Victor J. DiRita
Chair, Membership Board
I. 2013 Membership Overview–Membership Increases 7.5%
Paid membership closed flat (.35% increase), with students and postdocs helping to offset the loss in full membership. Overall membership was up 7.5% for the year. Combined outreach at Road Show activities and International Board efforts to sign-up members fueled this growth
II. Defining the Role and Function of Divisions
In 2013, the administrative responsibilities for ASM’s 27 scientific Division were moved from the Meetings Board to the Membership Board. During asm2013, Victor DiRita, Membership Board Chair took the first step in reviewing the scientific structure of ASM.
At its meeting in Denver, the Membership Board proposed forming a Scientific Advisory Group within the Board to oversee the scientific organization of the Society. A principal mission of this group is to explore the definition, function, and number of Divisions and how best to integrate science across the Society. As a start, a brainstorming session was held at the Division Officers’ Forum in Denver. Different models were considered at the Division Officer’s Meeting the model of organizing the ASM scientific structure into Scientific Interest Groups was discussed and led to the model of a focused on a higher-order level of organization: the 27 divisions are distributed to four Divisional Groups: I. Diagnostic Microbiology and Epidemiology; II. Pathogenesis and Host Response Mechanisms; III. General and Applied Microbiology; and, IV. Molecular Microbiology, Physiology and Virology. Slight recasting of these four areas lends further integration to the groupings (
New Model for ASM’s Scientific Structure: This model presented at the May 2013 Division Officer’s Meeting was explained in more detail in a Microbe magazine article published in October 2013.
The work of the Advisory Board – made up currently of the four Division Group Representatives and the Membership Board Chair – to implement the approved Task Force recommendations is now progressing. Its first meeting was held by teleconference in December of 2013. More details of these discussions will be forthcoming in 2014.
III. The ASM Road Show: Building Membership Connections
“We’re so glad you’re here!” Membership staff have heard this and many other enthusiastic comments a lot this year when attending Branch meetings. Besides Branch meetings, we have expanded our presence to collaborations with other ASM Boards, and to meetings run by other organizations. Final Road Show membership sales for 2013 were 647, vs. 513 in 2012 (for 2013 memberships), or an increase of 134/+26% vs. 2012. But more important than sales has been the opportunity to meet with our members one-on-one to thank them for their membership, help them with any customer service issues, and to learn firsthand what is important to them. This outreach is especially important with our younger members who are just coming to realize the benefits a professional society can offer.
2013 Meetings Attended by Membership
- ASM’s BioDefense, February, Washington, DC
- Northern California Branch Meeting, March, Pleasanton, CA
- Clinical Virology Symposium, April, Daytona Beach, FL
- ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators, May, Englewood, CO
- ASM General Meeting, May, Denver, CO
- Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), June, Ft. Lauderdale, FLA
- Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC), September, Denver, CO
- Southern California Branch, October, La Jolla, CA
- Northeast Branch and Connecticut Valley Branch, October, Storrs, CT
- TX and South Central Branch: Tentative November, New Orleans, LA
- Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), November, Nashville, TN
- Association of Microbiologists of India, November, Rohtak, India (Victor DiRita attended in collaboration with International Board)
IV. A Focus on Students, Postdocs and Careers–Membership Outreach Builds Connections
The Membership Board continued its support of students, postdocs, and career related outreach. At asm20013 in Denver, we collaborated and lead a number of career sessions:
- The Career Development Committee (CDC) working with the Education Board hosted a “Career Day” at asm2013General Meeting in Denver. The CDC convened a workshop for Saturday morning called “Careers in Microbiology.”
- The Underrepresented Minority Committee again hosted the Minority Mixer which offered minority scientists the chance to network in a casual setting. Almost 150 students attended the Committee’s mentoring breakfast to discuss career opportunities in small group settings.
- The Student Membership Committee held career discussions and lounges at the meeting several hundred students and postdocs could interact with professionals in a number of fields and get one-on-one career advice. Over 100 postdocs attended the first ever ASM Post Doc Happy Hour. Attendees mingled with top ASM leaders and other microbiology professionals to discuss a variety of career issues.
- Career Development Grants For Postdoctoral Women (CDPDW)
The program awarded four grants in 2013 for postdoctoral women for travel to attend a meeting, visit another laboratory, or to take a course to advance their career. In 2013, the CDGPW Committee reviewed 55 applications, and chose 4 grant awardees:
- Seemay Chou to learn techniques related to cell wall purification and analysis.
- Trinity L Hamilton to develop a portable flow chamber necessary for in situ activity assays aimed at understanding oxygen production by phototrophic mats in a Proterozoic ocean analog.
- Michelle C. Swick (to examine the expression of bacterial secreted proteases during infection using state-of-the-art detection methods developed in her laboratory.
4. Karyna Rosario Cora to further her ssDNA virus research and establish new collaborations, and acquire expertise in a new discipline
V. Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM Archives (CHOMA)–
Advancing ASM by Preserving Its Past
General Meeting Activities:
- Lecture: The annual CHOMA History of Microbiology Lecture at the 2013 General Meeting was presented by Raymond A. Zilinskas on the Accomplishments and Legacy of the Soviet Biological Weapons Program, 1928-1992.
- Symposium: The 2013 General Meeting CHOMA Symposium, Early Microbe Hunters Overcoming Biases and Barriers.
- Exhibit: Alice Catherine Evans (1881-1975), the first woman to serve as President of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now ASM).
Two New Milestones in Microbiology: Two new Milestones in Microbiology sites were designated in 2013:
- Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, MA) Microbial Diversity Course. In Recognition of: the many educational and research contributions made by the Microbial Diversity Course to the science of microbiology.
- The Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station, site of Herbert William Conn’s Research Laboratory at the Connecticut Agricultural College, now the University of Connecticut, Storrs. In Recognition of: the many accomplishments of H. W. Conn, co-founder of the Society of American Bacteriologists (now ASM), and the lasting impact his work has had in agricultural science, public health and education.
History of Microbiology Travel Grants
CHOMA instituted travel grants to encourage scholars and researcher to access the collections. In 2013 two grant awardees visited to research these topics:
- Melanie Armstrong investigated the history of high-security, infectious disease laboratories, exploring how technologies have been implemented to contain microscopic organisms and how the conceptions of microbial risk along with understandings of the microbes themselves have changed over time.
- Sarah Wiley traced the scientific discourse of leprosy transmission from the late nineteenth century to the present.
CHOMA Microbe Articles: The committee published four Microbe articles including articles entitled, “The earliest American books on general microbiology: 1880 to 1892,” “Our Society One Hundred Years Ago – the Presidential Address by C. E. Winslow,” and “MBL Milestones in Microbiology Site Designation Report.”
VI. American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) Program
For over 50 years, the ASMDL program annually has selected a scientifically diverse group of lecturers who are available to speak at local ASM Branch meetings throughout the country. In 2013, 30 lectures were presented; with one of the most popular lecturers being topics related to the human microbiome..
- For complete list of ASMDL lecturer and topics please go to the ASM website: http://www.asm.org/index.php/asm-distinguished-lecturers
VII. ASM Branches–Providing Programming and Outreach Locally
All thirty-five of ASM’s Branches are in good standing and able to send representatives to participate in the ASM Council meeting. Branches provide programming opportunities for microbiologists throughout the United States at the local level. The Branch Organization Committee (BOC) supports the Branches and Student/Postdoc Chapters through funding programs, as well as networking events, and publicity and outreach activities. Below is a sampling of the programming the BOC has supported in 2013:
- Workshop for microbiological educators and researchers on new Biosafety Guidelines developed by ASM, career fairs,
- A joint session to be held in conjunction with an ASM Milestones in Microbiology site designation,
- A graduate student and post-doctoral mini-symposium, joint meetings between Branches and outside groups, and
- Clinical microbiology workshops
BOC Microbe Columns: The BOC published four columns in Microbe in 2013 including:
- “Aloha, the Hawaii Branch of ASM – one more reason to visit Hawaii!”
- “WHAT’S NEW!” (Re: Microbes After Hours program and Virginia Branch 70th Anniversary)
- “How to Develop an Active Microbiology Club/ASM Student Chapter at an Academic Institution” (Re: Auburn University Student Chapter)
- “DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE WITH ASM CHAPTERS” – Shenandoah Valley Student Chapter of the Virginia Branch of the ASM
2013 Branch Officers Forum
The 2013 Branch Officers Forum (held during the asm2013 General Meeting in Denver) gave Branch officers and Student/Postdoctoral Chapter Advisors opportunities to network and brainstorm ideas with other leaders in their regions. In addition, a representative of the Puerto Rico Branch gave a presentation on the Branch’s success in supporting the formation and fostering the growth of Student Chapters. Representatives from the Student Committee, the ASM Distinguished Lecturer Committee, and the Membership Board also gave presentations.