by Dimitris Argyropoulos, NMR Business Manager
PANIC, 2017 (Practical Applications of NMR in Industry Conference) took place at the Sonesta Resort in Hilton Head Island, SC, a few weeks ago. We knew we were in for a treat when we landed in bright sunshine at Savannah airport—quite a contrast from the cold and snow of Toronto. We realized things were a little bit …different in Hilton Head Island when the shuttle driver told us that yes, there are alligators here and we should be a bit careful when walking next to standing water. In fact we saw a couple of them next to the water in ponds on the way to the venue. The other very interesting thing we were told was that there are no street lights and neon signs on Hilton Head Island because they want people to be able to enjoy the night sky with minimal light pollution. This was confirmed the first night when we had some magnificent views of the Milky Way from the pitch-dark beach.
PANIC was “initiated to provide an interactive forum for discussion of the latest developments in the use of NMR for practical applications to real problems faced by scientists in industry and research institutions”, as mentioned on their Web Site. In this respect PANIC welcomes oral presentations and posters from every field of NMR provided that there is an already established practical application of it.
This years’ meeting stood by its principles and provided a very well balanced mix of topics combined with plenty of opportunities for discussions and networking. There were sessions in forensics, polymers, pharmaceuticals, food, petroleum, structure elucidation, solids, low-field NMR, and data processing and analysis, to mention a few. The speakers selected for each session were well-known (Bernhard Bluemmich from RWTH Aachen, Frank Delaglio from NIST, and Matthias Koeck from AWI Bremerhaven, to name a few) and quite experienced in their respective field; and they all lived up to the expectations. There was also plenty of time for questions at each session which allowed for a lively discussion of all the topics. It was quite interesting to see that hard-core structure elucidation was mentioned in two other sessions (Forensics, by Charlotte Corbett, and Pharmaceuticals by Charles Pathirana) apart from the dedicated session on Wednesday. Matthias Koeck’s presentation at that session provided a nice insight into the world of de-novo structure elucidation where one needs to be absolutely certain that all the possibilities for the structures are exhausted before concluding on the correct one.
We held our Software Symposium on Sunday when vendors held user meetings. We heard about the wide variety of tools offered for batch processing and effective handling of large amounts of data. Catherine Lyall from the University of Bath (UK) and Frank Delaglio from NIST were guest speakers/presenters during this Symposium.
Catherine has been using ACD/Structure Elucidator for just over a year and in her presentation she showed us how it has helped the researchers at the University of Bath solve structural problems. Apart from the early, proof-of-concept trials of the software with known structures, the group at Bath was able to solve some quite unusual structures. In one of them the single generated structure included a very unique tri-cyclic group that was originally rejected as unlikely and probably false by the researcher who sent the spectra. However, when the single-crystal X-ray diffraction analysis was performed the structure was confirmed; much to the delight of the NMR group. It only took them 10 seconds to solve it.
A round-table discussion on the practical considerations of Non-Uniform Sampling (NUS) was also held with the participation of Frank Delaglio. It was quite interesting to see that despite the fact that only a handful of attendees were using NUS routinely, almost everybody was interested in using it but were somehow hesitant to do so. Several of the myths of NUS were discussed (what sampling ratio to use, what processing, etc.) in a very lively discussion that took us over time. In the end several of the attendees said that they were looking forward to going back to their labs and giving NUS a try—it was personally gratifying for me to see that a discussion facilitated by our symposium directly impacted the attitudes and work of spectroscopists. I look forward to follow-up conversations to hear how things went.
It is generally acknowledged that in order for a conference to be successful it must combine, in a very careful balance, a great agenda with an outstanding venue. I believe that PANIC 2017 clearly achieved both of these.