Meeting report - Focus on Microscopy
This was my first ‘FOM’, as I was advised to refer to it by Prof Fred Brakenhoff, the chair of the organising committee and long-time FOM supporter. Fred is a veteran of over 20 FOM’s and he certainly made me feel welcome at what was an exciting international meeting, with a definite party feel. The meeting has been going since 1988 and alternates between venues in Europe and the Far East (2014 was in Sydney, Australia). This year’s meeting attracted over 900 delegates and around 90 trade exhibitors.
A typical scene from FOM in the Lokhalle, (courtesy of Natalie Hampl, Leica Microsystems)
“We always knew it was going to be big” said co-organiser Prof Fred Wouters. It seems being awarded the Nobel prize made people want to come to hear Stefan Hell (based in Göttingen) speak and see the labs where super-resolution was developed (there was a tour on the Wednesday afternoon). The opening plenaries were given by A-S Chiang (National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan), Albie Diaspro (Istituto Italiano di Technologia, Italy) and arguably the star attraction, Stefan Hell (Max Plank Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen). Another big name from the story of super-resolution was Dr Sam Hess (University of Massachussets) who was also instrumental in the development in some of the jigsaw of pieces that make up the super-resolution techniques. The talk offered a fascinating historical insight into the technique that has re-invigorated the light microscopy world.
Other plenary speakers included Vlad Verkusha (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), George Barbastathis, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Ernst Selzer (Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt am Main) who was instrumental in the development of the light sheet microscope and collaborated with Stefan Hell, while he was in Heidelberg.
The scientific programme was diverse with five parallel sessions over three days and their associated poster sessions in the late afternoons, which gave many young enthusiastic researchers the chance to talk about their work with anyone who stopped by. The sessions ranged from super-resolution microscopy to 3D imaging of tissues, sessions on correlative microscopy, and more experimental and theoretical work. What was overwhelming is the creativity of the researchers to create new configurations of microscope to solve their problems and their unending passion to push the frontier of what is possible by building systems from the ground up. I particularly find this invigorating as it is in contrast to the typical approach in electron microscopy.
It was so pleasing to see the near equal number of female presenters, in both oral and poster sessions, something that should give us all hope that the times are changing in what is sometimes perceived to be a male dominated field.
The coffee and lunch breaks were plentiful with a wide selection of pastries and German food on offer whenever possible, meaning that attendees were free to chat and collaborate without the need to worry over where their next meal or caffeine hit was coming from.
The proposed design of the Brakenhoff prize (Photo, Chris Parmenter)
After the final plenary, by Mark Bates (Max Plank Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen) the closing ceremony included the proposal that a medal be created in honour of Fred Brakenhoff, who was surprised and humbled, but thankfully agreed to the suggestion. It was proposed that the medal recognise contributions of both emerging and more established researchers (there will be 2 recipients) and Prof Brakenhoff expressed his desire that the prize money should enable the winners to travel and talk about their work. Both junior and senior prizes will be awarded for the first time in 2016. With FOM 2015 over, there followed a brief presentation by the organising committee of 2016, which will be in Taipei, Taiwan.
After the closing ceremony, there were a range of tours of the city, the Zeiss factory or the Stefan Hell labs, followed by a banquet. I took the city tour and just reached the banquet venue before the snow came down!
Some of the architecture in Gottingen and a nice way to make some new friends on the walking tour. Chris Parmenter, Anja Schue (Leica) and Stefan Hell at the FOM banquet (images courtesy of Paul Rigby).
FOM 2016 will take place from March 20th to 23rd 2016, further details can be found at http://www.focusonmicroscopy.org