I’m honored to have been elected Chair of the Council of Microbial Sciences (COMS) of the American Society of Microbiology, which includes the representatives of all scientific Divisions and local Branches. Our mission is to “support the work of ASM by prioritizing the scientific focus of the Society and identifying upcoming opportunities in microbial sciences and scientific trends to ensure effective programs and scientific activities that benefit the members and the scientific community at large.” My goals are to increase transparency, broaden engagement and support community-building in our focus areas. I am thrilled to be a “brand ambassador” for ASM and look forward to serving the field of microbiology with a focus on education and outreach.
In the interest of transparency, I’ve posted my original statement of candidacy here as well as my remarks at the COMS meeting during ASM Microbe 2018 in Atlanta. Comments are encouraged.
It is an amazing time to be an evolutionary biologist and microbiologist.
I’m an evangelist for the study of microbial evolution-in-action. I love sharing how powerful experimental evolution can be for understanding how microbes work, particularly when combined with contemporary genomics and bioinformatics. This approach is broadly relevant to all of the disciplines represented by the ASM, from host-microbe interactions, to applied microbiology, to education. At the same time, technology is enabling us, for the first time, to study microbes as individuals as well as members of populations, and identify major transitions in phenotypes as we scale from cell to population to mixed communities.
My laboratory focuses on pathogen evolution that occurs during acute and chronic infections, eco-evolutionary dynamics in biofilms, why genome regions mutate/evolve at different rates, and molecular-genetic mechanisms of bacterial adaptation. Perhaps our most important work has been enabling students to learn evolution and heredity by hands-on experiments with microbes. We are working to distribute this curriculum broadly to high schools around the country.
I was glad to serve on the organizing committee for the ASM Meetings on Experimental Microbial Evolution in 2014 and 2016, and with the end of these meetings want to carry the tremendous enthusiasm from this community forward within the ASM. I’ve been an ASM member since 2000, following Vic DiRita’s advice that it would be the most valuable professional organization I could join. Previously at the University of New Hampshire I was the Chair for the Undergraduate Research Conference, one of the nation’s largest such events. I also supported the local student ASM chapter. Now at the University Pittsburgh School of Medicine, I am Director and co-founder of the Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine. I am also Associate Director of the Centers for Medicine and the Microbiome and Innovative Antimicrobial Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
My vision is to encourage and support education, research, outreach, and scientific-communication activities that allow ASM members to realize the “systems-level” perspectives embodied by the “m-Journals” and apply them to any level of inquiry. We are more than ever in a position to continually ask “why” questions that broaden the relevance of our fields for society as whole, and help us solve some of society’s most pressing challenges.
The motivation: to broaden our community. Many hands make light work!