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 16th, eight prominent microbial scientists hailing from a wide variety of disciplines will share their investigations into these enigmatic microbes during the Thirteenth 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 at the Knafel Center (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, Eleftherios Mylonakis, from Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School will discuss using a whole animal (C. elegans) based screen for the discovery of new antimicrobial drugs. HMS’s George Church will explain how his group is applying synthetic biology to eliminate the endogenous and endemic. Michael Fischbach, from the University of California at San Francisco, will reveal potentially important small molecules produced by the microbiome. Conversely, Jack Gilbert (University of Chicago) will provide a microbial ecologist’s perspective on human associated microbes. Lora Hooper (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center), on the other hand, will discuss bacteria-host interactions and the circadian clock. Chemical discovery in the microbial world will be the topic of Emily Balskus’s (CCB) talk. HSPH’s Sarah Fortune will discuss how infection outcome is linked to both host and pathogen diversity. Julie Huber from the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA will explain how the delicate balance of microbes, fluids, and rocks supports subseafloor life.
The MSI Symposium begins on April 16th at 8:45 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.