Anticipating Fall MRS 2019

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In the US, Thanksgiving is around the corner – this week in fact.  That means one thing:  Fall MRS is almost here in its classic location, Hynes convention center in Boston.  This year it will take place December 1-6, 2019.  Every year it is always a lot of fun trying to plan out your meeting schedule.  Every year it’s the same problem:  too many competing talks.

As I try and figure out what talks to attend this year, a couple of highlights jump out at me.   After pioneering a machine-learning symposium last year – where the overflow area was standing room only – MRS this year features two full-length machine learning related symposia:  “Closing the Loop – Using ML in High Throughput Discovery of New Materials” and “Automated and Data-drive approaches to Materials development – Bridging the Gap between Theory and Industry”, in addition to a full length Sunday tutorial on “Applied Machine Learning for Materials Research and Development”. The symposia feature a wide cross-section of researchers from academia, national labs (a lot of national labs participation!), and industry. The tutorial is anchored by Citrine Informatics, a leading company in development of AI platforms to accelerate materials development.   This kind of showing indicates that ML/AI has become a very real part of the research landscape in materials R&D.

Interestingly, ML/AI has been grouped into the broad area “Materials Theory, Computation, and Characterization”.  I can’t help but feel that by doing this, it has come at the expense of classical characterization symposia that used to be a hallmark of MRS. I have complained of this trend in the past and it just seems to continue – there are fewer dedicated symposia to characterization techniques in MRS.   In fact, there are no dedicated SPM symposia at the meeting for the second year in a row, which is very disappointing.   I sincerely hope the past 2 years are outliers and the AFM symposium will return to the 2020 meeting.   When I looked back at my 2017 MRS blog there was a line in there “this MRS meeting has become the premier AFM symposium in North America.”  Times have changed.  That’s not to say there will be plenty of AFM talks and even a small AFM session, but it’s not the same as the week-long symposia we are all used to.

There are also no dedicated electron microscopy symposia at the meeting this year, though there is a symposium on “In situ characterization of dynamic phenomena during Materials Synthesis”, which features a number of techniques (mainly X-ray based techniques, but some electron microscopy also). 

One aspect of MRS that will help me get over the lack of AFM symposia blues is the Symposium X – Frontiers of Materials Research. These are lunchtime talks targeting a broad audience in a huge ballroom where free pizza is served.  This series never disappoints and this year features some amazing speakers including Evelyn Wang about nanoengineerined materials for water and energy applications and Alessandra Lanzara about 2D heterostructures. 

And of course there will still be the exhibit, which does remain a very strong resource for the characterization community with plenty of SPM and EM related vendors to showcase hardware, accessories, and software.   See you in Boston!

Dalia Yablon, PhD



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