Last month, Dr. Kristin Bunker and Senior Scientist Long Li attended the 2013 MSA Microscopy and Microanalysis (M&M) convention in Indianapolis. I sat down with Kristin and Long afterwards to learn about their experiences at the show.
Kristin, you attended this year’s M&M in a somewhat different role than you have in the past, right?
Kristin Bunker: That’s right. I’ve had the privilege of serving as the President of the Microanalysis Society (MAS) for the past year, and so I had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people and attend a wide variety of events at this year’s Microscopy and Microanalysis that was held in Indianapolis, IN. And I am looking forward to serving one more year as President.
Was there anything exciting you noticed this year at M&M?
Kristin Bunker: The student interest and engagement at the symposia, in the exhibit hall, and at all of the M&M events was great. This was the first year that the two sponsoring societies, the Microscopy Society of America (MSA) and the Microanalysis Society, gave out joint M&M Presidential Scholar awards. Between the President of MSA, Dr. Ernie Hall, and me, we reviewed more than 180 student papers and awarded 32 Presidential Scholar grants to help fund their attendance at M&M and present their research. All of the award winners were also invited to The Presidents’ Reception that was held at the Eiteljorg Museum. It was a great event and gave the students the opportunity to meet and interact with active members of both societies. These awards are important and prestigious and this year’s winners were so excited to be honored. One student said, “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I want to thank you and every member of MSA.” It was really wonderful to have that kind of impact on students.
The poster sessions are another huge component of M&M and also a great way for students and researchers to present their work. There were over 450 posters at this year’s M&M, and every afternoon during the poster sessions the MSA President presented poster awards. This was very exciting and drew many people.
MAS also hosted a Meal with a Mentor program to bring together students with professional mentors. Response from the students was overwhelming and we had to add more tables to accommodate those who wanted to attend. The room was PACKED! The students loved it, and we all had a great time.
What sort of interactions did you have with the students at the Meal with a Mentor? What were they interested in?
Kristin Bunker: The students at my table shared their research, but they were also very interested in learning about the differences between working in academia, at a national laboratory, or in industry. Coming from industry, I was able to talk to them about what types of activities I am involved with on a day to day basis. Several of the students knew they wanted to pursue a career in academia and research. But, I would say most were undecided and trying to figure out what they would want to do. One of the students was very happy to have an industry perspective because he thought that most members of MAS and participants that were at the meeting were researchers in academia. So, it was nice to be able to share my perspective.
Beyond the increased overall presence of students, what did you notice was “hot” at the conference?
Kristin Bunker: That’s got to be the intersection of Microscopy and Art. I was not able to make it to the symposia, but I did hear from several people that the presentations were great. Coincidentally, RJ Lee Group recently had a project related to that very subject — we were asked to approximate the age of a painting to help establish its authenticity — so it was exciting to see this become a popular topic at the conference.
Kristin, finally, can you tell us what you look forward to next year?
Kristin Bunker: Next year is going to be really special. I would like to highlight the Sixth Meeting of the International Union of Microbeam Analysis Societies (IUMAS-6) that the United States will be privileged to host, and will be held in conjunction with Microscopy & Microanalysis (M&M) 2014, August 2-7 in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. The last time that IUMAS was in the United States was 14 years ago! The IUMAS-6 Planning Committee is hard at work with the organization and coordination of the meeting. IUMAS delegates will be able to attend workshops on Saturday covering a variety of microanalysis techniques and on Sunday there will be an opening ceremony and keynote lecture, followed by eight plenary lectures from world leaders in a variety of microanalytical application areas. And during the week, delegates will be able to present their own research in thirty to forty symposia covering a variety of microscopy and microanalysis instrumentation, techniques, and applications. And if you want to learn more about the IUMAS-6 meeting and the M& 2014 meeting, please check out the website: http://iumas6.org/
Long, I understand you presented at M&M. What can you tell me about the presentation?
Long Li: My presentation was titled, “Directly Counting Number of Atoms in Au Nanoparticles Supported on Gamma-Alumina by Quantitative-STEM,” which was coauthored by M. K. France and J.C. Yang. I presented a newly developed technique, Quantitative Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (QSTEM), which uses a modern JEM-2100F S/TEM to quantitatively measure the total number of atoms in nanoparticles (NPs). Knowing the 3-D structures of nanoparticles is important because the structure can provide insights into their catalysis and catalytic properties. In the past, structure information of NPs has often been obtained from their 2-D projection by STEM or TEM imaging. With QSTEM, we can gather additional information for measuring the total number of atoms in NPs, which allows us to better model their shape and construct their 3-D structures. We are currently working on publishing more on this topic in the future.
What was a highlight of the conference for you?
Long Li: Well, the microscopy world is always pushing the envelope to be able to observe smaller, measure faster, and detect finer and easier. During this year’s M&M, there were many exciting sessions, but one that stood out to me was by Professor Harald Rose. He discussed the struggle to achieve atomic resolution microscopy during his plenary lecture. Electron microscopy uses aberration correction to enhance resolution, allowing electron microscopes to operate at a resolution as low as the half angstrom level. Professor Rose discussed Thermal Magnetic Field Noise, which he determined was a significant barrier blocking the road to further reducing electron microscope resolution.
Can you tell me a little bit more about why you found Professor Rose’s presentation so interesting?
Long Li: For decades, aberration correctors have been used to enhance the resolution of electron microscopes. However, these correctors are made of metal, so when the current flows through the corrector, it jams the magnetic field. Professor Rose discussed the fear that we may be nearing the limit for electron microscope resolution because we’ve reached a point where better correctors – ones that can further enhance resolution – introduce too much noise. Dr. Rose noted that electron microscope corrector manufacturers have already begun looking for solutions to this problem.