President’s Corner #24: Punctuated Equilibrium Evolution


Dear ISMRM Community,

It seems like a decade ago that we were earnestly, and perhaps naively, preparing for an April trip to Sydney. The gyrations in our planning trajectory were a sort of “punctuated equilibrium” evolution. But while the events precipitating it were painful, a new species has risen out of the ashes: this first-ever virtual annual meeting of the ISMRM. We hope you will join us for this historic event in August.

View the Program-at-a-Glance  |  Register Now

So, while the idea of trying a virtual meeting has been kicking around for some time, we are now doing the grand experiment! I am pleased to say that thanks to the incredibly hard work and ingenuity of AMPC Chair Doug Noll and Vice Chair Nicole Seiberlich, the Central Office team, and the AMPC itself, this first-ever ISMRM virtual meeting has evolved from the “single cell” virtual workshops we have been running into an exciting, diverse program–equivalent to an organism complete with the tissues, organs, and organ systems. All in three months!

We strove to build the mechanics in a way that first-and-foremost disseminates the content of your scientific work as widely and effortlessly as possible. Namely, the scientific abstract presentations and educational content will be available for viewing at your convenience in your favorite time zone with no need to sync yourself to a schedule. This leaves the synchronous events such as the “Live Q&A” sessions led by the speakers and moderators and the social networking events to be used for their intended purpose: lively discussions and networking.

For the posters, we think we have hit on a novel approach employing our gallery of “teaser slides,” which are bite-sized mini-posters automatically generated from your abstract, to allow a familiar “stroll through the poster hall.” This will allow you to go to the corner of the virtual hall, find your sub-field, and scroll through hundreds of posters. You can stop to more closely examine the full poster of whatever catches your eye. We hope you will take a similarly virtual stroll through the exhibitor area where our corporate exhibitors lay out their latest work.

Finally, you will recognize the familiar format of the “big hall” sessions: the Welcome session; Awards presentations; Plenaries; and the Lauterbur, Mansfield, NIBIB, and Presidential Lectures. These will occur on a schedule, but if you sleep in, do not despair; they will remain on the web for your viewing. And you won’t want to miss them. In these lectures, Drs. Basser, Grant, and Brunner bring their unique perspective on MRI technology and applications, and Dr. Betzig will give us a glimpse of how optical microscopy technology has been reinventing itself.

The President’s Lecture was started a few years back to attract high-profile speakers from outside our ranks to reflect on important developments in fields around us. I am pleased to have Dr. Betzig with us to give us an in-the-trenches view of the amazing revolutions undertaken in the last decade in optical microscopy. Dr. Betzig shared the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions to super-resolution microscopy, but you will see that the field has not stopped there. While there are plenty of differences between MRI technology and today’s advanced fluorescence microscopy techniques, some parallels are uncanny, and the lessons to be transferred are numerous. Be prepared to spend some time thinking: “hmmm, I wonder if…”

Sharing research, networking, precipitating new thinking, and inspiring thought that does not come easily in isolation—that is the goal of our Annual Meeting. It’s been a challenging year for all of us, with plenty of isolation, but I am confident that the virtual meeting can achieve these goals. I look forward to participating in it with you. It has been an honor serving the Society as the 2019-2020 ISMRM President.


Lawrence L. Wald, Ph.D.
2019-2020 ISMRM President