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Engineering conference held at UA

Adam Greene

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The 53rd biennial International Field Emissions Symposium, held in Tuscaloosa from May 20 to 25, hosted over 180 professionals from 12 countries in a conference detailing and discussing new strides being made in the atomic sciences.

Traditionally held every two years in different parts of the world, its previous hosts include Sydney, Australia and Rouen, France. The 2014 IFES will be held at the University of Münster in Münster, Germany.

Tuscaloosa cemented its place beside these international cities through the efforts of Gregory Thompson and Mark Weaver, professors of metallurgical and materials engineering, and Rich Martens, manager of the Central Analytical Facility at UA. The bid was first received in 2010, and with help from the College of Engineering staff and the Central Analytical Facility, the IFES came to the Bryant Conference Center.

“It was a huge success,” Thompson said. “One of the best [conferences] I’ve ever been to.”

Throughout the week, many lectures and discussions were held at the University. The IFES committee held its business meeting, where the future and direction of the organization were decided, at the conference, as well.

The most important part of the conference, however, was its collaborative aspects.

“It’s all about the scientists having access to equipment that they might not ­normally have access to,” Martens said.

On May 24, the attendees were bussed to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, where they spent the day before convening for an awards banquet at the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. Awards were presented for Best Scientific Presentation and Best Poster Presentation, among other categories.

Another award presented at the banquet was the E.W. Müller Young Scientist Award, which honors the up-and-coming scientists in relevant fields. The award, named for Erwin Wilhelm Müller, the first person to experimentally observe atoms, was presented to Manuel Roussei, a student at the University of Rouen in Rouen, France.

Over the last decade, the department has worked to improve their research capabilities. In 2007, the University acquired a Local Electron Atom Probe, or LEAP, which is a powerful microscope that can be used to view the inner workings of various materials on an atomic level. The University was the fourth in the nation to acquire the LEAP, and it remains the only school in the Southeast with one.

“I feel that having our big international conference in Tuscaloosa validates investment in the field and places us at the forefront of visibility in the community,” Weaver said.

He said the relationships the attendees have with UA will last a lifetime, which will add to the prestige and reputation of UA’s engineering program.

“You can’t put a price on that. This has put us on the map,” he said.

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Engineering conference held at UA