To witness world-renowned scientists present their work at a conference is a special phenomenon. Their command of their subject is unmatched and their presentations are polished by years of experience. This thought never occurred to me until my time with the EUCheMS though; the plenary talks are structured significantly different than the typical science talk.
Likely, a large reason for this is the time allotment. While the majority of talks at this conference have been scheduled for 15-30 minute time slots, the plenary talks are granted an hour. It’s appropriate these individuals be granted more time to explain and expand upon the work and ideas that made them famous. I enjoy hearing the histories of their fields and the novel work they used to solve problems.
In addition to these well-known senior lecturers, I would also be interested in the conference highlighting a few younger, less-familiar speakers and their research. Listening to a graduate student speak for 30 or 45 minutes about their research project could provide an avenue for scientists working in adjacent fields to gain insight into this new field. It also could help other students develop their own ideas and strategies to solve problems in their own laboratory.
As a budding structural biologist, I was indulged by Professor Kurt Wüthrich’s plenary talk. Protein structures play an integral role in many areas of biology, yet the first structure was solved just over 50 years ago. The field grew and matured very rapidly. Less than 30 years ago, Wüthrich published the first NMR solution structure.
It is intriguing to consider the progress we young scientists might achieve in the course of our careers. I consider the ongoing genome projects, and how critically important it is to translate sequence to structure to function. What would this mean for future generations? Plenary talks like Dr. Wüthrich’s serve to inspire, teach and challenge us to never stop asking questions.