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SIG SQART

Interaction in micromanipulation

Published 05 June 2019

Kelly Tilleman, Co-ordinator of the SIG Safety & Quality in ART, on the challenges of organising a three-day interactive Campus workshop in Ghent on 'Top quality in micromanipulation'.

‘Would a campus workshop on micromanipulation be interesting?’ I asked Martine Nijs more than a year ago. ‘For sure, absolutely,' she replied.

‘Okay, but I would like it to be interactive . . . with machines and everything,' I added. ‘Yes, the more interaction, the better,' Martine replied . . . and that’s how it all started.

Registration proved a huge success. We had to stop it, as the room would otherwise be too small. And even two weeks before the meeting, we weren’t sure if we had three ICSI rigs or two. How would we move 200 delegates around in groups? My desk was covered with scribbled colored schemes. But in our minds, we'd make it all work. Oh, and yes, we were going to make a live recording on site . . . and mouse embryos would be nice to have. So together with the SIG Embryology we managed to fill the programme with the best of the best experts. Some of them were my scientific heroes, and here they were en route to my home town for an interactive workshop.

Thursday 16 May
In all honesty, I was nervous - even though we had a detailed plan and Central Office's organisation was on track. However, a strike at air traffic control in Brussels was the first crack in the perfect plan. Speakers would arrive late, some unsure if at all. So we had to move some speakers around or at least be prepared to do so. Laura Rienzi would probably still make it on Thursday, but  Fernando Bronet Campos would arrive on Friday instead. He had his talk on Friday, but chaired on Thursday, so luckily some Belgian colleagues pitched in to substitute.

We had one ICSI rig inside the main room, so yes, the fact that they were going to look and feel their favorite tools was this time the real thing. The room was completely full (more chairs had to be brought in) when Denny Sakkas opened the programme. The first session smoothly brought us to the coffee break, and, although shuffled round a bit, the next oocyte session began well and ended with Laura walking into the hotel lobby just 15 minutes in time.

Friday 17 May, the interactive session
ICSI rigs were being setup in the basement room. A quick call to our IVF Reception explaining that a portable container with mouse embryos would be picked up around 11 o’clock: ‘Remember, do not swing the incubator.'

Session 3 was running smoothly. Some people already were curious about the numbers on their badges and experts for the interactive session were brought up to date during the coffee break. A back-to-the-future talk from Danilo Cimadomo moved our programme from ICSI on to embryo biopsy. Fernando arrived on time and delivered a very informative and interactive talk, in which, by show of hands, embryos were destined for biopsy or not.

A perfect warm-up for the afternoon session in which three ICSI rigs were ready and mouse embryos in place. Our technical experts explained the secrets of the microscopes and the laser, and I could not have wished for a better introduction to the look-and-feel session.

And now it was time. David Morroll put on his Madonna microphone and off we were. Experts took their places ready to be ‘speed dated’ and groups of delegates moved around . . . the whole afternoon was filled with interaction. Everyone respected our timings and the organisation. I was ringing that little bell, when groups had to move to their next station. I felt overwhelmed seeing my paper scribbles unravel into a smooth organisation.

I saw people listening with concentration, I saw delegates asking questions and I saw experts drawing and explaining technical details and discussing.
I saw science being practised there and then.

Saturday 18 May
Even on this final morning, the room was 80% full. And still our delegates asked questions. The future of micromanipulation was shown in this last session. I sat in the room feeling content about the course and still on a high following the interactive session the day before. Suddenly, at the end of Giovanni Coticchio's talk, the beamer shut down, the microphone died and the screens rolled up. Well, I guess you can plan as much as you can, but never anticipate everything.