Get set for summer!

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It’s June, the sun is out (today at least) and for those of us in the UK we’re planning and looking forward to the first of this year’s three big summer microscopy meetings.

We will be returning to Manchester 30th June – 3rd July for a gathering organised by the Royal Microscopical Society called MMC 2014. The flyers and emails have been circulated, and much has been written and already on the web and in print. This is the first big meeting in the UK since the very successful EMC 2012 in Manchester, which saw in excess of 3000 people pass through the halls. This meeting is going to be smaller but I’m buzzing at the thought of going back to Manchester Central and having the chance to roam the floor of the exhibition!!

Delegates arrive to the exhibition hall at EMC 2012. Courtesy of the RMS

Two reasons for the excitement are that I’ve been asked to present an oral abstract in the EMAG session on July 2nd. The second reason I’m excited is because I’m going to be there representing M&A as their new commissioning editor! What’s that you ask? Well I’ll be talking on responsibilities for sourcing and commissioning articles for the print version of M&A, which is exciting and terrifying! As such I’ll be at the other big meetings this year, which are M&M in Hartford, CT, USA, and a Big One IMC18 in Prague!

Microscopy and Microanalysis (M&M) is a US-based annual event run by the Microscopy Society of America, and is usually the biggest event in the microscopy summer calendar. This will be my first M&M and I’ll be there for M&A and also giving an oral presentation. I remember coverage from last year by M&A and Editor Dr Julian Heath so I’m ready to get stuck in and eager to do learn from him.

As I mentioned this year is an IMC year and the week-long meeting will be in Prague. The IMC schedule is four-yearly, like the World Cup and Olympic Games and actually coincides with the former. My first IMC was Sapporo in 2006 (and a World Cup in Germany) when I was a postdoc in a small group. The experience was memorable and I’m sure that I got a taste of how inspirational IMC can be for students and postdocs alike. I recall both the science and the social events, which can be a really good opportunity to meet new people, which is why we should all be excited for what Prague has in store!

Last year around the time of MC2013 in Germany, I blogged on ’Why you shouldn’t go to conferences anymore’. I concluded that although some may be critical of how much brand-new cutting-edge science there is (that hasn’t been published already), the networking opportunities and inspirational speakers are the real benefits of attending a conference.

With all this in mind, here’s my guide to how you can get the most of any meetings or conferences you plan to attend this summer.

Attend Pre-Congress Workshops

If you can get along to one of these sessions, they provide an excellent opportunity to ask questions and network with the real experts and gurus in your area or technique. I’ve provided links to those at M&M and IMC, (the ones for MMC are full). They’re great for students, but usually open to all interested to explore a technique and its suitability or current trends and sometime have a hands on element (particularly for software).

Go to a Party!

If you can, you must get along to the opening reception or one of the manufacturer parties that are laid on for their users. These events not only provide food (a concern most evenings, I find), but also give you the opportunity to interact socially with other users, applications specialists and engineers. A word of advice: you usually have to be quick, as invitations are often in short supply and so can be tricky to get. One of my most memorable parties was at IMC 16 in Sapporo hosted by Hitachi, who delivered a whole tuna into the dining hall and had a team of chefs prepare sashimi for all the guests!

Ask Questions & Network

Delegates at the RMS learning zone. Courtesy of the RMS

Whether you are presenting a poster, making an oral presentation or just going for the day, you’ll be in a position to ask a lot of questions to speakers, your fellow poster presenters or the representatives on the trade stands. Take this opportunity to absorb as much information as you can – after all we can learn so much from others, especially if you’re both enthusiastic about the subject. MMC will have the ever popular learning zone, a must for students and those eager to brush up on their microscopy.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible over the summer in Manchester, Hartford or Prague, so come and say hello. I will be at the M&A booths with Editor Julian Heath and the M&A team!

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