With the next iteration of the International Conference X-ray Microscopy being hosted by the Canadian Light Source and University of Saskatchewan (UoS), Stephen Urquhart, Chair of XRM2018 and Professor of Chemistry at UoS, shares his experiences of XRM2016 with one eye on the future.
Once the jet lag passes, conferences always bring a mix of feelings to me: awe at rapid progress and creativity in the field, pride as I watch colleagues that I first met as students develop as leaders in the field, the physical toll of too much coffee and beer, and ‘introvert overload’ after a week of intense hallway and poster conversations. To recover, I have a few days of quiet time planned, first visiting my partner's family in the Lake District, and then in Scotland, where my family emigrated from in the late 1700’s. If you’ve seen the famous picture of the Loch Ness monster, then you’ve seen my family's castle in the foreground. But enough about un
scientific image processing...
My experience of this conference, XRM2016, is coloured by the fact that this conference marks the start of planning for the next, hosted in Saskatoon in August 2018. The superb organization by the Diamond crew has left us with big shoes to fill. Theft is the best compliment, so I expect that we will steal the rapid poster presentations. This was a great icebreaker, and the event elevated the strong X-ray microscopy contributions of completing PhD students and future leaders of our field.
I won’t attempt to summarize the scientific highlights of this meeting; my efforts would pale next to Ian McNulty's excellent summary on the last morning of the conference. I’m amazed at how ptychography and tomography measurements are now routine for X-ray microscopy applications, and how cryo-measurements will soon become as well. After Henry Chapman's presentation on Future perspectives on X-ray Microcopy, I simply ask, where’s my jetpack? Christopher Russo’s talk showed a potential revolution in how protein crystals are studied with electron cryomicroscopy.
The next meeting, XRM2018
, will be held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in the heart of the Canadian prairies. The summer weather in Saskatoon is glorious: sunny, warm and dry, with the occasional dramatic thunderstorm. Where Oxford is an ancient city steeped in rich academic history, Saskatoon is a young city, embedded in nature. Saskatoon started as a temperance colony in the late 1880s. I’m relieved to report that the local microbrewery and craft distillery scene has put this teetotaling history firmly in our past. An appreciation of local gin is common to both Oxford and Saskatoon, although use of the saskatoon berry as a botanical is probably unique to Saskatoon. Saskatoon’s local food scene highlights the harvest from the plains and boreal forest: bison, elk, pickerel, pulses, wild mushrooms and wild rice.
Saskatoon is two hours south of the transition from the prairies to the northern boreal forest. The South Saskatchewan river flows through the centre of the city, providing a natural escape along walking and biking trails in the heart of the city. Pelicans can be found hunt for fish at the weir, and at dusk, beavers can be seen swimming in the river.
Following the XRM tradition, the 2018 conference will bring together our community to highlight the fast evolving state of the field, through oral and poster presentations and vendor exhibits, and informal chats in the hallway or with a drink. I look forward to welcoming the XRM community to Saskatoon in the summer of 2018!