Wednesday, 11 April 2018 10:32

Join in the Track Hubbub at ASM Microbe-pa-looza!

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Published in mBiosphere

I’ve often referred to ASM Microbe as the Las Vegas of microbiology conferences – a true sensory overload of microbiology. From multiple simultaneous plenary sessions to numerous workshops to various social events, there’s hardly an event you could wish for that isn’t being held. But a tweet from @stephorch has me rethinking this analogy:


Coachella tweet 


ASM Microbe is like Coachella – or if you prefer, Lalapalooza or the New Orleans Jazz festival. The multistage simultaneous performances are exactly what occurs at a large conference like ASM Microbe, and nowhere exemplifies that better than the Track Hubs in the Exhibition Hall. 

The Track Hubs are centers for different interactive activities based on the specific track focuses. The Hubs sit in the Exhibition Hall, and are the perfect spot to experience an engaging scientific session while taking a break from visiting posters and collecting vendor swag. Just like a multistage concert, you have to prioritize the events that you are interested in attending. At ASM Microbe (or Microbe-pa-looza), you can visit different Track Hubs (or stages) featuring all topics that fall under the big tent of the microbial sciences. Each Track Leader told us about their favorite upcoming Hub events - which will you be attending?


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Antimicrobial Agents and Resistance

AAR Track Leader Karen Bush: AAR is one of the broadest tracks at ASM Microbe! AAR topics are geared toward both private sector and academic researchers. Funding of drug development is encouraging small companies to continue to work in the area of anti-infective research and development.  Academic research on antibiotic resistance continues to play an important role in defining unmet medical needs that need attention.  Whole genome sequencing has provided us with a wealth of knowledge of resistance genes that we could not access in the past, leading to information about potentially useful drug targets, or biosynthetic pathways that may lead to new naturally-occurring antibiotics.

Come visit the AAR Track Hub for lively discussion of these topics! Some events that warrant special attention are the discussion on antibiotic resistance nomenclature as defined by scientists at NCBI, updates on regulatory guidances by the FDA and EMA, and international presentations on global surveillance studies planned by ASM Country Ambassadors and ASM Young Ambassadors.


Applied and Environmental Science2018.4.11 Hubs 1

AES Track Leader Edward Dudley: I think Track Hubs are the best addition to Microbe meetings! They serve as an excellent conduit for getting to meet speakers, poster presenters, and others who have interesting science to share, in an informal environment. I attend as many of these as I can. I enjoy meeting the people behind the science.

The AES Track Hub will devote a session to techniques for biofilm studies. The developers of MicrobeJ and Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking, used for bacterial cell imaging, and crowdsourced sharing and curation of mass spec data, respectively, will provide live demonstrations of these tools. I’m also excited for the Track Hub on environmental policy and regulation. In today’s political environment, regulations in the drug, food, and environmental fields are touted as obstructionist. I hope this particular track hub will communicate, especially to younger scientists (our future leaders!), how these policies are not random but grounded in large amounts of data meticulously collected and analyzed by government researchers. 


Molecular Biology and Physiology

MBP Track Leader Kumaran Ramamurthi: Technological innovations, such as the development of ultracentrifugation or the application of electron microscopy to biological samples, sparked early advances in molecular biology and bacterial physiology, and new tech will continue to spur future advances in this track. In the last decade, new technologies such as super-resolution light microscopy and cryogenic electron tomography have largely gone mainstream and are now routinely applied to solve bacterial cell biology questions. 

This year there will be four MBP track hub lectures: presentations that are less formal and are set in a more interactive environment. On the scientific exploratory side, given the recent buzz surrounding the application of different cryo-EM techniques to solve cell and structural biology questions, two experts in the field will discuss practical considerations for researchers who may be interested in employing these approaches, but are unsure about how to begin such projects. On a readily practical note, a researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) will present an overview of a new database, RefSeq, that aims to streamline finding and annotating genes in prokaryotic, archeaeal, fungal, and phage genomes, and to keep functional information in the database up-to-date with data from publications. On a more philosophical note, two bacterial cell biologists will discuss whether it is appropriate to uniformly apply terminology from eukaryotic cell biology when studying microbes. Finally, two recently hired Assistant Professors will share their experiences in finding an academic position and setting up their own lab from scratch. In addition, the track hubs will also be abuzz with poster talks and rapid-fire talks selected from submitted abstracts.


Host-Microbe Biology

HMB Track Leader Victor DiRita: Our HMB Track Hub events were planned by outstanding scientists! Some top events include Karen Elkins from the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, talking about the “Collaborative Cross” and other novel lines of mice that are impacting host-microbe research in big ways. Christopher La Rock will do an HMB Journal Club, discussing hot papers in our fields. 

We also have a cool hub called “Sell your Department” that will be of great interest to anyone getting ready to hit the job market in academics.  Three outstanding individuals, Heidi Goodrich-Blair, from University of Tennessee-Knoxville, K.T. Elliott from The College of New Jersey, and Eric Skaar from Vanderbilt Medical Center will discuss their institutions and the sort of traits that they look for when hiring microbial scientists at large, complex universities, small teaching colleges, and major medical centers, respectively.  And Mikhail Shapiro from Cal Tech will discuss “Microbes as Nanoplatforms” in one of our track hubs. Mikhail’s work is exceptionally creative–don’t miss that one!


Clinical and Public Health Microbiology

CPHM Track Leader Romney Humphries: It is an exciting time for both clinical and public health microbiology! The Track Hub events will be great this year – an opportunity to interact in a more informal setting with experts in the field. We’ll cover some of the current challenges our field is facing.

These challenges include the explosion of new technologies for diagnostic and public health testing of infectious diseases. These technologies come at a price, which must be justified. As such, we have the opportunity to truly demonstrate the value of clinical laboratory testing to patient care. Another challenge facing both clinical and public health labs is a shortage of skilled technologists. Many laboratories are facing workforce shortages, in particular for personnel who are mid-career, and taking on leadership roles. Finally, without a doubt, confronting antibiotic resistance is a major challenge to both public health and clinical laboratories.


Clinical Infections and Vaccines2018.4.11 Hubs 2

CIV Track Leader Benjamin Howden: The track is very broad – from global health to pediatrics, to infection prevention and control, through to transplant infectious diseases, among others. This shows the breadth of topics a clinician needs to be across, and highlights why this field is so fascinating. Some rapid changes are occurring in vaccine development and implementations – these are very exciting changes and have the potential to impact disease on a global scale. The other major changes for clinicians is understanding the role of new technologies, such as genomics in clinical practice. Microbial genomics is increasingly being used in infection prevention and control, and the emerging field of metagenomics may soon help clinicians in the diagnosis of infections.

The Track Hub sessions will focus on antimicrobial resistance in resource poor settings, new approaches to treating difficult Gram-positive pathogens, new therapies for C. difficile, pediatric infectious diseases cases, and an update on Zika virus.


Microbial Ecology and Evolution

MEE Track Leader Russell Hill: The biggest changes to microbial ecology and evolution are at opposite extremes.  On the one hand, our understanding of the vastness of microbial diversity is growing rapidly through studies such as the Earth Microbiome Project. On the other hand, single-cell approaches are revealing patterns of microdiversity and the importance of spatial arrangement of cells on a micro scale.

The MEE Track Hub events in Atlanta are “Unearthing Microbial Dark Matter”, “Geohealth: A Bridge across Disciplines to Solve Global Challenges”, “Consequences of Complexity: Genome Streamling and Structure”, “Tiny Drivers of Evolution: Phages and Their Hosts”, “Bacterial Frenemies of the Small-colony Variants”, and “NCBI's Prokaryotic RefSeq Database: Reannotation with the Latest Evidence”. I’ll be attending most of these myself, with the “Unearthing Microbial Dark Matter” at the top of my list!


Profession of Microbiology

POM Track Leader Jennifer Gardy: POM has the liveliest track hub of all! Because so much of our programming is about helping each other develop professionally, we have interactive and educational sessions happening every day. You can improve your science communication skills, polish your CV, hear about a range of career options, and get an inside peek into how scientific publishing works.

Last year we had a lot of emphasis on science communication, and this year the focus is more on careers - what’s out there, who’s hiring, and how can you position yourself for that dream job! 


With all these scientists vying for your attention, it can be hard to decide which hub to attend! If you’re still not sure which track has the best content for you, check out the Track description page on the ASM Microbe site. Each Leader describes the best science highlighted in their Track, the sub-tracks each covers, and exciting top speakers.

Ready to get your backstage passes to ASM Microbe?

Register today for ASM Microbe 2018!

Last modified on Wednesday, 11 April 2018 13:29
Julie Wolf

Julie Wolf is the ASM Science Communications Specialist. She contributes to the ASM social media and blog network and hosts the Meet the Microbiologist podcast. She also runs workshops at ASM conferences to help scientists improve their own communication skills. Follow Julie on Twitter for more ASM and microbiology highlights at @JulieMarieWolf.

Julie earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, focusing on medical mycology and infectious disease. Outside of her work at ASM, she maintains a strong commitment to scientific education and teaches molecular biology at the community biolab, Genspace. She lives in beautiful New York City.