Applied Mechanics News

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gordon Conference on Thin Films and Small Scale Mechanical Behavior

The Gordon conference on “Thin Films and Small Scale Mechanical Behavior”, which started on July 30, concluded less than two weeks ago on the 4th of August. You can find the lists of talks and posters online. It was quite an event and since there may be many in our community who may not be familiar with the Gordon conferences, I though I should post a brief news item on it. I hope other attendees can add a few tid-bits of their own as well.

By design, Gordon conferences are by invitation only, consisting of a mixture of senior and junior researchers. This series of conferences started in 1931 and it seems that one is held on all conceivable scientific subjects (e.g. superconductivity, tribology, reproductive tract biology; see the complete list: http://www.grc.uri.edu/06sched.htm). The conference chair decides on the invitees. A few of the conference invitees are selected by the Chair to give lectures that are intended to be partly tutorial, partly reporting on cutting edge research and (hopefully) thought-provoking. Typically there are 2-3 lectures in the morning (each roughly an hour long along with substantial time devoted to discussions). The afternoons are kept free for networking and social activities such as hiking, canoeing among others. After dinner, there are additional 2-3 presentations. To keep the cost low and foster communication, the participants all live together in a dormitory where they also share their meals. The attendee cost of the GRC last week stood at $725 including lodging, registration, and meals---not to mention lots of beer served during the pre and postprandial poster sessions!

In the conference held last week more than 170 people attended including a sizable fraction being students. It is worth mentioning that about 40 students received travel fellowships provided by the National Science Foundation. The Conference also received financial support from the Gordon Research Foundation, Intel Corporation, Sandia National Laboratories, National University of Singapore, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation.

This was my first GRC and left quite pleased with my visit (notwithstanding the heat wave hitting the east coast at the time of the conference). In particular, I thought, the poster sessions and the informal technical discussions were the major highlights. The attending students formed a very dynamic crowd and, in my short career, I have yet to see such a spirited interaction among senior and junior researchers. Over 110 posters were presented at this conference and six student prices were announced for the best ones. In my opinion, the Gordon conference (and mechanics specific Thin Air Philosophical Society series organized by Demitris Kouris) much better provide (compared to some of the “canned” society conferences) the true spirit of a scientific gathering i.e. unhurried, detailed scientific debate and discussion.

The chair and vice-chair for the next GRC-Thin Films and Small Scale Mechanical Behavior are Richard Vinci (Lehigh University) and Oliver Kraft (Institute for Materials Research, Karlsruhe), respectively.

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