By Meredith Dault
When the Canadian Biomaterials Society held their 28th annual meeting at Queen's from June 2-4, 2010 (http://cbsannual.chemeng.queensu.ca/Welcome.html), it was significant for a number of reasons. According to Professor Brian Amsden, of the Department of Chemical Engineering - and the conference's key organizer - the last time Queen's played host to the meeting was in 1992. That's because historically, he says, Queen's hasn't had a large research focus group on biomaterials. But that's changing. "In the last five years" he explains, "we have grown from a group of one to a group of about four people working in and around biomaterials." Hosting the conference, says Dr. Amsden, highlights the fact that Queen's is an "emerging power" in the field. "It shows that we're achieving some kind of critical mass."
The conference highlights research related to biomaterials and their use with humans. "We're developing materials that are used to treat medical conditions," explains Dr. Amsden, "which includes things like dental prosthetics, bone replacements, skin replacements, and targeted drug delivery systems. "
The conference was attended by about 150 researchers and industry delegates from both Canadian coasts and spots in-between, as well as from around the world. Other than the two plenary speakers, David Kaplan and Dennis Discher, the conference showcased the work of 110 graduate students -- 45 of whom gave oral presentations, with the rest presenting posters.
"These sorts of events really give students confidence in presenting in front of their peers," says Amsden, "and to get a chance to see what others are doing across Canada." He says he'd like to see the conference expand in the future to include more undergraduate students.
Amsden says he was excited by the calibre of speakers at the conference -- particularly Dr. Discher, a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania. "He gave a very dynamic and engaging talk, and he got everyone excited in discussing things." says Amsden. "We went out on a limb and invited some big names to come to our conference," he says, admitting that some significant international researchers aren't necessarily familiar with Queen's or Kingston. -- but that's changing. "It helps to highlight the fact that we exist."
Amsden says that Biomedical Engineering is currently one of the fastest growing fields in engineering, proving increasingly popular with undergraduates. "It's another sign that Queen's is emerging as a research engine in this area."