ASM arrived at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC) on September 28, 2016 to host the first ever ASMicro Day. The purpose of ASMicro Day is to connect our members with the most up-to date research and resources that ASM offers. Because the event was taking place early morning, ASM staff came with tons of coffee and pastries to attract graduate students, postdocs, and faculty.
Lynn Enquist, past president of ASM, started off the festivities with an introduction to ASM. In addition to what the audience already knew about ASM, such as our annual meeting, Microbe, he presented information on the new microbiome initiative with the Kavli Foundation and our two new open-access journals, mSystems and mSphere. He finished with highlights from ASM this year, including the ASM Conference on Zika that he spearheaded and planned.
Then two scientific talks that featured microbiome research were presented by Janelle Arthur and Scott Gifford, both faculty members at UNC.
Dr. Arthur, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, studies the impact of inflammation on pro-carcinogenic tendencies of the microbiota in colorectal cancer. Using an inflammation-susceptible mouse strain, microbiome sequencing, and gnotobiotic technology, she found that inflammation induces dysbiosis and a high abundance of E. coli, which is generally maintained in low abundance in a healthy gut. A specific E. coli gene island encoding the genotoxin Colibactin was found in high abundance in human colorectal cancer patients and promoted tumorigenesis in a mouse model of inflammation-associated colorectal cancer. This occurred without impacting the severity of inflammation, thus demonstrating that the microbiome can differentially impact inflammation and carcinogenesis. Furthermore, profiling the transcriptome of this cancer-associated E. coli revealed that while inflammation minimally impacted gene transcription, developing cancer altered gene expression including possible tumor-promoting E. coli genes.
Dr. Gifford, an Assistant Professor in the Marine Science Department, studies microbial communities and their role in ocean chemistry and ecology . His talk focused on identifying what organisms make up the microbiota of both the coastal and open ocean, as well as their role in degrading dissolved organic matter in the ocean carbon cycle. Using a technique called metatranscriptomics, he described how key marine bacteria are fine tuning their expression to match the diel pulses of carbon released by marine phytoplankton.
Dr. Shilpa Gadwal, the career advancement fellow at the American Society for Microbiology talked about the career development process and ASM’s career resources . She encouraged students to set a career goal for the month of October and to write it on a post-it note that can be placed somewhere that is constantly seen.
After the formal talks were done, the audience was ushered into the lobby for more personalized discussions on what ASM provides. Spokespeople on the floor from ASM had information on our JOURNALS, BOOKS, ways to participate in PUBLIC POLICY, and CAREER DEVELOPMENT RESOURCES. Several people asked about what resources were available for specific career paths. In addition to the booths, participants had the option of entering a raffle for a chance to win an ASM book of their choice and several trainees and faculty submitted a selfie with a microbe to twitter with hashtag #ASMDay.
The event ended with a focus group of select students and postdocs about what ASM can do for them. Some of the topics that came up dealt with the interest of non-academic careers and how ASM can provide mentors to trainees.
We are looking forward to continuing this tradition and meeting more students, faculty and postdocs at universities and organizations around the country.