It’s Greek to me!

sym•po•si•um n.

pl. sym•po•si•ums or sym•po•si•a

1. A meeting or conference for discussion of a topic, especially one in which the participants form an audience and make presentations.

2. A collection of writings on a particular topic, as in a magazine.

3. A convivial meeting for drinking, music, and intellectual discussion among the ancient Greeks.

For those of you who might have missed it, we (Nature Chemical Biology) hosted our first annual symposium in Boston on November 10-11. The conference focused on the chemical biology of the cell, and included scientific sessions on the nucleus, metals and metabolites, the cytoplasm, and the membrane. While there was no music or ancient Greeks to be found, this convivial meeting included a substantial amount of intellectual discussion, both during and after the actual sessions. In a conference packed with great presentations, Antoine van Oijen made his mark on the conference as the only molecular physicist in the room, although his talk focused instead on single molecule fluorescence imaging of DNA replication. Akihiro Kusumi’s talk on membrane domains included several amazing images that required 3-D glasses to see properly (pictures of which you’ll no doubt see in advertising for our next meeting). Jeremy Nicholson delighted with an analysis of biomarkers in urine (his own, at times), pointing out the overwhelming significance of non-genetic factors in determining a patient’s metabolic profile. Two inveterate chemical biologists, Carolyn Bertozzi and Jim Rothman, spoke in a final session designed to look to the future, identifying progress made and challenges ahead in the field.

The meeting definitely demonstrated the power of applying chemistry and chemical tools to learn new information about biological systems. Additionally, the disparity of the speakers and attendees across scientific disciplines made for interesting and thought-provoking questions and discussions. The Museum of Science was a great venue, with beautiful views of the city skyline available for those rare moments of quiet reflection.

While approximately half of the delegates were from Massachusetts (with a few more from nearby Connecticut or New York), there was also interest from around the United States and around the world. We thank all of the attendees, whether traveling 10 minutes on the subway or 10 hours in a plane, for their participation and enthusiasm.

We are already planning our next symposium, and look forward to another exciting event!

Catherine Goodman (assistant editor, Nature Chemical Biology)