Peter Beaman's 2018 Report
SLS (Scientific Laboratory Supplies) Show and Conference (Wednesday 23rd May 2018)
East Midlands Conference Centre, University of Nottingham
This was my second time at the biennial event and it was worth the wait.
SLS helped organize a double decker coach that picked up at University of Leicester, De Montfort University and Loughborough University. We arrived at the venue at 9.50am with time to settle in, grab a goodie bag, have coffee and review the many stands and exhibitions therein.
The main theatre was where the keynote speakers held our attention on their given topic.
The welcome was provided by Dallas Campbell from BBC fame from programmes like The Gadget Show and Bang Goes the Theory, who introduced the day’s proceedings as Master of Ceremonies.
He summarized the other keynote speakers (Professor Sir Bill Wakeham, and Doug Allan). He also pointed out the various Science Council masterclasses being held in the Professional Development area on topics like How to deal with difficult people in meetings and how to prepare a killer CV.
The first keynote address was from Professor Sir Bill Wakeham a distinguished Chartered engineer and physicist.
His talk entitled ‘The Importance of Technical Skills to UK Science and Innovation’ included a summary of his own career from being a physics graduate from Exeter University and later Deputy Rector (Provost) at Imperial College London to becoming VC of Southampton University. In all these HEIs he acknowledged the range of technical staff whose skills and talents were seminal in his working life. He also was passionate that those with skills within the research areas he carried out should be recognized (i.e. co-authored on papers) showing the gratitude of those individuals that worked alongside him. He concluded that UK Science and Innovation needs around 70,000 new technicians per annum (figure from Gatsby Foundation) and we should take pride in ourselves as ‘the job’ can’t be done without us! The newly prescribed Technician Commitment which has many HEIs signatories is a start!
Next a short interlude for coffee and comfort break before Dallas Campbell intriguing title ‘How to leave the planet’ started. I was not expecting such a wonderful, entertaining and interactive session.
Dallas knows his audience very well and started proceedings asking us to stand up and by elimination of a set of questions he sought to find if there was an astronaut present in the room. As it turns there was none in the auditorium but a very interesting set of statistics was produced; like there are 6 people in the world (out of 7.5 Billion) in space today and a total of 553 have been out there already. He chronicled the history of space travel through the centuries with fact and fiction looking the future of space travel and the cost and technological advances that are being made. He also showed how to make a simple film canister rocket with an old plastic film capsule and an Alka-Seltzer tablet. His popularity knows no bounds and he unashamedly ended up plugging his new bestselling book Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to leaving the planet which he was seen later signing copies in the foyer!
Thereafter it was lunch time which consisted of a marquee tent wherein a selection of ready to takeaway boxes of hot food and even authentic guacamole was available alongside large brownies and more balanced nutritional fruit!
During this period I checked out the different scientific laboratory supplies that were showcasing state of the art technology. The favorite liquid nitrogen ice-cream stand was back - delightful as ever (lemon meringue option was lush).
There was also a caricature stand which had people queuing a long way (worth the wait!) and the Magic Box were you could have your alter-ego digitalized on a postcard to take away.
The main afternoon keynote speaker was eagerly awaited. Doug Allan is a colossus in terms of natural history photography (amongst his other skills like author, diver (1,000 of hours) and public speaker).
His account of working as a BBC Cameraman for such eminent figures like David Attenborough and his depth and knowledge of planet Earth was a revelation to myself. Doug showed us the lengths one has to endure to the earth to capture amazing Emmy and BAFTA awards. He mesmerized us with his talk entitled ‘An eye below zero’ and touched poignantly on the fragility of planet Earth that has so much natural history that is under threat (especially the Arctic Ocean, which I was surprised to realise is not true land mass).
After the end of this talk there was just time to connect with several delegates including Kelly Vere, who I have had the pleasure of meeting on different events that promote technical staff and professional recognition (Like Higher Education Summit, Science Council etc) and also chat with other technical staff from as far as York and Sussex.
Overall I found the day a very good and well balanced and timely event from the staff at SLS and the venue itself everything was well catered and managed throughout the day and the reps from the local HEIs I travelled with thought similarly.
Peter Beaman BSc FHEA MBPsS
Senior Social Psychology Technician
Dept. Social Sciences