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Isotope Gordon Conference

The Gordon Research Seminar and Conference on Isotopes in the Biological and Chemical Sciences met in Galveston, TX Feb 5-10 this year. The conference celebrated both the centennial of the first observation of a stable isotope, the detection of Ne-22 by Francis Aston, and the contributions of Jacob Bigeleisen to the calculation and interpretation of isotope effects on physical and chemical processes. Isotopes on biogeochemical processes were prominently featured in sessions organized by Thomas Hofstetter and Ariel Anbar. In the initial session devoted to biogeochemistry and pollutant dynamics, Thomas Hofstetter provided an introduction to the types of studies that employ isotope effect measurements. Martin Elsner (Institute of Groundwater Ecology, Helmholtz Zentrum München) and Daniel Hunkeler (University of Neuchâtel, Institute of Geology and Hydrogeology, Neuchatel, Switzerland) presented studies on isotopic fractionation in the environment attributable to microorganisms and the interpretation on the mechanisms of decomposition. Alex Sessions (Cal Tech) and Karen Casciotti (Stanford) presented data on the use of H and N isotope fractionation to infer pathways of microbial metabolism.

On the second day the presentations veered more towards the geochemical. Edwin Schauble (Dept. of Earth and Space Sciences University of California, Los Angeles) gave a presentation on isotope thermometry requiring high precision measurements. This was followed by presentations from Laura Wasylenki (Indiana University) on metal ion coordination and David Johnston (Harvard) on sulfur fractionation.

The 'Isotopes Gordon Conference' has long focused on the development and application of the theory of isotope fractionation. The introduction and adaptation of the 'Bigeleisen equation' was covered by Alex van Hook and other contributions toward the calculation of isotope effects were presented by Steven Schwartz and Piotr Paneth. The synergy of looking at isotopic fractionation in the environment coupled to the determination of isotope effects on enzyme systems was apparent during the discussions at this meeting.

The Geochemical Society, the Biological Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society and Thermo Fisher Scientific provided support for the conference. The next planned meeting is in early February 2014 in Galveston.

-Vernon Anderson, conference chair