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North American Workshop on Laser Ablation (NAWLA)

NAWLA Conference attendees on the UT Campus.

A who’s who of laser ablation and inductively coupled plasma mass
spectrometry converged on Austin in May 2017 to share knowledge about this powerful analytical technology.

The meeting — the North American Workshop on Laser Ablation — was also the second time the group has come to the Jackson School of Geosciences. The three-day workshop was spearheaded by a small group that includes Jackson School Laser Ablation and ICP-MS Lab Manager Nate Miller, who wanted to help create a workshop environment where scientists and instrument vendors could exchange information about a rapidly changing field.

“The best way to learn something is from an expert, and very few of us get the chance to go visit an expert in a lab to learn a technique,” he said. “We’re trying create a workshop with shared experiences and opportunities where you can learn.”

The workshop constituted a snapshot of state-of-the-art laser ablation research. Some 130 scientists and vendors from 12 countries attended the workshop, including two internationally known pioneers in the field: Sam Houk of Iowa State University and Henry Longerich of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Jackson School research was presented by professors Richard Kyle and Daniel Stockli, postdoctoral fellow Federico Galster, and graduate students Stephanie Wafforn and Kylie Wright.

The workshop is now being held every other year — on the off-years of the long-running European workshop on the same topic. Miller doesn’t know yet if the Jackson School will be the permanent home of the event, but said that the group is committed to keeping the meeting going. That’s good news for Longerich, who said he found the workshop much more constructive than some larger and better-known scientific conferences.

“It’s a perfect size,” Longerich said of the workshop. “That makes this meeting, for me, more productive. I can just sit there and soak it all in.”