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Separation Scientists Gather To Exchange Ideas

A row on people sitting in a conference talk taking notes.
Credit: difisher / Pixabay.
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Chromatography is a workhorse technique of the analytical lab, and the art of separation is pivotal to disciplines from food analysis and environmental testing to therapeutic development and quality control. A key tool for both academia and industry, the user base is significant and diverse, with technological and chemical advances in recent years seeing increasing adoption by both expert and non-expert users in well-established and novel areas.

With in-person events very much back in full swing, the 34th International Symposium on Chromatography (ISC 2024), will be taking place 6–10 October this year in Liverpool, UK. This biennial event, founded in 1956, is one of the oldest separation science conferences and brings together scientists from all career stages, application areas and wide geographical locations. All modes of chromatography and separation science are included, with a focus on a broad range of techniques and uses.

We spoke to Tony Taylor, a member of the local organizing committee for ISC 2024 and chief scientific officer at Element Materials Technology, about what ISC 2024 will offer attendees and what the event means for the scientific community.

Karen Steward (KS): Can you tell us about some of the key themes that will be the focus of ISC 2024?

Tony Taylor (TT): In keeping with our host city of Liverpool, birthplace of John Lennon, the theme for the symposium is “Imagine, a World of Chromatography”. Our program reflects the diversity of application areas and disciplines where chromatography is an essential component of the analytical workflow. This will include applications of separation science in pharmaceutical, petrochemical, environmental, food and consumer goods sectors, as well as lectures on the fundamental aspects of separation science and new technological developments.

The symposium will highlight new challenges and emerging opportunities for both separation science and associated detection technologies, offering fresh and exciting perspectives from the whole world of chromatography. Whilst the focus of our plenary sessions is innovation in unusual or emerging applications of separation science, the main program contains everything from oligonucleotide analysis to new applications in petrochemical analysis, from chirality to sustainability. Importantly, for a conference with such a diverse program, we are confident that delegates will not find just one or two sessions of interest in their own application area, but that many of the sessions will be generally applicable, ensuring that every day will have something to engage and inspire everyone.

KS: Are there any speakers at the event that you would particularly like to highlight?

TT: We have so many internationally renowned speakers that it feels unfair to highlight just a small number. However, we are particularly excited about our plenary speaker line-up, predominantly because, as a committee, we wanted world-class speakers who could demonstrate diversity, innovation and unique applications of separation science, befitting our “Imagine a World of Chromatography” theme. Our plenary speakers are:

We also have a full program of confirmed keynote speakers with some highlight sessions including:

The impact on separation science of these speakers alone has been phenomenal, and it is with great pride that we are able to welcome these scientists to Liverpool and ISC 2024 and remember that these are just a handful of names from a program that will deliver a fresh and stimulating perspective for all of our delegates.

KS: Why is this an important event for the chromatography community as a whole and more specifically for the different groups, such as students, early career scientists, chromatography users and developers in both academia and industry at home and from overseas, who attend?

TT: The ISC is a long-standing chromatography conference, initially founded in 1956 by chromatography communities from Germany, France and the UK. From its inception, the conference has included topics from all areas of separation science, welcoming participants from around the world, although it takes place in Europe.

It offers a distinctive opportunity to connect with, and learn from, esteemed figures in chromatography, as well as peers, academics and early career scientists. As well as a world class speaker program and poster presentations, attendees have the chance to enhance their skills through various short courses and tutorials offered during the conference on a wide range of topics including: supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC), multidimensional chromatography, sustainability, gas chromatography (GC) troubleshooting, chromatographic retention modelling and prediction, data analysis and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). There are also some novel events such as round table discussion sessions, flash-poster events, employment speed dating, the ISC-Slam and ISC-Tube competitions. On Saturday 5th October, Professors Peter Schoenmakers and Bob Pirok will run a fundamental separation science course, which is unmissable for anyone wishing to grow or consolidate their underlying knowledge.

No matter the career stage or application area of our delegates, ISC 2024 offers an opportunity for learning, development and inspiration. Further, the event includes a wide range of social activities in a city that was a recent host of the Eurovision Song Contest, ensuring some great fun and the all-important opportunity to network with scientists whose approach, practice and outlook may significantly differ from yours!

KS: Is there any support in the way of bursaries being offered to enable and encourage scientists to attend who may otherwise not be able to?

TT: The event has an array of support offerings to enable access to those who might not otherwise be able to attend the event, something that the committee are very passionate about. We have the Shimadzu Student Sponsorship, open to post-graduate students that are currently enrolled at a European university whose abstracts to speak or to display a poster at ISC 2024 have been accepted. We have the ChromSoc Student and ChromSoc Industrial Bursaries, open to UK students and those working in small to medium companies to receive financial assistance.

Further to these, there are the BMSS John Beynon Travel and Conference Fund, German AK Separation Science student travel grants, the Royal Society of Chemistry Researcher Development and Travel Grant, Technicians Grants, Grant for Carers, Accessibility Grant, AFSEP, Separation Science Foundation (Denmark) and Societa Chimica Italiana Analytical Division Grants, all of which can support attendance to the event. If any prospective attendee wishes to seek grant funding, we encourage them to visit our bursaries page or contact their own national chemistry society or local chromatography society to seek assistance.

KS: Sustainability has become an important consideration for many labs and organizations. How is ISC 2024 embracing this in the program and how is the event itself looking to be more sustainable?

TT: We absolutely recognize the importance of sustainability in the separation sciences and have devoted plenary, keynote and two whole program sessions to the subject. We have some of the world’s foremost proponents of green analytical chemistry (GAC) and will devote a round table discussion to the topic. So, we can say with great certainty that the ISC 2024 program will reflect the importance of this topic in the global separation science conversation. I am also sure that the topic will be raised in many sessions, be they dedicated to sustainability or not, and we are fully prepared to promote these discussions within the program.

In terms of the sustainability of the event itself, this is a central theme in our organizational efforts and to cite just a few of our key considerations: our location is very close to major international air, sea and rail links to minimize internal travel; all of our catering and entertainment is seasonal and locally sourced to minimize emissions within our supply chain; the conference venue (ACC Liverpool) is a carbon neutral campus and 100% renewable energy certified; we will send zero waste to landfill; we will send all leftover food to local charities; we will use no single-use plastics; we will harvest rainwater to provide 40% of water for flushing across the campus and as the venue is very well connected to public transport, we will offer a range of resources and incentives to use public transport for travel around the city.

We will ask all delegates to consider what they can do to minimize their carbon footprint in attending this event, and we'll be sending out some information on this in advance of the event, including bringing your own water bottle!

Following the event, we will receive a carbon measurement report that will be shared with the organizers of future events within Europe and will be used to inform future UK chromatographic society meetings.

KS: This year’s program includes “Slam” and “Tube” contests. Can you tell us a bit more about these?

TT: The ISC-Tube competition allows competitors to transform their scientific research into a cinematic masterpiece! ISC-Tube invites competitors to craft a short, enthralling video that captures the essence of their research and its transformative impact. Whether it’s an awe-inspiring separation method, an insightful exploration of a novel technique or a thought-provoking narrative on the far-reaching applications of their research, competitors can let their imagination run wild and create a video that will leave a lasting impression. ISC-Tube videos will be submitted prior to the event and broadcast live in a session dedicated to showcasing talent and judging the most inspiring and innovative video communications. Honestly, it’s as much about the engaging nature of the videos as their content, and these events are a lot of fun and a really great way to broadcast your work, your ideas and your talent.

The ISC-Slam competition allows competitors to harness their communication prowess in a whirlwind of just a few minutes, in this fast forward version of a TED Talk. The competition allows delegates to delve into the depths of their research, illuminate complex concepts with clarity or unleash their creativity to weave a tale that will leave the audience spellbound. It’s the ultimate scientific elevator pitch and, again, a great way to showcase your work and yourself!

As well as embracing these modern methods for communicating science and being great fun, there are awards for the top competitors and for the first time this year, we’re opening up to contributions from entire research teams!

Tony Taylor was speaking to Dr. Karen Steward, Senior Scientific Specialist for Technology Networks.

About the interviewee

A head shot of Tony Taylor.

Tony Taylor is chief scientific officer of Element Materials Technology (EMEAA) and technical director of CHROMacademy. His background is in pharmaceutical analysis and polymer chemistry R&D, but he has spent the past 25 years in scientific leadership, training and consulting, working with Element Materials Technology clients to ensure they attain the very best analytical insights. He has trained and consulted with thousands of analytical chemists globally and is passionate about professional development in separation science, developing CHROMacademy to provide high-quality, online education to analytical chemists. His current research interests include high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) column selectivity codification, advanced automated sample preparation and LC-MS and GC-MS for materials characterization, especially in the field of extractables and leachables analysis.