ASM President's Bimonthly Newsletter -- September 2011

ASM - Members Bimonthly Newsletter
  September 2011  

Dear ASM members:

ASM has recently had an opportunity to deliver some of our key messages about microbes in the national media. You may have heard reports about a newly published study that attempted to enumerate the total number of species on Earth but completely ignored most of the microbial world. ASM Past President Bonnie Bassler and I published a letter in the Washington Post pointing out the ubiquity of microbes and their vital importance to all life on Earth. Read it here, along with the associated comments.

With over 8,000 attendees representing 72 countries, asm2011 proved to be a successful first step in the continued evolution of the General Meeting. We have recently begun the process of planning asm2012 by reviewing the 1,400 responses we received to the asm2011 attendee survey. We were pleased to learn that many of you were appreciative of many new aspects introduced at the meeting but we also paid attention to the areas you highlighted for improvement.

Our colleagues rated the following new aspects of the meeting 7 or higher (with 10 being the highest):

77% Plenary sessions focusing on interdisciplinary topics of broad interest.
80% Afternoon symposia on more specialized topics.
67% The decrease in the number of sessions while limiting topic redundancy.
77% The balance of nascent talent and luminaries while at the same time reflecting the diversity of our membership.
88% The representation of clinical science sessions in the Medical Microbiology Track.

Areas identified for improvement were:

  • Promotion and scheduling of the Division Lectures.
  • The representation of sessions focusing on environmental microbiology, food microbiology, industrial microbiology, physiology, and virology.
  • The length of time available to view posters.
  • The Opening Reception hosted in the Exhibit Hall.
  • The number of opportunities available to network with peers.

As a result of your comments, the General Meeting Program Committee has implemented the following changes to the meeting format:

  • More sessions will be offered from the areas of interest that you felt were underrepresented.
  • Division Officers will be given the opportunity to incorporate the Division Lectures into the plenary or symposia sessions.
  • The Poster Hall will be open from 9:00am to 4:00pm. To further increase networking, the Poster Hall will also be open from 5:30pm to 7:30pm after the conclusion of afternoon symposia. During these hours, attendees will have the opportunity to purchase drinks and light snacks will be served.
  • The Opening Reception will be held outside of the Exhibit Hall (location still to be determined).
  • Two unique sessions, one designed specifically by postdocs and another with the talks selected by the membership through social networking sites, will be scheduled.

We thank all of those who responded to the survey and provided valuable feedback. We are listening and continuing to focus on making the ASM General Meeting as valuable as possible to you.

Also coming up next week is our other major meeting, ICAAC, our premier meeting on infectious diseases and antimicrobial therapy. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

For other ASM news, please see below.


Bonnie Bassler

David Hooper

   Clinical Microbiology Portal

The Professional Practices Committee is developing a Clinical Microbiology Portal for the ASM website and invites feedback from ASM members. Feel free to take a look, The user name and password is guest. The portal is scheduled to be launched in December.

   Three Colloquia Reports Published

Microbial EvolutionIt has been over 150 years since the publication of On the Origin of
, Charles Darwin's landmark book. The two core principles he
described in his work, descent with modification and natural selection,
have helped us understand life's tremendous diversity. But how do
these same principles pertain to the microbial world that Darwin could
not see? In 2009 the American Academy of Microbiology convened a
colloquium in the Galapagos Islands to address this question. The
report can be read in full and downloaded here.

The Rare Biosphere
New environmental sampling technologies have revealed a wealth
of rare microbial species in the soil, ocean.  These microbial species,
while individually rare, collectively account for more than 75% of the
biomass of some microbial communities, yet little is known about them.
This report analyzes the current state of study of the rare biosphere
and identifies where gaps in knowledge exist. The report can be read
in full and downloaded here.

In a rapidly evolving field, recruitment and education is critical, and
microbiology is no exception. Intensive summer courses have proven
to be a popular and effective way to hone early and mid-career
microbiologist's skills. This report details the contribution of full
immersion summer courses to the education of the microbiologists
of the future. The report can be read in full here.

   MicrobeWorld Video Features Microbiome

MicrobeWorld has released a new video featuring an interview conducted by Stanley Maloy with David Relman on the stability of the human microbiome.  

   This Week in Microbiology Releases New Episodes

TWiMFour new episodes of This Week in Microbiology (TWiM)
were released in July and August. Join Vincent Rancaniello,
Margaret McFall-Ngai, Michael Schmidt, Elio Schaecter,
Jo Handelsman, and Stanley Maloy for their discussions
of current news in microbiology on this increasingly
popular podcast.

TWiM # 11: Chickens, Antibiotics, and Asthma

TWiM #12: Photothermal nanoblades and genome engineering

TWiM #13: Probiotics and inflammasomes: Telling good bacteria from the bad

TWiM #14: Vomocytosis and microbial transistors

   New Resources Available for Students and Educators

Five new resources are available for microbiology students and educators. The first resource, What Microbe Are You?, is an activity to use with middle and high school students in which students take an online "personality quiz" that matches them with the marine microbes that most closely resemble their personalities.  The other four resources, hosted in the ASM MicrobeLibrary, are visual images for microbiology educators and clinical laboratory scientists/clinical microbiologists. They are (i) Diagnostic Structures of Intestinal Helminths: Enterobius vermicularis, (ii) Diagnostic Structures of Intestinal Helminths: Hymenolepis nana, (iii) Morphology of Mature Mycobacterium ulcerans Colonies, and (iv) White-Nose Syndrome

   ASM Participates in Spanish Congress

The Spanish Society for Microbiology (SEM) held its XXIII National Congress in Salamanca.  A significant ASM presence was coordinated by the ASM Country Liaison to Spain and SEM Vice President Francisco García-del Portillo.  ASM Treasurer James Tiedje and Gary Toranzos, Universidad de Puerto Rico and host of the Mundos de los Microbios podcast, both delivered plenary lectures.  As further demonstration of the strong ties between SEM and ASM, both societies shared a booth that displayed programs and services relevant to the attendees.

   Haiti Meeting Outlines LabCap Support

Senior LabCap staff traveled to Port-au-Prince to meet with Haitian stakeholders to define the priority post-earthquake training needs for the country. Participants agreed that LabCap will continue to support Haiti in optimizing diagnosis for TB via guidance on external quality assessment (EQA) and fluorescence microscopy. In addition to this support, LabCap's activities are expected to expand to include assistance with developing courses targeting a range of health care professionals.

   ASM Supports STEM Education Funding

In July, ASM membership joined nearly 2,800 students in an open letter to Congress, urging continued and sustainable investments in the nation's scientific research, education and training programs in FY 2012.  The letter states that If the United States is to remain a global leader, both economically and scientifically, we must sustain and reinvest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) research and development. 

   Cumitech Content Reinvented

Co-Chairs Yvette McCarter and Susie Sharp have reinvented Cumitech content as the Clinical Microbiology Practicum series. Moving forward, CMP editorial board members will be responsible for publishing 3-4 reviews per year from 11 Core and 3 non-Core topic areas.

   mBio Report Highlighted in Press

A genome study by Hendriksen et al. published August 23 in mBio confirming the origin in Nepal of the Haitian cholera outbreak ("Population Genetics of Vibrio cholerae from Nepal in 2010: Evidence on the Origin of the Haitian Outbreak" has received considerable press coverage, notably by Carl Zimmer's Discover Magazine blog and in ScienceNOW.




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