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First Impressions At Pittcon

pittcon2010For Pittcon 2010, the Orange County Convention Center is in its full glory. It’s one of the most beautiful convention centers in the county, said Annette Wilson, president of Pittcon 2010, at the opening ceremonies this morning, and I agree. It looks gorgeous from the outside. It is also huge, so huge that despite hosting more than 2,000 booths, more than 1000 exhibitors, and more than 2,000 technical papers, Pittcon occupies only the West Section. Advance registration totals more than 14,000.

I’ve had interesting conversations since the first function I attended, the Waters Symposium Dinner last night. There I met James A. de Haseth, a senior partner of a company based in Georgia called Light Light Solutions. It makes instruments that help analyze fibers as they are processed for various uses, including as alternatives to glass. De Haseth tells me the company is working with Canadian groups that are interested in natural fibers such as flax as superstrong, superlight materials for industrial applications.

Another interesting conversation was with Patricia A. Bordell, Pittcon’s chair for shortcourses. She works with the College Board, the organization best known for the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program. Bordell goes around the country and the world to train teachers who teach AP and pre-AP chemistry. The push now by the College Board, she says, is to train chemistry teachers to apply inquiry-based learning in pre-college chemistry classrooms.

I have not been to a Pittcon since three years ago, and I find it pleasing that the familiar hallmarks of Pittcon are still around, such as the trays of apples in the exhibit area and the shuttles that go back and forth the center aisle to move attendees from one end of the exhibition area to the other. I did remember to bring comfortable shoes.

At the exhibition hall, the people I talked to give the impression of optimism. First up was Kristof O’Connor, product manager of Heidolph Brinkmann LLC, a manufacturer of such staple laboratory equipment as rotary evaporators and magnetic stirrers. Heidolph did “well during the recession,” O’Connor tells C&EN, “exceeding sales expectations by 3.5%.” Heidolph’s attitude, O’Connor explains, was to work with customers within their budgets–so if a customer bought a second-hand equipment, Heidolph will help them make it work–with the hope when money becomes available and customers are ready to make new purchases, they would go back to Heidolph. Heidolph saw a significant effect of the Obama Administration’s stimulus money, O’Connor says, with increased business from beneficiaries of NIH and NSF largesse, military research facilities, public universities, and companies in the alternative-fuel business. Demand for evaporators was high from companies trying to make biodiesel from algae.

But what O’Connor really is excited about is what Heidolph plans to do at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco, which they are calling “Demo for Donations.” More about that in my next update.

Photo credit: Cutts Photography

1 Comment

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  • Mar 2nd 201016:03
    by Neil Gussman

    It’s great to be here in Orlando and getting away from the freezing, snowy northeast. Two days of sun, two days of clouds and rain, but high temps from the mid 50s to the low 70s are great, wet or dry. Any Convention Center holds meetings for whoever can afford the facility and the folks before and after us show how different that can be. To say Pittcon is a geeky affair hardly begins to describe this instrument centered gathering. As we moved in on Sunday, a group of middle-school-age junior high girls had a cheerleading/dance competition. It was fun to see Pittcon attendees sharing a hallway with the competitors and their mothers. Although one member of the CHF staff was almost run over by a cheerleader mom in a Cadillac Escalade swerving into a parking space at Walgreens. On this third day of Pittcon, a Wal-Mart meeting of some kind is beginning in the North Hall. So instead of sharing hallways with cheerleaders we will be walking with Wal-Mart employees with very large CONFEREE badges.
    America is a land of endless variety.

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