This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Microbial Sciences Initiative (MSI), a coalition of researchers in departments across the university who study the lives of microbes. MCB faculty Rich Losick is a founding member of MSI and a longtime co-director of the initiative.
Losick, who turns 80 this year, has been part of MSI since its inception. “The Microbial Sciences Initiative grew out of a meeting held by then-President Larry Summers in University Hall in March of 2002 in which he asked a large group of assembled faculty members to develop “Centers” in disciplines that crossed multiple departments,” Losick says. “Colleen Cavanaugh of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Dan Schrag of Earth and Planetary Sciences and I found ourselves walking back from the meeting together. We were in different departments and realized we didn’t interact that often but shared a deep interest in microbiology.”
He continues, “We quickly invited Roberto Kolter of the Department of Microbiology at Harvard Medical School to join us. Meanwhile, Dan hosted a breakfast at the Center for the Environment in June, reaching out to additional colleagues with an interest in microbiology, such as Gary Ruvkun in the Department of Genetics at HMS, Andy Knoll in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Ann Pearson in Earth and Planetary Sciences. This initially led to the proposal for a Center for Integrated Microbiology. In the coming months the concept of physical centers evolved into interfaculty initiatives, leading us to propose the Microbial Sciences Initiative, which would hold weekly chalk talks, annual symposia, teach microbiology, engage undergraduates in research, and promote collaborations across departments, schools, and campuses.”
This year’s MSI Symposium will take place on Saturday, April 29th from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM in the Northwest building. Losick will deliver the keynote, titled “How a Bacterium Revealed the Greatest Discovery of the 20th Century.”
“The Microbial Sciences Initiative has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my half century on the Harvard faculty, leading to fruitful collaborations and enriching interactions with faculty members from across the University,” he says. “I am deeply proud to have been among the founders of MSI. Summers’ instinct to create initiatives that crossed departmental boundaries was prescient and led to other successful Initiatives, such as the Origin of Life, which has also been an inspiration to me. Now to be asked twenty years later to give the Keynote Address at this celebratory anniversary symposium is a deep honor.”
Tickets for the 20th Anniversary MSI Symposium are on sale here. They cost $5 for students and postdocs and $20 for the general community. We hope that you will be able to join Losick and MSI for this special event!