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Local scientists to discuss global health and energy challenges in San Francisco

University of Wollongong researchers will be at the heart of discovering new ways to apply electrically conductive plastics to biomedical applications such as sensors, drug delivery, tissue engineering and bionics this weekend when they attend the 2013 Materials Research Society (MRS) Spring Meeting in San Francisco, USA.

The prestigious event is the largest in the field of material science, billed as a “Woodstock” for materials scientists, and will be attended by upwards of 6,000 materials researchers from academia, industry and government to promote the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research to revolutionise diagnosis and treatment of illness, disease and other medical conditions.

The 2013 MRS Spring Meeting will include the hosting of 56 technical sessions, an international exhibit, a variety of special events and tutorial sessions.

Associate Professor Marc in het Panhuis from UOW’s School of Chemistry, Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI), ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM), has been busy over the past 12 months helping to put the program together. He has been working with with colleagues from the USA (Professor Tim Hanks and Professor William Pennington) and Israel (Professor Raz Jelinek) for a technical symposium dedicated to the properties and technological potential of polymeric materials in a context of sensing and biomedicine.

Fourteen invited speakers from across the globe, including UOW’s Professor Gordon Wallace, will anchor three days of lectures and poster presentations to a diverse audience. The meeting highlights will be captured in a book in the MRS Symposium Proceedings Series.

Professor in het Panhuis said the symposium was dedicated to fostering collaboration between scientists and engineers working on conjugated polymers.

At AIIM and IPRI (the lead node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science), Professor in het Panhuis is part of a team developing hydrogels, a class of highly hydrated polymer materials which are components of everyday products such as shower gel, toothpaste and contact lenses.

“These are soft materials which can have the ability to conduct electricity,” Professor in het Panhuis said.

“Our particular emphasis is on the interdisciplinary use of these materials. These conjugated polymers have been around for about 40 years and were subject of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and have been applied in photovoltaics, batteries and corrosion prevention.

“This symposium is an important event, as it will bring together – for the first time – researchers struggling with the challenges of applying these polymeric materials to bio-medical applications such as sensors, drug delivery, tissue engineering and bionics.”

Professor in het Panhuis said nurturing and educating young researchers was important for the future of science and organisers were actively encouraging early career researchers and post-graduate students to attend to help educate the next generation of this evolving international research community.

These young researchers will be in running for the four Young Researcher Awards for Best Oral and Poster Presentation, sponsored by industrial collaborator CP Kelco (USA) and presented by CP Kelco’s Distinguished Research Fellow, Ross Clark.

“Researchers participating in this event will be able to establish new collaborations with researchers who may traditionally attend different conferences,” Professor in het Panhuis said.

“In particular, we hope to establish a research community that can collectively push forward this important field of research.”

Australian-based scientists will feature throughout the event with researchers from across the six nodes of ACES presenting lectures, presentations and attending the three-day event.

ACES Director Professor Gordon Wallace said: “Marc and his colleagues have pulled together an exciting program that will attract attention around the globe.”

Last reviewed: 27 March, 2013

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