mSystems® is an ASM journal dedicated to publishing diverse systems microbiology research, everything from cell metabolism to ecosystem dynamics, tools and techniques, to novel synthetic microbiology. In the mSystems® Thinking lecture series, editors come together with some of their favorite speakers on a variety of topics, using an interactive forum to allow the community to both hear the best science and meet the speakers in small groups. Presentations are followed by an open forum panel discussion with all speakers and participants.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Microbiology

Join our first session on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Microbiology Friday, March 26 at 3 p.m. ET. This lecture will highlight scientists who perform impactful research in Systems Microbiology and have a history of a substantial contribution to DEI efforts.

Come and listen to speakers present and discuss the following:
  • Approaches to improving DEI in their field. 
  • Their latest research. 
  • Valuable lessons learned.
This interactive format will enable speakers to interact with the audience during their presentations and during small group sessions dedicated to discussing DEI-related and research topics. 


Michael D. L. Johnson, Ph.D.

Michael D. L. Johnson, Ph.D.

University of Arizona

Metals, Media, and Microbes Matter!

The Johnson Laboratory focuses on how metals impact biology. Roughly 40% of proteins use metals, which poses a challenge for bacteria trying to reside in the host. This process is further complicated, as certain metals that the host routinely uses, such as copper, are toxic to invading pathogens; a fact that the host takes advantage of to kill bacteria. In this talk, I will briefly focus on how copper is toxic to invading pathogens, how the bacteria fight back against this toxicity and introduce the idea of weaponizing copper to kill bacteria and other pathogenic organisms. Further, I will discuss how culture media can influence these experiments greatly, how that parallels with culturing the next generation of scientists and what we can do better to help those scientist.

Rosie Alegado, Ph.D.

Rosie Alegado, Ph.D.

University of Hawaii Manoa

Evolution, ecology and equity: Insights from community-embedded microbiology in Indigenous spaces

Climate change is predicted to intensify frequency and intensity of storms and flooding, altering nutrient inventories and potentiating harmful algal blooms and zoonoses. However, the extent to which microbial community dynamics vary during climate forcing remains understudied in tropical high-island estuaries. To characterize seasonal variation in microbial community diversity and function in such an ecosystem, we established a network of sites within a constrained estuarine system, an 800-year-old Native Hawaiian fishpond, enabling repeat sampling and robust analyses. In Hawaiʻi, invasive red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) has drastically altered the coastal ecology of the Hawaiian intertidal. Coastal food webs sustaining local Hawaiian fisheries in mangrove-populated areas rely almost exclusively on microbial ecosystem processes and suffer from decreased productivity. We integrated physical, biogeochemical and genomic approaches to investigate the association between microbial community composition, disturbance by storms and R. mangle, and altered ecosystem function. In our time series extending over 7 years, we captured the effects of Tropical Storm Wali, a precipitation event exceeding 15 cm in 24 hrs. Analysis of 16S rRNA amplicon sequences revealed microbial changes between pre-storm, storm and post-storm conditions. Post-storm microbial assemblages more closely resembled pre-storm assemblages, but sustained a fraction of storm-introduced groups. The introduction and sustained presence of clades containing fecal indicator and zoonotic species (Vibrio, Clostridium, Burkholderia) was detected during and following the storm event. These results provide the first environmental evidence of microbial resilience following a storm event in Hawaiʻi and hint at larger impacts to marine productivity, food web dynamics and biogeochemical cycles.

Kat Milligan-Myhre, Ph.D.

Kat Milligan-Myhre, Ph.D.

University of Alaska Anchorage

Adapting an Evolutionary Model for Microbiota Studies: Diversity Matters

Tiny microbes play a huge role in keeping their hosts healthy. In turn, the host controls which microbes are able to thrive in and on the host. Both of these processes are influenced by the host genes, which can control the interplay between the microbes and their hosts at several levels. To determine the role that the host environment plays on host-microbe interactions, Dr. Milligan-Myhre has adapted the well-described evolutionary model organism, threespine stickleback fish, for host-microbe interaction studies. Her lab focuses on determining how different populations of hosts select for and respond to the microbiota, and how the microbiota shapes the development of hosts from different populations. In addition, she will discuss the challenges of being a woman of color in STEM, and give advice for how to maintain a balance between pursuing Western Science while maintaining cultural identity.

Mark your calendar for the upcoming lectures in the series.

  • March 26: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Microbiology.
  • May 13: New Techniques and Protocols in Microbial Systems Biology. 
  • June 21: World Microbe Session. 
  • Sept. 9:  The Latest in Synthetic Microbiology. 
  • Dec. 1: Exploring the World of Microbial Systems Ecology.