From Belfast to Chicago – PITTCON 2017

Chicago, the windy city, is home to the Chicago Bulls, the team of legendary basketball player Michael Jordan. It served as the setting for iconic movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and each year Chicago receives thousands of visitors for St. Patrick’s Day, when the Chicago River is dyed green and the streets are filled with music and dance during the parades. This spring thousands of scientists were drawn to the city, which was hosting the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy (PITTCON) from 4th until 9th of March.  The conference offered a diverse technical programme with over 2000 presentations and an exhibition showcasing cutting-edge technologies and product innovations providing attendees with an opportunity to exchange ideas. Scientists representing diverse fields such as academia, industry and government from all over the world were at PITTCON. Hot topics and emerging trends covered were relating to food safety, homeland security, bioanalytical science and nano-imaging. Speakers included among others Graham Cooke and Alexander Makarov, who significantly contributed to the field of mass spectrometry. One of my personal highlights was the session “From Discovery to Precision Medicine: Mass Spectrometry Through the Years and Beyond” covering the early days of major technological developments and breakthroughs up to recent advances in the field of mass spectrometry and also celebrating Robert E. Finnigan’s 90th birthday. Pittcon seems to set trends and one topic that could not be missed was cannabis. The legalisation of medical cannabis is growing the worth of the cannabis testing market making it a highly competitive and evolving industry. Research in this area attracted considerable international attention. Another conference focus was on food security. For me, this was a great opportunity to present my research on the “Use of Liver Homogenates for Rapid Generation of Phase I Metabolites to Facilitate Characterization of Emerging Drugs of Abuse by High-Resolution Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry” in the form of a poster.

Attending and presenting at conferences is a crucial part of the PhD experience. After months in the lab, presenting at a conference was a good way of getting feedback on my work from international researchers at all stages of their careers.