Candida and Candidiasis 2021: what to look forward to with Professor Geraldine Butler

Posted on March 8, 2021   by Microbiology Society

In this blog, we discuss the upcoming Candida and Candidiasis 2021 Focused Meeting with Professor Geraldine Butler. Professor Butler is based at the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science at University College in Dublin and is a member of the organising committee of the Candida and Candidiasis meeting. 

My group studies the evolution and virulence of yeasts, particularly those that are pathogenic and are part of the Candida clade. Fungi are major causes of infection, yet they tend to be understudied. Recent estimates suggest that more than three million people across the globe are infected by fungi and more than one million people die a year. Approximately 750,000 have invasive candidiasis. On the other hand, fungi are an important part of the environment, as symbionts and decomposers. We use genomic methods to study the virulence of Candida species.

Could you tell us a little about the Candida and Candidiasis Focused Meeting? Have you been to this meeting before? 

The Candida and Candidiasis meeting was originally supported by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and ran every two years until 2018. There were 14 meetings in total, but in 2018 ASM dropped support for smaller conferences. Following consultations with the Candida community, the Microbiology Society was approached and agreed to support a new version of the conference. I have attended at least six of these meetings in the past, and possibly more.

The conference brings together molecular biology, cell biology and evolutionary biology researchers and clinicians. Sessions cover the biology of the pathogens, which include many different Candida species, and the responses of the host. There is an emphasis on diversity, with early career researchers encouraged to attend and present.

Focused Meetings offer the opportunity to strengthen relationships with other groups working in a field. What advice would you give to colleagues hoping to form new collaborations?

One of the disadvantages of digital meetings is the lack of unplanned meetings – you can't bump into people in corridors. I, therefore, encourage everyone to make full use of the interaction tools that are available. Each poster presenter will have a ‘digital room’ where they can meet up to 16 people at a time. Encourage people to attend your sessions! There also will be ‘meet the speaker’ events after each session, so make use of these. In addition, anyone can request a one-to-one meeting at any time with any other attendee. Use the bulletin boards for general communications.

What are some aspects of the meeting that you are most looking forward to?

Interacting with people other than my husband! Most of us have been locked-down at some level for a long time, and I really miss the interaction with others. It's been a long time since the Candida community has met. I'm looking forward to hearing about some cool research and meeting some new people.

Candida and Candidiasis was postponed last year and made virtual for 2021. As part of the organising committee, how did you overcome the challenges associated with the postponement?

We conferred with as many people as possible, and pooled experience of attending other online conferences. There have been a lot of changes. In order to involve as many people as possible from as many time zones as possible, the conference will run over seven days, for 4–5 hours each time (and in the UK will be during the afternoon). There will be a programme of virtual talks, with regular opportunities to ask the speakers questions. We have put some thought into how to encourage social interaction, and we hope that people will engage with some non-science events (such as identifying the ‘senior’ scientists from some early photographs). We will also experiment with at least one session designed to mimic an informal reception. Finally, there will be a career session for early career researchers.

Find out more about Candida and Candidiasis 2021 and register to attend on the event page. If you would like to know more about Professor Butler and her research, read the Q&A.