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American Academy of Microbiology

Bonnie L. Bassler

Chair, Board of Governors

American Academy of Microbiology



At its annual meeting in January, the Board of Governors, was joined by Erika Shugart, ASM Director of Communications & Marketing Strategy, to brainstorm and develop a marketing approach that would target a broader range of audiences (both scientific and non-scientific alike) to build awareness and extend the reach of the Academy’s awards and colloquia programs. In an effort to prolong these efforts, the Board appointed a sub-committee to collaborate with the Communications department via quarterly conference calls.


The Board also received a report from the awards task force, chaired by Edward DeLong and Ned Ruby, reviewing the awards program. From this report, the task force concluded that the award program is generally working well. However, there are some areas of concern. Mainly, the lack of female and underrepresented minority laureates, the disciplinary balance of the awards portfolio not being as balanced as it could be with respect to the interests, contributions, and expertise of the membership, in addition to the administratively cumbersome structure of having separate nominations and selection committees for each award—25 in total.


To address the first two issues, the Board has tasked Drs. DeLong and Ruby with drafting a mission statement for the awards program, which will be reviewed by the Board next year. To address administrative concerns, the task force has proposed a restructuring of nomination and selection committees to streamline the process. As a result, the awards program will be broken down into five categories: Service, Education, and Research (Basic, Clinical, and Applied)—one nominations and selection committee for each category.


Election to Fellowship

Eighty-eight Fellows were elected to the AAM on January 24th at the Board of Governors Meeting in Washington, D.C.  for their outstanding achievement in scientific achievement.


Colloquium Program


The Academy convenes colloquia to address critical issues in microbiology and develop reports that are scientifically analytical, practical, and objective.  Since 1992, the Academy has sought and received over $2.5 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 150,000 times in the last 5 years.


The FAQ mini-colloquia are based on single-day meetings of approximately 20 experts to develop clear, science-based answers to frequently asked questions about a newsworthy topic in microbiology. The audience for FAQ reports is the general public. Some topics are chosen in response to current events that involve microbiology, like the original FAQ on Microbes and Oil Spills. Others address topics of perennial interest, like this year’s FAQs: one on influenza and one on the microbiology of beer.


Six colloquium reports were released in 2013:

Moving Targets: Fighting the Evolution of Resistance in Infections, Pests, and Cancer

Concerned about antibiotic resistance? What if an insect pest becomes desensitized to the protective chemicals applied to crops? All kinds of living organisms have evolved mechanisms of resistance against the chemicals designed to control them – from bacteria, viruses, cancer cells to weeds. This report explores the Darwinian principles underlying the evolution of resistance in these different biological communities and learns how experts in these fields have developed potentially discipline-spanning strategies of combatting them.

FAQ: Influenza

Where do new influenza viruses come from? How are they different from the influenza viruses that circulate every year? Why is vaccination so important? To help answer the many questions people have about this multi-faceted virus, the American Academy of Microbiology has issued a report entitled FAQ: Influenza. The Academy convened twelve of the world’s leading experts on influenza in October, 2012 to consider and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about influenza. The resultant report provides non-technical, science-based answers to questions that people may have about the virus. 

Microbes in Pipes: The Microbiology of the Water Distribution System

Like every other human built environment, the entire water distribution system — every reservoir, every well, every pipe, and every faucet — is home to hundreds or thousands of species of bacteria, algae, invertebrates, and viruses, most of which are completely harmless to humans. In April 2012, the American Academy of Microbiology convened a colloquium to assess what is known about the microbial inhabitants of the water distribution system and to propose goals for advancing our understanding of these communities in order to enhance the safety of our drinking water and the resilience of our water infrastructure.

West Nile Virus

“FAQ: West Nile Virus” was released in June 2013. The report, based on the deliberations of 22 experts, answers questions the public might have about the virus that burst onto the U.S. scene over a decade ago, and made a dramatic comeback last summer. The report explains where the virus came from, why it seems to fade in and out of view, what symptoms it causes, and why it’s so difficult to predict where outbreaks will occur and how severe they will be. Easily understandable, but scientifically sound, readers will learn about the virus’ ecology and epidemiology, as well as what they can do to protect themselves and their loved ones.


How Microbes Can Help Feed the World

“How Microbes Can Help Feed the World” explores the many evolutionarily ancient partnerships that all plants have with microbes. The group of scientists who met in December 2012 propose a grand challenge: that improved understanding of plant-microbe interactions could increase crop productivity by 20% while reducing fertilizer and pesticide requirements by 20%, within 20 years. Their ambitious goal – 20:20 in 20 – rests on the recognition that all plants rely on microbial partners to secure nutrients, deter pathogens and resist environmental stress and that these evolutionary relationships have not yet been put to work in agriculture.

FAQ: The Human Microbiome | July 2013

The human microbiome, the collection of trillions of microbes living in and on the human body, is not random, and scientists believe that it plays a role in many basic life processes. As science continues to explore and better understand the role of the human microbiome. A new report from the American Academy of Microbiology addresses questions about this growing area of research.


Reports will soon be released on three additional colloquia that were held in 2013:

  • Microbe-Powered Jobs | held February 2013
  • The Uncharted Viral World | held July 2013
  • FAQ: MRSA | held November 2013


The Academy plans to convene three traditional and three FAQ colloquia in 2014:

  • Bugs as Drugs | April 2014 in San Diego, CA
  • FAQ: Microbiology of Cheese | June 2014 in Washington, DC
  • FAQ: Global Disease Eradication | July 2014 in Washington, DC | partnership with ASM International Affairs


Outreach Efforts

Outreach efforts for FAQ: West Nile Virus were particularly successful. The report is featured on the CDC website, as well as on several state health department sites including Mississippi, Idaho, Michigan, South Dakota, and Nevada. The FAQ: If the yeast ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy: the microbiology of beer has also spurred several novel outreach efforts, including the distribution of hundreds of coasters printed with the report website and beer-related trivia questions and t-shirts with the report website address and the slogan “Love beer? Thank a microbiologist.”


In October the Academy released a poster based on the FAQ: Influenza entitled, “8 Bad Excuses for Not Getting the Flu Shot.” With help from Academy Fellow, Gary Toranzos, a Spanish translation of the poster was also released. Dr. Toranzos also translated the brochure, “Adult Vaccines: A Grown Up Thing to Do.” These resources are available to the public through the Academy website and have led to an increase in website views.

Awards Program


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 administered the nomination and selection process for 25 awards in 2013.  

DuPont Industrial Biotechnology has agreed to support ASM’s Environmental and Applied Microbiology Award for the next five years. The award was previously supported by Procter & Gamble. Hardy Diagnostics has agreed to support the ABMM/ABMLI Professional Recognition Award for the next five years.


The ASM sponsors special awards in microbiology each year at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair.  About 80 students present projects in this category.  The top ten projects receive a cash prize and a certificate, and were printed in a Microbe issue. All entrants in microbiology receive student membership to ASM.


The 2013 ICAAC Young Investigator Awards recognize and reward five early-career scientists for their research excellence and potential in microbiology and infectious diseases.  Ken Cadwell and Joshua Obar are the 2013 laureates for the Merck-sponsored awards, and Marc Torrent and Frank van de Veerdonk are the 2013 laureates for the ASM-sponsored awards. Baligh Ramzi Yehia is the 2013 laureate for the Merck-sponsored award for HIV research.


George Drusano, M.D., Director of the Institute for Therapeutic Innovation at the UF Research and Academic Center, has been honored with the 2013 Cubist-ICAAC.


A full list of the asm2014 award laureates can be found at the end of this report


Microbes After Hours

The Academy and Communications Department have continued their collaboration on the Microbes After Hours serires. In 2013, 5 different sessions were held including, “Secret Language of Bacteria,” “West Nile Virus,” “The Microbiology of the Bioeconomy,
” “Shutting Down the Government,” and “The Microbiology of Beer.”

The talks were streamed live by the ASM Communications department to an interactive audience that included viewers from ASM Branches and ASM Student Chapters. The videos are maintained and archived on the MicrobeWorld website, and can be viewed here.



Virtual Speakers Program

The Academy has begun collaborating with ASM International Affairs to mobilize the expertise of the Fellows to develop virtual lectures that will be available for delivery around the world. Lectures can be recorded by invited speakers at their own computers, with audio and video synchronized to powerpoint presentations. The program will allow ASM to accommodate speaker requests virtually at meetings worldwide when travel in person would not be feasible.

Fellows interested in participating in the Virtual Speakers program will be invited to submit potential talk titles and topics to a database which will be searchable by ASM’s 90 International Country Ambassadors and 35 International Young Ambassadors. 

For the second year, the Academy’s colloquium fellow, Shannon Greene, participated in two scientific sessions at ASMCUE in Denver, Colorado in an effort to highlight the utility of the FAQ reports as material for teachers. One session featured Dr. Ken Tyler who presented the FAQ on West Nile Virus and the second featured Dr. Chris White on the popular beer FAQ. Both sessions were very well received by the educators – the beer session was standing room only!  The sessions reflect an ongoing effort to build collaborations between Education and the Academy, with the goal of delivering new FAQ content to educators with descriptions of how each FAQ can contribute to teaching ASM’s new curriculum guidelines.

In summary, it has been a productive and fun year. The Academy continues to provide meaningful volunteer experiences to the Fellows and by working with other ASM departments, the Academy has been able to share the Fellows’ valuable expertise with a wide variety of audiences. Going forward, we hope to continue to expand upon these successful collaborations. One of the main goals of 2014 will be exploring how to reorganize the Awards program to ensure we are effectively using our resources to recognize the best in microbiology. We look forward to the changes that will come with a new Board of Governors Chair and a new Academy Director, and continuing to provide ASM with the invaluable expertise and service of the Academy Fellows.

The winners of awards to be presented at asm2014 are:

Abbott Award in Clinical and Diagnostic Immunology honors a distinguished scientist in the field of clinical or diagnostic immunology.

Robert Yarchoan, M.D., National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland

ASM Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by AbbVie) honors an individual who has made sustained contributions to the microbiological sciences.

Roy Curtiss, III, Ph.D., Arizona State University, Phoenix


ASM Founders Distinguished Service Award recognizes a member of ASM for outstanding contributions to the Society in a volunteer capacity at the national level.

Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, Bronx, New York

ASM Graduate Microbiology Teaching Award
honors an individual for exemplary teaching of microbiology and mentoring of students at the graduate and postgraduate levels and for encouraging students to subsequent achievement.

Shelley Payne, Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin


BD Award for Research in Clinical Microbiology honors a distinguished clinical microbiologist for outstanding research accomplishments leading to or forming the foundation for important applications in clinical microbiology.

Angela M. Caliendo, M.D., Ph.D., Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island,


bioMérieux Sonnenwirth Award for Leadership in Clinical Microbiology 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.

Davise Larone, Ph.D., Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City, New York


Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award recognizes distinguished teaching of microbiology to undergraduate students and for encouraging them to subsequent achievement.

Erica Suchman, Ph.D., Colorado State University, Fort Collins


DuPont Industrial Biosciences  in Applied and Environmental Microbiology recognizes distinguished achievement in research and development in applied (non-clinical) and environmental microbiology.

Douglas G. Capone, Ph.D., University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Eli Lilly and Company-Elanco Research Award rewards fundamental research of unusual merit in microbiology or immunology.

Katherine Fitzgerald, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester


EMD Millipore Alice C. Evans Award honors a member of ASM for major contributions toward the full participation and advancement of women in microbiology.

Bonnie L. Bassler, Ph.D., Princeton University, New Jersey


Gen-Probe Joseph Public Health Award honors a distinguished microbiologist who has exhibited exemplary leadership and service in the field of public health.

 James Pearson, Dr.P.H., Virginia Division of Consolidated Lab Services, Richmond, VA


Hardy Diagnostics ABMM/ABMLI Professional Recognition Award recognizes an ABMM or ABMLI Diplomate for outstanding contributions to the professional recognition of clinical microbiologists and/or immunologists.

Peter H. Gilligan, Ph.D., D(ABMM), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Maurice Hilleman/Merck Award honors outstanding contributions toward fostering the research training of underrepresented minorities in microbiology.

Dan Granoff, M.D., Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, California


William A. Hinton Research Training Award honors outstanding contributions toward fostering the research training of underrepresented minorities in microbiology.

Maria F. Lima, Ph.D., Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee


Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Awards recognize and award excellence in basic research in medical microbiology and infectious diseases.

Michaela Gack, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts


Luiz Pedro Sório de Carvalho, Ph.D., MRC National Institute for Medical Research, London, United Kingdom


Promega Biotechnology Research Award honors outstanding contributions to the application of biotechnology through fundamental microbiological research and development. 

Joachim Messing, Dr. rer. nat, Waksman Institute of Microbiology, Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey


Raymond W. Sarber Awards recognize students at the undergraduate and predoctoral levels for research excellence and potential.

Kara Hardwick, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina


Fadie Coleman, Boston University School of Medicine, Massachusetts


Moselio Schaechter Distinguished Service Award (sponsored by GSK) honors an ASM member who has shown exemplary leadership and commitment towards the substantial furthering of the profession of microbiology in research, education or technology in the developing world.

Yogendra Singh, Ph.D., Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, India


Scherago-Rubin Award recognizes an outstanding, bench-level clinical microbiologist. 

Scott Cunningham, MS, MT(ASCP)SM, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota


Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Young Investigator Award recognizes research excellence and potential to further the educational or research objectives of an outstanding young clinical scientist.

Benjamin Pinsky, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine, California


USFCC/J. Roger Porter Award recognizes outstanding efforts by a scientist who has demonstrated the importance of microbial biodiversity through sustained curatorial or stewardship activities for a major resource used by the scientific community. 

Floyd E. Dewhirst, DDS, Ph.D., The Forsyth Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts

D.C. White Research and Mentoring Award recognizes distinguished accomplishments in interdisciplinary research and mentoring in microbiology.

Edward Leadbetter, Ph.D., Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts