American Academy of Microbiology, 50th Anniversary 1955-2005



The American Academy of Microbiology (Academy) is the honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the world's oldest and largest life science organization. The mission of the Academy is to recognize scientists for outstanding contributions to microbiology and provide microbiological expertise in the service of science and the public.

The Academy was formed in 1955 as a corporation independent of the ASM (then the Society of American Bacteriologists) by a group of distinguished microbiologists interested in their professional organization broadening its mission and activities. In 1969, the Council of the ASM and the Academy's Board of Governors voted to merge. It was determined that Academy would function as one of the "arms" of ASM and would be responsible for professional affairs, which included promoting training programs to ensure a supply of well qualified microbiologists, establishing and maintaining a code of ethics, developing certification and registration boards as needed, and ensuring the professional well-being of microbiologists whose opportunities may be subject to actions of legislative or other professional bodies. In 2011, the Professional Practices Committee was formed with the mission to provide professional development opportunities and content to members to increase their skill, enhance their job performance and contribute to the profession. The American College of Microbiology is a core component of this committee, and is no longer a part of Academy.

Today, the Academy serves as a resource to governmental agencies, industry, ASM, and the larger scientific and lay communities by convening colloquia to address critical issues in microbiology. The Academy manages ASM's scientific achievement awards program, recognizing outstanding achievement and potential in all areas of microbiology. The Academy convenes four to five colloquia a year for in-depth analysis of critical issues in microbiology.

Fellowship to the Academy, 1955-2005

Over the last 50 years, 2,700 distinguished scientists have been elected to the Academy. Fellows are elected through a highly selective, annual, peer review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology. A Committee on Election to Fellowship, consisting of Fellows of the Academy elected by the membership, reviews all nominations for Fellowship and recommends to the Board of Governors what action should be taken. Each Fellow elected to the Academy has built an exemplary career in basic and applied research, teaching, clinical and public health, industry, or government service. Election to Fellowship indicates recognition of distinction in microbiology by one's peers.

Over 500 Academy Fellows are involved in all facets of the AAM, including guiding the critical issues colloquia series and ASM scientific achievement awards. The Academy published a newsletter for Fellows from 1957 through 1968 and revived it under its current name News and Views in 1991.

Over 200 Fellows of the Academy have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, while many have also been honored with Nobel Prizes, Lasker Awards, and the National Medal of Science.

Colloquium Program

The Academy convenes colloquia to deliberate on issues of critical importance in the microbiological sciences. Each colloquium brings together an invited select group of scientists, government officials, and industry representatives for several days of structured, directed deliberations on a specific topic. Participants bring together the sum of their scientific experience and expertise for a thorough examination of each discussion topic. Published reports synthesize conclusions reached during these important meetings, providing analysis of the scientific issues and practical recommendations for the future.

The colloquia program was envisioned by the founders of the Academy, and one colloquium was convened in 1988.

Since that time, over 35 colloquia have been held, and nearly 900 scientists have participated. Government agencies have recognized the expert scientific advice available from the Academy colloquia program and have requested several colloquia on specific topics. Others have been developed by the Academy's Board and through proposals from individual Academy Fellows, the leadership of the ASM, and other scientists.

Academy colloquia are recognized as objective analyses in all areas of the microbiological sciences and are widely utilized as teaching tools. The strength of this vital program depends on input from Academy Fellows. As leaders in microbiology, Academy Fellows are encouraged to identify the most significant and cutting-edge issues in the field of microbiology.

ASM Scientific Achievement Awards

In 1985 the Committee on Awards, which consists of at least eight Fellows of the Academy, was established to oversee all aspects of ASM's awards program. Responsibility for the awards program was transferred to the Academy, as the honorific arm of ASM, in 1990. Each award is governed by both a selection committee and a nominating committee.

The ASM's scientific achievement awards program is dedicated to acknowledging the best in microbiology. The awards honor outstanding accomplishments among senior scientists, young investigators, clinicians, educators, and students. They encompass all fields of microbiology, including biotechnology, clinical microbiology, environmental microbiology, antimicrobial chemotherapy, immunology, and virology, as well as education and service to the profession.

The Academy manages over 20 awards. ASM's oldest award, The Eli Lilly Company and Research Award, has been presented since 1936; there are now 18 awards recognizing microbiological research. Education awards are presented for excellence in teaching and mentoring at the undergraduate and graduate levels; young investigator awards recognize potential and encourage originality; and service awards honor professional commitment and action, both within and outside the ASM.

Each award honors a distinguished colleague, an inspiring teacher or an exceptional student. It also provides the chance to participate in recognizing, rewarding, and encouraging important contributions to microbiology as a science and profession.