Wednesday, September 7, 2022

IMSC2022 Recap by guest blogger Dr. Nick Riley Part 1

I found the password to the blog! 

For the first post, I'd like to talk about IMSC2022. If you had COVID and it affected your memory, 

IMSC stands for the Independent Mystery Shopper's Coalition, and a lot of people went to Maastricht recently to see the release of the Orbitrap Assend there!

If you want to learn about it, don't go to the homepage, you'll want to put the year of the conference before the .com ( Don't leave out the year, for real. 

One person who did go to Maastricht was Dr. Nick Riley. Nick is a postdoc in the Bertozzi group at Stanford and he volunteered to provide an on-the-ground perspective of this conference. 

Somehow, Dr. Riley found time to write this between his trip from wherever Stanford is to Maastricht, where he was a keynote, before he raced back to a beautiful wedding! Not one he was attending, HIS wedding. So I doubled down, and found where the new password to this blog was so I could post this. I wish the photogenic couple all the best. 

Enough words from me: Take it from here, Dr. Riley! 

IMSC 2022 Part 1: Overall Summary

I had the privilege of attending the International Mass Spectrometry Conference this past week in Maastricht, the Netherlands. The vibrancy of this year’s IMSC is hard to capture in words, but I will try to do as much here. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and is probably in the top 3 for conferences I have attended thus far in my decade in research. A mixture of great science, wonderful personal connections, and a highly enjoyable European backdrop made for an unforgettable meeting. Thank you to the organizers (Albert Heck, Ron Heeren, Manfred Wuhrer, the Dutch Society for Mass Spec [NVMS], and all those who helped otherwise) for all of your efforts make IMSC a success. Here is my best attempt to distill the meeting down into a few “short” descriptions for those who could not attend.

Some first thoughts

The size of IMSC struck a balance between Gordon or Keystone Conferences and ASMS. There were approximately 1300 attendees if I remember correctly, with a majority (unsurprisingly) from Europe. It was nice as a US-based attendee to hear from and interact with many brilliant scientists who I only previously knew from publications. This different cross-section of science I was exposed to the past few days was a healthy reminder that ASMS, as great as it is, still only captures/emphasizes a limited scope of our field.

The general daily structure of the meeting followed a common pattern. Each day started with morning award presentations that were the only event on the schedule. This was a good thing, because they were all outstanding and deserved full attention. My notes from each of them include as many thoughts about life/research advice as they do about the science that earned the awards. Those talks were followed with a very welcomed coffee break that often featured baked goods and facilitated a lot of science cross-pollination. Concurrent oral presentation sessions followed the coffee break, then a lunch hour where vendors had presentations to attend, a poster session to start the early afternoon, later afternoon concurrent oral presentation sessions, and then evening workshops. All poster sessions and breaks featured access to gratuitous amounts of coffee and tea, which really helped this jetlagged American survive. Overall, the quality of both oral and poster presentations was stellar. If there was one topic that had the most representation, it was probably mass spec imaging, which should not be surprising given the proximity of the M4i Institute, but there was a good mix ranging broadly from instrumentation and applications. I’ll touch more on high-level details from each day in two subsequent entries.

 Instrument companies and other industry partners were present and accessible, but not dominant. Perhaps it is my own bias that I feel this way, but the user meetings and hospitality suites at ASMS make the instrument companies feel more omnipresent at ASMS than they did at IMSC. That is not a criticism, mind you. I like the excitement that comes with the presence of instrument companies and industry partners at ASMS. That said, it was a refreshing change of pace to have it be less of a focus. The most exciting instrument development of the meeting (to me) was Thermo’s release of their newest Tribrid platform, the Orbitrap Ascend (but I fully admit that I have a Thermo bias in my instrument usage history). The main presentation about the Ascend came during a lunch meeting at IMSC, which was pleasantly lowkey relative to the fanfare that can accompany instrument releases at ASMS. Perhaps the oddest aspect of the meeting was the Innovation Lab that happened in mid-afternoons, where industry partners took to a catwalk in the middle of a poster hall to strut back and forth while presenting for 15 min short talks (I’m not exaggerating). The Innovation Lab was “intriguing” if nothing else and did succeed in engaging a decent number of attendees, but it would probably be the event I would recommend leaving out in the future.

 Maastricht seemed to be an ideal setting. As I spent my first hours walking around the city before the conference started, all I could think to myself was “simply charming”… which was weird because that is not a phrase that exists in my world very often. A small-ish university town, Maastricht was energetic and easy to navigate. It probably did not hurt that the students had returned and were starting classes soon, lending a pervasive energy that spilled over to us mass spectrometrists. One of my key takeaways was how valuable walkable cities and good public transportation infrastructure can be for fostering connections between scientists at a conference (and beyond, of course).

 If I was forced to offer constructive criticism, the only thing I found myself wanting was recordings of the presentations during concurrent oral presentation sessions. Many of us scurried between conference rooms to catch back-to-back talks, and I missed as many good talks as I saw merely due to scheduling. (Luckily the conference center had a relatively compact footprint.) This is always the struggle with conferences that have too much good content, and it would have been nice to know I could go watch what I missed. To give a quick snapshot of what I mean: I had the honor of presenting in a Young Mass Spectrometrist session and would not trade what I learned during the talks during that session. However, I missed what I know to be fantastic talks in the Protein-Protein Interaction session, Structural Biology session, and “Beyond Mass spectrometry: Making MS Obsolete” session. Such is the burden for attending a conference with high quality science at every turn. On the flip side, the lack of recording meant I was as tuned-in as ever for the talks I did see.

 The last thing I’ll say for now is that if ASMS is a marathon, IMSC was an Ironman. The extra day of events relative to ASMS (IMSC was Sunday through Friday) coupled with a 9-hour time difference (for west coast folks) and unfettered access to European beers made for an exhausting, albeit exhilarating, week. I would not have had it any other way. IMSC was announced to be in Melbourne, Australia in August 2024 (cc: Gavin Reid) and Lyon, France in 2026 (I believe). My strong recommendation: do yourself a favor and circle both dates on your calendar in bright red like I have.

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