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ASCB: Spotlight on Cell Bio

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By Laura S. Marshall, Photonics Spectra Managing Editor

SAN DIEGO, Dec. 11, 2009 – Not even a day of rain and wind could keep attendees away from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) annual meeting at the San Diego Convention Center this week. In fact, the uncharacteristically gray, wet weather might have kept conferencegoers from being distracted by San Diego’s beaches, at least on Monday.

The San Diego Convention Center hosted the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting this week. (Photonics Media photo by Laura S. Marshall)

Fortunately, there was plenty to keep cell biologists happy inside the convention center. The conference connects thousands of cell biologists – scientists and students from fields including academia, higher education, industry and government – every year. Organizers estimated that this year’s event would draw 9000 to 9500 attendees with more than 100 scientific sessions and mini-symposia as well as 3500 poster presentations on everything from cancer to cell cortex and membrane dynamics. Official attendance numbers were unavailable, but several exhibitors reported that there seemed to be fewer people at this year’s event.

The ASCB, which was founded in 1960 and now serves approximately 11,000 members, is a Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit dedicated to promotion and development of the field of cell biology.

Poster sessions

Especially interesting for the photonics-minded was the poster session Tuesday on imaging technology. Approximately 20 posters shared the latest imaging discoveries by researchers and companies, from choosing the right photoactivatable fluorescent protein for a specific job to using quantum dots for multicolor single-particle tracking of lipids and membrane proteins, from new ways to expand the number of distinguishable fluorescent labels in an image to modulation tracking of cellular adhesions in 3-D collagen matrices, using fluorescence microscopy for quantitative analysis of protein proximity, and STED nanoscopy in the living cell.

Other posters in the imaging technology session looked at dichroic beamsplitters and their effect on resolution; image quality in fluorescence microscopy; combined atomic force-optical microscope systems designed for the observation of cell dynamics; live-cell imaging with a multiplexed microfluidic perfusion system; and long-term time-lapse imaging with microfluidic devices.

Corporate exhibition

In addition to poster sessions, the ASCB annual meeting hosted an exhibition featuring more than 350 cell biology-related companies, including an exhibitor’s showcase where companies could present their latest developments.

Dr. Deepak Sharma, camera product manager at Photometrics, was on hand at the booth to give inspired presentations about Photometrics’ Evolve EMCCD cameras and QImaging’s EXi cameras. Each Evolve camera is individually “fingerprinted” on how it responds to light, allowing for comparison of results between experiments. “This is the first camera to give data in real, non-arbitrary units,” Sharma said. “Now we can use the camera in a much more quantitative manner.”

Nikon announced this week that it has licensed superresolution microscopes N-SIM from the University of California at San Francisco and N-STORM from Harvard University. Nikon’s booth was chock-full of systems for microinjection; stem-cell incubation/microscopy; macroimaging; super-res microscopy; and more.

Agilent Technologies had its new MLC 400 monolithic laser combiner on display; the instrument was developed for confocal and fluorescence microscopy. Andor Technology discussed its new differential spinning disk (DSD) technology, for white light confocal imaging, as well as its scientific CMOS (sCMOS), a special CMOS with a large dynamic range for scientific imaging.

Leica had a number of new products on display: the HCS-A, for high-content screening on confocal platform; the TCS SP2 personal confocal; and the EM GP for cryo TEM prep. Olympus gave visitors tours of new microscopes on display, including cell^TIRF, newly released at this show.

Hamamatsu Photonics released the ORCA-D2 camera, with 2-CCD devices for simultaneous dual-wavelength imaging, at the show. Caliper Life Sciences gave visitors to its booth an in-depth look at IVIS Lumina XR, which offers fluorescence, bioluminescence and x-ray in one.

At the show, PerkinElmer Inc. introduced expanded reagent, imaging and detection system offerings for life sciences research. One of the new systems is the Volocity 5.3, which offers real-time 3-D imaging and displays fully rendered 3-D results as they are acquired.

The outlook among the exhibitors seemed to be optimistic in the first two days of the show, but as time went on most reported that attendance seemed down and that promising leads were down as well.

Special events

The annual meeting also featured a career fair; special workshops of interest to minorities and women in cell biology; and student-centric events and education-related panels. Other popular events included Celldance, the ASCB cell film contest, and CellSlam, a “stand-up science comedy slam.”

During the annual meeting, the Women in Cell Biology Committee offered a host of mentoring and career roundtables, talks and other events, including a networking reception and even an awards show, all designed to promote and encourage the contributions of women to cell biology.

Career discussion and mentoring roundtables were held on Monday. These conversations, free to registered conference attendees, focused on a variety of opportunities in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, patent and intellectual property law, scientific writing and editing, computational biology, government laboratories, scientific foundations and funding agencies, and academia.

Self-improvement topics included negotiation strategies, contributing to public policy, developing one’s career, lab setup management and leadership, collaboration, funding opportunities, and mid- and late-career transitions. Other roundtables discussed issues for women in science, gay and lesbian issues in science, opportunities for undergraduates, international postdocs coming to the US and US postdocs who are going to labs in other countries.

The ASCB held its Career Center near the center of the convention center’s Exhibit Hall from Saturday to Tuesday, offering board postings targeted to both job seekers and employers. Those seeking jobs were able to post their résumés and view job listings, and employers with available jobs could post openings and view posted résumés; employers also could reserve onsite interview booths. There was a steady flow of traffic around the boards throughout the show.

The ASCB also has an online job board at for those who could not attend the career center in person.

The members of the American Society for Cell Biology are interested not only in the workings, actions and functions of the cell, but also in how their discipline is being taught in schools and universities, as evidenced by the education-related talks, symposia and workshops held at the annual meeting.

A workshop titled “No More Eyelashes and Air Bubbles … New Ways to Use Microscopes in High School Labs” was held Sunday. David Epel of the department of biological sciences at Stanford University and Pamela Miller of Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station introduced a set of Web-based laboratory modules designed to enable students to learn how to use the microscope in a timely and effective manner, how to measure cells or cell structures under the microscope, and how representative cells look under different modes of microscopy (such as phase, Nomarski, scanning and transmission electron microscopy).

In conjunction with the annual meeting, Olympus held its annual BioScapes awards dinner Sunday night, honoring the year’s best microscope images of life science subjects. First prize went to Dr. Jan Michels of the University of Kiel in Germany. Nine additional winners also received prizes from Olympus, and many more were recognized as honorable mentions.

Michels, who received a prize of $5000 in Olympus microscope or camera equipment, thanked his girlfriend in his acceptance speech for all her patience when he’s stuck in the lab at odd hours. “This [winning] image actually was taken on a Sunday evening,” he said, and the crowd, made up primarily of fellow scientists, gave a knowing laugh.

For more information, visit:
Laura S. Marshall
Dec 2009
quantum dots
Also known as QDs. Nanocrystals of semiconductor materials that fluoresce when excited by external light sources, primarily in narrow visible and near-infrared regions; they are commonly used as alternatives to organic dyes.
academiaAgilentAmerican Society for Cell BiologyBasic ScienceBusinesscamerasCCDcell biologyCMOSCommunicationsConsumerenergyhamamatsuhigher educationimagingLeicamicroimagingMicroscopyNews & FeaturesPerkin Elmerquantum dotsstem-cell incubationsuperresolution

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