Goldschmidt 2012, Impressions from Montréal

Having hurriedly wrapped up my poster and put my current projects on hold, I arrived in Montréal, Canada, a couple of days before the official start of the conference with the firm idea of enjoying the touristic attractions the city had to offer. Joining in with other early bird attendees we strolled through Montréal, enjoying the earthy poutines and marveling at the beauty of the city from the Mont Royal vantage point. From a French point of view Montreal was disconcerting, and not only for the funny accent of its many inhabitants. It was the unique blend of French and North American characteristics that really got me. It seemed that for almost everything they took an American template and laid a hefty dose of French on top of it. This goes from the language with its American English structure filled with French words to the city itself, a rough grid of wide streets connecting Old World looking constructions to stout skyscrapers and ridiculous underground shopping complexes, with a detour by the kitchen were everything is artificially enhanced, taste, color and most likely texture too.


Intense nightlife, great culture, awesome cuisine and an intriguing mixture of languages, this was Montreal for me.

And on Sunday we all converged towards the Palais des Congrès de Montréal for the Icebreaker of the 2012 Goldschmidt, ready to talk, chat and of course argue with friends and colleagues from all over the world. And so we did, as the afternoon and then evening progressed we rekindled with old friends. Haven’t seen each other for a while we brought ourselves up to date on the various projects we are working on. The mingling and discussions lasted long after we were thrown out of the conference building. As people say, it was a good start and setting the décor for the rest of the week.


If like me you have a tendency for absent mindedness, the Goldschmidt conference is just right for you. It is a decently sized conference with all kinds of geochemists, ranging from those looking at the depth of the earth to others interested by silicate fluids or by the isotopic composition of martian regolith, but despite that variety the conference doesn’t reach the inhuman size of EGU or AGU. Therefore you won’t get lost in the flourish of sessions or in the maze of corridors leading to the myriad of interesting talks, second if by any chance your interest wane one morning just reach the lobby and you will practically bump into a dozen of people you know, all ready to inoculate you with a generous share of enthusiasm for their topic. And off you go to a session for some truly fantastic science, even if sometimes a bit esoteric.

A stressed grad student sizing up the plenary session room before his talk. Photo: J. Declercq.

Conferences are all about networking, and Montréal did not disappoint. This works two ways, first by making yourself visible through talks and posters and then by chatting with the presenters. In both cases the Palais des Congrès offered a grand and familiar setup, propitious for casual encounter between sessions, spacious rooms for talks and a decent poster hall, all in all a good forum. Usually grad students and young scientists being uncomfortable with chasing down the presenter of a memorable talk will instead cluster at the poster session, their resolve strengthen with a couple of beers and ready to engage fellow youngsters and the stray professor on a more familiar turf. Passing from one group to another you usually end up engrossed in an animated conversation with colleagues over the meaning of their data, and sometimes the meaning of life in academia, until long after the official end of the poster session. Then instead of colleagues you end up with new friends to drink Polar beer, watch football or go to the Jazz Festival with.


Time flies when you are enjoying yourself and all of a sudden it is Friday night and time to say good bye to your new and old friends and colleagues and of course beautiful Montreal to head back to France. Overall the Goldschmidt 2012 was an excellent conference scientifically enlightening, exciting, challenging and fun.


We came back with the head filled with ideas, hopes of further collaborations and of course with this slight pang of melancholy so characteristic of leaving true friends. But, no worries, we’ll meet again, in Florence next year!

About the author

After 4 years in Norway and a PhD from the Universtity of Oslo on the dissolution of carbonates with Prof. Per Aagaard, Julien Declercq is now working as a PostDoc in Toulouse with Eric Oelkers. In Toulouse Julien is dissolving more minerals and glasses in the presence or absence of organic ligands, being something of a computer nerd he is also tasked with the establishment of a kinetic database for Phreeqc. Despite his busy schedule he still finds some time for cooking nice French food for his friends, swimming and going maverick with his mountain bike.