From the Chief Executive

Issue: Archaea

08 August 2017 article


It has been a great privilege to attend a number of meetings in Ireland over the past few months, where I have seen some of the fascinating work being carried out by Microbiology Society members there. In Belfast, Dublin, Wexford, Cork and Kildare, there has been some amazing microbiology on display, and it has been shared in a community that gets the best out of its members by being supportive and friendly.

In May, it was a real pleasure to visit Johnstown Castle in County Wexford, one of the homes of Teagasc – the Agriculture and Food Development Authority. Society member Fiona Brennan organised a stimulating workshop on harnessing the power of plant and soil microbiomes. As well as scientists, the event was attended by policy-makers and funders from Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and the Environment Protection Agency. It was great to be able to present the emerging findings from the Microbiology Society’s policy report on microbiomes, ahead of the main report’s publication in the autumn.

Then, in June, I had enormous fun at University College Dublin, where PhD students in the School of Biology and Environmental Science presented their work at the annual Seminar Day. The postgraduate representatives – Tamsin, Sam and Laura – kindly asked me to be one of the judges. The winner of the Carmel Humphries Memorial Medal was Maeve Long, whose work on the endomembrane system referred to Shigella toxin and was both fascinating and impressive.

Later in the month, the first of the Society’s Focused Meetings for 2017 was held in Belfast, on Microbial Resources for Agricultural and Food Security. It was organised by a long-time member of the Society, John McGrath, together with Katrina Macintosh, Jason Chin, John Quinn and Vincent O’Flaherty, who is Chair of the Society’s Irish Division. There was a great range of offered papers from Ireland and further afield, and it was wonderful to learn more about the diverse roles played by microbes in agricultural systems.

The 33rd International Specialised Symposium on Yeast (ISSY33) was organised under the auspices of the International Commission on Yeasts, with the support of the Microbiology Society. It was held in June at University College Cork, the home of its driving force – John Morrissey – who is Chair of the Society’s Eukaryotic Division. It explored the ways in which yeasts can be used for industrial applications, and included a keynote lecture from Steve Oliver, a member of the Society’s Council, on how yeasts can be used as a model of human diseases.

And very soon, I will be back in Ireland for another of the Society’s Focused Meetings at Maynooth in County Kildare, on Antimicrobial Resistance and One Health. Organised by Fiona Walsh and Thuy Thi Do, it has a lot to live up to after the success of all the other meetings!

One of the things that always strikes me when I visit members in Ireland is the sense of community. The Society’s Irish Division has a long history of organising meetings that are not just scientifically stimulating, but which also make an effort to support early career members. Members in Ireland routinely attend meetings on subjects that are a long way from their own research interests, because they feel part of a vibrant and supportive community.

We are a Society of communities, and those communities can be taxonomically defined – like the Virology, Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Divisions – or defined by career stage like the Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum, or by other interests, like the Policy Committee. The Irish Division is the only geographically based group of members the Society has. But when we consulted you recently as Council prepares a new five-year strategy, there was a strong sense from the members that you want us to do more at a local level. 

I am very keen to hear from you about what this means to you, and how the Society can connect and empower your local community in the way the Irish Division does so effectively.

Peter Cotgreave

Chief Executive
[email protected]