Not many scientific conferences offer the chance to hear from Nobel Laureates by day, while listening to the world’s top musical artists at night. But that’s exactly what Dr. Normand Voyer achieved. In 2016, the Université Laval chemist and professor helped land the rights to host the 13th International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry (ISMSC) in Québec City in 2018, which was held during the highly popular Festival d’été de Québec.

“Every time we organize a scientific conference or a symposium, there’s an amazing opportunity to showcase who we are, the renowned facilities we have, and help students share their science right in their backyard,” explained Voyer. “At the same time, it’s an excellent way to spotlight our rich culture.”

A premier host for scientific conferences

In a destination like Québec City, that wasn’t hard to pull off. With expertise across many disciplines of science, the province’s capital is home to over 50 acclaimed research institutions, more than 5,000 brilliant researchers and scores of forward-thinking companies. Working with a team that included Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club and the Québec City Convention Centre, Voyer got to work in illuminating its possibilities.

Headshot of Normand Voyer
Dr. Normand Voyer, Professor, Université Laval, Québec


A one-stop shop for consulting services, Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club supports ambassadors in their efforts to organize international conventions in Québec City by offering tools, resources and financial support programs useful for the planning and promotion of a conference and the destination.

“We want to make a difference and offer support from the beginning through the end of the process of organizing a conference,” says Nathalie Nault, project manager for Québec City’s Ambassadors’ Club. “For the International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry, we offered various financial support programs and a major promotional blitz of Québec City.”

After reviewing the compelling bid, the advisory board promptly granted Québec City the right to host the conference. It’s a feat that Voyer credits to the city’s scientific acumen, along with draws like its natural beauty, distinct European charm and all-around joie de vivre.

When it came to designing an agenda, Voyer praised the city’s strong collaborative spirit for making the entire process a breeze: “I thought that would be a big hurdle, but it turned out to be easy. We have a fantastic network of companies, and the Québec City Convention Centre helped us out to make sure that everything ran smoothly.”

Leaving a lasting mark on minds—and hearts

From July 8 to 13, 2018, hundreds of chemists from 42 countries gathered at the Québec City Convention Centre to share their research and discuss the latest developments in macrocyclic and supramolecular chemistry. The symposium featured an unforgettable line-up of speakers that included two Nobel Laureates: Ben Feringa with the University of Groningen and Fraser Stoddart with Northwestern University. “One Nobel Laureate is already difficult to get — but two? That’s a very big deal,” added Voyer.

Throughout the week, there were many other forums to discuss all aspects of macrocyclic and supramolecular chemistry, including invited lectures, talks and poster sessions. In addition to that, networking opportunities provided a platform for attendees to exchange ideas, build stronger connections and establish new collaborations with like-minded experts.

Québec City has a unique knack for blending business with pleasure, which is one reason why it continually attracts international conferences. During the symposium, attendees immersed themselves in everything that the city has to offer during the bustling summer months. For many, that meant taking in Old Québec City in between sessions, which is known for its historic buildings, charming shops and lively bistros that spill out onto cobblestone streets.

As Voyer pointed out, the part that left an indelible mark on delegates was the Festival d’été de Québec, one of Canada’s largest music festivals. The 11-day event offered an incredible line-up that included performances by Neil Young, Dave Matthews Band, Foo Fighters, Beck and The Weeknd, along with many emerging artists. Many attendees bought a pass for the week for $100, allowing them to enjoy outdoor performances taking place at many diverse venues peppered throughout the city.

“The symposium wasn’t only important for displaying what we’re doing to compete on the international level in chemistry, but it was also a fantastic showcase of our surroundings and cultures,” Voyer said. “That’s important because, while people come to our conference to discuss science, at the end of the day they also want to go out and experience the city.”

Creating lasting change

As with any large-scale conference, the symposium generated substantial economic spinoffs in Québec City through having some 450 attendees supporting local restaurants, hotels, attractions and more.

Since then, many longer-term legacy benefits have also been felt. Voyer has no doubt that the symposium has been a strong incentive for PhD students and international scholars to connect with and establish relationships in Québec City: “It’s been great for attracting post-doctoral scholars from around the world, who come and look at the city and see the cutting-edge research that’s going on in their field,” he added.

Of course, one of the most lasting benefits is that it put Québec City’s science industry expertise on full display — showing academics, researchers and students from around the globe the innovative work that the country’s visionary minds are leading.

“At the international level, Canadian science is underestimated,” says Voyer. “It’s our job and duty to showcase it to the world. I am convinced it’s important that we organize scientific meetings in Canada to highlight the quality and level of science we’re doing — not only in macrocyclic and supramolecular chemistry, but across every scientific discipline as well.”

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