21 Dec 2023

From the President - 2023

Taken from infocus Magazine, issue #72, December 2023

Peter O'Toole

As we approach the end of the year, it is of course apt to reflect on the full range of RMS activities in support of microscopy over the last 12 months.  It has certainly been quite a year for the RMS, which featured our biggest and most successful ever mmc, a busy calendar of other events – from the well established to entirely new - and of course, the end of an era with the departure of Allison Winton as Chief Executive, after 40 years at the Society.

In September we welcomed Sali Davis, our new Chief Executive. It has been a pleasure working with Sali during the last few months, and witnessing how quickly she has been getting to grips with everything in her considerable in-tray! Sali very much has her finger on the pulse and will no doubt continue to drive the Society forward in new and exciting ways. You can now read more about her eventful first month at the RMS.

Among our event offerings this year, we have seen further exciting instalments of the International Microscopy Lecture Series, featuring some of the world’s biggest names in microscopy. This is a great collaboration between the RMS, the Microscopical Society of Canada, the Israel Society for Microscopy and the Brazilian Society of Microscopy and Microanalysis.  It is also supported by the International Federation of Societies for Microscopy (IFSM). Also underlining the RMS’s ongoing efforts to reach out on a truly global basis, we  continued to assist in the delivery of a new initiative – the Expansion Microscopy Group meetings, hosted by our partners in Canada and Australia. Another new development saw the RMS working in partnership with Zeiss Microscopy in delivering a pair of webinars on X-Ray microscopy and using AI to solve X-Ray imaging challenges. We hope to see further such collaborations with our Corporate members in the future. Earlier this month we were delighted to support the Society of Electron Microscopy Technology (STEM) one-day meeting at the Natural History Museum. This was a great event for the EM community, and featured the long-running RMS Beginners' Competition – aimed at developing the public speaking experience of early career microscopists.

Among our Outreach and Education activities, the RMS has continued to support the highly successful and innovative Hitachi STEM Global Outreach project. This initiative has now reached more than 11,000 children across more than 100 schools, and in September, was recognised with an award from the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS). Huge congratulations go to all the volunteers involved in this project – especially the project’s twin driving forces - Dr Alex Ball of the Natural History Museum, and Dr James Perkins, of Queen’s Grammar School, Kent. Another long-running initiative – our Microscope Activity Kits for primary schools – is well and truly back up to speed following interruptions due to the Covid pandemic. It has been great to see so many schools able to participate in the scheme, providing what will be for most of the children, their first ever taste of microscopy – and hopefully the formative experience that sets them on a pathway to becoming the next generation of scientists.

Meanwhile our Science Sections and Focussed Interest Groups have been busy as always, in support of all the various different branches of microscopy across the sciences. Among these is our recently established Science Section for Data Analysis in Imaging (DAIM), and it has been a pleasure to see this committee bringing forward its first tranche of activities and initiatives during 2023. This is a rapidly developing and exciting field, with huge relevance and impact across the spectrum of microscopy and imaging. It is great to see how this new committee is adding to the diversity of activities supported by the RMS.

One of the most important aspects of the Society’s work is the delivery of a wide range of training opportunities for those who use microscopy or cytometry for work or study. I’m pleased to report that 2023 was a bumper year for RMS training events, with no fewer than 11 courses, schools and workshops hosted – both online and in-person - covering light microscopy, electron microscopy, facilities management, super-resolution, confocal, flow cytometry (including data analysis in flow cytometry), and cryogenic microscopy. It is also important to point out that many of our attendees have only been able to access these opportunities through the support provided by RMS travel bursaries – including those awarded to laboratory technicians and support staff as part of the Society’s practice towards the Technicians Commitment. It is vital that our events remain as accessible as possible to ensure everyone in our community has the chance to benefit from these opportunities.

Looking ahead to the coming year, it certainly promises to be another busy one! As well as our established schedule of courses, meetings and conferences, we are very proud to be hosting elmi2024, taking place in Liverpool from 4 – 7 June. This is one of the biggest and best events in the European microscopy calendar, and hugely important for the Light Microscopy Community – both the researchers themselves and the manufacturers of their equipment. We hope to see you there!

As part of our commitment to Early Career microscopists, we will also be offering a range of RMS Professional Internship Placement opportunities for students seeking to broaden their work experience. Interns work with our RMS staff to carry out projects that benefit both the Society and the community. One such project was recently completed by PhD student Zoe Barr, who produced an impact report for the previously mentioned Hitachi STEM scheme. An edited version of her report also features in our December issue of infocus Magazine.

Having seen so many of our 2023 RMS Award-winners receiving their accolades at mmc in July, I am reminded that we will soon be seeking nominations for a whole raft of awards in 2024 – covering all areas of microscopy. If you know someone who deserves special recognition for their work, be sure to let us know when the time comes!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our hard-working volunteers, committee members, and of course, the RMS staff, without whom none of our activities would be possible.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you, our members, for your ongoing support of this great Society.

A very Happy Christmas and New Year to you all.

Dr Peter O’Toole, RMS President