This week I got the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Spectroscopy and Dynamics Interest Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Taking place over three days at Nottingham University, around 150 delegates from across the UK and as far as America and Iceland came together to discuss current developments in the field. The programme consisted of a plethora of talks: some by senior members of staff with a more tutorial feel, and most by postgraduate or postdoctoral researchers explaining their latest findings. There were also about 60 posters placed around the venue, coupled with a session where the authors were on hand to answer any questions.
The first feeling that comes to mind is exhaustion. There were about 26 lectures in total, and irrespective of the number of cups of tea it wasn’t easy keeping up. I was also surprised just how varied the talks were. I thought I had a fairly good idea of the kind of things physical chemists get up to, but I realised this picture left out a lot of the engineering side. Some groups were developing ultra fast sensors, or designing ways to force atoms into a stationary position, or even investigating photomolecular motors. What’s more, the quality of the presentations varied significantly too, and it was useful to see the response to different styles. More than anything else I think it was really valuable to get a sense of how different university groups work, and where they are going with their research. Finding a group’s website can only take you so far, and getting a feel for how they functioned in practice felt quite different. For anyone looking to go into scientific research I’d definitely recommend attending a conference in your area of interest. It’s a great way to get a broad overview of the common themes and techniques used, the many subdisciplines you could fall into, and a window into life as a postgraduate.