Making it small

The combination of four local and international meetings in microfluidics brought 200 researchers from across the country and world to Hobart, Tasmania, for the first international meeting on this topic in Australia. 

Program Area:
Conference
Location:
Hobart, Tasmania
Amount:
$8,000
Project Dates:
June 2017
Prof Amy Herr with attending PhD students and early career researchers at the welcome reception at Government House.

Background

Microfluidics exploits the engineering capability to make things at the nanometer and micrometer scale that can be used for chemistry and biology. It ranges from the ability to perform chemical reactions in nanobeakers (literally individual droplets 1-10 nL in volume) to the ability to construct and examine the behaviour of individual cells in complex cell networks. It transcends traditional discipline boundaries and thrives from diverse perspectives.

Aims & Objectives

The microfluidic community in Australia is young, with researchers fragmented between disciplines of Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, Microbiology, Physics and others. The combination of the ANZNMF meeting with three international meetings — AMN, ISMM and APCBM — was used as a focus to bring the national and regional community together to engage with internationally leading researchers, and to also raise the profile and visibility of our local research.

This was also the first step to position Australia as a potential future host of the world’s most widely attended microfluidic conference, which has never been held outside of North America, Europe and Japan/South Korea.

Approach

Funding was sought to support the attendance of three international plenary speakers to present at the conference, ensuring both gender balance and geographical representation from the most prominent and significant international research communities in this field.

Professor Amy Herr (University of California, Berkeley, USA) discussed protein profiling of individual cells, and the difficulties and challenges in translation of academic research to commercial outcomes. Professor Yoon-Kyoung Cho (Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea), described microbiologial systems inspired by CD players. The final plenary speaker, Professor Hsueh-Chia Chang (University of Notre Dame, USA) discussed nanopores for nucleic acid analysis. 

The fourth plenary speaker was Professor Justin Cooper-White (University of Queensland, CSIRO) who gave the opening plenary lecture describing work on microchemical influences on the differentiation of stem cells.

Success

The conference attracted 180 delegates, with 120 of those (60%) coming from outside Australia and New Zealand. The four plenary speakers delivered diverse and inspiring lectures which we highly regarded by conference delegates.

The two female plenary speakers (Prof Herr and Prof Cho) also organised an additional session to share their journey as internationally leading female scientists. This inspirational session was attended by 20 young female graduates and early career researchers and provide an intimate and highly effective forum with which to share and discuss the issues of equity and diversity in academia.  This was described by those in attendance as the single most beneficial session during the conference.

Feedback from conference attendees through an anonymous survey indicated that the meeting was a truly world class event (95% respondents rated the conference as outstanding), with a exceptional scientific program interspersed with unique and local social activities to construct and enhance local and international networks.

Conclusion

An exceptionally successful meeting was held that helped to forge links with national and international researchers in the field of miniaturized chemistry, engineering and biology. The profile of research in Australia and New Zealand was significantly increased, with key leaders at subsequent international conferences aware of the success of the conference and asking when it will be in Australia again.

Professor Michael Breadmore, Faculut of Science, Engineering and Technology, The University of Tasmania

'This conference, the first of its kind in Australia has been highly successful, attracting a diverse range of international and local researchers. Conferences such as this provide an excellent opportunity for Australian researchers to build networks and collaborations with their international peers, whilst simultaneously raising the profile of Australian researchers. The Foundation recognises the special effort made by the convenors and keynote speakers to support and encourage female early career researchers in a field where they are greatly underrepresented, and is pleased to have supported this conference.'

Lauren Monaghan, Conference Program Manager

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