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19th International Mass Spectrometry Conference, Kyoto, Japan

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Topic: Science  |  Series: Japanese mission
The International Mass Spectrometry Conference (IMSC) has been organized once in three years since 1958. Last IMSC in 2009 took place in Bremen, Germany. 2012 was a special year for IMSC, as is was localized out of Europe for the first time: in Kyoto, Japan. The opening ceremony on Sunday 16th September was followed by four and a half day of exquisite mass spectrometric programme.

Every day of the conference was begun by a morning plenary lecture. During the whole conference 45 different sessions were held, that is 10 sessions for each day, divided into two blocks, except Friday (only 5 sessions in morning block). Each session lasted two hours and was opened by a keynote lecture. Poster presentations and luncheon seminars were squeezed between the morning and afternoon block of the lectures.

These luncheon seminars were organized by mass spec companies and thus were sort of commercial in some cases. They offered a programme of two or three lectures together with the advantage of a lunch. The Japanese lunch boxes (bentó) consisted of various pieces of fish, shrimps and whatever-blunt-stuff with a neither unrecognizable taste nor consistence. I occasionally just stack to rice and two pieces of a safe-to-be-salmon. The program in the evening differed day to day.


Monday was a long-expected day for me. I have been looking forward to a double mass spectrometry imaging portion of lectures (morning AND afternoon session!) since I first read the conference programme in spring. The morning session was opened by Ron Heeren, who I am currently working with at the FOM Institute AMOLF in Amsterdam. And truly, the two blocks just made my day.

I have not pre-registered to any of the luncheon seminars for Monday, hoping to crush into something interesting. As I learned later, the organizers usually counts on feeding all the participants, so there is always supposed to be a spare lunch box on a seminar in case you do not manage to get registered in advance.

As an evening programme we selected the banquet organized by Thermo Fisher Scientific. The main attraction of the selection was not the food, as it may seem at the first glance. No, it was a lecture held by Alexander Makarov. To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by it in the end as it was too commercial for me. But what could have I expected on Thermo Fisher banquet. (A. Makarov is actually that guy, who invented Orbitrap (not solely alone, you know, but he is the very crucial person. Thermo Fisher is nowadays the only company manufacturing this type of instrument.) What regards the rest of the evening, it was nice and very social. I got to know few new people from the field and had couple of those refreshing scientific conversations.


I found myself immersed into glycomics during the second day of the conference. Not just that I listened through all the lectures in the two glyco-blocks, but got also a proper look at some of the presented posters. I found a bit difficult though to discuss the experiments with the Japanese scientists. It happened several times, that day did not know answers on my questions or that they actually did not understand English properly. (I mean no offence here; it is just something I observed.)

I was luckily registered to the luncheon seminar of SHIMADZU. It was not the bentó box I came in for, though. It was Professor Gérard Hopfgartner from the university in Genéva. He had an impressive talk concerning among others liquid chromatography. I got interested by the idea of so called “analytical cocktails”. No, no drinks were served nor were we having a party. An analytical cocktail can be prepared, when you have a sufficient amount of your sample, which you treat by several different methods, to concentrate all different classes of analytes. The parts of the divided and treated sample are mixed again and the analytes are separated in a 2D LC system.


During Wednesday I sort of mixed the topics of the two previous days. I visited the sessions on new mass spectrometry imaging instrumentation and the last glycomic session. I favored the lecture of Bernhard Spengler from the university in Giessen, which was partly devoted to the use of Orbitrap in mass spectrometry imaging. Later in the afternoon I shared the enthusiasm of diamond nanoparticles with Professor Cathy E. Costello (Boston University School of Medicine).

Wednesday was also the day for our posters to be presented: quantification of catechins and caffeine in black, green and white tea samples / analysis of entecavir in rat plasma and urine / analysis of statins in human serum; all methods employing LC MS – triple quad.


Well, Thursday was a bit complicated: I did not find a session, which would suit me perfectly, so I chose to change between the lectures throughout the sessions according to the potential attraction. The last lecture of the day was devoted to a brand new instrumentation improvement, which has already been spread to be known as Nikolaev’s cell. It concerns a new type of FT ICR cell, which offers a mass resolution of up to 60,000,000! The presenter was not Nikolaev himself, but one of his student. However, it was Nikolaev, who was a chairman of the session. I found very embarrassing when he later answered all the questions, which headed to the speaker.

In the morning, there was an award ceremony, where three men were awarded the Thompson medal for contribution to the mass spectrometry community. They held the lectures in the late afternoon; they were Alexander Makarov (Thermo Fisher Scientific), František Tureček (University of Washington) and Ruedi Aebersold (ETH Zürich). I enjoyed Makarov’s lectures this time, as he described the story behind orbitrap invention.


On Friday morning we hurried not to miss the plenary lecture. It was the most appealing plenary lecture for me, regarding the topic. The speaker was Richard M. Caprioli – “the father of imaging mass spectrometry”. I went to listen to Eugeny Nikolaev himself, who was talking about “his” cell (again). The conference closed on Friday and its programme ended up after noon.

Well, to sum up: the conference was just amazing (even though it was completely different from OurCon in Spain: compare 150 and nearly 2,000 participants!). I am very glad, I could taste the atmosphere of a big conference and I think, I took the best out of it. I enjoyed the lectures, met couple of new science related friends and also discussed several possibilities of future co-operation. The next International Mass Spectrometry Conference will be held in Genéva already in 2014 (the three year cycle got shortened to two years only).

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