Feb. 13, 2014

Pittcon 2014: Visit the Windy City Chicago

  • Pittcon will open its doors March 2-6, 2014Pittcon will open its doors March 2-6, 2014

Pittcon 2014 will open its doors soon. Like throughout the last years we conducted an interview with Pittcons' President, Janet Pifer. Unlike most other trade shows, Pittcon spends its revenues for developments for scientific education and the support of scientific research in the Pittsburgh area and beyond. This year's Pittcon will take place at McCormicks Place beginning March 2 - 6 in Chicago. We hope to meet you there.

Pittcon is a non-profit organization. What are the (educational) projects you plan to support with the revenues of Pittcon 2014?

J. Pifer: Proceeds from Pittcon help us to achieve our mission by funding science education and outreach at all levels, kindergarten through adult in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and surrounding areas, as well as local areas in and around the host city. Outreach programs include science education through workshops and seminars for students and teachers and grant programs for schools and colleges to purchase scientific equipment.

Each year in the host city, Pittcon offers Science Week, an outreach and support program that promotes science education from elementary through high school levels. Science Week includes free teacher and student workshops, a demonstration/lecture for high school students, and a grant program.
Teacher workshops are presented by leading educators and scientists and cover a wide range of topics specific to elementary, middle, and high school science. Teachers who attend receive Professional Learning Units (PLU's) and will also receive supplies and materials, so that they can immediately implement the principles and activities demonstrated in the workshops.

Student workshops are also available to elementary and middle school students. Participants rotate through a set of six hands-on workshops that cover such topics as gases, acid/base reactions, chromatography, electrochemistry, astronomy, and light and color.

On Thursday of Conference Week, Lee Marek from the University of Chicago will present a special lecture and demonstration, "Weird Science on Fuels and Energy." This program will feature science education in a very unique way so as to capture the interest of high school students.

Attendance at one or more of the teacher workshops entitles a teacher to apply for a grant to purchase science-related teaching materials for their school. These grants may be as much as $1,000 each to any school within a 150 mile radius of Chicago.

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 up to $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 necessary size and budgetary requirements to receive grants up to $10,000. As of 2013, approximately 336 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 grants and awards such as elementary/middle school, high school, and college equipment grants in western Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio & West Virginia to teachers who teach science in grades K-12 and college/university professors.

Other SSP & SACP grants/awards include:

Starter Grant Awards
The SACP/SSP Starter Grant Awards are given to encourage high-quality, innovative research by beginning chemistry professors. The goal of the grants is to promote the training and development of graduate students in the fields of spectroscopy and analytical chemistry. Two $40,000 awards will be granted in 2014: one award from the SACP in the area of analytical chemistry and one award from the Spectroscopy Society of Pittsburgh in the area of spectroscopy.

2014 Undergraduate Analytical Research Program (UARP) Grant
The Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh will award a grant of $10,000 to promote high-quality, innovative undergraduate research in the field of analytical chemistry. The objective of this grant is to promote training and development of undergraduate students in the field of analytical chemistry.

K-8 Excellence in Science Teaching Award
The SSP accepts nominations for teachers for the Excellence in Science Teaching Award. The program is open to any teacher Grades K-8 within Allegheny and surrounding county schools of the SSP membership area. The award consists of a plaque and $1,000 honorarium.

Keivin Burns Outstanding High School Science Teacher Award
The award is named after Keivin Burns, an outstanding astronomer, spectroscopist, and teacher at the Allegheny Observatory and the University of Pittsburgh. The purpose of the award is to recognize excellence in teaching of science at the secondary school level. The awardee(s) will be presented with a plaque and a $1,250 honorarium.

The two societies also donate money to outreach programs such as National Chemistry Week, local science centers, and museums. One of the grants is scholarship money to send underprivileged children to a local college to attend a week long summer camp called Kids College, which covers topics such as robotics and forensics.

Each year Pittcon honors outstanding contributions in science. Who are the 2014 awardees?

J. Pifer: This year, we have nine prestigious awards to scientists with varied backgrounds from a wide range of disciplines.

Richard M. Crooks from the University of Illinois will receive the Pittsburgh Analytical Chemistry Award for his research on biosensing and electrocatalysis. The co-founder of COACh for the Advancement of Women Scientists, Geraldine Richmond, will be the recipient of the Pittsburgh Spectroscopy Award.

Benjamin Garcia from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Medicine will be awarded the Pittsburgh Conference Achievement Award for his work in the development and application of mass spectrometry based proteomics for solving difficult problems in chromatin biology and epigenetics.

Michael Roper from Florida State University will accept the ACS Division of Analytical Chemistry Award for Young Investigators in Separation Sciences for his development of separation and detection methods for measuring multiple peptides released from islets of Langerhans, with a focus in understanding the dynamic nature of these cells.

Mary Wirth, the W. Brooks Fortune Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University, will be honored with the Chromatography Forum of the Delaware Valley Dal Nogare Award for contributions in new materials for protein separations.

Joseph Hupp from Northwestern University will receive the SEAC Charles N. Reilley Award for his focus on energy- and defense-relevant materials chemistry, electrochemistry and photochemistry.

SEAC Young Investigator Award goes to Stephen Maldonado from the University of Michigan for his group work in the area of semiconductor electrochemistry and reporting on a new method for electrochemically growing semiconductor crystals at ultra-low temperatures.

The Ralph N. Adams Award will honor Mark E. Meyerhoff from the University of Michigan for creating ion-, gas-, and bio-selective electrochemical sensors suitable for measurements of clinically important analytes.

And finally, Walter M. (Mike) Doyle, president of Axiom Analytical, Inc. will be the recipient of the The Coblentz Society Williams-Wright Award.

In which scientific fields you expect the most important innovations at Pittcon 2014?

J. Pifer: While I strongly believe that all innovations presented in the different fields are important, I think that innovations which will have the greatest impact to the largest sector will be those in the life sciences. Scientific progress in the life sciences is expanding at a rapid rate. The latest instrumentation, technology and research in regenerative medicine, stem cell research, drug discovery and methods of detection are among the leading topics presented in the Technical Program, Short Courses, and Conferee Networking. All of which are supported by the dynamic exposition displaying a vast array of the latest equipment used in different areas of this research and development.

What are the most important topics at Pittcon 2014?

J. Pifer: All of the scientific research presented at Pittcon has either a direct or indirect impact on the world's entire population. However, in addition to life sciences, other significant topics such as environmental issues specifically alternative energy/fuels and traceability, safety and sustainability in food science are of special interest as current events unfold. Nanotechnology is another "hot" topic as researchers continue to discover more and more new applications. Every day, nano materials are being created for many novel uses in energy, medicine, disease detection and materials such as electronics, batteries and steel.

Pittcon was always very creative and busy. What's new at this year's show?

J. Pifer: Every year after conference week, we evaluate the conference to assess what worked well, what didn't work and what we should implement going forward. We continually strive to add value for conferees, as well as our exhibitors. In an ongoing effort to enhance and further diversify our Technical Program, we formed a Program Resource Team (PRT). The purpose of the PRT is to collaborate on and make recommendations for our Technical Program. This team, consisting of experts in the fields of pharmaceutical science, nanotechnology and food science has recruited world renown speakers to present at select symposia.

We are pleased to announce that our partnership with Innovative Publishing will continue into the second year with the co-location of its annual two-day Food Labs Conference to be held in conjunction with Pittcon. The registration fee to attend the two-day Food Lab Conference, March 3-4, also includes unlimited week-long admission to the Pittcon exposition floor and technical program.

Steven A. Carr, Director of Proteomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard will present this year's Wallace H. Coulter Plenary Lecture, "Quantitative Proteomics in Biology, Chemistry and Medicine." Carr will discuss the application of modern proteomics to biology and medicine.

The conference and exposition has published a new mobile app for Pittcon 2014 which is available for free download for iOS and Android devices. The app has several new interactive features and serves as an excellent resource tool before, during and after the event.

Also, there are 28 new short course being offered this year with topics such as regulations, spectroscopy, pharmaceutical, nanoparticles, wastewater microbiology, and a free course, Lab Manager Boot Camp, to name a few.

What are your expectations concerning technical breakthroughs in the field of analytical science in the next decade?

J. Pifer: I would expect that analytical technical breakthroughs in the next decade to center around major global issues and demands such as increasing the world's food supply while maintaining food safety; meeting the demand for sustainable energy and fuel; early detection, prevention, and cure of disease; and protecting and improving the quality of our air, water and other natural resources. These are certainly some of the areas that are attracting the funding and the expertise resulting in continuous innovations.

What is the motivation for the volunteers who spend thousands of hours for organizing Pittcon?

J. Pifer: I believe that the motivation for a volunteer to dedicate so much time and effort to organize Pittcon is different for everyone depending on one's background and current career status. For the young professionals, it is an excellent way to meet and connect with members of the scientific community to help expand their resources and circle of colleagues. For volunteers that are more seasoned in their career, it is a conduit for sharing their technical knowledge and to apply their expertise to the business management side of science - an aspect they might not otherwise experience in their current positions. For those committee members that are retired, it is definitely an avenue by which they can give back to the sciences and get involved in helping to foster a continuing interest in science among younger generations.

It is that indescribable sense of satisfaction you experience that after more than 16 months of planning and preparing, one is able to witness first hand all the hard work and dedication come to fruition. You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief when that Opening Ceremony bell rings to signal the start of the exposition.

And of course, it is not all work...the group has become much like a "family" providing a social network aspect, as well. Many of the volunteers have formed strong friendships that have been extremely supportive of each other through life's good times, as well as the challenges.



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