2010: High Polymer Research Group 50th anniversary conference
Chairman's Review of the 50th Anniversary HPRG Meeting 25th-29th April 2010
The rituals of spring are ever fascinating, buds appear on the trees, the evenings get lighter, so I can go for a bike ride in the Peak District after work. Spring for me also signals the most enjoyable conference of the year - Pott Shrigley - and a new tie in the wardrobe to mark the transition from long-sleeved to short sleeved shirts!
In 2010 the HRPG was 50 years old and we had a spectacularly good meeting with a title Polymer Science: The Next Fifty Years with a programme that reviewed progress over the lifetime of HPRG and provided a forward look as to what we might expect to see in its future. It would be invidious to name individual speakers but as usual we were enlightened and enthralled in roughly equal measure. It's clear that polymer science is continuing to grow as a subject, the ubiquity of macromolecules, and our (polymer scientists) combination of intellectual rigour and willingness to address a wide range of issue means that our discipline first collaborates with and then adopts scientists who could come with a wide variety of labels. The first day of the 50th meeting is a case in point, starting with an old pot-boiling chemist, then a theoretical physicist making rubber by supramolecular chemistry, moving through the polymer physics of proteins to therapeutics by design and finishing with inventing new molecules on a computer. And the next day started with a Nobel Prize winner, one of a number to have spoken to us both before and after their prizes and who knows who will come next?
The 50th meeting saw many old friends come back for what might have been their last HRPG and many new friends come for what we hope will be their first of many. It's great to see that our quaint traditions continue to be upheld and the photographer still comments on how smart we looked in our scarves and ties at the gala dinner. Bringing new polymer scientists into our community has been an increasing focus of the conference, it was enjoyable to see the manifold interactions of colleagues across both seniority and subject gaps, and their joy can be seen in the photographs on the web-site. They are free to download so please share them with your friends.
The 50th also showed us what a resilient community the HPRG is, and how it is leading the way in terms of providing a more environmentally-friendly model of what an international conference could be. Just two weeks before the meeting, the earth's crust started what seems to be a vendetta against our Treasurer and Secretary. The eruption of Eyjafjallajökull created an ash cloud that led to the closure of most of Europe's airspace from 15 until 20 April 2010. Of our 16 speakers only 5 were from the UK (and one of them was in California at the time). This meant we might not have a programme at all. But 100 of the 150 delegates were coming from within the UK and could travel overland, so we would have plenty of delegates. Some quick work meant we were able to put together an alternative programme using volunteers from amongst the people who were already registered, this programme not only covered more-or-less the same breadth of subjects but also was of a very high quality. As it turned out we only had one of our advertised speakers drop-out, but I'm sure no-one noticed any reduction in quality. I can't think of another conference that would have been able to react in this way and it highlighted something else. Bringing the leading researchers from all around the world to speak to a local community means many fewer air miles are involved in running Pott Shrigley than for 150 people to go to a large ACS/APS or EPF meeting.
Looking forward to seeing you at future meetings.
HPRG Chairman's After-Dinner Speech: Professor Tony and Angela Ryan
Overseas Speaker's Response: Professor Craig Hawker
Presentations to Former HPRG Council Officers:
Left to right: Dr Geoff Eastmond (Secretary & Treasurer, 200-2008); Prof Phil Hodge (Secretary & Treasurer, 2004-2010); Prof Dame Julia Higgins, (Chairman, 1998-2007); Prof Aubrey Jenkins, Secretary & Treasurer, 1990-2000); Prof Tony Ryan (current Chairman); Prof John Stanford (current Secretary & Treasurer)
HPRG 50th Conference Dinner: "Under the Arch" at Shrigley Hall Hotel
Four Generations of Polymer Scientists at
From right to left: Professor Bob Stepto (John Stanford's PhD Supervisor); Professor John Stanford (Tony Ryan's PhD Supervisor); Professor Tony Ryan (Mike Elwell's PhD Supervisor); Dr Mike Elwell