Public Engagement at ASM Microbe 2023

Oct. 24, 2023

Each year, ASM travels to a different city to host our annual ASM Microbe conference. Every meeting is a chance for ASM members and stakeholders to engage with a new host community around topics of microbiology. Our 2023 visit to Houston was no different, featuring a wide variety of interactive events and activities designed for public audiences.

Exploring the Science of Food at 'Micro Bazaar'

On June 14, 2023, ASM partnered with Taste of Science-Houston for “Micro Bazaar,” an interactive exploration of the microbiology of food held at the Saint Arnold Brewing Company. The event included 5 separate stations, each featuring experts sharing how microbes affect their work:

A group of people listening to a speaker.
Vickie Kloeris (left) presents during Micro Bazaar.

Participants were able to engage with the presenters and explore the stations at their own pace.

"We are glad ASM reached out to collaborate with us on the event and give us their expertise in planning something larger for the community,” said Jason Luong, President of Taste of Science-Houston. “We had a great turnout for the event and hope to work with ASM again in the future!”

All Hands on Deck for a 'Day of Science'

This year’s signature public event was the “Day of Science,” an interactive science festival hosted on June 17, 2023 at Lott Hall in Hermann Park. With more than a dozen stations spread across 3 rooms, attendees could choose from a plethora of activities.

A person pressing their hand onto a petri dish, watched by another person.
Day of Science volunteer Tasha Sturm helps an attendee make an agar art hand print.
  • Microbiology students from local Houston universities helped attendees create their own works of agar art, working with supplies graciously donated by ASM’s partners at Edvotek.
  • Local ASM members Jorge Cervantes and Bo-Young Hong led a demonstration of how to use hand-made foldscopes to view microscopic samples.
  • Student member Shruthi Aravindan walked attendees through the dental microbiome.

Attendees also got to explore their microbiology identities.

The “Day of Science” also featured several activities from additional STEAM fields.

To make this a truly local event, ASM partnered with several additional Houston organizations.

A person interacting with a child.
A Day of Science volunteer shows off science for an attendee.

Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive: more than 90% of those polled said they would be likely or very likely to attend a similar event in the future. One attendee recalled, “My 8-year-old who loves science walked out of the event exclaiming, ‘That was amazing!’ He asked if we could go every year.” Added another, “The quality of demonstrations, generosity of the take-home treasures and variety of activities [were] exceptional.”

SciArt on Display

The week of festivities wrapped up on June 18, 2023 with “MicroArt on Display,” a science-themed art exhibit held at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston. Co-organized with the ASM Graduate Student and Postdoc Chapter located at the Texas Medical Center (ASM-TMC), this event continued ASM’s ongoing series of presenting live events showcasing the intersection of art and science.

Group of people looking at pictures on a wall.
Attendees explore some of the artwork at "MicroArt on Display."

More than 50 images selected from the ASM-TMC 2023 MicroArt Image contest were displayed, alongside several past entries to ASM’s annual Agar Art Contest. Attendees got the chance to interact with several of the featured artists and vote on their favorite works of art.

The event “was a perfect way to end the 2023 ASM Microbe meeting,” exclaimed Heidi B. Kaplan, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “It was truly epic!”

More to Come in 2024

Given the great feedback ASM got from participants in this year’s events, we are exploring ways to continue hosting similar events in Houston. We’re also in the process of planning public-facing activities for ASM Microbe 2024 in Atlanta. Hopefully we will see you there!

Author: Geoff Hunt, Ph.D.

Geoff Hunt, Ph.D.
Geoff Hunt earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University.