Australasian Polymer Feast

Australasian Polymer Feast

by Martina Stenzel

The Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) 32nd Australasian Polymer Symposium (APS) was held in Coffs Harbour 13–16 February 2011. Chair of the conference was UNSW’s A/Prof. Martina Stenzel from the School of Chemical Engineering. The Australasian Polymer Symposium is a feast of polymer science covering a range of topics, from polymer synthesis, characterization, physics of polymers, and engineering to materials. Topics run the gamut from fundamental polymer science, such as modeling, to applied materials. A considerable number of the presentations at the symposium were dedicated to the interface of polymer science with other disciplines, such as biomaterials, nanomaterials, and surface science. Polymer science has grown as a stand-alone discipline into a mature area touching all areas of science and engineering, and thus, all areas of life, including medicine, energy, and the environment. The growth of polymer science highlights that today’s challenges can be tackled only by the combined efforts of scientists and engineers.

The APS grew from a small Australian meeting in the late ’50s to a large international meeting, with almost 300 delegates this year. Delegates from all over the world, including all continents, attended the meeting, with almost 40 percent of delegates coming from overseas. The broadly international nature of the meeting was also reflected in the variety of plenary and keynote speakers. Twenty-two plenary and keynote speakers from Europe, the United States, Africa, Asia, and Australia made this meeting a success.

Plenary speakers

Keynote speakers

The strong student contingent at the conference showed that polymer science is truly alive. Postgraduates are the lifeblood of any country’s research profile, and the conference benefited greatly from the enthusiasm, skills, and foresight of its student participants. The conference saw a significant percentage of presentations, both poster and oral, given by students. An additional session was dedicated to young, up-and-coming academics to provide them with the opportunity to present their work, and to draw attention to their creative polymer science.

To celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, the concluding session of the conference highlighted the achievements of polymer research and its impact on society. Professor Christopher Ober, president of the IUPAC Polymer Division, addressed the audience and greeted the delegates on behalf of IUPAC. His laudation of polymer science was complemented by a plenary lecture by Professor Richard Evans (CSIRO, Australia), who shined a light on polymer research in Australia, celebrating Australian plastic money, plastic lenses, contact lenses, and other achievements of polymer research.

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Some invited keynote speakers pose for a happy shot (left to right): Prof. Richard Hoogenboom (Ghent University, Belgium); Prof. Christopher Ober (Cornell University, US); conference chair Assoc. Prof. Martina Stenzel (UNSW); Dr. Rachel O’Reilly (Warwick University, UK); Prof. Kelly Velonia (University of Crete, Greece).

The conference concluded with a dinner, which was held in a picturesque setting at the Bonville Golf Course. The presentation of the RACI Polymer Division awards was part of the dinner. The Sangster Polymer Science and Technology Award, which is given to an outstanding polymer scientist under the age of 40, was awarded to Professor Michelle Coote from the Australian National University in Canberra. The 32nd APS was also the occasion of the inaugural presentation of the Bruce Guise Award. Bruce Guise, an outstanding industrial polymer scientist, dedicated his life not only to his research but also to the polymer community in Australia. Huan Toh from Carl Zeiss (former Sola) was the first recipient of this award, for his contribution to the development of plastic lenses. Traditionally, the APS awards the Trelor Prize for the best student oral and poster presentation. John Moraes (Sydney University) and Vien T. Huynh (University of New South Wales) received the Trelor Prize for best oral and best poster presentation, respectively.

Finally, the Australian Polymer Community had a small, surprise award to bestow. Occasionally, an award is given to an eminent international scientist who has supported the Australian Polymer Community over an extended period of time. This award was given to Professor Christopher Bowman from the University of Colorado, who has had various research collaborations with different Australian researchers over many years. He has frequently visited Australia and also attended many Australian Polymer Symposia, often together with his research group.

At the conclusion of the conference, the chair, Martina Stenzel, introduced Sebastien Perrier, who will be the chair of the 33rd Australasian Polymer Symposium <www.33aps.org.au/2012>.

Martina Stenzel <m.stenzel@unsw.edu.au> is an associate professor in the School of Chemical Engineering, the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

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