37th APS Summary
by Dr Nathan Boase (Queensland University of Technology)
It was a hot and smoky day on the 10th of November, but despite the fires surrounding the area everyone was excited for the start of the 37th Australasian Polymer Symposium on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
Despite the weather, the delegates were greeted to the gorgeous surroundings of the Novotel Twin Waters Resort, with its tropical gardens and dedicated lagoon. Around 300 academics, researchers, research students and industrial professionals from universities, research organizations and polymer industry in the polymer field in Australia, New Zealand and around the world came together to engage in all things relating to polymers. It was a family friendly affair with many participants bringing their families, who got to enjoy the sailing and swimming, while they enjoyed the scientific lectures.
Prof Patrick Stayton from the University of Washington opened the meeting with a multidisciplinary plenary discussing the challenges and developments in engineering polymer therapeutics. He highlighted his group’s work in translating polymer research from the laboratory, to industrial development, and finally having real impacts on patient care. The opening plenary was followed by the ‘Tropic like its Hot’ themed welcome reception. The mood was set with delegates and their families kicking off their shoes, enjoying dinner on the beach of the lagoon, below strings of lights and enjoying the sweet sounds of live smooth jazz. This combination of science and casual networking set the mood for the rest of the meeting.
The first full day of the APS was opened by Prof Martina Stenzel (UNSW), chair of the IUPAC Macro World Polymer Congress in 2018. She discussed her research program investigating carbohydrate and sugar based polymers to create sophisticated self assembled structures. It was the perfect opening to the symposium program. The APS gives an opportunity for invited international and Australian keynote presentations, as well as giving a stage for emerging and student researchers to share their work in all fields of polymer chemistry, physics and engineering. One of the first presentations of the symposia was from Dr Phil Barker, in honour of his award of the Bruce Guise Polymer Science and Technology Award. This award recognises the significant contributions Phil has made in the industrial research and development of polymers in Australia.
Monday ended with a new innovation at APS, the Rapid Fire Presentations in the plenary hall. This gave nine student researchers the platform to highlight their work and poster to the entirety of the conference cohort. The new event was a great success and created a great buzz of discussion at the poster session that evening. Some of the other speakers at the conference could learn a thing or two about presenting from these emerging leaders.
Tuesday brought another day of scientific presentations, discussion with new collaborators or old friends and plenty of caffeine. Prof Christopher Barner-Kowollik (Queensland University of Technology) opened the day, sharing how his group is “making light work” of soft matter science. Across the symposia, a number of emerging scientific leaders were highlighted through the Invited ECR Speaker program. Talks were diverse ranging from nanocrystal-polymer composites to new understanding of photo-initiator mechanisms, completely new degradable polymers and coatings to reduce bacterial fouling. This program has been a feature at APS for a number of years, and continues to be a highlight of the scientific program. The evening concluded with the RACI Polymer Division AGM, with the transition to the new committee. To reward them for all the hard work, the student delegates were rewarded with free pizza and refreshing beverages while they competed at the student trivia night.
The final day of talks was opened by international guest Prof Natalie Stingelin from Georgia Institute of Technology. She shared the deep insights her group have gained into the chemical and physical interactions of organic electronic devices. Amongst the diverse talks of the day, was another new initiative of 37 APS, the Fighting Polymer Waste symposia. Highlighting the importance of all polymer scientists to consider the full life-cycle of their materials, the symposia hosted a range of talks, and an open panel discussion with all speakers and attendees contributing. The scientific program was concluded on Wednesday afternoon, with Prof Bert Meijer from Eindhoven University of Technology sharing his long career investigating excuisite self-assembled systems and the non-covalent interactions that drive them.
37 APS was finally concluded with a wild celebration at the “Rock and Roll All Night” conference dinner. Costumes from many of the delegates were outstanding, but Laura Delafresnaye, Katrin Kockler, Susanna Kunz and Johanna Engelke from QUT stole the show as Kiss!
A number of Australian polymer researchers were honoured and highlighted for their contributions to polymer science through the Polymer Division Awards:
Bruice Guise Polymer Science and Technology Award: Dr Phil Barker, University of Woolloongong and Bluescope Steel.
David Sangster Polymer Science and Technology Achievement: Dr James Blinco, Queensland University of Technology.
The Treloar Prize is awarded at every APS meeting and highlights the most outstanding student oral presentation at the meeting. At this meeting the panel could not be split and Ms Anna Gemmell and Ms Gayathri Ediriweera, colleagues from the Thurecht Group at the University of Queensland were awarded joint winners.
Following the formal activities, the night was an absolute blast for all involved. The photobooth nearly exploded from the number of delegates squeezing in for group photos. The dance floor nearly cracked in half when Prof Patrick Stayton led the moshpit to his hometown stars, Nirvana, and the night concluded with an odd group of delegates tripping out too Tool. Judging by the tired and drawn faces and damaged knees leaving the resort Thrusday morning, the conference dinner and whole meeting was a great success.
A massive thank you and congratulations must go to the conference convenor, Prof. Kristofer Thurecht, the organising committee, Emma Harrison and Brittany Lee and all the Leishman Associates, along with all the event sponsors and exhibitors, without whom the 37th APS would not have been such a wonderfully successful and enjoyable event.