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Microbial diversity course designated as a 'Milestones in Microbiology' site

Washington, DC The Microbial Diversity Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole, Massachusetts, has been named a Milestones in Microbiology site by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The ASM Milestones in Microbiology program recognizes institutions and the scientists who worked there that have made significant contributions toward advancing the science of microbiology. A ceremony unveiling the plaque that will mark the site is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, 2013, at 4:30 pm in the MBL Club during the Microbial Diversity Course. Jeffery Miller, President of the ASM, will present the plaque on behalf of the Society.

The Course is an intensive six-and-a-half-week research and training experience for graduate and postdoctoral students, as well as established investigators, who want to become competent in microbiological techniques for working with a broad range of microbes, and in approaches for recognizing the metabolic, phylogenetic, and genomic diversity of cultivated and as yet uncultivated bacteria. Admission is limited to 20 students.

"Since its creation in 1971 by Holger Jannasch, the MBL Microbial Diversity Course has trained many outstanding microbiologists from around the world, providing scientific tools that they have used to make many important discoveries," said Stanley Maloy, a past-President of ASM. "MBL has been a major place where scientists have gathered (mostly over the summer) to discuss and do research on marine biology, ecology, and development and microbiology has influenced and been influenced by each of these areas. MBL, including the Microbial Diversity Course, has had an important impact on our understanding of the critical role that microbes play in the environment, from the characterization of microbes that use unusual sources of nutrients to the discovery of microbes that live in unique ecosystems in the depths of the ocean. For example, work by Jannasch led to the discovery of bacteria that live adjacent to deep-sea hydrothermal vents and use sulfur as an energy source. Research on microbial ecology and physiology has led to many practical applications, from novel enzymes in laundry detergents to enzymes used for genetic engineering, from bioremediation to energy production, from novel antibiotics to phage therapy, and from environmental health to animal and human health."

One feature of the MBL summer courses, including Microbial Diversity, is that every four or five years, a new set of directors brings a fresh approach and a new set of tools to the course. "Each year, the Course has a different 'menu,' because during the winter months, directors become 'chefs', developing elaborate plans for each microbial 'feast of the week', deciding which areas to feature and whom to invite for the 20 or more guest lectures," writes Ralph S. Wolfe in a brief history of the course.

Many leading microbiologists have served as directors of the Microbial Diversity Course over the years, including course founder Holger Jannasch, Harlyn Halvorson, Ralph Wolfe, E. Peter Greenberg, Martin Dworkin, John Breznak, Edward Leadbetter, Abigail Salyers, Caroline Harwood, Alfred Spormann, William Metcalf, Thomas Schmidt, and current co-directors Daniel Buckley and Stephen Zinder.

The Microbial Diversity Course has shaped the careers of generations of outstanding microbiologists, and continues to be a premier site for advanced training at the leading edge of microbiological investigation.

In recognition of these contributions, the American Society for Microbiology is pleased to designate the Marine Biological Laboratory Microbial Diversity Course as a Milestones in Microbiology site. By placing plaques at Milestones sites, ASM hopes to increase professional and public recognition and appreciation of the significance of the science of microbiology.


Contact: Garth Hogan
American Society for Microbiology

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