President's Letter

Dear Microbiologists,

 

As the President of the Maryland Branch of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), I would like to extend a warm welcome to the 2021-2022 Maryland Branch events. We are a diverse group of scientists representing a multitude of backgrounds. Maryland is home to world-renowned universities, hospitals, biotech companies, and governmental agencies, which educate, train, and employ many of our members. I am proud to serve as branch President this year.

 

I am an Associate Professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University, a primarily undergraduate institution in the heart of Baltimore city. I am delighted to be teaching general microbiology and medical microbiology in the Women’s College. In addition, my undergraduate research lab focuses on a broad range of projects involved with non-invasive antimicrobial strategies with special emphasis on oral microbiology.

 

While the rate of COVID-19 vaccination continues to climb, the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted continued need for virtual meetings through December 2021. We hope to have an opportunity for in-person meetings come 2022. In addition to our typical meeting structure, this year I am excited to announce we are hosting a new meeting format called the ‘Early Investigator Symposium.’ This symposium will give new researchers in the Maryland area a chance to showcase their work in a short-talk format. The hope is this will inspire networking and new partnerships and opportunities. As detailed below, we will host five meetings that will provide our members with the latest scientific information from exceptional microbiologists.

 

First Meeting Our first meeting will be held virtually on Tuesday, October 12th with Dr. Steven Finkel as our keynote speaker. Dr. Finkel is the current National ASM President as well as a Professor in the Molecular & Computational Biology section of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. Dr. Finkel is also a senior scientist with the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations, an NSF-funded Science & Technology Center. The title of his presentation is “Mechanisms of Long-term Survival and Evolution of Bacteria.”

 

Second Meeting The second meeting to be held virtually on Tuesday, December 7th is our 2021 annual student research presentation meeting. Normally, this meeting is held in the spring at the University of Maryland Baltimore BioPark right before the ASM Microbe Meeting. We had hoped to have the meeting in-person, instead we will host a modified virtual event. Undergraduate and graduate students will submit abstracts of their current research. The top abstracts will be selected as the winners of the 2021 J. Howard Brown Awards and they will share their research via an oral presentation and answer audience questions during our virtual event. In addition, all accepted research abstracts will be hosted on our website.

 

Third Meeting Our third meeting will feature our ‘Early Investigator Symposium’ to be held February. Abstracts submitted by local early investigators will be reviewed by the Branch Board of Directors. The top abstracts will present short, 15 min research talks followed by a networking session. We encourage all early career scientists to apply when the call for abstracts goes out.

 

Fourth Meeting Our fourth meeting will feature our ASM Waksman Foundation Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Dale Warren Griffin in April. Dr. Griffin is an environmental public health microbiologist at the U.S. Geological Survey and is working on microbial water quality issues, soil pathogen distributions and the long-range dust storm associated dispersion of microorganisms around the globe. We will host Dr. Griffin in April (exact date and in person/virtual to be determined) to discuss “Viruses and Our Quest for Extraterrestrial Life”.

 

Fifth Meeting Our fifth and last meeting of the year will be our 2022 annual student oral and poster presentation meeting. We hope that this meeting can be held in person at the University of Maryland Baltimore BioPark on Tuesday, June 7th, although a virtual meeting cannot be ruled out. Regardless, undergraduate and graduate students will submit abstracts of their current research, with the top abstracts selected as the winners of the 2022 J. Howard Brown Awards.

 

ASM Maryland Branch meetings are possible due to the efforts of our Board of Director’s and I would like to introduce and thank them for their past, ongoing, and future work for the upcoming year. Robert Ernst is this year’s President-Elect and will serve as the ASM Maryland Branch President for the 2022-2023 year. Monica Smith, Richard Pfeltz, and Silvia Pineiro will continue their roles as Treasurer, Secretary, and Councilor, respectively, and Paul Luethy will serve as the Past President. I also wish to thank Jim Kaper, Nick Carbonetti, and Paulette Hammond for continuing to serve the ASM Maryland Branch as members of the Board of Directors. As members of the board, we welcome your questions, concerns, and feedback, and hope that you will not hesitate to reach out to any of us.

 

We invite both members and non-members of the ASM Maryland Branch and National ASM organization to visit the Branch website (https://www.asmmdbranch.com/). On the website you will find information about the five upcoming meetings, including the speakers and how to register for these meetings. You will also find information about the three Branch awards and how to nominate candidates for these awards. Branches of ASM are the foundation of the National organization and play an important role in ASM’s functionality. As such, the ASM Maryland Branch membership is open to the general public with the only requirement being an interest in microbiology.

 

If you haven’t done so already, please become a Branch member or renew an existing membership. The cost of membership very reasonable: $20 for Full memberships, $5 for Student memberships, and free for Emeritus memberships. We encourage those who would become members locally to also become members of the National ASM organization. Through National ASM (www.asm.org ), you may choose to be a Supporting, Contributing, or Premium member, with Contributing and Premium members eligible for discounts to national conferences and meetings as well as discounts on journals and educational materials. For current students and post-doctoral scholars, the National ASM organization continues to offer a discounted membership. A new membership for Clinical Lab Scientists was introduced recently and offers continuing education credits along with the opportunity to access the most current case studies and clinical practice guidelines.

 

Finally, 2021 has not only continued to bring us the COVID-19 pandemic but has also highlighted our nation’s ongoing struggles with racism, social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is my and the Branch Board of Directors’ utmost priority to promote a culture of inclusion within the ASM Maryland Branch, and we support the National ASM organization’s mission of building an equitable and inclusive culture at ASM. As part of this effort, I am thrilled to announce that our ASM Maryland Branch will be working towards more vibrant participation in science communication and outreach in our local communities. We are excited to be partnering with Baltimore Underground Science Space (BUGSS - https://bugssonline.org ) to help start our efforts. Be on the lookout for an email in the near future with a call to action to volunteer for our science communication and outreach team. Our initial engagements will be a virtual seminar with BUGSS and an agar art event. We hope these and future events will spotlight, inspire, and motivate future microbiologists and engage our community scientists with our passion for microbiology.

 

Thank you for making the ASM Maryland Branch what it is today and for continuing to move our Branch forward. All members are encouraged to continue to take action and be engaged. To that extent, members please be on the lookout for our announcements, be prepared to submit nominations, volunteer for serving on the science communication and outreach team and be willing to run for Branch elections.

 

I look forward to engaging with all of you in serving our organization and advancing the wonderful world of microbiology. I hope to see you at this year’s meetings!

 

Cheers,

 

Jennifer E. Kerr PhD

2021-2022 President

American Society for Microbiology, Maryland Branch