“Microbiology: Nevertheless, We Persisted”
Amy Cheng Vollmer, Isaac H. Clothier Jr. Professor of Biology, Swarthmore College

5pm – 6pm

During the past 35 years, microbiology has undergone a renaissance. In the mid 1980s, at the very time when PCR was invented and HIV was discovered, microbiology, it seemed, had fallen out of favor. Universities were replacing their departments of microbiology into departments of
molecular biology and immunology. Similarly, grant study sections were shifting focus from microbiology to molecular and cellular biology. It appeared that the glory days of microbiology were fading, and yet, we persisted. Microbiologists already realized, as early as 1977, how diverse Archaea and Bacteria were from one another. But 20 years later, eukaryotic biologists were stunned when the genome of archaeon Methanococcus (now known as Methanocaldococcus) jannaschii was published. At least one third of its genes and proteins resembled nothing in the databases for either Bacteria or Eukarya. Another decade would pass before most general biology textbooks placed the three domains and the tree of life – as we know it – into their pages. Suddenly, departments of microbiology reappeared, in medical schools, as well as schools of agriculture. Microbiologists were being hired into departments in the physical sciences: physics, chemistry, engineering, environmental sciences, geology and astronomy. Jeff Gordon and his colleagues initiated studies that led to the study of “beneficial bacteria’. As if that were not enough to put microbiology back into the headlines, the context of worldwide travel and emerging infectious agents like Ebola and coronaviruses have reinvigorated awareness about viruses and their evolution. We will look back on the past three decades, through the lens of an educator of undergraduate students, on the reemergence of microbiology into a new golden age.

Annual Student Organized Meeting

Keynote Speaker: 5:15 – 6:15 pm

Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia

“Small regulatory RNAs: big players in the virulence of enteropathogenic E. coli”

Dr. Bhatt studies the bacterial pathogen enteropathogenic Escherichia coli (EPEC). EPEC is a major public health concern in developing countries, where it causes significant morbidity and mortality in infants. The genetic basis for the virulence of EPEC is the locus of enterocyte effacement (LEE). Whereas transcriptional control of the LEE has been well-characterized, post-transcriptional regulation of the LEE has been understudied. So, Dr. Bhatt has focused his career on uncovering how trans-encoded small regulatory RNAs (sRNAs) modulate the expression of the LEE and, thereby, control the virulence of EPEC. He uses a highly interdisciplinary approach by incorporating tools from bioinformatics, genetics, and biochemistry to interrogate and characterize these sRNAs. In addition to bacterial pathogenesis research, Dr. Bhatt is a passionate mentor and teacher. As a professor at Saint Joseph’s University, he teaches students both inside the lab and the classroom.


Student Talks (4:00pm to 5:00pm)

4:00-4:15pm: “Microbial cooperation enhances Clostridioides difficile pathogenesis

Alexander Smith, PhD Candidate in the Zackular lab, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

4:15-4:30pm: “Defining the bacterial and host factors responsible for caspase-1-11-independent cell death during infection by Salmonella enteritidis”

Beatrice Herrmann, PhD Candidate in the Brodsky lab, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

4:30-4:45pm: “Age-associated defects in the adaptive immune response to Clostridium difficile infection impair the development of a protective immune response in the elderly

Matthew Bell, PhD Candidate in the Kutzler lab, Drexel University College of Medicine

4:45-5:00pm: “Microbial-based mechanisms of accelerated wound healing”

Ellen White, PhD Candidate in the Grice lab, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Student Speakers

Keynote Speaker: 5:15 – 6:15 pm. Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D.

Kyle G. Rodino, Ph.D., D(ABMM)
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Assistant Director, Clinical Microbiology
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Next-Generation Sequencing in Clinical Microbiology: Current Applications and What’s Next

Advanced molecular diagnostics, including next-generation sequencing (NGS)-based technologies, are increasingly integrating into the clinical microbiology laboratory. These new technologies have the ability to provide information not previously attainable, with current applications including organism identification, outbreak investigation and mutation surveillance, and detection of resistance determinants. Of particular interest to the diagnosis of infectious diseases is the use of metagenomic NGS (mNGS), targeted or unbiased, for pathogen detection direct from patient specimens. Case reports have shown the undeniable power of mNGS to provide diagnostic evidence where other methods have failed. However, a number of hurdles to routine use remain, including technical performance characteristics and clinical utility. Addressing these issues will be important to broad adoption of mNGS methods for infectious disease testing in the clinical microbiology laboratory, particularly as we look toward future applications, including rapid sequencing assays, antimicrobial susceptibility modeling, and disease-predictive host biomarkers.

Fabio Bagnoli, Ph.D.
Project Leader
GSK Vaccines

“Staphylococcus aureus – the immune evader”

Virtual Meeting
5 – 6pm

Zoom meeting details to be emailed to branch members. Non-branch members can watch the live stream on our YouTube Video Channel

upcoming Branch events
May 24 – Student chapter sponsored event, keynote speaker Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D., St. Joseph’s University
June 14 – Norman Willett Memorial Lecture, keynote speaker Amy Vollmer, Swarthmore College