IMC 18 - The world waits....

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As microscopists from around the world meet on their four yearly International Microscopy Congress (IMC) and I’m giddy with excitement at what the event has in store.  Some will have no doubt hopped between flights and endured airport baggage checks, removed belts, laptops and iPads more than once, in order to reach the European jewel, which is the city of Prague. Whether arriving by road, rail or air the assembled attendees will present the best of what microscopy in all its forms has to offer for five days, between 8th and 12th September. At the time I write this, there are over 3000 registered attendees and that doesn’t include the army of exhibitors, keen to meet new potential users and show off their latest products and solutions.

In case you have never been or the size of the event has not allowed you to fully explore fully, I’ll share my point of view. At the top of the bill, will be the plenary lectures, which run every day presented by distinguished scientists including Prof Christoph Cremer, Prof Xiaowei Zhuang, Dr Kazutomo Suenaga, Prof Paul Midgley, Prof John Spence, Prof Chunlin Jia, Dr Alisdair Stevens, and Prof Ondrej Krivanek.

The main congress hall, where the plenary speakers will address the attendees every morning

The mainstay of the 4 days (Monday – Thursday) will be oral presentation sessions, which cover topics too numerous to list, however, they will broadly cover instrumentation, physical sciences, life sciences and interdisciplinary topics, so be sure to plan where you want to be and when. These sessions will be supported by an associated poster session, where the majority of attendees (myself included) will be presenting work on an oversized piece of paper. The poster sessions run at the end of each day from 16.45 hrs or 17.00 hrs to 18.45 hrs and 19.00 hrs. It is worth noting that the poster sessions are supported by a number of companies who are sponsoring refreshments during the poster viewing. A generous selection of Czech beers will be on offer to enhance the discussions that the posters will provoke and I’m sure that the conversation will flow in a similar fashion to the beer.

What is so exiting is the scale and variety of the event. I’ve likened it before to the Olympics, bigger than any one group, society or country has organised this year and pulling in world renowned speakers, with a clear focus on science and application to research and understanding that is enabled by the microscope. For attendees at any level, it is an opportunity to meet, network and fire-up new collaborations, as well as to renew old friendships.

Delegates and exhibitors arriving and exploring the venue, the Prague Convention Centre

Central to the entire event is the exhibition, where I’m expecting to see grand, ergonomic stands, full of colourful images on flat-screen TVs and of course plenty of microscopes. For many of us attending this will provide the ‘geek’ in all of us a thrill as we have the chance to get up close to the kit and see demonstrations of the their potential, after which we can dream and plan what we would do in our own labs.

In the midst of the exhibition, look out for the announcements from the manufacturers of brand new equipment (or tools as they are often referred to) and the accompanying press releases and marketing brochures and workshops. The workshops are on throughout the week, so plan your attendance here.  I’m personally very interested to see if FEI actually brings any ‘tools’ to IMC, because at the recent M&M meeting in Hartford, CT, there were none! In a break from tradition they laid on two mini-movie theatres, showing a feast of films, which highlighted their solutions and workflows, often across two or more products. This was a bold move and certainly got people talking, although I’m sure there were a few who were disappointed not to see instruments in person.

One other thing that I’m keen to see is the quantity of non-EM kit on show. To my knowledge, the IMC was historically an EM focused congress until a few congresses ago, being known as the International Electron Microscopy Congress (IEMC).  Since this change was brought in other techniques have been increasingly represented in the form of AFM and optical microscopy techniques such as super-resolution microscopy and correlative light and EM approaches. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see of the meeting is truly representative of all microscopy techniques.

Finally, there is a question that is on my mind, and I’m sure on a good many others. Hours after the opening ceremony of IMC has taken place, we’re thinking about where IMC 19 will be. In case you don’t know the host countries vying to host are China , Australia and South Korea. My money is on Australia, but we’ll find out within the week.  

The booths of societies from Korea, China and Australia (left to right), hoping to host IMC 19

For now, I hope you’ll enjoy the conference, either in person or in our coverage of it in print and on the web. If you are in Prague, I’d love to see you on the Microscopy & Analysis booth or tweet me at @DocParmenter and use the hashtag #IMC2014Prague.


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