Issue: Fleming Prize Winners

20 October 2020 article

Welcome to the last Microbiology Today of 2020. It would be an understatement to say that due to COVID-19 it has been an odd year! Personally, I’m very glad that I’ve been able to keep in touch with the microbiology community through email, phone, Zoom and Twitter, even if it’s not quite the same as those face-to-face meetings we all value.

So, with coronavirus as the backdrop to 2020, this edition of Microbiology Today focuses on the themes of this anniversary year, Why Microbiology Matters and Why Microbiologists Matter, with previous Fleming Prize Winners and their work the topic of this issue. It might seem obvious why microbiology and microbiologists matter to us all at the moment, but in this edition previous Fleming Prize winners have kindly given us personal insights into their career experiences and provided a broader perspective on the importance of microbiology. They address some of the challenges and changes that have occurred over the years, provide some tips for those hoping to advance in microbiology and communicate what it meant to them to be awarded the Fleming Prize.

First up, James Harris, Peter Wing and Alan Zhuang have interviewed Jane McKeating, the 1995 Prize winner, about her research into glycoprotein diversity in HIV, as well as her current work on oxygen sensing in hepatitis viruses. Madeline Mei interviews our 2010 Prize winner, Steve Diggle, who provides an insight into the importance of bacterial communication and explains how the research could impact life outside academia. Next Neil Gow, the 1993 Prize winner, speaks to Dhara Malavia about his early research into fungal morphogenesis and pathogenicity, and how he was originally inspired to focus on this area. Lynne Boddy, the Prize winner from 1991, discusses her pioneering work in the ecology of wood decay fungi with Sarah Christofides. Describing how the research has evolved, Lynne provides us with an appreciation of why fungal microbiology matters on a global scale. The 2020 Fleming Prize winner Edze Westra speaks to Rebecca Hall about molecular mechanisms and the evolutionary ecology of CRISPR-Cas systems. Outlining the development and possible future of this research, Edze also discusses the importance of mentors and what makes science fun. Last but not least, we have Alexander Finney interviewing Frank Sargent about his 2006 Fleming Prize research on bacterial Tat pathways, including current work in both anaerobic hydrogen metabolism and protein secretion pathways. All our Prize winners give us their perspectives on what they think the biggest challenges in microbiology are, now and in the future; the broader skills that could be useful for developing microbiologists; and their personal take on why microbiology matters.

As always, it has been a thoroughly enjoyable job working on this issue of Microbiology Today, and I’d like to thank all of the Prize winners and their interviewers for providing such interesting content. As this is my final Editorial for Microbiology Today, I’d also like to say a big thank you to everyone on the committee over the last four years who has made the role so fulfilling, with inspired ideas, friendly networks and good advice. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Ruth Paget (the Managing Editor) for keeping everything on track; it’s been fantastic working with her over the last four years.

So that’s it from me. I’m handing over to Chris Randall from the University of Leeds who is taking the reins as the new Editor for Microbiology Today. Good luck Chris – I am sure you’ll enjoy working on Microbiology Today and I shall look forward to reading the 2021 editions.

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Rowena Jenkins


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Image: Wellcome.