Unveiling the Marvels of the First-Ever Gordon Research Conference on Volume Electron Microscopy – Capturing Subcellular Architecture from Organelles to Organisms -By Ana Correia and James Thompson

Posted by , on 24 August 2023

We delve into our captivating journey at the first Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Volume Electron Microscopy (vEM) as early career scientists. Set against the backdrop of sunny Ventura, California, this conference brought together experts in the vEM field from all corners of the globe, creating an intellectual haven for learning, networking, and forging collaborations.

vEM was recently named as one of the “Seven Technologies to Watch in 2023” by Nature, enabling imaging of subcellular detail in 3D. With representation at the conference of Serial Block Face Scanning Electron Microscopy (SBF-SEM), Focused Ion Beam SEM (FIB-SEM), 3D-Correlative Electron Microscopy (3D-CLEM), Immuno-vEM, Multibeam SEM, Cryogenic Serial FIB-SEM and Array Tomography, to name a few.

Honouring the Architects: The vEM Committee

Commendations are due to the insightful vEM committee, and especially to the committee chairs, Lucy Collinson and Paul Verkade, and vice-chairs, Yannick Schwab and Kedar Narayan, whose strategic oversight left an indelible mark on the conference. Their selection of exceptional speakers from various scientific backgrounds and the arrangement of engaging poster sessions demonstrated a commitment to providing attendees with an enriching experience. The conference agenda ensured that the most cutting-edge developments and methodologies were brought to the forefront of discussions, highlighting the current challenges and opportunities in volume electron microscopy.

An Agenda with Diversity

During the sessions, the array of subjects covered was impressive, ranging from cutting-edge imaging methodologies to advancements in sample preparation, computational analysis and tools to better store and share data. The conference showcased the expanding frontiers of vEM across diverse scientific domains, including neuroscience, cell biology, materials science and more. This range of topics contributed to a well-rounded and comprehensive understanding of vEM’s growing impact on the scientific community.

Driving Innovation

What truly stood out was the emphasis on the development of imaging capabilities in our field. Through panel discussions and interactive sessions, attendees engaged in candid conversations about the challenges, limitations and prospects that define vEM. The collective dedication and passion that ensued was inspirational, fostering an environment of collaborative problem-solving aimed at overcoming challenges in imaging resolution, data analysis, correlation and throughput.

Inclusivity and Mentoring

Beyond the scientific talks, the conference embraced a spirit of inclusivity and mentorship, encouraging early-career scientists and students to actively participate. The poster sessions included a poster prize for the best five posters from emerging scientists (congratulations to Stephanie Nowotarski, Ana Correia, Oda Schiotz, Nedal Darif and Connon Thomas), motivating them to present their work, exchange ideas, and network with established scientists. This nurturing environment not only facilitated knowledge exchange but also laid the foundation for long-term growth and innovation in the field.
The GRC Power Hour™ provided an inspiring session on cultivating resilience in the face of adversity and in determining what values we want and need our vEM community to nurture.

Beyond the Lectures: Epic Chats and Coffee Fuel

In addition to formal sessions, the conference provided ample opportunities for informal breaks that proved to be equally invaluable. The moments during breaks and poster sessions provided attendees the chance to engage in informal discussions and networking, fostering spontaneous exchanges of insights that might not have occurred within the confines of the lecture hall and establishing potential collaborations. 

What We’re Taking Home

In summary, the Gordon Research Conference on Volume Electron Microscopy was an exceptional event that showcased the strength of the vEM community and their commitment to driving the development of imaging capabilities in our field. The diverse and cutting-edge scientific program, combined with an inclusive and collaborative atmosphere, made it an unforgettable experience for all attendees. As researchers in the field of vEM, we are grateful for the insights gained and the connections made, which will undoubtedly fuel our research endeavours in the years to come.

Carrying the Torch

As we say goodbye to this remarkable gathering, our sights are set on the horizon of forthcoming GRC vEM conferences. The next event is set to be in 2025, with Yannick Schawb and Kedar Narayan as the committee chairs, and Christel Genoud and Aubrey Weigel as vice-chairs. This event will be preceded by the Gordon Research Seminar on the same topic, with Kara Fulton and Odara Medagedara chairing the organizing committee. These are anticipated to perpetuate the legacy of innovation, collaboration, and intellectual growth within our vibrant vEM community. 

Ana Correia – Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, University of Cambridge; Department of Neurobiology, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology 

James Thompson – Biomedical Imaging Unit, University of Southampton

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