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VCU Hosts Faraday Discussion, FD146, and the Inaugural Faraday Discussion Student Research Seminar

International conferences bring mentors and students in chemical sciences together

The Royal Society of Chemistry and Virginia Commonwealth University recently hosted the Faraday Discussion, FD146, an international conference that brought together scientists and students from experimental and theoretical disciplines to share knowledge, collaborate and discuss research.

The 140 physical chemists, chemical physicists, biologists, materials scientists and nanotechnologists from around the world gathered last month to discuss the science of wetting dynamics of hydrophobic and structured surfaces. Understanding the basic mechanisms involved in hydration processes at interfaces may one day help researchers create new technological or medical materials.

The Chemical Physics Division of the American Physical Society and the Division of Physical Chemistry of the American Chemical Society endorsed the FD146.

VCU also hosted the Faraday Discussion Graduate Research Seminar in conjunction with the FD146. It was open to graduate and postgraduate students around the world, and 43 students from the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, Australia, Spain and Austria were selected to participate. Ten were VCU chemistry and engineering students.

Alenka Luzar, Ph.D., a VCU professor of chemistry, who five years ago proposed the idea of bringing FD146 to the United States, was excited to see these ideas come full circle.

“We are proud that VCU is hosting this unique international event, which is only the second Faraday Discussion outside Europe since the Faraday Society was founded in 1903,” Luzar said. “The critical and public dissection of groundbreaking research papers by world leaders in the field, followed by the authors’ defense is the highlight of all Faraday Discussions and is an experience that cannot be found elsewhere.”

Luzar was the scientific committee co-chair of FD146 and the founder and chair of the Faraday Discussion Graduate Research Seminar.

“Students who come to these meetings -- they are in great minority -- rarely ask questions and participate in discussion,” Luzar said. “I felt it was important to do something to help prepare these talented students so they would not be intimidated when interacting with many of their peers whom they admire during the main meeting event, and to engage them more fully during the public discussions.”

The seminar for students was designed to introduce and prepare them for the scope of topics that would be covered during the Faraday Discussion, which included discussion of 23 papers that were distributed to all delegates in advance of the conference.  Students had the opportunity to present research, receive feedback, network and share ideas with peers and to interact with their mentors.

The participation of graduate and postdoctoral students from the United States was funded through fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Chemical Society Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry. All students were selected based on scientific merit and academic credentials. VCU co-sponsored both events.

FD146 student delegates line up in front of a microphone to question the papers during the Faraday discussion. Images courtesy of Alenka Luzar, Ph.D./VCU
FD146 student delegates line up in front of a microphone to question the papers during the Faraday discussion. Images courtesy of Alenka Luzar, Ph.D./VCU
Group photo of all FD146 delegates taken on the stairs of Jefferson the first day of the meeting.
Group photo of all FD146 delegates taken on the stairs of Jefferson the first day of the meeting.