top of page

President's Letter

Dear ASM Maryland Branch Members,


​As the current President of the Maryland Branch, I would like to welcome all of you to an exciting new year with the 2023-2024 series of ASM Maryland Branch meetings. It is my honor to serve as President for the coming year.

Maryland is the home of many esteemed universities, hospitals, state and federal governmental agencies, and biotechnological corporations, which employ, educate and train many of our members. We are a diverse group representing various backgrounds including microbiology, virology, medicine, public health, environmental engineering and science, biotechnology, bioinformatics, and science policy. To serve our members’ interests and to provide current scientific information on emerging topics, we host a series of dinner meetings each year as well as events dedicated to student experiences. The dinner meetings start with a social hour, where we encourage all attendees to arrive early to engage and network.


Dinner meetings and student conferences

During the last year (2022-23), we hosted four dinner meetings with an average of 56 attendees and 30% of these were students. We are proud that students have prioritized attending these meetings and we are excited to expand the focus on our student members by co-sponsoring an inaugural Fall 2023 Student Conference in addition to the four traditional meetings.


The first dinner meeting took place at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Skylight Room of The Commons Building on October 23, 2023 and featured the current ASM President Dr. Virginia Miller, PhD, Professor of Genetics and of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She presented the seminar: “The ADCs of Hypermucoviscosity in Klebsiella pneumoniae”. The total number of attendees was 94 and we were excited that 46% were students. This is a new double record and we are excited to see some many colleagues at the first dinner meeting of the season. As a part of this meeting, it has become a tradition that the Center for the History of Microbiology/ASM Achieves present an exhibition, since they are located at UMBC ( We are thankful for the ASM Archivist Colleen Puterbaugh’s help in organizing the meeting and for preparing the wonderful exhibition.


The inaugural 2023 fall student conference ‘Falling for Research’ took place on November 10, 2023 at Towson University, Science Complex Commons. ASM Maryland Branch was a co-sponsor together with Maryland-American Chemical Society, Nathan Schnaper Internship Program at University of Maryland-Baltimore, and American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology - Towson University Chapter, was also a great success with 43 students presenting posters. Other events also took place during the conference incl. Dr. Anne Estes, Towson University, who hosted a very popular agar-art event and Dr. Erin Harbert, Towson University led tours of the new science complex. The conference also included a Graduate 




School and Summer Research Program Fair with the presence of 14 Maryland science graduate programs. To illustrate that career paths most often are not a straight path, Dr. Daniela 


Chavez, AGEP PROMISE Academy Fellow, Research Assistant Professor at Towson University presented: “Domestic Cats, Wild Dreams, and the Art of Blending Your Passions”. We are excited to continue the branch’s support for the 2nd‘Falling for Research’ conference in October 2024.


The second dinner meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 at University of Maryland Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET), Baltimore. Dr. Allison Tracy, PhD, Assistant Professor at IMET, University of Maryland Baltimore, and University of Maryland Baltimore County will present the seminar: “The bacterial microbiome in oyster health and disease”.


The third dinner meeting will take place at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel, Towson on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Here, ASM Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Brenda Anne Wilson, PhD, Professor of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will present the seminar: “Toxins, Toxins, Everywhere: Turning Foe into Friend”. 


The fourth and final dinner meeting is the Annual ASM Maryland Branch Poster Session that will take place on Monday, June 10, 2024 prior to ASM Microbe 2024 (June 13-17, 2024, in Atlanta, GA). Undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to submit abstracts to be considered for the J. Howard Brown Outstanding Undergraduate and Graduate Student Awards. The two 1st Place Winners will present their research at the meeting. The poster session will take place at the Health Sciences Facility III (HSF III), University of Maryland School of Medicine, 670 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.



Awards for ASM Maryland Branch members

The ASM Maryland Branch each year honor several microbiologists by issuing the following awards:


Barnett Cohen Award. This is presented to a professional microbiologist in recognition of their contributions, devotion, and interest in promoting the science of microbiology. This award was established in memory of Dr. Cohen in 1954. Dr. Cohen was president of the Branch in 1942, and president of the national society in 1950. In 2023 the Cohen Award went to Jane Michalski.


Richard S. Schwalbe Award. This is presented to an outstanding bench microbiologist, who possesses those professional qualities embodied by Rick Schwalbe: superior performance in clinical microbiology, willingness to train and share knowledge, scientific curiosity, and a constant striving for excellence. This award was established in 2000 to honor the memory of Dr. Richard S. Schwalbe, former president of the Maryland Branch of ASM. In 2023 the Schwalbe Award went to Sandra Leventis.


J. Howard Brown Awards. These are presented to an outstanding graduate and undergraduate student who is making a contribution worthy of recognition in the field of microbiology. This award was established in memory of J. Howard Brown in 1954. These 


awards are issued at the annual student symposium in May/June prior to the ASM Microbe meeting. In 2023 the Cohen Award Graduate winners were: Da'Kuawn Johnson (1st), Alexandra Soare (2nd) and Casey Hofstaedter (3rd). The 2023 Undergraduate winners were: Victoria Akingbehin, (1st), Tamara Vallejo-Schmidt (2nd) and Jessica Oswald (3rd).


Peggy Cotter Awards. These are presented to Early Career Branch Members (defined as up to 15 years beyond terminal degree) and must be used for participation in the annual ASM Microbe meeting. In 2023 the Cotter Awards went to: Johanna Holm, Khandra Sears and Tiffany Zarella.



Upcoming deadlines for nominations:

We strongly encourage you to nominate your colleagues for these awards. Self-nominations are also welcome. Please submit the nominations for the 2024 awards via this link:

  • Peggy Cotter Award applications: Open 11/15/2023 – will close in early 2024.

  • Barnett Cohen Award: April 5, 2024

  • Richard S. Schwalbe Award: April 5, 2024



Board of Directors

ASM Maryland Branch meetings are largely possible due to the efforts of our Board of Directors, who are all volunteering their time for the branch activities. I would like to thank the 2022-23 Board and particularly President Dr. Bob Ernst, University of Maryland-Baltimore for his leadership and initiatives the past year (he will serve as past-President) and welcome President-Elect Dr. Michelle Snyder, Towson University. We are also fortunate to have many other engaged board members: Monica Smith (Treasurer), Richard Pfeltz (Secretary), and Silvia Pineiro (Councilor), who all continue their roles – Thank you. I would also like to thank Jennifer Kerr, Paul Leuthy, Jim Kaper, Nick Carbonetti, and Paulette Hammond for continuing to serve the ASM Maryland Branch as members of the Board of Directors. The Board would like to encourage all members to reach out to us with suggestions, ideas, questions, and feedback.



ASM Membership

We invite both members and non-members of the ASM Maryland Branch and National ASM organization to visit the Branch website (, which contains information about the three Maryland Branch awards (Barnett Cohen, Richard S. Schwalbe, and J. Howard Brown Awards) and information about the four upcoming meetings. 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, $5 for Student, 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.



ASM Maryland Branch Sponsorships

The activities in the Maryland Branch are based on volunteers and we are grateful for the members, who contribute. We also rely on sponsors to make the events possible during the year and for making it possible for offering reduced registration fees to students, so they are able to attend the meetings, present research, expand their networks and contribute to the branch and field of microbiology.


The Maryland Branch offers four levels of sponsorships ranging from $500 to $2000. Sponsorship info can be found here: If you or somebody you know might be interested in sponsoring one or more meetings, please feel free to contact me ( 



ASM Maryland Branch T-shirts 

We are continuing the successful T-shirt sale from last year. The branch commissioned Grace Deitzler, a PhD student, artist, and microbiologist at Oregon State University ( to make our first ever Branch logos. 


The cost for a T-shirt (Small and Large sizes left) will only be $15 and will include a free “crabby” sticker. Please contact Bob Ernst ( if you are interested in purchasing t-shirts. They will be delivered at the next branch meeting. The designs can be seen below.




Together with the rest of the Board of Directors, I’m looking forward to the many exciting activities that we have planned for the ASM Maryland Branch in the coming year. Please feel free to bring a colleague and/or a friend to the meetings this year – we are excited to welcome everybody.



All my best,


Birthe V. Kjellerup, PhD

2023-2024 President

American Society for Microbiology, Maryland Branch


bottom of page