegates from an estimated 19 countries, with a variety of academic and industrial affiliations, and no less than 10 themed sessions to be held within this three day meeting, UK colloids 2017 promised to be a diverse, inter-disciplinary and eye-opening conference. This diversity was apparent within Monday's first opening hour, after the plenary lecture of Prof. Paul Mulvaney wowed the audience with the accuracy and packing densities at which his research group were able to arrange small metal particles to harness their optical properties, swiftly followed, in the Nanoparticles session I chose to first attend, an in depth look into the potential of Nanomedicines, provided by Marianne Ashford of AstraZeneca.
‘AstraZeneca were just one of the many potential industrial partners looking to engage with the academic community on the problems that face their company, and it was not only when attending the lectures but also at coffee and lunch that we, as attendees, were able to discuss these problems. As I wolfed down Monday's lunchtime meal I stood and discussed, along with a Spanish post-doctoral student and a German researcher employed at Bayer, the issues that faced companies manufacturing formulas designed for crop protection, as they looked to produce complex mixtures with the stability and longevity to survive multiple sweltering South American summers as well as punishing East European winters.
‘However, as Monday's three themed sessions drew to a close and the poster sessions approached, my own anxieties slowly but steadily grew. On Tuesday, the themed session on Programmable Self-Assembly was set to convene, in which my own 20 minute slot to stand and present my in silico research, on the hierarchical self-assembly of colloidal magnetic particles in to reconfigurable shells, lay ahead. Though it was not the first occasion on which I would present my research to a scientific audience, the wealth of experimental and theoretical knowledge and expertise within this particular themed session, that would likely be in attendance, brought both a nervous excitement and slight trepidation, leading me to continue to practice my upcoming presentation late into the night.
‘Tuesday opened with Prof. Vinothan N. Manoharan convincing every delegate in attendance that entropy is not a measure of disorder, followed by some fascinating experimental examples of colloidal self-assembly driven by entropic effects. Then for me the short walk to attend the morning session of the Programmable Self-Assembly themed section, before my own talk in the afternoon. Here, we heard and learned from academics based in South Korea, Continental Europe and America, who shared with us some of their latest and greatest experimental examples of colloidal self-assembly, providing inspiration and excitement to both experimentalists and those undertaking computer simulation, like myself, listening intently in the audience.
‘Next it was my turn. I stood at the podium and the microphone was attached. Two deep breaths and a cough to clear my throat. My presentation was underway. Having made my way through the first two slides, seemingly error free, I began to relax and feel at ease. As I stared out into the audience, a face of concentration from a Harvard Professor and a nod of understanding from Dr. Mark Miller of the University of Durham, reassured me that my presentation was going somewhat smoothly and the logic I was trying to convey was clear. The 20 minutes passed by in what felt like 5 and following some interesting questions from the audience I retook my seat. A small sigh of satisfaction and relief.
‘For the remainder of the afternoon and early evening, I continued at the Programmable Self-Assembly session, witnessing a host of fascinating talks. Coffee breaks and the close of the days scheduled talks also provided further opportunity for discussion. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to discuss, in detail, the work I presented with both Dr. Stefano Sacanna of NYU and Prof. Gi-Ra Yi of Sungkyunkwan University, as well as some of the more recent, amazing work occurring in both of their experimental groups.
‘Tuesday night. The conference dinner for this years meeting was to be held at Old Trafford, the home of football - or at least the perceived home of football for a Manchester United fan such as myself. A walk around the stadium museum was a great experience for every delegate I have no doubt. I am sure that all the delegates goggled in amazement as much as I at the shimmering trophies and priceless memorabilia from enigmatic characters like George Best, Dennis Law, Eric Cantona and Roy Keane that adorned the glass protected shelves.
‘The conference dinner wasn't purely football focused for me however, although I sat next to an Italian post-doctoral student who was lamenting the current fortunes of AC Milan, scientific discussion was also on the menu. Sat to my left a PhD student from the University of Cambridge discussed with me, her work in collaboration with Infineum, that focused on improving engine efficiency in marine tankers, ships who are responsible for a shockingly high amount of the worlds pollution and therefore represent an issue, that almost all can agree, needs urgently tackling.
‘With slightly tired eyes I awoke Wednesday and headed to the final plenary lecture, where Prof. Debra Berti exhibited some of the fascinating lipid membrane behaviour which can be induced following the introduction of and interaction with nanostructured assemblies. Wednesday was another truly inter-disciplinary and diverse day, with sessions on Biocolloids & Biointerfaces running in parallel to those on Wetting and Colloidal Physics. The Graham Medal Lecture of Prof. Joe Keddie focussing on polymer colloids was a fitting and great end to what had been an engaging symposium.
‘UK Colloids 2017 presented me not only with the opportunity to present my research to the internationally renowned academics of my own field, but also the opportunity to discuss the wide ranging problems facing colloid and interface science and their solutions with a diverse population of PhD students, academics and industry researchers, physicists, chemists and engineers. Such an experience has been invaluable in providing me with the excitement, inspiration and motivation to conduct future research. In addition, it has also presented me with the opportunity to interact with academics and industry employees, in order to initiate a professional rapport that I hope will only benefit my prospective future career. For this opportunity, I must whole heartedly thank the SCI-RSC Rideal trust for their financial contribution that has allowed me to engage in and benefit from this great conference, UK colloids 2017.’
University of Birmingham