The American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program consists of a scientifically-diverse roster of 16-20 lecturers who are available to present at ASM Branch meetings throughout the U.S. Included on the roster are two Waksman Foundation Lecturers, supported by funding from the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology, and selected for their expertise in antibiotics, translational research and/or environmental microbiology. Browse each lecturer's personal statement and lecture descriptions:


Esther Babady, Ph.D., D (ABMM), FIDSA, F(AAM)

Esther Babady, Ph.D., D (ABMM), FIDSA, F(AAM)

Director of the Clinical Microbiology Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer

Personal Statement
I am looking forward to the opportunity to participate in the ASM Distinguished Lecturer program (ASMDLP) as it is a great avenue to share my passion and expertise for clinical microbiology and interact with colleagues and trainees within the ASM family. I have served as President of the New York City Branch of ASM and know the value of the ASMDLP for Branches, having taken advantages of it for our local Branch meeting programs. I have 10+ years of experience in molecular infectious disease diagnostics, developing several laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) for pathogens for which an FDA-cleared method was not available and participating in studies and clinical trials evaluating novel molecular tests. My colleagues and I have published several articles on these topics and I am looking forward to sharing my expertise with other ASM members. I am committed to the training and mentoring of the next generation of clinical microbiologists. I am the program director for a CPEP clinical microbiology post-doctoral fellowship and the faculty director for the microbiology rotation of the Infectious Disease Fellowship, the Molecular Genetic Fellowship, and the Laboratory Medicine Fellowship programs at MSK. For the last several years, I have mentored high school and undergraduate students participating in the MSK minority students summer program. This last experience has reinforced to me the importance for me, as an underrepresented minority scientist, to be more visible in our society and I believe that the ASMDLP is a great opportunity to share my passion and expertise for microbiology and bring and retain more underrepresented minority students to our field.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Clostridium difficile Epidemiology and Diagnostics Challenges       

The laboratory diagnosis of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) may be accomplished using several methods, each with benefits and limitations. This poses a diagnostic challenge for clinical laboratories, particularly in high-risk patient populations where clinical symptoms alone can be confounding. This topic will cover information on different methods available for the diagnosis of CDI, including data on C. difficile strain types and their potential impact on transmission and disease severity.  

Rapid Diagnosis and Investigation of Hospital-acquired Infections (HAI)

Accurate and rapid detection and characterization of pathogens causing HAIs is an essential component of any infection prevention program. Rapid detection methods are designed to prevent acquisition of these infections, which can have serious, debilitating consequences for immunocompromised patients. Several new methods for identification of many of the pathogens responsible for HAIs are now available, and novel methods including mass spectrometry and whole genome sequencing are being applied to epidemiology and outbreak investigations. This lecture will review and discuss the use of these methods and their impact on HAI.

Challenges in the Diagnosis of Fungal Infections and the Fungal Diagnostic Laboratories Consortium

The incidence of fungal infections is on the rise and it has become a big threat in transplant/oncology patients. The diagnosis of invasive fungal infection is often delayed, and current methodologies can be insensitive. To address this challenge, in collaboration with my colleagues Dr. Sean Zhang, Director of the Clinical Mycology Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Shawn Lockhart, Senior Clinical Laboratory Advisor of the Mycotic Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I founded the Fungal Diagnostic Laboratory Consortium (FDLC). This international consortium currently has 25 member institutions across the U.S. and Canada. One goal of the FDLC is to promote research collaboration across centers that will support development and evaluation of new methods for improving diagnosis of fungal infection. In this lecture, I will describe the current state of fungal diseases in immunocompromised patients, the diagnostic gaps and opportunities and the role of the FDLC.

SARS-CoV-2: From Diagnostic Challenges to Variants Identification 

Rapid and accurate laboratory diagnosis of the Coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) was critical in controlling and managing the pandemic. However, initial development and deployment of diagnostic tests to detect the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was challenging and was complicated by regulatory barriers, supply chain issues and the rise of SARS-CoV-2 variants. This lecture will review the diagnostic challenges encountered during the pandemic, describe the innovative approaches developed by clinical microbiologists to support hospitals, and discuss public efforts to control the pandemic.                                                      


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum

Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23

Personal Statement
I am looking forward to the opportunity to participate in the ASM Distinguished Lecturer program (ASMDLP) as it is a great avenue to share my passion and expertise for clinical microbiology and interact with colleagues and trainees within the ASM family. I have served as President of the New York City Branch of ASM and know the value of the ASMDLP for Branches, having taken advantages of it for our local Branch meeting programs. I have 10+ years of experience in molecular infectious disease diagnostics, developing several laboratory-developed tests (LDTs) for pathogens for which an FDA-cleared method was not available and participating in studies and clinical trials evaluating novel molecular tests. My colleagues and I have published several articles on these topics and I am looking forward to sharing my expertise with other ASM members. I am committed to the training and mentoring of the next generation of clinical microbiologists. I am the program director for a CPEP clinical microbiology post-doctoral fellowship and the faculty director for the microbiology rotation of the Infectious Disease Fellowship, the Molecular Genetic Fellowship, and the Laboratory Medicine Fellowship programs at MSK. For the last several years, I have mentored high school and undergraduate students participating in the MSK minority students summer program. This last experience has reinforced to me the importance for me, as an underrepresented minority scientist, to be more visible in our society and I believe that the ASMDLP is a great opportunity to share my passion and expertise for microbiology and bring and retain more underrepresented minority students to our field.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Clostridium difficile Epidemiology and Diagnostics Challenges       

The laboratory diagnosis of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) may be accomplished using several methods, each with benefits and limitations. This poses a diagnostic challenge for clinical laboratories, particularly in high-risk patient populations where clinical symptoms alone can be confounding. This topic will cover information on different methods available for the diagnosis of CDI, including data on C. difficile strain types and their potential impact on transmission and disease severity.  

Rapid Diagnosis and Investigation of Hospital-acquired Infections (HAI)

Accurate and rapid detection and characterization of pathogens causing HAIs is an essential component of any infection prevention program. Rapid detection methods are designed to prevent acquisition of these infections, which can have serious, debilitating consequences for immunocompromised patients. Several new methods for identification of many of the pathogens responsible for HAIs are now available, and novel methods including mass spectrometry and whole genome sequencing are being applied to epidemiology and outbreak investigations. This lecture will review and discuss the use of these methods and their impact on HAI.

Challenges in the Diagnosis of Fungal Infections and the Fungal Diagnostic Laboratories Consortium

The incidence of fungal infections is on the rise and it has become a big threat in transplant/oncology patients. The diagnosis of invasive fungal infection is often delayed, and current methodologies can be insensitive. To address this challenge, in collaboration with my colleagues Dr. Sean Zhang, Director of the Clinical Mycology Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Dr. Shawn Lockhart, Senior Clinical Laboratory Advisor of the Mycotic Diseases Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I founded the Fungal Diagnostic Laboratory Consortium (FDLC). This international consortium currently has 25 member institutions across the U.S. and Canada. One goal of the FDLC is to promote research collaboration across centers that will support development and evaluation of new methods for improving diagnosis of fungal infection. In this lecture, I will describe the current state of fungal diseases in immunocompromised patients, the diagnostic gaps and opportunities and the role of the FDLC.

SARS-CoV-2: From Diagnostic Challenges to Variants Identification 

Rapid and accurate laboratory diagnosis of the Coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) was critical in controlling and managing the pandemic. However, initial development and deployment of diagnostic tests to detect the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was challenging and was complicated by regulatory barriers, supply chain issues and the rise of SARS-CoV-2 variants. This lecture will review the diagnostic challenges encountered during the pandemic, describe the innovative approaches developed by clinical microbiologists to support hospitals, and discuss public efforts to control the pandemic.                                                      


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum

Isabelle Coppens, Ph.D.

Isabelle Coppens, Ph.D.

Professor, Johns Hopkins University


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement
During my career, I have developed expertise in various parasitic protists that affect human health and I intend to bolster and expound the fields of intracellular parasitism and parasite-mammalian cell interactions through my lectures for the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program. Since my recruitment to Johns Hopkins University in 2003, I have been committed to mentoring scientists of many different experience levels, including Faculty Research Associates, postdoctoral fellows, Ph.D. and Master of Science students, as well as international visiting scholars and undergraduate students, including underrepresented minorities. I have weekly meetings with individual students and fellows during which we rigorously analyze new findings, debate possible interpretations and generate future ideas for their projects. Through these meetings, the students and fellows learn my high expectations regarding scientific rigor and responsibility. During my career, I have also been committed to ASM by publishing and reviewing manuscripts and performing editorial activities for ASM journals, and presenting as an invited speaker at ASM conferences, which has led to the honorific AAM (American Academy of Microbiology) election. One of my strengths resides in my eclectic interest in various microbes besides parasites, and their strategies for exploiting their respective hosts. To this point, my lab performed original comparative studies of co-infection of mammalian cells with Toxoplasma and Chlamydia sp., highlighting their similar modus operandi in colonizing mammalian cells, as an example of convergent evolution. Finally, I believe that it is critically important to study parasitic protozoa not only because these organisms are major human pathogens but also because their remarkable biology constantly challenges dogma thought to be universal in eukaryotic biology.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

From Cell Biology to Therapeutics: Apicomplexan Parasites Revealed 

This lecture exposes the strategies by which Apicomplexa, obligate intracellular parasites (e.g., Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, Cryptosporidium), adapt and exploit their mammalian host cells, leading to disease pathology. The stratagems developed by these crafty parasites extend from the interception of host cell vesicular trafficking and salvage of lipids to the remodeling of the parasitophorous vacuole to support parasite differentiation and replication.

 
Catching What You Eat: The Secret of the Intracellular Tenure of Toxoplasma gondii 

This lecture focuses on the cell biological aspects of the mammalian cell–Toxoplasma interface. Upon infection with Toxoplasma, the mammalian cell acquires a novel dynamic compartment – the parasitophorous vacuole. The cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the targeting of mammalian trafficking pathways and the recruitment of host organelles to the parasitophorous vacuole by Toxoplasma for lipid acquisition will be described.

 
Autophagy as a Potential Therapeutic Target and Vaccine Development Against Malaria

This lecture emphasizes the molecular and cellular mechanisms developed by malaria parasites (sporozoites), newly-invaded into the mammalian liver, to be differentiated into replication-competent forms (trophozoites) in hepatocytes. This metamorphosis involves organelle clearance in converting sporozoites through a process of parasite-induced autophagy. A Plasmodium strain overexpressing the autophagy gene ATG8 is a promising pre-erythrocytic vaccine candidate.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

César de la Fuente, Ph.D.

César de la Fuente, Ph.D.

Presidential Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Waksman Foundation Lecturer

Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement
Our world has been devastated by a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Today, more than ever before, our society knows how powerful infectious diseases can be and recognizes the need to develop strategies to counter them. My work focuses on developing novel antibiotics and diagnostics. Since I was a young undergraduate student, I have been fascinated by bacteria, the first living organisms to ever exist and the ultimate survivors, and have delineated ways to combat them. However, microbes can also be good, and my lab is interested in developing tools to reprogram and understand the microbiota. I have been a member of ASM since 2010 and have been an author and reviewer for ASM journals. In addition to my scientific work, I am truly committed to expanding the reach of microbiology to include groups historically underrepresented. I am a frequent discussion leader for graduate and postdoctoral scientists, particularly those from underrepresented minorities, including topics in career development and mentorship. I very much look forward to interacting, mentoring, and inspiring students and post-docs at ASM Branch meetings. Finally, as an immigrant and someone who has learned English as a second language, I hope to inspire others to pursue their dream of becoming scientists. 

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Antibiotic Discovery by Means of Computers

Until now, the natural world has supplied us with antibiotics. Bacteria, however, are increasingly resistant to these drugs. The next generation of antibiotics will likely come not from nature but from computer-based discovery. Here, I will describe novel computational methods developed for antibiotic discovery.

Novel Technologies for Microbiome Engineering

New strategies are needed for perturbing complex microbial communities and studying their function. Without tools to remove specific bacteria from such a complex community, it is difficult to determine whether their roles in health and disease are causal or correlational. In this talk, I will describe the design of molecules capable of knocking out specific bacteria in order to study their function and to reconfigure microbiome communities.

 Antibiotic Discovery in Venoms

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are projected to kill 10 million people annually by 2050 if no new drugs are developed. Here, I will discuss our recent successes in harnessing venoms as a previously untapped source of antimicrobials and how these molecules can be reprogrammed in the laboratory to target multidrug-resistant bacteria in animal models.

Low-cost Rapid Diagnostic Tests for COVID-19 and Beyond

Diagnostic technologies are urgently needed to detect COVID-19 in order to inform subsequent treatment and to enable a surveillance system to control outbreaks. Currently available diagnostics are primarily limited by their high cost of production and slow time of detection, thus hindering their widespread use in the population. To address these issues, my lab is developing low-cost diagnostics for COVID-19 and other emerging pathogens.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Steve Diggle, Ph.D.

Steve Diggle, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Microbiology, Georgia Institute of Technology


Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement
My work encompasses both molecular and evolutionary approaches giving me unique insights into how bacteria cause disease and resist treatment. I am committed to supporting Societies and have a track record of service to the Microbiology Society in the UK. I was an elected Member of the UK Microbiology Society Council, and after my term ended, I became an editor for Microbiology, their flagship journal. Now that I am based in the U.S., I would like to support the ASM via the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program. I am committed to promoting microbiology to students, early career scientists and the general public. In the UK, I have been a guest on live BBC Radio Science shows to discuss quorum sensing. I have also been interviewed by New Scientist about how we can use bacterial cheats to treat infection (cheatobiotics). Finally, our work with a 1000-year old ancientbiotic recipe, led to TV, radio and newspaper interviews (e.g., Washington Post, CNN) and the work was featured for a full-length episode of Radio Lab (Staph Retreat). My lectures are interdisciplinary in nature and highlight how scientists and researchers from different fields can work together to create new ideas and conceptually change research fields.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Social Evolution in Microbes

Microbiologists are rapidly gaining a greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in social behaviors, and the underlying genetic regulation. In this literature it is often assumed that cooperation is favored because it provides a benefit at the population or species level. However, evolutionary theory shows that this idea cannot work because the population is at risk from invasion by selfish individuals (cheaters or free-loaders), who do not cooperate but can obtain the benefit of cooperation from others. More generally, explaining cooperation remains a problem for evolutionary theory. Microorganisms are particularly useful for addressing this problem because of the opportunities that they offer for genetic manipulation and experimental evolution, and there is huge potential for interdisciplinary research in this area, combining both mechanistic and evolutionary approaches. In this lecture I will cover what a social behavior is and how this applies to microbes and how it impacts our understanding of infection. I will discuss how this field has progressed over the past 10 years, the key findings and future directions.
  

Quorum Sensing in Virulence and Disease

We now have a depth of knowledge about how bacteria use quorum sensing (QS) signals to communicate with each other and to coordinate their activities. In recent years there have been extraordinary advances in our understanding of the genetics, genomics, biochemistry, and signal diversity of QS. We are beginning to understand the connections between QS and bacterial sociality. This foundation places us at the beginning of a new era in which researchers will be able to work towards new medicines to treat devastating infectious diseases, and use bacteria to understand the biology of sociality. In this lecture I cover the history of QS, and the major discoveries. I will examine the diversity of QS systems across bacterial species and how they impact virulence and disease. I will also discuss how QS can be exploited as an antibacterial strategy and will discuss the future direction of the field.
 

AncientBiotics: Medieval Medicine and Modern Applications

Plant-derived compounds and other natural substances are a rich potential source of compounds that kill or attenuate pathogens that are resistant to current antibiotics. Medieval societies used a range of these natural substances to treat conditions clearly recognizable to the modern eye as microbial infections, and there has been much debate over the likely efficacy of these treatments. Recently, our interdisciplinary team, comprising researchers from both sciences and humanities, identified and reconstructed a potential remedy for Staphylococcus aureus infection from a 10th century Anglo-Saxon leechbook. The remedy repeatedly killed established S. aureus biofilms in an in vitro model of soft tissue infection and killed methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in a mouse chronic wound model. While the remedy contained several ingredients that are individually known to have some antibacterial activity, full efficacy required the combined action of several ingredients, highlighting the scholarship of premodern doctors and the potential of ancient texts as a source of new antimicrobial agents. In this lecture I will talk about how our ancestors dealt with infection and what we can learn from the past in our battle with antimicrobial resistance. I will focus on our study as an example of a pipeline that could be used to data-mine ancient texts.

Understanding the Ecology and Evolution of Chronic Infection

It is now accepted that individual cystic fibrosis (CF) patients become chronically infected with a single strain of P. aeruginosa (Pa) (either an environmental or transmissible epidemic strain). These strains evolve in the lung environment over time, undergoing genomic mutations and rearrangements, resulting in population level phenotypic and genetic variation. While significant progress has been made in understanding mechanisms of virulence and antibiotic resistance in many bacterial species, including Pa, most of this work is based upon in vitro experimentation in conditions not necessarily relevant to chronic infection. In general, little is understood about how behaviors evolve in vivo, and there remain significant gaps in our understanding of how Pa populations adapt to the CF lung and become resistant. We know little about how ecology (biotic and abiotic factors) shapes behaviors during chronic infections, and studies have not considered factors such as population level dynamics and bacterial social interactions. In this lecture I will discuss the value of research into the ecology of infection and how developing more realistic models of infection can help us better understand how virulence and AMR evolve in chronic infection environments.

Understanding the Role of R-pyocins During Chronic Infection

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative opportunistic pathogen and a major determinant of declining lung function in individuals with cystic fibrosis (CF). P. aeruginosa isolates from chronic CF lung infections develop increasing resistance to antibiotics over time, making new treatment approaches necessary. R-type pyocins are narrow spectrum bacteriocins specifically produced by P. aeruginosa. Due to their anti-pseudomonal activity and similarity to bacteriophage, they have potential as therapeutics against P. aeruginosa. In this lecture I will introduce R-pyocins, how they function and kill cells and their potential use as future therapeutic agents


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Dale Warren Griffin, Ph.D.

Dale Warren Griffin, Ph.D.

Environmental and Public Health Microbiologist, United States Geological Survey

Waksman Foundation Lecturer

Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement
One of my favorite science activities is outreach through presentations – and that can be in professional (the presentation of research findings) or public settings (public education and awareness talks, conference presentation/poster judging, regional and state science fair judging, etc.). I have previously served in ASM Branch officer roles (Secretary, President, etc.) for the Florida Branch and we always sought to promote undergraduate opportunities at our meetings. I also believe that mentoring is extremely important and have served as a mentor in the ASM Minority Mentoring Program in addition to my work with the various postdocs, graduate student, undergrads and high school students (science fair projects) that I have helped guide through time. I’m often asked about post-graduate opportunities and what are the pros or cons of a government research position versus that of an academic. While it was quite some time ago, it seems like just the other day that I was asking the same types of questions – whether it was in the later phases of my M.S.P.H. or Ph.D. programs, or when standing at a career crossroad where competitive academic and government positions were offered to me (twice; once for postdocs and again later for permanent type positions). Information acquired through exposures to presentations and outreach programs and most importantly, mentoring, were fundamentally significant to my career decisions and development.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

The Global Atmospheric Dispersion of Microorganisms by Desert Dust Storms 

On a global scale, “desert-dust storms” move an estimated 3-5 x 109 metric tons of soil and dried sediment through Earth’s atmosphere each year. This presentation will cover the current state of knowledge of how dust storms disperse microbial communities and pathogens at global scales. Topics will include historical and current observations, methods of collection and analyses, implications and future research needs.
 

How Regional Geochemistry May Control the Distribution of Pathogens in Our Ecosystems: A Look at Bacillus anthracis in the Contiguous United States of America 

Research indicates that Bacillus anthracis, while not endogenous to North America, is well established in certain regions of the contiguous United States. These groups of B. anthracis routinely cause outbreaks in livestock and wildlife and, though rarely, may cause human illnesses and fatalities. This presentation will cover historical and current research on this pathogen that has addressed how the geochemistry of our soils controls its endemicity and how similar approaches may assist us in understanding microbial distribution in future research.
 
 
 

Antibiotic Resistance in Microbial Communities in Coastal Soils and Marine Sediments 

Antibiotic resistance has recently been identified as an emerging environmental contaminant.  Surprisingly few studies have been conducted to address natural background prevalence and prevalence due to anthropogenic sources in coastal and marine environments. The lack of knowledge regarding natural background prevalence in these environments limits our understanding of implications of their prevalence on both human and ecosystem health. This limit of knowledge also affects our ability to utilize prevalence to identify and mitigate potential sources (septic systems, outfalls, etc.) that can influence and sustain their occurrence. This presentation outlines our current state of knowledge of the presence of antibiotic resistance genes in microbial communities in these environments on both regional (sources such as wastewater impacted rivers and ocean outfalls) and large geographic scales (the coast of the NE United States).
 

Viruses and Our Quest for Extraterrestrial Life 

Viruses are the most numerous entities and they are the primary drivers of evolution on our planet. In our quest for extraterrestrial life, viruses have largely been ignored. These entities are viewed as lifeless and individually specific to a given cellular life form. While many viruses are host specific (specific viruses) we know that some are capable of infecting multiple hosts (generalized viruses; e.g., influenza viruses, caliciviruses, coronaviruses, cucumber mosaic viruses). On Earth, we know that wherever you find cellular life, you find viruses. If we encounter cellular life on another planetary body, we are also likely to encounter viruses or virus-like entities that may be generalized in nature. This presentation will cover an overview on viruses (diversity, host specificity, beneficial and detrimental host relationships, survival outside the host, etc.), and why we should be looking for them in our quest for extraterrestrial life.
 


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session
  • Present information/discuss unique opportunities of some of our government science organizations for researchers (research freedom), routes to acquire positions and the importance of mentorship

Jay T. Lennon, Ph.D.

Jay T. Lennon, Ph.D.

, Indiana University


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement
Over the past six years, I have become increasingly engaged in ASM with the goal of sharing my passion about microbial biodiversity while promoting cutting-edge science in this field. In addition to co-chairing the first ASM retreat on Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity (EEB) in Washington, DC, I have served as a representative on the ASM Council on Microbial Sciences (COMS) and as the chair of the EEB Track. In this capacity, I have had a role in shaping the annual Microbe meeting, while building up a community through the organization of social gatherings and management of the EEB twitter account (@asm_eeb). I am eager to participate in the ASMDL program because EEB is the newest Track of science that is formally represented at ASM. While there is overlap with Applied and Environmental Science, interest in ecology and evolution is growing in allied fields including Host-Microbe Biology (HMB), Molecular Biology and Physiology (MBP), and Antimicrobial Agents and Resistance (AAR), in part, because of the transferable theory and tools that are being developed in our discipline. As a Distinguished Lecturer, I am honored to share my vision of microbial diversity with a broad audience with the hope of inspiring microbiologists from all career stages and backgrounds about the ecology and evolution of complex microbial systems.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Evolution of the Minimal Cell   

Synthetic biology is a branch of science that involves the redesign of biological parts, pathways, and modules. It has been used to generate working approximations of the minimal cell: an organism that only contains the essential genes needed for autonomous replication. But once such a cell is created, how does it contend with the forces of evolution, including mutation, drift, and natural selection? In this talk, I discuss the synthetic construction of the minimal cell (Mycoplasma mycoides), the effects of genome streamlining on rates of adaptation and the constraints on the evolution of cell size.
 

How Many Microbial Species Are on Earth?  

In this lecture, I highlight patterns of microbial diversity compared to plants and animals. When abundance is accounted for, universal scaling laws emerge, which has allowed us to predict that there are one trillion (10^12) microbial "species" on Earth. I discuss genomic and evolutionary processes that may constrain the upper limit of species on the planet.
 

Microbial Seed Banks: Ecological and Evolutionary Importance of Dormancy 

In this lecture, I introduce seed bank theory, which is based on the fact that organisms across the tree of life have evolved the ability to enter a reversible state of reduced metabolic activity; i.e., dormancy. I highlight theory and empirical studies showing how dormancy can be important for a range of evolutionary and ecological phenomena including aging, pathogenesis, and the biogeography of microorganisms.

Eco-Evo Feedbacks in Microbial Communities 

In this lecture, I discuss how rapid evolutionary change can modify ecological interactions with consequences for biodiversity. I focus on bacteria-phage interactions where host resistance and pathogen virulence coevolve, often exhibiting arms-race dynamics. Using marine cyanobacteria (Synechococcus) and soil bacteria (Bacillus), I emphasize how environmental factors (nutrient stoichiometry and energy limitation) alter evolutionary expectations based on changes in host physiology and dormancy.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum.
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session
  • Share insight gained from my involvement in ASM (COMS, Division Chair, Track Leader, Committee for K-12 Outreach, Communication Committee’s Environmental Microbiology Taskforce, Program Committee), which may be useful for young scientists who are interested in opportunities to become more involved in ASM

Shannon D. Manning, Ph.D.

Shannon D. Manning, Ph.D.

MSU Foundation Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University


Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement
My path to an academic appointment at MSU was not straightforward. After earning my Ph.D., I was awarded a research fellowship through the CDC/APHL to study emerging infectious diseases. Through this fellowship, I learned a great deal about the public health system and built important collaborative networks that I continue to rely on for my research. I therefore feel that I bring a unique perspective to microbiology research and to the different paths that one can take to become an independent researcher. Throughout my career, I have been lucky to have outstanding advisors and teachers, who taught me the importance of mentorship and collaboration. While I recognize that I have much more to learn, I feel that the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program will give me the opportunity to reach out to a larger, more diverse population of students and postdoctoral researchers, who may be facing challenges similar to the ones that I faced. I have been an ASM member for 20 years, but I have yet to take on a leadership role within the organization. This program will allow me to highlight my passion for science and to work closely with students, which has always been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Why Are Some E. coli Meaner?

This talk will focus on the diversity of bacterial pathogen populations and will illustrate how this diversity impacts virulence and variation in disease severity. Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), a common foodborne pathogen, will be used as a model. Bacterial evolution and STEC emergence will be discussed as well as the high degree of genetic variation, which can be examined via the use of multiple molecular genotyping tools. Application of these tools to epidemiological data from patients with infections will highlight the role that genetic diversity plays in disease presentation.
 

Invasion of the Gut Microbes and Effects on the Microbiome

The focus of this lecture will be to demonstrate how infection with enteric pathogens negatively impacts the microbial communities in the gut. The importance of the gut microbiome will be discussed as well as our studies showing that infection with foodborne pathogens causes major alterations in the composition of microbial communities. Specifically, we will highlight increases in the abundance of potentially harmful microbial populations as well as antibiotic resistance determinants, which will lead into a discussion about the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacterial populations.
 

Pathogens Down on the Farm

This lecture will emphasize the One Health approach to disease prevention and will highlight the importance of surveillance studies to recover and characterize pathogens from the farm environment. Our studies of Campylobacter jejuni and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) shedding and persistence in cattle herds will be discussed to demonstrate how external pathogen reservoirs are critical for the evolution and emergence of new pathogens with unique traits (e.g., biofilm production and antibiotic resistance). Use of molecular typing tools and comparative genomics studies will illustrate how certain subsets of pathogen types are more important for human infection and carriage of resistance determinants than others, leading to new ideas about surveillance and prevention practices.
 

Understanding Hypervirulence in a Neonatal Pathogen

This talk will focus on how genetic variation in group B Streptococcus (GBS), a vertically transmitted pathogen and leading cause of neonatal disease, contributes to variation in virulence. GBS disease will be discussed as well as our earlier studies showing that the application of multilocus sequence typing identified a more virulent lineage that was linked to neonatal infections. Multiple follow-up studies will be discussed to describe pathogenic mechanisms, such as enhanced adherence to placental cells and survival in macrophages, which are unique to the more virulent strains representing this lineage. These findings will demonstrate how enhancing our understanding of pathogenic mechanisms can lead to the development of novel disease prevention strategies.
 

Foodborne Disease Outbreaks: History, Challenges, and Control Measures

My experience working in the public health system will be highlighted to illustrate the importance of pathogen surveillance systems to monitor disease trends and detect outbreaks. Our surveillance studies of three important foodborne pathogens, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Salmonella spp., and Campylobacter jejuni, will be discussed, as will the challenges related to detection, strain characterization, and outbreak investigations.
 


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session
  • Lead a grant proposal writing workshop to introduce students to this topic

Mark O. Martin, Ph.D.

Mark O. Martin, Ph.D.

Professor, University of Puget Sound


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement
I have been lucky to reach this level as a professor at a PUI (primarily undergraduate institution). As a first generation confused college student, and first in my family to become an academic, my learning curve was steep. After graduate school and postdoctoral work, I detoured into industry for nearly a decade, coming back to academia after more than a few struggles. Other than stubborn survival, what was “key” to my arriving at my current position?
 
To be succinct, it was interacting with people who listened to and encouraged me, who reminded me why microbiology was exciting, ever new, and the only profession for me. I can do that with my research students, but I would adore being able to reach out to graduate students to share microbial wonders, encouragement, and even a few words of advice. I think I have a solid view of student perspectives and have in fact sent many of my research students to Ph.D. programs and faculty positions.
 
As a Carski Awardee in 2018, I was recognized for success in undergraduate teaching and mentorship. I would argue that I am instead a fine “talent scout,” and able to share what I have learned with others. Yes, that includes my love of microbiology, and the topics I have described above. But what mattered the most to me was the personal approach, and I would very much like to “pay it forward” to other microbiologists on their own career paths.

Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Teaching Students to See with Microbial Eyes 

In this updated version of my Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award talk from 2018, I describe how to encourage all students in a microbiology classroom to embrace the depth and breadth and wonders of microbiology. This is done by describing fascinating new discoveries in microbiology, changes in perception of microbes, and ways to engage student interest and ownership via targeted assignments and artistic approaches. Success stories will be shared and celebrated!                                 
 

Can Egg Laying Lizards Have Microbial Midwives? 

I discuss my NSF supported (with Dr. Stacey Weiss) research that suggests that cloacal microbes in female striped plateau lizards may protect eggs against fungal and bacterial pathogens. This project bridges large data sets and microbial ecology with culture based work. Thus, it is ideal for taking undergraduate research students from the simple to the complex; from Kirby-Bauer plates to metagenomics and 16S analysis. Finally, it underscores the myriad critical roles that microbes play everywhere in the biosphere, including in unexpected locations.
 

It’s a Germ-Eat-Germ World: Bacterial Predators on the Prowl 

Once thought to be an odd exception in specific environments, bacteria that pursue and consume other bacteria appear more and more to be the rule in our microbial world. I discuss my own work with Bdellovibrio and Ensifer, as well as other fascinating microbial predators and their possible role in not only microbial ecology, but also medicine.

Using Artistic and Creative Approaches in a Science Classroom 

One of the biggest challenges for educators is to encourage students toward enthusiasm and ownership in the classroom. I have found that encouraging students to create artistic representation of biological concepts can pay big dividends pedagogically, both in first year introductory biology classes as well as upper division microbiology. Specific examples and suggested strategies will be shared. Where possible I would like to include a #LuxArt session with this presentation, during which participants “paint” with luminous bacteria. I have put on many of these sessions, and they are well received and memorable.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated that he'd like to be contacted directly to discuss possible career development activities.


Kimberlee Musser, Ph.D.

Kimberlee Musser, Ph.D.

Clinical Director, New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center, David Axelrod Institute


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement

I am interested in taking part in the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program because I not only have an interest in advancing methods in the public health and clinical microbiology laboratory but also in training the next generation of scientists to be inspired and excited by contributing to this important field. In my 20 years of public health experience, I have mentored more than 35 students and training fellows and I have worked to improve and build training and educational programs to support these students, fellows and postdocs at the Wadsworth Center, NYS DOH (New York State Department of Health). Contributions have included coordinating a NYS fellowship program, teaching and mentoring as a SUNY Albany Biomedical Sciences Assistant Professor and contributing to the Wadsworth Center Master’s Degree in Laboratory Sciences program as a faculty member, committee chair and mentor.
 
I was fortunate to have received an Association of Public Health Laboratories and Centers of Disease Control (APHL/CDC) Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Fellowship early in my career which impacted my training and opportunities and launched my career in public health.  My goals are to provide similar opportunities to those interested in exploring or pursuing a similar path. I would welcome additional opportunities to meet with and motivate students, fellows and postdocs through the ASMDL program. 


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Superbugs Among Us: New Tools and Strategies to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance 

A description of antimicrobial resistance with an emphasis on carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) will be provided along with new national prevention efforts, new methods (e.g., whole-genome sequencing) and new strategies to prevent the spread of these highly resistant pathogens in healthcare facilities.
 

Unraveling the Genomes of Bacterial Pathogens: Next-Gen Approaches 

This talk will discuss the utilization of next generation sequencing methods including amplicon-based NGS, whole-genome sequencing and other available sequencing approaches. It will focus on public health diagnostics and surveillance for providing comprehensive characterization of bacteria to impact patient management as well as its important contribution to outbreak investigations, with an emphasis on activities at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center.
 

The Future Is Here: Next Gen Sequencing for TB 

Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a new method providing unparalleled genetic information impacting treatment cases of tuberculosis (TB). This new method provides a prediction as to whether the patient can be effectively treated with a typical drug regimen or whether there is antimicrobial resistance to any of eight drugs utilized for TB.  Additionally, WGS analysis is also contributing to preventing the transmission of this significant worldwide pathogen. This lecture will include a discussion of how this testing works, how the method was developed and the validation of the method as a diagnostic test at the Wadsworth Center in New York.
 

Inside a Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak Investigation 

A description of available test methods and more than 40 years of experience testing patient and water samples for this pathogen will be discussed. A historical perspective of improvements in testing and outbreak investigation since the Philadelphia outbreak in 1976 will be presented, along with perspectives on past to recent outbreaks and stories from these investigations, including New York State’s approaches and experiences. 
 


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Carlos Javier Orihuela, Ph.D.

Carlos Javier Orihuela, Ph.D.

Professor; Director of UAB Microbiome Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement

I am pleased to be chosen as an ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) because it is a way to communicate my enthusiasm for bacteriology-related research and pay back the research community for all the opportunities that I received as a student and postdoc. I have always placed considerable emphasis on the training and mentoring of graduate students and postdocs. I feel comfortable stating that it is the most important and gratifying aspect of my career. My former trainees are now completing postdoctoral fellowships in highly recognized laboratories, have returned to medical school as part of a dual degree program, or after completing a successful postdoc have successfully made the transition to junior faculty. I have always felt that faculty have the responsibility to inspire and empower their trainees; in brief, to give them every opportunity to succeed. Along such lines, I promote strong lines of communication, personal responsibility for one’s success, and goalsetting, and feel that highlighting the positive is an essential aspect of constructive commentary. I feel that I am qualified to be an ASMDL Lecturer due to the strength of my research program, my experience in promoting the development and success of trainees, and what I feel is a positive message in regards to meeting the challenges of a career in science head on.


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Holes in Your Heart During Pneumonia? Dissecting Pneumococcal Cardioxicity 

One quarter of individuals who are hospitalized for community-acquired pneumonia experience an adverse cardiac event: heart failure, arrhythmia, and infarct. These individuals are four times more likely to die than those with pneumonia alone. Research in our laboratory has shown that Streptococcus pneumoniae, the leading cause of community-acquired pneumonia, is able to escape from the bloodstream and invade the heart. Within the myocardium, pneumococci replicate, kill cardiomyocytes, form biofilms, and disrupt cardiac contractility. Laboratory animals that survive these types of infection experience cardiac scarring and impaired heart function thereafter. This talk describes the incidence of cardiac complications during pneumonia, the morphogenesis of cardiac microlesions, the virulence determinants identified as being responsible for pneumococcal invasion of the heart and killing of cardiomyocytes, and the approaches towards prevention currently being explored.
 

Pneumococci Have a Sweet Tooth: Carbon Availability Influences Pneumococcal
Virulence 

In most instances, Streptococcus pneumoniae colonizes the nasopharynx asymptomatically. Yet within the lungs, S. pneumoniae elicits a robust inflammatory response that contributes to lung damage and lung consolidation. Over the past 10 years, our laboratory has demonstrated that carbon availability, principally the absence of glucose, directly influences the ability of S. pneumoniae to form biofilms and the virulence determinants that it produces. This talk describes anatomical site-specific differences in carbon availability within the host, how the bacterium adapts to the nutritional differences in these distinct niches, the in vivo core transcriptome and tissue-specific transcriptome of S. pneumoniae as determined using dual-species RNAseq of infected organs, and how this information informs on the pathogenic process of the pneumococcus as well as rationale antigen selection for the next generation vaccine.
 

Pore-forming Toxin Mediated Cell Death: A Role for Necroptosis 

Pore-forming toxins are the most common virulence determinant used by pathogenic bacteria to kill host cells. Until recently, it was thought that pore-forming toxins killed via the membrane damage they incurred, and this resulted in necrosis; i.e. the loss of membrane integrity. Recent results from our laboratory have changed this understanding and shown that host cells exposed to pore-forming toxins instead die of necroptosis, a programmed mode of cell death that resembles necrosis. Moreover, much of the damage incurred by pore-forming toxins may be prevented by blocking the signaling molecules that regulate the necroptosis pathway. This talk describes how bacterial pore-forming toxins non-canonically activate necroptosis. It overviews the beneficial effects of necroptosis; e.g., how it promotes development of an adaptive immune response to pore-forming toxin producing bacteria during asymptomatic colonization, as well as the detrimental; e.g., exacerbated pulmonary injury during bacterial pneumonia. The talk concludes with discussion of how pharmacological inhibition of necroptosis may serve as an adjunct therapy for infectious diseases involving Gram-positive bacteria including invasive pneumococcal disease that results in heart damage.
 


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Kim Orth, Ph.D.

Kim Orth, Ph.D.

Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center


Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement

I am interested in activities of virulence factors from pathogenic bacteria to gain molecular insight into eukaryotic signaling systems. My lab discovers new molecular mechanisms by which invading bacteria hijack and deregulate a cell’s signaling systems, cutting off the cell’s ability to communicate with other cells that are needed to fight off disease. These studies provide novel insight into the molecular workings of eukaryotic signal transduction. I have trained postdocs and students to relish in the rigor, frustrations and mysteries of scientific discovery. As they move on, I have worked to ensure they have the tools for success, whether in academics, government or industry. I contribute to various programs for “women in science,” including panel discussions at ASBMB, GRC and FASEB meetings and with a published, solicited, personal reflection on my unusual path in science as a way to provide tools for younger scientists. I have been honored with a number of awards including recent election to the National Academy of Science. I would be honored to be a role model for other scientists and share my love of science by interacting with, learning from and teaching others at ASM.  


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Black Spot, Black Death, Black Pearl: Tales of Bacterial Effectors

This lecture uses three interwoven examples to illustrate how bacterial pathogens rewire host cells using their effector proteins. Black Spot refers to work with Xanthamonas campestris, which causes black spots on tobacco and tomato leaves. Black Death highlights work with Yersinia pestis, which causes "the black plaque," and how Yersinia Yop proteins hijack host cells. Black pearl covers work with effector proteins from Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which contaminates oysters.
 

Aliens Have Entered Your Home and Created a New Homeostasis 

One evening, after a very long day, you drive up to your home, walk through your front door … and you are in shock! All the lights are ON. It is very, very hot! All the faucets are dripping in every sink! And the TV is on full blast. Your home has been invaded by aliens and they have changed the environment to their liking. Bright, Hot, Wet, Loud. When bacteria invade our cells, they change the environment of the host cell so that they can thrive and replicate and spread to other cells. We study the tools pathogens use to change our cells to their liking.
 

How to Kill a Cell Without the Host Knowing It Will Die – All in 3 Hours

Bacteria can kill host cells from the outside using a needle like structure to inject toxins into them. The pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a major cause of food poisoning that occurs due to the consumption of raw or undercooked seafood. This bacterium injects about four toxins that work in concert to orchestrate a multifaceted and temporally regulated host cell infection by inducing autophagy, cell rounding, and then cell lysis. We figure out how and when the bacterial toxins work.
 

How to Escape Once You Have Invaded the Host

While bacteria have clever tools to invade a host cell, it is not always clear how they escape from the inside of host cells. While trying to act as Sherlock Holmes to reveal clues as to how bacteria might escape, we went on what seemed like a wild goose chase to discover a very surprising mechanism. Pathogens are both clever and resourceful. 
 

The Twelfth Year of a Continuing Journey to Understand AMPylation

While studying a bacterial pathogen, we found a new mechanism that a pathogen had hijacked from a bacterial housekeeping gene. The protein called Fic is able to use ATP to modify host proteins with AMP (AMPylation). The pathogen mutated Fic so that it is no longer regulated and is harmful to the host cell during infection. In bacteria, the wildtype housekeeping gene is important for bacterial survival under stress. Following an evolutionary trail, we have studied the pathogenic Fic, the fly Fic and now the mouse Fic to understand how this eukaryotic form of Fic is used by our own cells to deal with stress and maintain health.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Kristin N. Parent, Ph.D.

Kristin N. Parent, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Michigan State University


Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement

I am happy to have the opportunity to be a part of the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) series as I am very passionate about communicating science. I really enjoy outreach projects, such as working with high school students in "phage hunting." Along with my trainees, I travel to a high school for several weeks each year and work one-on-one with high school students. The students learn about phages and basic science practice and have the opportunity to ask questions about career development and what "college is really like." It is a great opportunity to share my experiences and I have received great feedback from students over the years. In particular, it makes students realize scientists are people too, and that students can approach scientists and ask questions. I have also gotten positive feedback that as a woman and a first-generation college student, I help some high school students feel that they can "do it too" by providing an example that someone like them is a scientist in the "real world." Participation in the ASMDL program will provide me with the opportunity to reach even more students and trainees, as well as non-scientists, to communicate the importance and the excitement of science.


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

A Gateway into Understanding the Unique Vertex of Giant Viruses

Giant viruses like Mimivirus, Pandoravirus and Sambavirus are larger in size and have larger genomes than many cellular organisms and exist on the interface between the living and the non-living. They typically infect unicellular eukaryotes like amoeba. This lecture explores the origin, infection process and lifestyle of these fascinating creatures.
 

Structure and Evolution of Shigella Phages: From a Neighborhood Near You

Bacteriophages are involved in genetic mobilization in many bacteria, including important human pathogens like Shigella, often associated with food poisoning, and they play an important role in the microbiome. Shigella phages are abundant in the environment and can be easily isolated from sewage. This lecture explores the diversity of Shigella phages found all around us.
 

Structure, Biochemistry, and Genetics, Oh My!

This lecture explores how structural biology can be incorporated into a biochemistry and genetics curriculum and can be a fun introduction to biomedical science for students from high school to undergraduates to graduate school.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Suresh D. Pillai, Ph.D.

Suresh D. Pillai, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology, Texas A&M University


Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement

My career started with an amazing microbiology course that I had as an undergraduate. Since then, I have been fascinated by microorganisms and the ways they have influenced mankind and continue to influence modern society. I find it almost comical that we term microorganisms as “contaminants” even though by all measures, humans are the contaminants on earth. So, I thoroughly enjoy speaking about microbiology and getting students and the public interested in and excited about microbiology. I am fortunate to work at a large university where I have been able to encourage many undergraduate students to get involved in microbiology. I wish to use the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program to “give back” to the students, postdocs and peers what ASM has provided me over the past 30 years. The ASMDL program is an excellent platform for mentoring and providing career tips and suggestions. I wish to use the ASMDL program to share my insights on how professional careers can and will evolve over years and provide an optimistic roadmap for students and early career scientists. I want to share my perspectives about succeeding in graduate school, as well share my views on why it is imperative in today’s competitive world that graduate students, post docs, and faculty are open minded and not dogmatic about their professional career paths. I plan to use the program to empower others.


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

What Is Death in Bacteria?

This presentation will provide insight on the resiliency of microbial cells and how this resiliency should challenge our contemporary definitions of alive and dead bacteria. The talk will delve into the molecular machinery that bacterial cells draw upon when encountering inactivating agents, especially ionizing technologies. 
          

Electron Beam Sterilization and Pasteurization Technology

This presentation will provide an in-depth look at how nature’s most organic and fundamental building blocks of life, the electrons, are now being harnessed by man to clean, heal, feed and shape this world and beyond. The presentation will provide the audience with insight into how electron beam technology is used around the world in medicine, food, and industry. It will cover the legacy technology, such as gamma irradiation, and how and why the governments around the world are encouraging alternative technologies for blood irradiation, medical device sterilization, phytosanitary treatment, sterile insect technology, food pasteurization and environmental remediation.
 

Is Hurdle Technology in the Food Industry Resulting in Enhanced Virulence in Foodborne Pathogens?

This presentation will explore the rationale behind the concept of “hurdle technology” in the food industry. We now know that sub-lethal inactivation of foodborne pathogens results in enhanced virulence. This talk explores the bigger question of hurdle technologies and their impact on foodborne pathogens. It will focus on the issue of sub-lethal inactivation of microbial pathogens and the challenges they can pose in the food industry. 
 

Are Microbes Responsible for Criminal Behavior?

This is an expansion of my TEDx talk that discusses the sophistication of microbes, their ability to communicate among themselves and the growing body of literature that is slowly confirming the critical role that microbes have on our moods and behavior. The talk will include specific case studies involving Toxoplasma gondii, Bartonella sp. and Borrelia sp., and will include a discussion of psychotic disorders in prisons, recidivism, and whether microbial links to behavioral disorders will be admissible in the courts of law.
 

Electron Beam-based Vaccines 

Killed vaccines helped eradicate smallpox in humans and significantly controlled rinderpest in cattle. Killed vaccines have major advantages, such as no handling of live organisms in the field during administration, zero risk of vaccine-based transmission, no potential reversion to a virulent state and most importantly, no special storage requirements. Killed vaccine has shown great promise against COVID-19 in China. However, not all killed vaccines are the same. Killed vaccines can be developed using chemicals (formalin or b-propiolactone). However, even though chemically killed vaccines have shown promise (e.g., against COVID-19), it is also known that chemical inactivation can be beset with challenges such as incomplete mixing, improper mixing resulting in damaged epitopes, as well as the need to handle excessive volumes of this known OSHA-regulated carcinogen. This talk will focus on the use of commercial electricity to harness electrons to produce the next generation of killed vaccines. Case studies of specific eBeam vaccines against humans and animals will be presented.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session
  • Mentor post docs, graduate students, and undergraduate students

Benjamin Pinsky, M.D., Ph.D.

Benjamin Pinsky, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pathology and Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement

It is a great honor to be chosen to participate in the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program. Clinical microbiology is rapidly advancing with an abundance of novel technologies that are revolutionizing the diagnosis of infectious diseases. As a clinical virologist, I have developed and translated infectious diseases diagnostics into clinical practice with the ultimate goal of improving patient care in both high- and low-resource settings. The ASMDL program provides a tremendous opportunity to review diagnostic dilemmas and share impactful translational science with the ASM membership. I am particularly excited to share my experiences collaborating with partners from low- and middle-income countries to develop and implement diagnostics for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
 
I have a track record of commitment to training the next generation of clinical microbiologists. I have taught the principles of diagnostic virology to trainees of all levels locally, nationally, and internationally. Furthermore, I have successfully mentored several individuals to achieve positions in academia and public health. For example, Dr. Jesse Waggoner, a prior infectious diseases fellow, obtained a National Institutes of Health K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award under my mentorship, and is now an Assistant Professor at the Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Janaki Abeynayake, a trainee from Sri Lanka, is now the Head of Virology at the Medical Research Institute in Colombo, the Sri Lanka National Reference Laboratory for Infectious Diseases.
 
I have been a member of ASM since 2009 and spoke at the Pediatric Microbiology for Clinicians and Laboratorians workshop prior to the General Meeting/Microbe from 2015-2017. I am completely committed to ASM and to the training of clinical microbiologists/virologists. Through the ASMDL program, I intend to continue this commitment by detailing the challenges and opportunities of this rapidly evolving field.


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

Testing for the Diagnosis and Monitoring of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the global importance of robust diagnostic testing to differentiate SARS-CoV-2 from other routine respiratory infections and guide appropriate clinical management. This presentation details the nucleic acid amplification and serologic methods that are available to diagnose and monitor SARS-CoV-2 infections. 
 

Adventures in Arbovirus Diagnostics 

Arthropod-borne viruses are among the most important emerging infectious diseases. Based on clinical criteria alone, arboviruses, such as Zika, dengue, and chikungunuya viruses, cannot be reliably distinguished from one another or infections with other pathogens that cause an undifferentiated systemic febrile illness. This presentation details the molecular and serologic methods that are available to diagnose arbovirus infections. 
 

Next-generation Sequencing for Antiviral Resistance Testing 

The development of drug resistance is an important factor in the management of clinically significant viral infections, particularly HIV-1. Genotypic drug resistance testing by conventional Sanger sequencing has limited sensitivity for low-frequency drug resistance mutations, whereas next-generation sequencing (NGS) methodologies allow the detection of minority variants associated with virological failure. This presentation focuses on the clinical application of NGS to genotypic antiviral resistance testing.
 

TORCH Infections 

Infections acquired in utero and during the perinatal period are important causes of fetal and neonatal mortality and morbidity. These infections present with similar signs and symptoms, and therefore, diagnosis is challenging and relies on accurate laboratory testing. This presentation utilizes a case-based approach to detail the diagnosis of TORCH infections.
 

Virologic Monitoring in Transplantation 

Viral infections are important causes of morbidity and mortality in both solid organ and hematopoietic cell transplant. Virus load monitoring of several viruses, including CMV, EBV, and BKV, are critical for the optimal management of the transplant recipient. This presentation reviews transplant virology, including assay harmonization to the WHO international unit, as well as novel monitoring approaches combining host response with virus quantitation.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Mecky Pohlschroder, Ph.D.

Mecky Pohlschroder, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology, University of Pennsylvania


Term: 7/1/21 - 6/30/23
Personal Statement

The Archaea are ubiquitous, play key roles in ecological processes, and, perhaps, in human health, and have useful industrial applications. Still, relatively little is known about the cell biology of the Archaea as compared to the Bacteria, and, in many minds, the Archaea remain primarily associated with extreme environments. As with many misconceptions about science, the key to overcoming ignorance is education. This is one reason I am passionate about students having opportunities to learn microbiology using a hands-on approach that imbues them with a personal understanding of the evidence-based nature of science. To gain greater understanding of the Archaea, my lab uses interdisciplinary approaches combining biochemical and genetic characterization with bioinformatic analyses, in a great model system, to unravel the molecular mechanisms underpinning the processes key to archaeal survival. The knowledge accumulated in our studies has also allowed us to develop in vivo and in silico tools, further facilitating in-depth investigations of these processes. This has resulted in the identification of many of the mechanisms and pathways critical to the biosynthesis and function of the cell surface of the model archaeon, Haloferax volcanii. The insights gained using this strategy may have important implications for biotechnology, bioremediation, and biomedicine.


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

What Bioinformatics and Big Data Have Revealed about Archaea

The application of bioinformatics to the study of microbiology has revealed that the Archaea are extremely diverse and essentially ubiquitous, being ensconced in niches that range from the human microbiome to deep lakes in Antarctica. It has also been used to show that the Archaea play important ecological roles in carbon and nitrogen cycling. Bioinformatics has been particularly useful in teasing out evolutionary relationships, showing, for instance, that the Archaea are more closely related to the Eukarya than are the Bacteria, while the development and use of subcellular localization prediction programs, combined with in vivo experiments in the model archaea, has uncovered adaptation strategies. Finally, the Archaea Proteome Project, spearheaded in our lab, is an example of a community-based approach where the combination of a great archaeal model system, a wide range of expertise, and a bioinformatics-based approach has been used to gain new insights into the processes underpinning archaeal cell biology.
 

Haloferax volcanii as a Model System for Sophisticated and Affordable Microbiology Experiments Available to all K-12 Schools

While hands-on experience is key to introducing students to the exciting world of science, informative microbiology experiments are typically too expensive for use in most public schools. Using the haloarchaeon Haloferax volcanii, sophisticated experiments in microbiology can be performed using affordable homemade kits and growth media made from ingredients purchased at a grocery store. These experiments also do not require the use of an autoclave as the non-pathogenic H. volcanii grow in extremely saline media and, thus, cultures resist contamination. Using these kits, experiments can be designed that teach high school students about a wide range of topics including extremophiles, the effects of stress on archaea, microbial evolution, basic genetics, life on Mars, and antibiotic resistance. In fact, so much remains to be learned about archaea that, with discovery driven design, such experiments may even yield unique insights into archaeal biology.
 

Archaeal Cell Surface Biogenesis and Function – An Evolutionary Perspective

Like bacteria, archaea are unicellular, lack a nucleus and share conserved mechanisms for protein transport into or across the cytoplasmic membrane. Yet, the bacterial and archaeal membranes that extracytoplasmic proteins must cross are distinct, as are their cell walls. Similarly, while type IV pili, surface filaments required for biofilm formation, are evolutionarily conserved, the rotating surface structures that can propel cells through liquid media, flagella and archaella in bacteria and archaea, respectively, are unrelated, being an example of convergent evolution. Yet, both communicate with a conserved chemotaxis system. The discoveries revealing that such a mingling of conserved and divergent mechanisms regulates the biosynthesis and function of prokaryotic cell surface appendages has led to fascinating new insights into the evolution of biological processes in the prokaryotes.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session

Georgiana Purdy, Ph.D.

Georgiana Purdy, Ph.D.

Program Director for MMI and Program in Biomedical Sciences (PBMS), Oregon Health & Sciences University


Term: 7/1/20 - 6/30/22
Personal Statement

Throughout my career, I have had great mentors, notably my Ph.D. advisor who supported me and instilled in me a commitment to train the next generation of microbiologists. To support women and URM interested in research, I currently participate in programs that range from hosting all-girls high school students to discuss opportunities for careers in science to mentoring summer undergraduates through the OHSU Center for Diversity and Inclusion internship program. In my roles as the program director of the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology (MMI) Ph.D. program and the new interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Science (PBMS) Ph.D. program, I am keenly aware of the role of mentors in successful graduate training and in finding rewarding careers. One of the exciting aspects of PBMS is its inclusion of research, academic and peer mentors to strengthen the graduate training experience. Through the ASM Distinguished Lecturer (ASMDL) program, I hope to contribute more broadly to the development of future scientists through meaningful interactions at Branch meetings. As a PI who is still “in the trenches” doing experiments, I look forward to sharing my excitement about science with trainees and discussing their career goals and aspirations. I have been an active ASM member since 1999 and routinely attend ASM meetings. I was an invited speaker at the ASM Tuberculosis Conference and the Northwest Branch meeting in 2017 and hosted the Northwest Branch Meeting at OHSU in 2018. Being part of the ASMDL program will provide new opportunities for me to contribute to ASM’s mission of advancing the microbial sciences.


Lecture Topics and Descriptions

The Big Ball of Wax: The Role of MmpL Transporters in Mtb Cell Wall Biosynthesis, Virulence and Non-replicating Persistence 

TB is a leading infectious disease that causes death despite the availability of anti-tubercular drugs. The MmpL transporters make a crucial contribution to mycobacterial physiology and pathogenesis by exporting cell wall lipids to the mycobacterial outer membrane. This talk will describe the role of the essential MmpL3 transporter in cell wall biogenesis and show the contribution of MmpL11 to virulence and non-replicating persistence.
 

Why Microbiologists and Structural Biologists Should Be BFFs – Structural Insights into Mtb Cell Wall Biosynthesis and Drug Development

The MmpL proteins are cell wall lipid transporters and include crucial contributors to mycobacterial physiology and validated drug targets. Despite the importance of MmpL proteins to Mtb, little is known about their structure and the mechanism by which they transport complex lipids or molecules to the bacterial surface. While MmpL proteins are members of the resistance-nodulation-cell division (RND) superfamily of proteins, recent structural and biochemical studies have shed light on their unique structures and novel transport activities.
 

Are You Awake? New Insights into Mtb Metabolism and Physiology During Latency 

TB is a leading infectious disease that causes death despite the availability of anti-tubercular drugs. Most Mtb infections result in latent TB where bacteria have altered metabolism and exhibit phenotypic drug tolerance. This talk will review current in vitro and in vivo models for Mtb latency and the insights gained.


Career Development Activities at Branch Meetings

In addition to providing lectures for Branch meetings, ASMDL Lecturers are available to participate in career development and mentoring activities for trainees at Branch meetings. This ASMDL Lecturer has indicated interest in doing the following:

  • Attend poster sessions and oral presentations
  • Judge posters and/or oral presentations
  • Give separate lecture for students
  • Participate in informal gatherings/discussions – at dinner, reception, etc
  • Attend an ASM Student Chapter meeting
  • Participate in a career forum
  • Hold a “Meet the Speaker” session