As a first-time attendee at the Materials Research Society Spring Meeting and Exhibit, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. After all, I hadn't worked in the surface finishing industry in more than a decade. Did I still have what it took to understand the science, or had things changed so much that that my current knowledge base had become defunct?
The animated buzz of scientists, researchers, media, and other conference attendees echoed down the enormous halls of the Phoenix Convention Center-- a familiar reminder of my former life as both a student scientist and later as a chemist. En route to my session, I couldn't help but notice that many meeting rooms were standing room only. By the time I passed the fifth room that "spilled over" with occupants, my brisk walk had broken into a frantic scurry.
'What will I do if I can't get a seat?' I thought, the Type A personality panic rising in my throat. I needed to hold my laptop in my lap since there were no tables, and I struggle to read my own handwriting whether writing while seated or standing. Luckily, my fear quickly faded away when I saw many vacant seats. But then, that same observation replaced my fear with disappointment when I realized the sparsity of the session's attendance.
Why weren't more people attending the session?
All the technical talks held in my room were tandem sessions about the different applications of smart hydrogels and living materials, whereas all the other rooms hosted lectures about inanimate materials. Given the amount of research and the importance of biomaterials in stem cell therapy, cancer research, and regenerative medicine, I found myself puzzled as to why such hot topics as 3D printing and new approaches to stem cell therapy failed to draw a larger crowd.
As a scientist, I'm afraid I must report that my curiosity remains unsatiated, as I have yet to find a logical answer to this question. But hopefully, attendance of lectures about biomaterials science will experience an upswing in years to come as technology continues to revolutionize healthcare as we know it.
And as for my ability to follow the talks of the day and "keep up" with the talks? I did just fine.