The 2014 RACI Congress, held 7–12 December in Adelaide, Australia, brought together chemists with interests ranging from biological pathways to advanced materials to novel synthesis. Over 1000 delegates attended the five days meeting, a very large cohort of them were students and early career researchers. The meeting provided many opportunities for attendees to network with colleagues from many diverse backgrounds. The congress represents a new approach to the RACI National Convention traditionally held every five years.
Cross-disciplinary and Building Strong Bonds
The congress emphasized the cross-disciplinary nature of chemistry and many of the symposia explored exciting new areas of chemistry, discussed upcoming challenges to the industry, explored the boundaries of the traditional types of chemistry and examined future trends in chemistry and the related sciences. Inspiring the next generation of chemists was also be an important feature of the meeting and we saw young chemists including those still in secondary school interact with the leaders in the field.
The theme for the 2014 congress was building strong bonds.
The future challenges in analytical chemistry were part of an important panel held on the last day of the meeting. Additionally, some sessions explored the application of various branches of chemistry in the medical field. These sessions were heavily attended. Other sessions brought together theoretical work with experimentalists to explore what could be predicted and what experiments could inform theory. Material scientists and synthetic chemists discussed what properties are needed and what compounds could be made to deliver these properties.
The great advantage of a large meeting bringing together all chemists is that such discussions were possible and indeed flourished inside and outside the program.
The Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) is the national professional society of chemists in Australia. RACI is the voice of chemistry in Australia and advocates the importance of chemistry to the public at all levels of education, industry and government. Additionally the RACI supports the professional needs and interests of all its members and the congress is a vital part of this function.
The event featured outstanding plenary speakers from a range of disciplines. These included Phil Baran from Scripps, Stacie Canan from Celgene Global Health, Alán Aspuru-Guzik and Daniel Nocera from Harvard and David Leigh from Manchester among others. The plenary presentations were exceptional both in term of the science discussed and the engaging manner of delivery. Additionally many of the plenaries took time to meet with young researchers to discuss career options, the best avenues to pursue academic careers and work-life balance.
The congress dinner was a street party using food carts to cater for the attendees. The food was a variety of South Australian fare and was enjoyed by everyone. A band played for the entire evening and there was lots of dancing by many delegates. Pictures of the dancing have been destroyed to protect those involved. Tea and coffee was served with a 5 kg block of chocolate where delegates had to use a hammer and chisel to break pieces off. A great time was had by all.
Recognizing Efforts of School Teachers
The congress took time to recognize the efforts of school teachers and the winners of various national competitions for school aged students. This outreach to schools is a very important part of the mission of the RACI. In the pictures above, Professor Paul Bernhardt, President of the RACI, presents the awards.
The next congress will be held in Melbourne from July 23–28, 2017. This congress will celebrate the centenary of the RACI.