From the Chief Executive

Issue: Microbial Tools

15 May 2018 article


The Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference in Birmingham last month was yet again a wonderful festival of microbiology, networking and friendship. Members of the Society were able to share the successes of your research, discuss the challenges you face, and identify new and exciting opportunities. The vibrancy of the event shows just how strong our community is, and how valuable the Society is as a vehicle for connecting and empowering communities of microbiologists.

As always, the Prize Lectures were inspiring. Jill Banfield’s expertise in environmental microbiology proves how studying very small things can answer questions about very large-scale processes, while Geoff Smith and Sharon Peacock, in different ways, demonstrate the intensely practical use to which microbiology research can be put in terms of human health. Sarah Coulthurst showed expertly how to tell a clear and compelling story about microbes, and Tansy Hammarton’s work illustrates how to take those stories to a wider audience. These motivating lectures are only possible because members take the time to nominate exceptional microbiologists for the Prizes, so please look out for the call to nominate for next year’s Lectures – the deadline is in early June.

Annual Conference is a highlight of my year because I get to interact with lots of members, to listen to your talks, to discuss your posters and to chat about what is important to you. This helps me to make sure that the Society’s staff are supporting your careers. Equally important are those occasions when I meet you individually or in smaller groups, and I try to get out and about to visit members as much as possible. I greatly valued two recent visits.

It was an enormous pleasure to visit Belfast at the invitation of Lindsay Broadbent, who won the Howard Dalton Young Microbiologist of the Year competition in 2016. The early career research community there is vibrant and productive, and it was inspiring to talk to a number of postdocs and students, including Joana Sa Pessoa Santos and colleagues, who are organising a Young Microbiologists’ Symposium in August. The Society is delighted to support the event through the Society- Supported Conference scheme, and I look forward to hearing about the constructive interactions between junior Principal Investigators, postdocs and PhD students.

I also had a great time when I went to Birmingham for the JAM talks, which are organised by a committee that includes two of the Society’s Champions, Alice Lanne and Anja Đokić. There are far more early career researchers from around the UK and Ireland who want to take part than there are available slots, and the committee had a challenging job choosing who to invite. On the day I visited, it happened that one of the talks was by Helen Brown, who is chair of the Microbiology Society’s Early Career Microbiologists’ Forum. The science was great, the questions and discussions were illuminating, and everyone enjoyed themselves. I was particularly struck by Helen’s observation that the project she described had come about from a casual conversation at the Society’s Annual Conference last year, when she happened to fall into conversation with Professor Sheila Patrick, the Chair-Elect of our Prokaryotic Division – a straightforward example of the unpredictable benefits of the networking opportunities the Society provides.

Throughout the year, the Society aims to provide members with chances to come together and talk about science, and also to engage in activities that support your careers. As well as scientific events, the Society’s Council, Committees, and Divisions provide fantastic opportunities to ensure that your priorities get the attention they deserve. If you are interested but not sure what is involved, we now have a shadowing scheme that allows you to have a taster before making a commitment. Feel free to contact me if you want to know more, and bear in mind that I’m always delighted to visit your lab or attend your own events to learn more about what the Society can do for your communities.

Peter Cotgreave

Chief Executive
[email protected]