Last week (13th-15th May 2019) the Edinburgh group and John Parkinson attended the Edinburgh Faraday Discussions meeting on "Challenges in analysis of complex natural mixtures" chaired by Dušan Uhrín. This was not your standard scientific meeting; instead, most of the time was devoted to discussions.
The conference programme was designed to cut across the boundaries of disciplines used in the analysis of complex mixtures (mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, chromatography and chemometrics) and subjects we study (metabolites, natural organic matter, plant extracts, foods and beverages). This proved to be a success.
Supported by “typical Edinburgh weather” (20°C, blue skies) and with a majestic Arthur's Seat in the background, the conference hit an excellent start. The ice was broken by an inspirational introductory lecture by Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin. Ryan Rodgers then presented the brutal truth on the existence of dark matter in complex organic mixtures. Provoked by these lectures, our subconscious minds focused on what is possible and how best to do it. All the presented papers, including a complete record of the discussion, will in due course be printed in a dedicated volume of Faraday Discussions.
The highlight of the conference dinner was the presentation by Dr. Will Kew on “Exploring the (Complex) Chemistry of Scotch Whisky”. In a shocking departure from a 100 years old tradition of sharing port from the Faraday Discussions Loving Cup, we shared a 10 year old Glenmorangie from ten “Complex mixtures only” quaichs. Nevertheless, commanded by the past president of the Faraday Discussions, Prof. Eleanor Campbell, the tradition to toast the memory of Mr G. W. S. Marlow, Angela and Tony Fish was upheld.
The conference was skilfully closed by Roy Goodacre. Memories of a spinning shrimp and chicken tikka masala will stay with us and help us to dive through murky waters of complex mixtures.