2019 Ottewill International Travel Scholarship – Report

International Polymer Colloids Group 2019 Conference
Sentosa, Singapore, 23-28 June 2019

Andrea Lotierzo
Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick

Last June I attended the International Polymer Colloids Group (IPCG) 2019 Conference which was held between June 23rd and 28th in Sentosa Island (Singapore). The IPCG is a Gordon-style polymer colloids focused conference which is held every 2 years. In the polymer colloids field this is considered to be a reference conference to attend as it gathers research groups from all around the world, from both academia and industry. As my PhD is focused on the synthesis of polymeric colloidal dispersions, this conference was incredibly relevant in terms of the content of the talks and was key to widen my network in view of the end of my PhD a few months later.

 

The conference structure is as follows. Students can attend a three-day “pre-conference” meeting, the Graduate Research Seminar, during which they have a chance to discuss their projects, network with fellow scientists and be taught by experts of the field. This year we had master classes taught by Prof. Mohamed El-Aasser, Prof. Alexander van Herk, Prof. Joseph Keddie and Dr. Bernd Reck, who talked to us about synthesis of polymer colloids, film formation and some applications of polymer dispersions in industry. The seminar was also packed with plenty of social time and activities to stimulate connections between students. During the Graduate Research Seminar I had a chance to present my latest work regarding the use of crosslinked block-copolymer micelles, or nanogels, as polymeric stabilizers in emulsion polymerization for the synthesis of water-borne polymer dispersions of different morphologies (Janus, patchy and core-shells). My oral contribution was appreciated enough to be granted the prize of Best Student Speaker, which I am really proud of.

 

After this, the main IPCG conference started. The structure of a Gordon Conference consists each day of talks between breakfast and lunch, a free afternoon to explore, relax and network, and then talks again from late afternoon until after dinner. Among the others, particularly relevant talks to my own PhD project were those from Dr. Brian Hawkett and Prof. Michael Monteiro on controlled radical polymerization and temperature directed morphology transformation applied to the synthesis of functional colloidal architectures for different purposes. As best speaker during the graduate seminar symposium, I had the huge privilege to be able to present my project in a 30 min slot at the main conference too. Presenting my own work, while advertising the research group of my supervisor, Prof. Stefan Bon, in front of the vast majority of the international polymer community is one of the greatest achievements of my PhD. The talk animated some vivid discussion in the following poster session, with plenty of ideas on the explanation of certain results and how to continue with the project. This also came with some interesting potential career offers from both academia and industry which, as explained above, was key for me as my PhD was coming to an end.

 

Overall, what I take home from this conference is that polymer colloids are an evergreen fascinating world, with plenty of opportunities for innovative research. The welcoming international community and the tight connection with industry are perhaps what appeal to me the most. I left hoping to be able to attend the next IPCG conference, which will take place in 2021 in Kingston, Canada.