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Welcoming microbiologists from across Canada

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Last week, the University of Waterloo hosted the 67th annual Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) conference.

Organized by a committee co-chaired by Professor Josh Neufeld and Canada Research Chair Laura Hug from the Department of Biology, the CSM 2017 conference brought together 450 participants for a four-day gathering aimed at promoting new ideas and advances in microbiology.

CSM Conference coffee hour in the Science Teaching Complex.Microbiology continues to evolve by leaps and bounds with new technologies leading to amazing discoveries. This year’s conference featured some of the latest findings by leading Canadian researchers in applied and environmental microbiology, infection and immunity, and molecular genetics and cellular microbiology.

“We were overwhelmed by the full-capacity turnout this year and so many outstanding presentations representing the best of microbiology from Canada and abroad,” says Neufeld.

The poster session at the 2017 Canadian Society of Microbiologists conferenceWaterloo researchers from the Faculties of Science and Engineering presented talks and posters covering areas such as microbial diversity in many different environments, microbial processes and products, virulence and pathogenicity, antibiotic resistance, microbial evolution as well as advances in techniques such as mathematical modeling, bioinformatics, genome sequencing, metagenomics, and proteomics.

“This was an ideal opportunity to unite microbiology researchers from across campus. CSM 2017 was well timed with the recent establishment of the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research, or WCMR, which will provide support for these researchers to conduct cutting-edge collaborative research on campus,” says Trevor Charles, a professor in Biology and member of the local organizing committee.

Highlights included keynote addresses by Ed Yong, an award-winning scientific writer for the Atlantic and Prof. Barbara Sherwood Lollar, an internationally recognized Earth scientist at the University of Toronto who studies life in deep geologically active environments.

“We chose Yong and Sherwood Lollar as keynote speakers to underline the interdisciplinarity and universality of microbiology,” says Hug. “Highlighting such disparate areas of research, all under the umbrella of microbiology, helps to unite research that would normally not be seen as complementary.”

This year’s workshops included the CSM Forum on Microbiology Education: Rethinking 21st Century Education, headlined by Karen Smith of the University of British Columbia. The CSM Education and Careers committee also offered a Professional Development workshop with tips for creating graphical presentations by University of Manitoba Prof. Christine Bay, plus a presentation and panel discussion on career development for microbiology graduates. Christine Kampen, Career Advisor from the Waterloo Centre for Career Action, spoke and participated on the diverse four-person panel.

A 10-foot bacteria virus made of balloons.Besides the full academic program and workshops, organizers found ways to celebrate the fun aspect of microbiology, such as balloon art at the opening reception featuring microbe balloon “animals” and a 10-foot tall supersized bacterial virus. And for the third year in a row, the exhibitors’ booths included an “Artists’ Alley” selling microbiology-themed jewelry by Peggy Muddles (The Vexed Muddler) and hand-made prints by Ele Willoughby (minouette), both scientists based in Toronto.

A traditional Oktoberfest keg tapping closed the conference.Organizers ended the conference on a cultural high note with a traditional Oktoberfest keg tapping by none other than Laura Hug in a dirndl and Josh Neufeld in lederhosen!

The conference organizers would like to thank countless volunteers, including volunteer coordinators Ashley Ross, Briallen Lobb, and Mark Lubberts, who are all graduate students in the Department of Biology.

The University of Waterloo, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering, Office of Research, The Water Institute, Wilfrid Laurier University, CIHR, Canadian Science Publishing, Wiley, the American Society of Microbiology, the Canadian College of Microbiologists, Fisher Scientific, GE and other industry sponsors supported the event.

The Canadian Society of Microbiologists looks forward to next year’s meeting at the University of Manitoba.

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