|Prestigious Science Research Group Selects Davidson as Annual Conference Site
May 17, 2010
A new collaboration with the Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) will bring to Davidson's campus every summer an impressive cadre of scientists from around the world.
|Prof. Myers (center) and Prof. Brown (white shirt) in the chem lab with Myers' summer research students (l-r) Ruel Neupane '11, Colton Mojesky '11, John Radcliffe '11 and Matt Fore '11.
Davidson's Visiting Associate Professor of Chemistry David Brown, who has attended annual GRC conferences on "green chemistry" for the past several years, said he's thrilled at the prospect. "I feel the same way I imagine our English and theatre professors felt when they learned the Royal Shakespeare Company was coming to Davidson!" he said.
Headquartered in Rhode Island, the GRC is a non-profit organization that stages almost 200 conferences per year on a wide variety of topics in the biological, chemical, and physical sciences. The five-day conferences include formal talks, poster sessions, and lots of free time for informal discussion and recreation.
Scientists regard GRC conferences as highly prestigious because presentations are limited to cutting-edge research that has not been previously published. Scientists must apply to attend, and only those with a proven record of leading research and scholarship in the field are accepted. In addition, GRC meetings are deliberately limited to 150 conferees to facilitate relationship-building among participants. By bringing young scientists together to discuss their research, GRC seeks to build informal collaborators' networks that last a lifetime.
Because the research presented has not been published, photography of posters at GRC events is prohibited. "You're revealing your best work and unpublished material to a lot of people with eyes open wide, which sounds risky," said David Brown. "But in return you get valuable feedback and helpful suggestions from some of the best people in your field."
GRC has signed a contract for three conferences at Davidson this summer and six in summer 2011. Assuming all goes well during this two-year pilot period, Davidson will become a permanent GRC site. Registrants will be housed on campus in Tomlinson Residence Hall, and will dine in the college's Vail Commons. Conference proceedings will occur in Sloan Music Center's Tyler-Tallman Hall and other rooms.
In addition to providing a robust new business relationship for the college, the conferences will familiarize top scientists internationally with Davidson College, which should benefit the college's efforts to recruit top faculty and students.
As testimony to the international nature of GRC, pre-registrants for one of the conferences at Davidson this year will represent 16 countries -- U.S., Australia, Austria, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, South Africa and Sweden.
The schedule for conferences at Davidson this summer is:
July 11-16 - "Intrinsically Disordered Proteins"
July 18-23 - "Transglutaminases in Human Disease"
July 25-30 - "Green Chemistry"
In 2011, GRC at Davidson will cover "Cellular Systems Biology," "Chemistry Education Research & Practice," "Periodontal Diseases," "Phagocytes," "Photosynthesis" and "Regulated Proteolysis of Cell Surface Proteins."
Davidson's David Brown is a specialist in environmentally friendly use of chemistry, and has been selected as a presenter at this summer's green chemistry conference. Brown will explain his work with a commercial manufacturer to produce cellulose cigarette filters that biodegrade quickly in the environment.
Another GRC veteran on Davidson's chemistry faculty, Assistant Professor Jeffrey Myers, also filed a successful application to attend a GRC conference this summer at Davidson.
Myers, a biochemist, will present a poster at the "Intrinsically Disordered Proteins " conference, which is the first-ever GRC on that subject. Myers will explain research generated in his laboratory about the relationship between misshapen proteins and problems with the myelin sheath that coats neurons.
Because the conference is being held at Davidson, Myers is being allowed the rare opportunity to involve his four student summer researchers in conference events. "I've been to six of these conferences and never seen an undergraduate student," Brown said. "This is a real opportunity for them."
The relationship between Davidson and GRC was facilitated by the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Technology & Science headquartered at NC State University. The Kenan Institute works to develop and support initiatives that are likely to enhance the state's stature as a center for science and technology developments and economic growth.
Kenan Institute Director Dr. Ruben Carbonell and Associate Director Raj Narayan had been working with GRC leadership to identify a conference site in North Carolina consistent with the GRC site requirements. "We recommended Davidson to them because of its outstanding academic reputation, state-of-the-art facilities, lovely setting, and close proximity to the Charlotte airport," Narayan explained.
GRC officials, including Director Nancy Ryan Gray, visited Davidson last summer, and the current commitment grew out of that visit. Narayan added, "The choice of Davidson as a site is also a testament to the diverse intellectual talent and aesthetic value inherent across the state of North Carolina."
In addition to hosting the GRC conferences, Davidson will also host a new associated program called Gordon-Kenan Graduate Research Seminars. These two-day meetings will be organized by graduate students and post-doctoral scientists with the support of leading scientists from an associated GRC. The first two seminars are scheduled to occur at Davidson in conjunction with two Gordon Research Conferences in 2011.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,800 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.