Thursday, 19 July 2018 15:28

Change Your Conference Experience by Submitting an ASM Microbe 2019 Session Proposal

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Published in mBiosphere

ASM is a member-driven society, and its premier conference, ASM Microbe, is designed to address the hot issues that attendees and members want to discuss. A program committee of active scientists helps shape the major topics of the conference, but where does the program committee get their suggestions? From you, the microbial sciences researcher! Session proposals for ASM Microbe 2019 are now being solicited, and the experience of contributing to the program by convening a session can change your entire meeting experience. Anyone can submit a session proposal, from grad student to postdoctoral fellow to professor or professional microbiologist: 




Kathryn (K.T.) ElliottKathryn (K.T.) Elliott. Source.

“It really was a totally different meeting for me, and totally in a positive way,” Kathryn (K.T.) Elliott said, when contacted about her recently convened session at ASM Microbe 2018. Elliott proposed a session on science communication, a topic near to her heart. “For me, it helped to submit something I was really passionate about; it wasn’t just another session and it wasn’t just a cute name of something that might sound good. I think that passion probably came through in the description.” 


This was the first session proposal Elliott had suggested, and she was happy with the way the program committee combined her suggestions with similar sessions proposed by others. “It turns out they had 4 very similar topic proposals submitted. The program committee contacted me and the 4 of us who’d made submissions and proposed a way to combine all 4 into a single symposium that would combine a lot of our ideas.”


Elliott’s proposal was combined with others on similar science communications topics, in ways that she saw ultimately benefitting the audience experience. “I had a vision of creative science communications and citizen science, while others had more a vision of art and science communication or writing and science communication – we ended up with a session that covered allof these. I think it turned into a much richer session for the audience because of the involvement of the program committee.”


2018.7.19 ASM Call for SessionsMembers of the "Creative Approaches to Presenting the Microbial World" session, including (L to R): Sanja Saftic, Evelyn Alexander, Sarina Peterson, Brianna Rapini, Mark Martin, KT Elliott, and Dave Westenberg. Photo courtesy KT Elliott.

Co-convening “Creative Approaches to Presenting the Microbial World” alongside ASM Carski award winner Mark Martin changed Elliott’s experience of the entire meeting, not only of her session. “I think it was surprising to me how much it changed my experience. I realized I was much more invested in the meeting. I’ve always loved going to the meeting and have always gone to as many sessions and poster talks as possible, but I would say I felt more ownership of the meeting, plus a lot of pride in the meeting and the society, in a way I hadn’t experienced before.” 


That feeling of ownership lasted longer than her single session. “I had people coming up to me at different sessions later, telling me what they’d enjoyed or learned, and so it enriched interactions with other people throughout the meeting.” Additionally, once she was listed as a convener, extra opportunities came Elliott’s way, which she suspects was because she was dedicated to attending the meeting. For example, she and another scientist from her session, Dave Westenberg, were interviewed by Jennifer Gardy in the ASM Studio. “Because of all of this, I felt so much more involved in the meeting,” K.T. said.


Elliott advises others to submit proposals on topics they feel similarly passionate about. “It also helped to really think about the panel and who they may be; they didn’t use all of my suggestions but I think that was a really useful exercise. I appreciate that ASM really thinks about the diversity of the panels and at the meeting, and it was a good exercise for me to think about representing different career stages, different parts of society, and different parts of ASM.”



Last modified on Wednesday, 25 July 2018 13:41
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.