R. John Collier, Ph.D.
Chair, Board of Governors
The Academy’s mission is to “recognize scientists for outstanding contributions to microbiology and provide microbiological expertise in the service of science and the public.” AAM Fellows are elected to the AAM on the basis of scientific excellence and stellar achievements, and in 2010, 78 new Fellows were elected, including 17 (22%) international scientists, nine members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and two Nobel Laureates.
AAM Fellows elect members of the AAM’s Board of Governors (BOG) and the Committee on Elections (COE), and the following scientists were elected in 2010:
- Edward Ruby, Professor and Vice Chair, Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Wisconsin, Madison (elected to a second term on the BOG)
- Gerald R. Fink, Professor, Molecular Genetics, MIT, and Member, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (BOG)
- Caroline S. Harwood, Gerald and Lyn Grinstein Endowed Professor in Microbiology, University of Washington (COE)
- Stephen Lory, Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School (COE)
The BOG convened in January 2010 in Tucson, Arizona, for the annual board meeting and to review nominations to the AAM. Minutes have been posted online. Due to some proposals at last year’s BOG meeting that required changes to the bylaws, an ad-hoc committee was formed to review the Academy bylaws and offer changes. The committee, chaired by Eugene Nester, met several times by conference call and presented revisions for the BOG to consider. The revised bylaws will be sent to Fellows for ratification. Peter Gilligan, Dean of the American College of Microbiology (College), gave a presentation about ASM's recent clinical microbiology initiatives and the resulting expanding role for the College. The BOG supported the College's work on the initiatives and agreed to the following declaration of support:
Declaration The Board of Governors of the American Academy of Microbiology supports the American College of Microbiology's efforts to better meet the needs of the American Society for Microbiology's clinical microbiology community.
Carol Colgan, who served as Director of the American Academy of Microbiology for 20 years, retired at the end of 2009. Carol’s qualities of intellect, warmth and enthusiasm made her highly effective as Director of the Academy, and a source of wisdom and close friend to many of us who had the good fortune to work with her. We wish her happiness, good health, and stimulating adventures in her retirement. At last report she was planning a month-long trip to the Himalayas this fall.
After a long and extensive search we were fortunate to recruit Ann Reid to serve as the new Director of the Academy. Before joining the Academy Ann was senior program officer on the Board of Life Sciences of the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academies. During her tenure, she worked on over a dozen major projects, serving as the study director for seven of them. One of the first projects she helped develop resulted in the report "The New Science of Metagenomics: Revealing the Secrets of Our Microbial Planet". Before coming to the National Academies, Ann was a molecular biologist at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, where she co-led the team that sequenced the 1918 influenza virus, resulting in a series of ground-breaking publications. We are delighted to have Ann as our new Director and look forward to working with her.
In an effort to be more efficient, environmentally responsible, and cut costs, the Academy has transitioned to paper-free programs. 2009 marked the second year that the Academy election process was 100% paperless- CVs were posted online and an electronic voting system was used. The Academy has transitioned to an online method for paying dues for Fellowship in the Academy as well as certification in the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists. These changes greatly lower the cost of postage and materials, and enable staff to spend more time on other Academy projects.
The Academy, on behalf of ASM, awarded special awards in microbiology at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for high school students. Nancy Freitag chaired the judging panel and presented the awards on behalf of the Society. ASM awards cash prizes and ASM student memberships to 10 high school students. For the first time, letters were sent from the ASM President to the students in the microbiology category who did not win a prize with ASM. This letter commended them on their excellent work at the fair, and encouraged them to pursue future studies in microbiology.
The Academy’s Committee on Diversity will sponsor a session at the 2010 ASM General Meeting entitled, “Natural Products from the Sea: The Next Frontier.”
The Academy convenes colloquia to strategically address critical issues in microbiology and to develop reports that are scientifically analytical, practical, and objective. Since 1992, the Academy has sought and received over $2 million in grants and contributions for the colloquia program—from federal agencies, foundations, and the corporate sector. Colloquia reports have been downloaded in the aggregate over 750,000 times. Reports published in the past year include:
- Large-Scale Sequencing: the Future of Genomic Sciences? (December 2009) Scientists can gain insights into new ways to use microorganisms in medicine and manufacturing through a coordinated large-scale effort to sequence the genomes of not just individual microorganisms but entire ecosystems, according to a new report from the American Academy of Microbiology that outlines recommendations for this massive effort. The report, “Large-Scale Sequencing: The Future of Genomic Sciences?” is based on a colloquium convened by the Academy in September 2008. The report outlines recommendations for large-scale microbial sequencing efforts directed toward cultivated isolates and single cells, as well as a community-scale approach to characterize a set of defined ecosystems of varying complexity.
- Antibiotic Resistance: An Ecological Perspective on An Old Problem (September 2009) According to this report, it is possible to co-exist with resistance by developing new strategies to prevent resistance from spreading and, where it already exists, identifying the strains we need to protect against; finding new ways to treat resistance infections effectively in patients; and managing reservoirs of antibiotic strains in the environment. The report summarizes the current scientific understanding of antibiotic resistance, the scope of the problem, and methods at our disposal for detecting emergence and preventing spread. The knowledge gaps about the prevalence of resistant strains and resistant infections are highlighted as are the unique problems and challenges in developing countries. This report has been translated into French.
- Bioinformatics and Biodefense: Keys to Understanding Natural & Altered Pathogens (May 2009) Bioinformatics, the application of computer analysis to molecular biology, is a fundamental corollary to biodefense research. As we face new security threats involving pathogens and infectious disease, bioinformatics databases must be improved and a plan must be made for integrating biodefense research throughout the world. This report outlines the recommendations made by the world's leaders in bioinformatics at a colloquium held in Baltimore.
Four colloquia are in the planning phase, to be held in late 2010 or 2011:
- “Microbial biogeochemistry & climate change: building microbes into climate models” Chaired by Ed DeLong (fall 2010)
- “Exploring the Role of Summer Courses in Educating the Microbiologists of the Future” Chaired by Roberto Kolter (fall 2010)
- “The Role of Microbiology in Solving the Global Laboratory Capacity Challenge” Chaired by Keith Klugman
- “How Microbiology Can Contribute to Meeting Global Water Needs: An Ecological Perspective” Co-chaired by Stephen Morse and Tim Ford (tentatively scheduled for June 2011 in Singapore with support from the National University of Singapore)
Academy-administered ASM awards recognize outstanding microbiologists and bring their accomplishments to the attention of the scientific community and the public-at-large. The Academy is happy to announce that Abbott Laboratories has agreed to continue funding the Abbott-ASM Lifetime Achievement Award through 2016. This is ASM’s premier award for sustained contributions to the microbiological sciences and includes a cash prize of $20,000 and travel to the ASM General Meeting where the laureate delivers the Abbott-ASM Lifetime Achievement Award Lecture. The laureate in 2010 is Lucy Shapiro of Stanford University. Also, we are happy to announce that bioMérieux, Inc. has agreed to sponsor the bioMerieux Sonnenwirth Award for Leadership in Clinical Microbiology through 2016. This award, which carries a cash prize of $2000, recognizes a distinguished microbiologist for the promotion of innovation in clinical laboratory science, dedication to ASM, and the advancement of clinical microbiology as a profession. The 2010 laureate is Patricia Charache.
The AAM has transitioned to the use of forms to replace letters that used to be submitted for award nominations. Each award has a nominating and supporting form that can be filled out and saved to the user’s computer. Once the user is finished, they click “Submit,” and the form is electronically submitted.
The awards website now has a box that rotates between the pictures of the 2009 award laureates. This same technology will be used to display the photos of new Fellows on the Academy website in the next few months.
AAM staff continue to work with sponsors and volunteers to ensure the financial viability of the awards program. Several hundred AAM Fellows and other ASM members volunteer their time to ensure ASM awards are the very best in our science.
American College of Microbiology
Peter H. Gilligan, Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was elected Dean of the American College of Microbiology; his term began July 1, 2009.
National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM)
The Board of The National Registry of Microbiologists (NRM) voted at its 2009 board meeting to change its name to the National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM). The impetus for the name change was to increase the value and marketability of certification. The board believes that the new name will make it clear that microbiologists become registered through certification, not simply by signing up. The NRCM Board determined that the industrial exam names should be changed to reflect current practice and optimize their marketability. The board voted unanimously to change the industrial exam names as follows:
Old Name New Name Consumer Products and Quality Assurance Microbiology specializing in Food and Dairy Registered Microbiologist: Food Consumer Products and Quality Assurance Microbiology specializing Registered Microbiologist: Pharmaceutical and Medical in Pharmaceutical/Medical Device/Cosmetics Device Consumer and Industrial Microbiology specializing in Pharmaceutical/Medical Device/Cosmetics Specialist Microbiologist: Pharmaceutical and Medical Device
American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM)
In April 2009, the ABMM exam was approved by the State of California to replace their licensure examination for microbiology laboratory directors. Under this approval, anyone who passed or passes the ABMM exam between May 1, 2005 and May 1, 2013, will meet the examination requirement for licensure in California. Those who are approved by California may take the ABMM exam for California licensure purposes. Anyone who wishes to become certified as an ABMM Diplomate must still submit an ABMM application and meet the ABMM’s eligibility requirements in addition to passing the exam.
The Academy’s programs are functioning well. The effectiveness of the Academy’s programs depends on the voluntary service of its Fellows and others in the broad community of microbiologists, and, importantly, on a talented administrative team now headed by Ann Reid. My heartfelt thanks to them all.
R. John Collier