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How BIMS rocked the NVMS congress and on the importance of enthusiasm in science/life

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Topic: Science  |  Series: My Journey to PhD
My first conference of 2014! Actually my first proper conference since IMSC Japan 2012! My first conference in the Netherlands! Many "firsts" were attributed to the 50th Annual Meeting of the Dutch Society for Mass Spectrometry (NVMS - Nederlandse Vereniging voor Massaspectrometrie) which I attended with the rest of our group (BIMS – Biomolecular Imaging Mass Spectrometry) in Kerkrade between 13th-15th April.

Although 2013 was quite rich on different presentations (I gave a talk on a COST workshop in Vienna and a short talk on the summer school in Italy and presented a poster on the summer school in Dubrovnik) none of them was shared on a proper conference. Thanks to these contributions I did not really feel a desperate need to attend a conference, but was significantly looking forward to this NVMS meeting. The whole mass spec group from AMOLF attended as well.

My first impression was: Oh, there are no young people except of our group and the LUMC guys! The feeling was supported by the mentioned attendance of the summer schools, which was still in a fresh memory. The participants at those occasions were mostly students after all. Also the mass spectrometry imaging community within which spans a significant part of my scientific network is very young in general. The impression of a too high an age-average was decreased after several chats with other students. However, as a matter of fact, one bumped into one of those older distinguished professors from all over the Flatlands on every corner.

I really enjoyed the conference opening which was quite untraditional and very refreshing. Instead of a plenary talk on the importance and future of mass spectrometry the first speaker was a known Dutch historian (ehm, I’d never heard of him before…) Maarten van Rossem. He gave an engaging talk in the original meaning of the word: no fancy power point, just the stage, microphone, and him. I really admire these people who can talk for hours with passion, hold on a storyline, and give away a clear message eventually. In the case of Maarten’s talk that one was quite clear, indeed. He was pondering about the lack of enthusiasm in the current society.

Well, it’s difficult to notice this shortage if you work in a place like AMOLF, but I got the gist. Actually the enthusiasm for knowledge and discovery was the reason why I got hooked on science. Personally, I can’t complain about the lack of enthusiasm since I don’t simply do things that I am not enthusiastic about (mostly that is… I still have to do the boring laundry business from time to time for example… :) Maarten was interchanging the words enthusiasm and intelligence, which I found a bit confusing. I mean that is exactly the point, isn’t it? No need to have IQ of 160 points or being great in algebra… just like what you do, do what you like, ask questions and keep wondering. Do whatever you are passionate about and I can guarantee you will be good at it.

So that was the start of the conference on Sunday late afternoon. The scientific content of the remaining two days was focused a lot on the LC-MS and proteomics, which I did not find super exciting, but there were several good talks and great topics which I enjoyed listening to. The best two lectures were to my big disappointment at the same time in the parallel sessions. Both of them dealt with the multimodal imaging, which is something my PhD research is partly about.

Within the conference a contest for the best student poster was announced. Since all the students who were taking part in it were also supposed to present their poster content in a short 4-minutes flash talk, another prize was supposed to be granted for the best talk. BIMS had in total six participants out of twenty. In the end two poster and one talk prize were awarded. BIMS scored twice when Mark Jansen got one of the poster prizes and I got the one for the talk! (Yes, the introvertish exhibitionist did well! :) The award will pay me the trip to another conference – the legendary ASMS in Baltimore in June. (I have to use the money for a science related travelling.  I tried to declare I will get a new bike – or at least a new set of high-rim carbon wheels – to travel to the States, but sadly that was declined. As was my latest attempt to use it for getting a wetsuit.) Well, more conference fun ahead! :)

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