M&M Goes to Portland!

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Once again the great and the good assembled for the annual Microscopy and Microanalysis meeting, which this year was held in Portland, OR. The meeting took place at the Oregon Convention Centre (OCC) which was very conveniently located by the max light rail station, a short ride from downtown, Chinatown and the historic district. The city of Portland itself had much to offer the delegates with many great places to eat, local breweries and boutique shops, as well as historic and theatre districts. On the Sunday morning I walked down to the Willamette River that runs through Portland and separates the east and west shores. I was surprised that at 9 am there were a good many homeless people sleeping on the streets and in makeshift ‘accommodation’. I later learned that the city of Portland has a friendly policy toward displaced and homeless persons; the Police don’t move them on and in fact it uses public money to provide shelters during the colder weather. This was obviously not the case on Sunday August 2 and although not at all what I expected to see in Portland, it did make me value the privileges that we scientists enjoy; namely traveling to conferences such as M&M and staying in hotels talking about our latest results, when there are some a few feet away who have so little.

A behind the scenes glimpse of the exhibition hall before it opens

Browsing the schedule ahead of the meeting, it promised a packed schedule of in week workshops, scientific meetings and the trade show in the main hall, I’m pleased to say all of which did not disappoint. The first plenary speaker was Dr Roger Tsien,  Nobel laureate from 2008, who spoke on the topic of ‘new molecular tools for light and EM’. The talk began with his description of the development of fluorescent proteins from natural inspirations (including jellyfish), the subject of his nobel prize winning work. He continued to show the audience his newest work on combining light and EM by the use of diaminoenzene polymerised by miniSOG and how it was possible to chelate different lanthanides with it to achieve ‘2 colour’ staining since the complexes are distinguishable using Electron Energy Loss spectroscopy (EELS) in TEM. He showed this applied to cells, organelles with immuno-labeling and genetically encoded cells and suggested that this approach could be expanded by the use of multiple lanthanide complexes to give an array of colours.

The final part of the talk presented early results on the use of ‘click-EM’, which involves the use of various compounds that react with molecules (DNA, lipids, cell walls) that can be use in LM and then once fixed (with light in the case of Choline or Azidocholine) can be stained using metal stains such as OsO4, thus making the same the areas detectable in EM. Both of these approaches are very exciting and further reinforce how great steps are being made in the development of staining systems compatible with both microscopies. After a rapturous applause the attendees took a break and were treated to a selection of donuts and locally roasted coffee, before they retuned to the hall for awards ceremonies by the MSA and MRS. Program Chair Mark Sanders later said, "I was so pleased that Roger shared his  work with the audience, the exciting thing is that I believe two- thirds of it was not yet published!".

The rewards of attending opening pleary sessions, local coffee and doughnuts!!

The second plenary was by Dr Donald Pettit of NASA (a real live astronaut), who had spent time on the ISS as a scientist. This fascinating and often amusing presentation confronted the audience with some of the difficulties of being a microscopist in space. Donald highlighted the problems posed by the microgravity environment and the restrictions of having an air circulation system; for example not having access to all your solvents if a microscope slide gets dirty, since the only solvent allowed on board is water (nobody wants to be breathing xyelene or ethanol mixed with their oxygen). He also highlighted the importance and associated difficulties of performing microscopy experiments in sealed chambers and explained this was a precaution against broken microscope slides which may release fragments of glass or and particles into circulation.

Pettit drew parallels between the Antarctic explorers of last century as they faced new frontiers and the astronauts as they circled the globe. One unique challenge at the frontier of space is galactic cosmic rays, which are a type of radiation that affect the pixels on CMOS and CCD chips in the cameras on board ISS, causing the affected pixels to go ‘hot’. To put things in perspective after about a year in space the chips on the cameras on ISS show significant degradation, however, the equipment is only replaced every 10 years! He suggested a move to exchange more frequently now that this has been identified as an issue. The talk concluded with a number of comments; that working at this frontier you realise that the answers are not ‘in the back of the book’ but that there are rich discoveries to be made and that through everything ‘we discover who we are’. I’m sure this resonated with many of us in the audience and also gave us something to think about when things are tuff on earth.  On that note the exhibition halls were opened and meeting really got underway.

Over the course of the week, I spent a great amount of time in the exhibition hall, which was choc-full of the newest hardware and vendors who were eager to show it all off. I actually committed some of my chats to video (with their permission) and they’re on this blog (at the bottom). I recommend that you check them out to see what’s new and where the hot topics are coming from. As you’d expect, over the course of the week I attended many high quality talks, and kept an eye out for interesting articles for future issues! I must not forget to mention all the great posters, contributed in every imaginable field and from most continents too, congratulations to all the winners and also congratulations to the winners of the Microscopy Today awards for innovation.

Part of the meeting that must not  be overlooked is the social aspect of our annual ‘get-togethers’/ Whether we’re meeting up with old friends or making new ones over lunch, dinner or coffee (and a donut), I’m sure people value the opportunity to talk about their work and gain inspiration from others, after all two heads are better than one. To this end, I thought I’d mention that it seemed a mandatory tourist attraction to visit Voodoo Donut, where after a short wait you can pick your selection of the tasty treats (in their signature pink boxes) and then sit outside and fight over who is having which one! 


The sign outside 24 hr Voodoo Doughnut shop and treats from inside!

There are also of course the company parties and this year was no exception with FEI’s waterside party and Zeiss booking out the Portland grill on the 30th floor of one of Portland’s tallest buildings. I’m know there were other events, but I couldn’t be in more than one places at a time -  If you went I’m sure you all had fun. Before we knew it Thursday had come around and it was time to pack and go. I saw so many people smiling and whishing each other ‘safe journey’ already counting the day to next year in Columbus, Ohio, which will serve as host next year.

The pinboard allows attendees to show where they're from, next year's hosts were well represented. 

M&M 2016 will be from Jul 24th – 27th 2016 in Columbus, OH, USA, for more information follow the link to the M&M webpage

Latest Technology and Software Releases

Dr Chris Parmenter visited various booths at M&M 2015 and discusses some of the latest releases below:

Tara Nylese from EDAX Inc reveals the newly released Octane Elite Detector.

John Williams of FEI discusses workflows for multiscale, multimodal analysis.

Dr Paul Thomas of Gatan introduces the new GMS3 software, the latest version in this software range.

Dr David Nackashi from Protochips discusses the need for in-situ microscopy sampling.

Keith Thompson from Thermo Scientific talks about their new EDS detector and new "Big Data" software.

Dr Arno Merkle of ZEISS Microscopy discusses the new Atlas 5 and Lab Diffraction Contrast Tomography.

Tom Isabell and Vern Robertson discuss new releases from JEOL.

Jared Lapkovsky from Delong Instruments talks about their new 25kV TEM.

Mike Wombwell discusses the latest releases from Quorum Technologies.

Kevin Fahey of ZEISS Microscopy discusses new technologies in the microscopy field.

Jacob Jan de Boer, Daan van Oosten Slingeland and Noortje van der Veeken from Delmic talk about their latest releases.

Natalie Hackett from RMC discusses new technology releases.

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