President's Letter

Dear ASM Maryland Branch Members,

As the President of the Maryland Branch of the American Society for Microbiology, I would like to extend a warm welcome to the 2020-2021 series of ASM Maryland Branch meetings. The Maryland Branch comprises a diverse group of scientists representing a multitude of backgrounds and I am proud to serve as branch President this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge us all as we adjust to the new normal of telework, limited in-person interactions, and reduced laboratory operations. First and foremost, I would like to recognize all of the Branch members who are essential personnel. Our current understanding of SARS-CoV-2, the ability to diagnose the virus in patient samples, and potential vaccine development would not have advanced in the past six months to the current state without you. Restrictions due to COVID-19 will continue to impact Branch meetings for much of this year, resulting in most if not all meetings occurring virtually. As such, the ASM Maryland Branch Board of Directors has decided to add an additional meeting to this year’s schedule. 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 October 15th with Dr. Victor DiRita as our keynote speaker. Dr. DiRita is the current National ASM President as well as the Rudolph Hugh Endowed Chair in Microbial Pathogenesis, Chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Michigan State University. The title of his presentation is “Metabolic requirements for population expansion of Vibrio cholerae during infection”. 

Second Meeting The second meeting will be held virtually on December 8th, with Dr. Heather Tate as our keynote speaker. Dr. Tate is an epidemiologist in the Division of Animal and Food Microbiology at the FDA, with primary responsibilities studying antimicrobial research for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS). Dr. Tate’s presentation is titled “Filling in the Gaps: Using New Data to Understand the Epidemiology of Antimicrobial Resistance”. 

Third Meeting Our third meeting, like the others, will be held virtually, and will feature our ASM Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Edward Dudley, Professor of Food Science and Director of the E. coli Reference Laboratory at Penn State University. As you may recall, Dr. Dudley was the planned speaker for our third meeting last year before COVID-19 brought in-person meetings to a halt. We are fortunate that Dr. Dudley will join us this year to speak on “Whole Genome Sequencing: A Leap Forward for Food Safety Regulators, a Massive Concern to the Food Industry” on February 10th, 2021.

Fourth Meeting Our fourth meeting will also be held virtually, and will feature Dr. Katrin Mayer-Barber, Chief of the Inflammation and Innate Immunity Unit at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. The meeting will take place in April of 2021, with the exact date to be determined.

Fifth Meeting Our fifth and last meeting of the year will be our annual student oral and poster presentation meeting. Normally, this meeting is held at the University of Maryland Baltimore BioPark right before the ASM Microbe Meeting (which is slated to be held in Anaheim, CA, June 3-7, 2021). We hope that this meeting can be held in person, 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 J. Howard Brown Award and these students will give an oral presentation of their work. All submitters, including non-student members, are encouraged to present their research, whether that be in-person or virtual poster presentations.

2020 has not only brought us COVID-19 but has also highlighted our nation’s ongoing struggles with diversity. It is mine 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. I strongly encourage ASM Maryland Branch members to reach out to members of the Branch Board of Directors as well as to their representatives within the National ASM organization with ideas that will help strengthen our organizations by promoting inclusion.

Like the years before, the ASM Maryland Branch meetings are possible due to the efforts of our Board of Directors and I would like to introduce and thank them for their past, ongoing, and future work for the upcoming year. Dr. Robert Ernst is this year’s President-Elect and will serve as the ASM Maryland Branch President for the 2021-2022 year. Dr. Monica Smith, Dr. Richard Pfeltz, and Dr. Silvia Pineiro will continue their roles as Treasurer, Secretary, and Councilor, respectively, and Dr. Jim Kaper will serve as the Past President. I also wish to thank Dr. 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 ( 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. Branch memberships are only $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, 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 in the past year and offers continuing education credits along with the opportunity to access the most current case studies and clinical practice guidelines. 

Thank you for making the ASM Maryland Branch what it is today and for continuing to move our Branch forward. I hope to see you (virtually) at this year’s meetings!

Kind regards,
Paul Luethy, PhD, D(ABMM)
2020-2021 President
American Society for Microbiology, Maryland Branch