The American Society for Microbiology
Some of you may already be aware of the rapidly approaching 111th General Meeting of the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) in New Orleans, May 21st through the 24th. I’m pretty excited to say this will be my very first opportunity to attend the ASM meeting. This may be a little surprising considering the fact that if you have any idea what this blog is all about, you know that Microbiology is what I do, it’s what I study, immerse myself in, and it’s what I love.
So why on earth haven’t I attended one of these meetings before? It just so happens that my work (study, love, etc) also falls within the realm of soils, biogeochemistry, environment, and ecology, as well. Accordingly, over the course of my professional life to date, I have only attended soils, environmental, and ecological professional meetings. I have been advised by colleagues in the past that the ASM meetings are extremely large and primarily catered to medical/clinical and basic microbiology crowds and that I would actually glean the most useful knowledge (for my particular line of work) from the more applied meetings.
My Agenda at the ASM Meeting
This year I decided to find out for myself about the ASM General Meeting (and blog it thoroughly). I’ve taken it as my personal mission to track down and report on as much environmental microbiology (and microbial ecology) at the meeting as I possibly can. My cover will be as a lowly postdoc presenting a poster on my most recent work with fungi and Pb-contaminated soils. Wish me luck!
In the meantime…
I’ve heard some talk about the new way of doing things at this year’s meeting and thought I’d look into it a little beforehand.
At the inaugural meeting of ASM in 1899, at the time called the Society of American Bacteriologists, there were roughly 30 professionals in attendance (Miller, et al. 2010). In recent years you can expect upwards of 10 to 15 thousand attendees in any given year with a very wide range of areas of expertise, a veritable smorgasbord of high-tech vendors, and people from all over the world, from students and undergraduates to postdocs and profs, even true, historical icons. However, the clinical microbiology community still accounts for roughly 1/3 of the meeting’s attendance. Obviously, there have been some big changes in the society and this year’s dynamic platform is an attempt to adjust the design and flow of the meeting to accommodate the new demographic, while still meeting the needs of the core.
This year a new mission statement for the meeting was adopted by the Society: “The ASM General Meeting showcases the central role of microbes in the biosphere by communicating today’s cutting edge science in the diverse areas influenced by microbes.” (Miller, et al. 2010) Which actually sounds quite promising, if you ask me.
Apparently, one of the most dramatic changes to the general meeting involves the number and nature of session and includes a parallel meeting, specifically tailored to the needs of the clinical microbiology community entitled “Medical Microbiology Track.” Not exactly my cup of tea, but to each his own.
Each morning there will be only 4 concurrent sessions focused on topics of broad interest, which is a reduction in the number of session since years past. The goal is to “showcase” inspirational interdisciplinary science with minimal overlap and maximum appeal.
That all sounds well and good, (actually it sounds pretty fantastic and exciting to the incorrigible science dork), but we’ll have to see how it all plays out in the real world.
Miller JF, McFall-Ngai M, & Casadevall A (2010). A New Design for the ASM General Meeting. mBio, 1 (5) PMID: 21151775