Microbes (including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protists) are ubiquitous on earth and affect every part of our lives. Yet they are mostly invisible, and the vast majority of microbes are still unknown to us. On Saturday, April 18th, eight prominent microbial scientists hailing from a wide variety of disciplines will share their investigations into these enigmatic microbes during the Twelfth Annual Microbial Sciences Symposium. This all-day event, which is free and open to the public, is hosted by the Harvard MSI and will be held in the Knafel Gymnasium at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies on the Cambridge campus.
The MSI at Harvard is an interdisciplinary program (spanning the fields of molecular biology, engineering, physics, evolutionary biology, genetics, environmental microbiology and microbial ecology) focused on understanding the microbial world. Co-directed by Colleen Cavanaugh (OEB) and Roberto Kolter (Microbiology and Immunobiology, HMS), the MSI links researchers in FAS, SEAS, HMS, HSDM, and HSPH. The Microbial Sciences Symposium is the largest and most visible event that MSI sponsors, and its aim is to stimulate discussion among members of the scientific community and help strengthen integrative science programs.
Symposium topics reflect the enormous value MSI places on interdisciplinary research. At this year’s event, Angela Belcher from MIT will talk about using biological components, such phage, to design technologically important materials, such as batteries. Dan Hartl (OEB) will lecture on the genomic epidemiology of malaria elimination. HMS’s Jon Beckwith, who in 1969 led the group that isolated the first gene from a bacterial chromosome, will talk about a single screen that yields potential antibiotics, anti-virulents and anticoagulants. Also from HMS, and the Forsyth Institute, Katherine Lemon will present the recently characterized nostril microbiome, including the presence of beneficial microbes that interfere with pathogen colonization, suggesting new approaches for prophylactics/therapeutics. MCB’s own Briana Burton will share exciting new findings about the molecular mechanisms of DNA translocation across bacterial membranes. Now at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Arturo Casadevall will present thoughts on the origin of microbial virulence. The bioremediation of environmental contaminants by naturally occurring microbes will be the topic of Lisa Alvarez-Cohen’s (University of California at Berkeley) lecture. And finally, MSI alumnus Benjamin Wolfe, who now holds a faculty appointment in Tufts University’s Department of Biology, will explain how his lab is using fermented foods to dissect microbial community diversity.
The MSI Symposium begins on April 18th at 8:30 am with a light breakfast followed by the lecture series. The audience is free to explore the Harvard Square area for lunch from 12:00 until 2:00 pm. At 5:00 pm the MSI is hosting a catered reception for symposium speakers and participants.