MAD SSCi 2016: The Corpse in the Conservatory

-Written by Roxann Ashworth, MAD SSCi Secretary, JHU

The fourth annual MAD SSCi conference was held at the beautiful William Pitt Union on the urban campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh welcomed 95 delegates, representing BioNano, Biorepository, Flow Cytometry, Imaging and Molecular Technology facilities.  Core directors, administrators, managers and staff were able to interact and form or renew fruitful relationships that will lead to future collaboration.  We were very happy to be joined by the ABRF Executive Director Susan DeCourcey.

“Wonderful opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues working in Core Facilities.  I enjoyed the Quality Assurance Workshop which generated good discussions.  The presentations on Biorepositories were informative and created topics for us to discuss in our Core.”  –Lori Kelly, U. Pitt, New Core Director, First Time Attendee

Accreditation: CMU Field Robotics Center

Accreditation: CMU Field Robotics Center

Attendees from universities and institutions around the Mid-Atlantic, and as far away as Texas and Tennessee, kicked off the conference with a reception at the Phipps Conservatory and a talk from Dr. Alan Waggoner of Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Waggoner described the development of a roving biosensor and fluorescent dyes that may one day be deployed to look for life on Mars.  Earthbound testing took place in the hostile, but striking Atacama Desert, Chile.

Romero – thankfully not a scratch and sniff picture!

Romero – thankfully not a scratch and sniff picture!


The highlight of the evening was the once in a lifetime opportunity to see (and smell) the blossoming of the Corpse Flower known as “Romero.”  When we walked in that evening, we all thought it was pretty cool, and maybe noticed a slight aroma.  When we walked out at the end of the evening past the now fully open flower, we all understood how the plant got its name!

Thursday and Friday brought presentations on topics ranging from A(dministration) to Z(ika).

A Dynamic David Dilts Acceditation: Kunjie Hua, UNC

A Dynamic David Dilts Acceditation: Kunjie Hua, UNC




David Dilts of OHSU provided an entertaining and thought provoking talk on how to define the value that our core facilities provide to our investigators and the universities we serve.  Our closing talk was a fascinating look at the possible mechanisms and explanations for why the Zika virus, which has been around since 1947, has suddenly become a devastating disease now that it has reached South America.  Between these keynotes, delegates had the opportunity to attend vendor workshops on a variety of topics, go to concurrent sessions on topics as diverse as Biorepositories, Genome Editing, Light Sheet Microscopy and Project management, and to pick each other’s brains for solutions to common problems in the “What’s your Core?” round table discussion.


Gene Editing Session Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Gene Editing Session
Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Lans Taylor gave an interesting overview of how the University of Pittsburgh is integrating systems biology and 3D cultured organs on a chip to develop methods for cheaper and more efficient drug discovery. Rebecca Davies placed the provision of QA training and infrastructure at the center of assuring accurate and repeatable data.  She argued for the development of best practices within the research community.  Describing the collaborative, centralized approach she has championed at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Davies gave our attendees much to discuss regarding the role of core facilities in assuring reproducibility.

“The conference felt personal due to the size and background and those that attended…[The] other managers…were insightful with how to handle instrument usage, advertisements, etc. Overall a good conference to attend, especially being new to managing a facility.”  — Greg Donohoe, Ph.D., BioNano Research Facilities Manager, Shared Research Facilities, West Virginia University

Corey Lipchick Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Corey Lipchick
Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Corey Lipchik from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, Allegheny Health Network won the poster travel award for: FFPE Tissue and the HTG Oncology Biomarker Panel: a Low-Input, Extraction-Free Gene Expression Pilot Study.  He will receive $500 to attend either the national meeting or next year’s MAD SSCi meeting.  Michael Chua of the UNC Michael Hooker Microscopy Core Facility won a free ABRF membership kindly donated by ABRF Ambassadors.

“[The MAD SSCi conference is] small enough and regional to make the networking particularly fruitful.”— Paul Wood, University of Pittsburgh

Next year MAD SSCi 2017 will be held in Morgantown, WV hosted by West Virginia University.  We have many ideas for content, and plan to develop more staff focused technical and networking sessions that will compliment the excellent administrative and management focus of recent years.  Watch our website to see what we are up to!  Our new President, Trina Wafle, has some exciting new ideas and will continue our tradition of wonderful entertainment and fabulous science!

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