IST Conference 2017 – Review

IST One-day Technical Conference 2017
The Mercure Grand Hotel, Leicester
Date: Thursday 14th September 2017

It was a beautiful, blue sky day in the centre of Leicester where people were arriving for the 2017 Institute of Science and Technology’s (IST) national conference. There was a buzz of anticipation as people queued at the conference reception desk in the Grand Mercure Hotel. Old friends caught up and new friends were being made, as people moved into the marble pillared main hall for a drink and a chat. Around the edges of the hall were sponsors stands, offering a chance to view the latest technologies and equipment. Delegates mingled with company representatives and with representatives from bodies such as the Science Council, Heated, and the TDM project. Everything a technician could ask for was there, coffee included.

At 10am we were all ushered in to the Queens Hall for Terry Croft to officially open the conference. Terry, the IST’s chairman, revealed the fantastic news that the ISTs membership was growing, as had interest in professional registration for technicians. He praised the initiatives from the Science Council and Gatsby Foundation for increasing the visibility of technicians. “Now is a great time to be a technician” he said, “and a great time to be part of the IST”. He also explained that the IST would continue its support of WorkFit, an initiative run by the Down’s Syndrome Association, dedicated to finding meaningful employment opportunities for people with Down’s Syndrome. His speech ended with a call for volunteers, “With an increasing membership and our involvement with a number of projects and bodies at national level”, he said, “there is a need for more volunteers to become part of the specialist teams supporting this work. This is an exciting opportunity to play a part in the IST and make a difference”. He then thanked the sponsors and welcomed the opening speaker, Dr Turi King.

IST Conference 2017

Turi was the first of two fantastic plenary speakers. For a conference in Leicester there could not be a more relevant talk than one about the discovery and identification of Richard III. She described the hunt for Richard’s grave as an, “Historical missing persons case” and went on to describe how they had managed to solve it; of course, with the help and support of technicians. The story had more twists and turns than a Sherlock Holmes novel but Turi’s clear explanations and eye for amusing detail kept us all captivated. The round of applause at the end showed just how much everyone had loved this historical murder mystery. As the applause died down there was just time for questions before we went on our separate ways to the first set of workshops.

IST Conference 2017

At these times, the conference hall empties and the sponsors get a well-earned break. However, the hour soon ticked around and the hall filled back up as quick as it emptied. There was time for more coffee, biscuits, for the sharing of new ideas, and for chatting to the exhibitors before everyone headed off again for the second set of talks.

Lunch had the hall humming with hungry technicians fresh from a morning of interesting seminars and socialising. The conference was only half way through but it felt like it had only just begun. A wonderful buffet of hot and cold food was laid out for us, there were even chips! It was a group of well-fed technicians that filed back into Queens Hall, raring to go for the next plenary speaker; Professor Anu Ojha, who was truly inspirational.

Anu is the Director of the UKs National Space Academy Programme and a Director of the National Space Centre, based in Leicester. His talk opened with a controversial statement, “Space, what’s the point?” At the end of the talk, no one was in any doubt about the importance of space; not just of looking outwards, but also for looking back at our “pale blue dot.”. He showed us just how much we can learn about our planet by using the satellites and how important that information would be to our expanding population. He was a charismatic speaker with some incredible images and an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject. I think we’d all have followed him onto a spaceship to Mars at the end of the hour, he certainly got bombarded with questions when the round of applause died down.

IST Conference 2017

The third and final set of workshops followed swiftly on and we were all sadly aware that the day was drawing to a close. The general consensus seemed to be that this year’s conference was one of the best yet. A fantastic series of talks, a great turn out, amazing plenary speakers, and sponsors who where totally engaged and committed to the conference. This combination ensured that everyone was boiling over with enthusiasm in an atmosphere that was buzzing.

There was a tired but happy atmosphere in the Queens hall for Ian Moulson’s closing remarks and prize giving. What a day it had been, over all too quickly. Katherine Whitley had won the poster competition with a fantastic poster about fruit flies at the University of Sheffield and received her prize of an iPad mini. We were reminded that it would be a whole new year before we all met again, in Newcastle for the IST 2018. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing you all again, and taking part in what will be another fantastic conference.

The IST would like to add it’s sincere appreciation of and thanks for the great support from our Key Sponsor and all our Exhibitors, who provided an excellent display of products and services. Also a big thankyou to our Career Zone Supporters, whose information and advice was invaluable.