Pittcon Ante Portas
Interviewing Ron Bargiel, Pittcon President 2013
Starting 16 March, Pittcon 2013 will open its doors in Philadelphia, PA. Traditionally Pittcon attracts more visitors when its venue lies in the north eastern states of the US. The restored Pennsylvania convention center now is big enough for hosting the world's most important conference on laboratory instrumentation. Like every year you have the opportunity to meet all manufacturers and experts in the field at one place. And - it's a nice place. Philadelphia alone is worth a visit. With Pittcon on top, there is no excuse to be elsewhere from March 16th to 21st. Like in the past, the G.I.T. Laboratory Journal had an interview with Ron Bargiel, Pittcon's President in 2013, to give you an impression on the reasons why you should visit Philadelphia in March. We hope to meet you there!
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: Pittcon is a non-profit organization. What are the projects you plan to support with the revenues of Pittcon 2013?
Ron Bargiel: Each year, together with its co-sponsoring technical societies, The Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP) and The Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP), and funded by the Pittcon event, these societies award The Pittsburgh Conference Memorial National College Grants (PCMNCG) to small college science departments. The awards are approximately $10,000 for the purchase of scientific equipment, audio-visual, teaching aids, and/or library materials for use in the teaching of science at the undergraduate level for colleges and universities throughout the United States. The award program has grown over the years to include 10 - 12 colleges that meet the nearly 300 grants have been awarded through PCMNCG since its inception in 1974. In addition to this award, Pittcon generates over $1 million dollars for the SSP and the SACP to provide financial and administrative support for various science outreach activities including science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums.
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: What are the most important topics at Pittcon 2013?
Ron Bargiel: As many of our long-time attendees know, Pittcon through the years has grown beyond its roots in analytical chemistry and spectroscopy. It now serves a diverse constituency of all laboratory scientists encompassing life sciences, pharmaceutical discovery, food science, environmental, and much more. The event basically has "something for everyone;" however, as current events unfold, one of the strategic goals of our Program Committee is to include technical sessions which address these topics of special interest. The focus this year will be on food science, specifically traceability and sustainability, and environmental science and energy with presentations discussing shale gas and alternative fuels. Nanotechnology continues to be a "hot" topic, and we are very pleased to have our Wallace H. Coulter Plenary Lecturer, Nobel Laureate, Sir Harry Kroto presenting "Exameter Objects to Nanometer Ones and Back Again."
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: In 2013 Pittcon takes place in Philadelphia. Do you expect an increase in the numbers of visitors, exhibitors and booth space in comparison to 2012?
Ron Bargiel: I believe it is important to make a distinction in our attendance figures. For the most part, the number of exhibitor personnel, as opposed to the stable conferee number, is the number that has been experiencing a steady decline for the past several years. We are not really expecting too much of an increase in this number. In recent years, it is a prevalent trend that has permeated throughout all types of tradeshows - exhibiting companies are sending fewer personnel to events due to budgetary restraints and the increased cost of travel and housing. Since 2009, there have been major factors outside of our control that have impacted Pittcon's attendance such as increased travel costs, economic challenges, and reduced travel budgets. In spite of these issues, Pittcon attendance remains stable and continues to attract a high quality of attendee. With that being said, we are expecting a boost in conferee attendance, exhibiting companies, and booth spaces. We gain a large number of regional attendees as we move from city to city, and one of the reasons we selected Philadelphia is we anticipate a considerable interest from our target market in the Northeast. In addition to a being a first-time location for us, Philadelphia is centrally located in the heart of an abundant life science, pharmaceutical and fuel/energy corridors and is easily accessible from anywhere in the world.
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: Pittcon was always very creative and busy. What's new at this year's show?
Ron Bargiel: Pittcon has always been a very dynamic event showcasing innovations in technology, equipment, and research. This year is no exception. The most significant news about Pittcon 2013 is the partnership with Innovative Publishing, publisher of Food Safety Tech, which includes the co-location of its annual two day Food Labs Conference to be held in conjunction with Pittcon on March 19th - 20th . The registration fee to attend the two-day Food Lab Conference, March 19th - 20th, also includes unlimited week-long admission to the Pittcon exposition floor and technical program. Additionally, the Short Course program includes more than 40 new course titles for this year, and we are pleased to welcome more than 110 first-time exhibiting companies on the exposition floor. To complement the existing 11 awards, a new award, the Royal Society of Chemistry Award - Robert Boyle Prize for Analytical Science, awarded for outstanding contributions to analytical science has been added to the Technical Program. Norman Dovichi received the award for pioneering development of ultrasensitive separations, including the first separations at zepto- and yoctomole levels and capillary electrophoresis-based DNA sequencing for the human genome. Other major Pittcon news includes the agreement with the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation under which the Conference has received an endowment to undertake educational training and development in laboratory sciences with special emphasis in resource limited countries worldwide. As a result, we have renamed our plenary and keynote lecture in honor of Wallace H. Coulter. And lastly, a new mobile app, Pittcon 2013, is available for iOS and Android devices to help attendees customize their schedules get complete details on technical sessions and exhibitors, take notes, and connect with colleagues.
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: What are Pittcons' plans for the next five years?
Ron Bargiel: Pittcon will remain an annual conference and exposition. We will have implemented the most innovative ways to sustain our mission and will continue to evaluate and add value to our Technical Program to help ensure the success of the conference. We will have worked to make the Exposition a cost effective venue for both our exhibitors and conferees, including allowing for B2B partnerships to flourish. We also see Pittcon having formed mutually beneficial partnerships that can help drive the message of our organization.
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: What is the motivation for you and all the other volunteers to spend thousands of hours for organizing Pittcon?
Ron Bargiel: I think that the answer to that is different for each person depending on their stage of life and career status. Although working on the Pittcon Organizing Committee is a definite commitment of a volunteer's time and resources, there are many perks, as well. I would think that first and foremost it provides a large and very diverse network of colleagues to connect with both professionally, as well as socially. Also, as with any non-profit activity, I believe that a member also receives a certain level of satisfaction knowing that their efforts help the organization achieve its mission which is to sponsor and sustain educational and charitable activities for the advancement and benefit of scientific endeavor. The volunteers, for the most part, either work in or are retired from some aspect of science and realize the positive impact that these important disciplines have on our everyday lives. Therefore, we all feel somewhat compelled to foster this interest to help attract and give every opportunity to the brightest and best to excel in this field.
G.I.T. Laboratory Journal: Please tell us about your individual career, and what Pittcon means for you?
Ron Bargiel: My career began with Consolidated Coal Company, which is now Consol Energy where I worked for 13 years in the Environmental Quality Control Department. My interest in science always revolved around water chemistry and environmental issues. Over the last 24 years I have been employed by Pennsylvania American Water. My current title is water quality manager within the Environmental Compliance Department. Early in my career at Consol Energy, I can vividly remember the excitement and anticipation of those chemists that were chosen to attend Pittcon. It is important for us to capture that excitement and focus on science education and careers in science. Pittcon has always and will continue to be the premier conference for analytical chemistry and other related fields. Pittcon has enabled me to establish relationships that were important to me personally and very important to enrich my career.