Jan. 01, 2010

Pittcon 2010, Laboratory Business Trade Show and Conference: Interview with Annette S. Wilson

  • Annette S. Wilson, PhD, President, Pittcon 2010Annette S. Wilson, PhD, President, Pittcon 2010
  • Annette S. Wilson, PhD, President, Pittcon 2010
  • © Schlegel René / Fotolia

Pittcon is the largest trade show and conference in the laboratory business. There is no other event in the world where more people working in laboratories meet and discuss. In contrast to other events Pittcon is non-commercial but uses its earnings completely to support the scientific community giving the attendees and exhibitors a platform to come together without a commercial background. Except 11 full time employees Pittcon is planned, organized and realized by volunteers. Nonetheless Pittcon improves its educational offerings from year to year. We talked to Annette S. Wilson the President of Pittcon 2010.

G.I.T. Laboratory Journal Europe: Mrs. Wilson, what is your motivation to volunteer for such an enormous amount of time for the success of Pittcon?

A.S. Wilson: I have been an active member of the Pittsburgh Conference Organizing Committee since 1991. Prior to this time I had the good fortune to participate at Pittcon while I was a graduate student. During this time I learned of the tremendous educational and networking opportunities Pittcon offers to all scientists around the world. The fact that the proceeds earned from the Pittcon exposition are distributed to further science education at all levels - from elementary school to college - as well as offering continuing education for scientific educators and professionals was definitely enough motivation for me to devote substantial amounts of my personal time producing such an annual conference and exposition.

What do you expect to be the most important news, techniques and instrumentations in the laboratory field at Pittcon 2010?

A.S. Wilson: In 2010, I'm sure we'll see continuing advances in the separations sciences involving nearly every mode of chromatography - HPLC, UPLC, IC, GC - as well as hyphenated and tandem MS techniques. Applications involving mass spectrometry are becoming more prevalent, particularly in the life sciences, and many leading researchers will be pre-senting their latest work in the Technical Program.

Another interesting trend is in the area of microfluidics and nanotechnology.

Ongoing research at the nano-scale is having a dramatic impact on the development and application of miniature analytical instrumentation and nano-based analytical techniques.

Pittcon spends most of its earnings for grants and awards. What are the projects that will be supported with the earnings from 2010?

A.S. Wilson: Pittcon is organized by The Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit educational corporation which is owned by the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh (SSP) and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP). The Pittsburgh Conference donates nearly a million dollars each year in the form of science equipment grants, research grants, scholarships and internships for students, awards to teachers and professors, and grants to public science centers, libraries and museums. In addition, during the week of Pittcon 2010, a Science Week program will be held offering outreach and support programs for science education in the Orlando, FL area. The Pittcon 2010 Science Week program includes teacher and student workshops and a lecture/demonstration assembly. The support program also provides grants to schools in the Orlando area.

Exhibitors are interested in presenting their technology to a large and professional audience. Do you believe that the overall decreasing number of attendees at Pittcon is correlated with the venue areas in the southern states?

A.S. Wilson: Because the conference and exposition is so large, we have been relegated to four cities - Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta and Orlando. Exhibitors have told us that hosting the conference in the same city in consecutive years is not a preferred approach. Their preference is to rotate the venue annually to meet a different set of conferees. We continue to seek new venues in industrial centers that can accommodate Pittcon, and I'm pleased to say that we will be hosting the conference in Philadelphia in 2013 because of the expansion that is underway.

While location plays a role in regional attendance, there are many other factors that have affected attendance at live events like Pittcon. The 9/11 incident and the recent global economic struggles have had the largest impact on attendance, affecting both exhibitors and conferees. Travel budgets are tight, and companies are becoming more selective about the number of people they send to Pittcon. However, there are two trends that are evident to us. Of those who are sent, more of them are decision makers. In addition, companies continue to send their employees, but instead of the same person attending each year, different personnel are rotated each year.

However, despite these issues, we've held conferee attendance relatively steady over the past eight years, and actually grew conferee attendance by 6.5% in 2009. If we can continue to attract conferees, then we believe exhibitors will continue to participate at Pittcon as well.

Most exhibitors prefer to exhibit in Chicago because of the strength of local industry, particularly in the pharmaceutical and food and beverage industries. However, the southern venues, like Orlando and New Orleans, give us the opportunity to attract more conferees from Latin America. This year, we've formed partnerships with Latin American analytical laboratory associations and expect to see a higher number of attendees from this area. In addition, Florida has experienced growth in the biomedical sciences and biotechnology industry.

Additionally industry consolidations have made an impact on the exposition. Companies like Varian and ESA, for instance, were acquired last year and their booths absorbed by the acquiring companies.

However, as the economy improves in the future, we believe that the number of exhibiting companies will remain steady, if not grow.

What are the plans of Pittcon to reverse the overall negative trend of the past decade?

A.S. Wilson: I anticipate a well-attended Pittcon in 2010. In the U.S., the government has released stimulus funds to the scientific community to help advance their research. What better place than Pittcon is there for scientists to evaluate all of the new products and vendors to help make their laboratory purchase decisions? And, as the global economy continues to improve, we expect to welcome a large number of attendees from outside of the U.S. as well. Typically, Pittcon is visited by conferees from more than 85 countries.

We've expanded the conferee networking sessions which provide a powerful forum for scientists to exchange ideas with each other. We are also producing videos of 10 symposia, including 50 technical presentations, available to conferees for two months after the conference on the Pittcon Web site. This will enable conferees to spend more time on the exposition floor and still be able to attend their symposia of interest. We've also placed significant emphasis on the educational nature of Pittcon, including the Short Course program which gives conferees further justification to attend Pittcon.

Another novel program we launched this year is Pittconnect, an online scientific community, which will enable year round interactions between scientists and technical representatives from exhibiting companies.

In your professional life you work on psychological effects of nicotine and smoking, please tell us about your scientific research?

A.S. Wilson: The research studying the behavioral and physiological effects of nicotine has been a collaborative effort at the University of Pittsburgh. Interestingly I became involved in this research project through my mentor. My involvement in the project dealt with devising a delivery system of the nicotine and placebo for use during the studies so subjects would have difficulty distinguishing between them based on sensitization. This allowed our investigative team to acquire reliable behavioral and physiological data based on the true effects of nicotine in helping to explain the strength of nicotine dependence in smokers and non-smokers. Most of our studies have been focused on the behavioral effects of nicotine delivered to human subjects via different methods.

My work experience has been primarily in pulmonary and cardiovascular research. I have coordinated projects involving gene regulation in vitro and in vivo in rodent models observing phenotypic responses to the gene downregulation or upregulation in lungs and vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells. Many of these studies involved microscopic imaging, PCR, and mass spectrometric techniques. My research activities have also involved the development of lipid vectors highly efficient in selective delivery of small-sized nucleic acids (antisense oligos and siRNA).

My current research is the challenge of elucidating the cellular mediators and molecular pathways involved in Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Please give us an overview on your career?

A.S. Wilson: I work at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine as a laboratory manager. I am starting a new state-of-the-art biomedical research laboratory where I manage the research and oversee the operations of an Inflammatory Bowel Disease Translational Research Laboratory. Before my current position I was an Instructor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health of the Graduate School of Public Health and the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh. Early in my career I was a Forensic Toxicologist at the Allegeheny County Department of Laboratories in Pittsburgh. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, a Master of Science degree in Toxicology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Toxicology from the University of Pittsburgh.


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