Application open for the Microbial Friends & Foes Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Summer Program at Cornell.

Poster describing The Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease (CIHMID) program for Microbial Friends and Foes Summer Program.

“The Cornell Institute of Host-Microbe Interactions and Disease (CIHMID) is accepting applications for the NSF-funded Microbial Friends & Foes Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Summer Program (bit.ly/REU-CIHMID).  Applications are due February 1, 2020.

The Microbial Friends & Foes Program will take place from June 8 to August 14, 2020.  The program will provide training in the concepts and experimental approaches central to understanding microbial interactions with eukaryotic hosts.  Students will learn about broad diversity of microbe-eukaryote interactions through conducting independent research projects, participation in weekly research group meetings, seminars presented by CIHMID faculty, Microbial Friends & Foes Synthesis Panels, CIHMID Summer Symposium, and Microbial Friends & Foes Poster Session. Emphasis will be placed on appreciation of the scientific method and developing effective strategies for conducting research as well as on the synthesis of concepts important to interspecific interactions across diverse systems.  In addition, workshops in electronic database literacy, science citation software, research ethics, science communication, and planning for graduate study will be offered to the Microbial Friends & Foes program participants. Students will receive a stipend of $6000, travel subsidy, meal allowance and on-campus housing.  Applicants will be asked to identify 3 laboratories of interest, and will be selected in a two-step review process by the program organizers and potential mentors. A flyer describing the program is attached and more information can be found at bit.ly/REU-CIHMID.

WHO SHOULD APPLY

*All undergraduate students interested in understanding microbial interactions with eukaryotic hosts.

*Members of minorities underrepresented in science, undergraduates from small colleges, and first-generation college students.

*Applicants must be United Stated citizens or permanent residents and at least 18 years old.”

Ciencia y aventura en mexico

For the past four days, I have been in Monterrey, Mexico, where I have been fostering international scientific relations in meetings and in the mountains.  It was my very first trip to Mexico, and it was an amazing experience.

After arriving in Monterrey, I was greeted by a research friend of mine, Dr. Jose Garcia-Mazcorro.  We met a few years ago when Jose emailed me to ask questions about a recently published paper on Saccharomyces probiotic treatment in cattle, and our conversations on the ecological theory behind probiotics led to a review paper on the subject, led by Jose and I. It wasn’t until last August when Jose and I actually met in person, at the ISME conference in Leipzig, Germany.

At dinner, I had the opportunity to meet Jose’s wife, Alecia, who is also a researcher, and their son, and discuss everything from aflatoxin to Stephen King’s “It” (we discovered that their son and I were both reading It when I discussed living in Maine, not far from Derry).

The next day, I woke up at 3:45 am to travel to the mountains for an incredible experience: a small-group tour in Matacanes canyon led by Daniel, a mountaineer with 20 years of experience and owner of Todo Avetura. He and Omar, another guide, led us for 12 hours and taught us about Matacanes canyon while we trekked 13 kilometers (8.7 miles) down waterfalls, through caves, over boulders, and over cliffs. Even the drive into and out of the canyon was an adventure; the steep road into the mountains fords rivers and winds along cliff faces.  In the canyon, I got to do many things for the first time, including rappel down the side of two waterfalls; 27 m (88.6 ft) and 15 m (49.2 ft) into a cave, swim through the absolute dark of a river cave system, and jump off of several cliffs into the water below, including a 9.5 meter (31 ft) jump!  It was supposed to be 10 meters, but that looked just a little too terrifying to try so I chose a spot that looked friendlier.  Turns out that jumping 9.5 meters is a lot like getting up to present in front of a large audience, you just have to get up there and do it before you have time to think about and psych yourself out.

The guides were really passionate about the mountains, and they were particular about safety and not rushing or pushing us to the point where we would get hurt.  If you have the chance, and the cohones, to go to Matacanes, I highly recommend Todo Aventura.

On Monday, sore but no worse for wear, I gingerly toured some of the facilities where Jose is currently working, MNA, an animal nutrition company.  I met with company president and nutritionist Dr. Jorge Kawas, and Jose, Jorge, and I discussed the role of microbes in animal nutrition and health. 

Dr. Jose Garcia-Mazcorro and I at MNA in Monterrey.

Monday night, I got to chat one-on-one with Professor T.J. Nagaraja, an author on the Saccharomyces review and a prominent researcher in rumen acidosis, cattle health, and infectious disease. 

The main reason for my trip to Monterrey was to attend and speak at the XXII UANL-Engorda de Bovinos en Corral Symposium.  I presented the opening seminar titled “Raising feedlot cattle with good microbes in mind” (“Cria y engorda de ganado con buenos microbios en mente”).  The video can be found here, and slides with presentation notes here:

Organized by MNA and UANL, the university in Monterrey, the symposium brings together researchers, producers, animal industry professionals, and students to discuss animal health in feedlot cattle.  I was honored to give the opening talk, which will be available online soon, and pleased to hear that the audience did in fact like microbes more than before my seminar!  Usually when I start talking about the gut microbiome people have the urge to run off and wash their hands…

Unfortunately, I had to jump back on a plane shortly after my talk, as I am heading to give a different presentation at the Wildlife Society meeting in Reno, Nevada tomorrow! But, I have plenty of memories and new project ideas to remember my trip by, and hopefully I will come back to Monterrey soon!

Upcoming interview on Jefferson Exchange!

I’ll be speaking with the Jefferson Exchange crew on their live radio show about my work on microbiology in the built environment! I’ll be on March 11th, at about 8:30 am PST.

If you are local to the west coast, you can find a station to tune into. Otherwise, you can stream the segment live on jeffexchange.org.

Have a question? Call into the show at 800-838-3760 or email JX@jeffnet.org. Jefferson Exchange is also on Facebook and Twitter @JeffExchange.

OMSI After Dark presentation set

Following my OMSI Science Pub presentation in February, I was invited to present at the OMSI After Dark event: “It’s Alive (Mind and Body)!” on April 25th!

I’ll be presenting a shorter, 20 minute version on the Microbiome of the Digestive Tract!

500WS Eugene Science Salon: “Gut Stuff: the battle of nature versus nurture in the microbiome.”

The inaugural Science Salon of the 500 Women Scientists Eugene Pod is underway!  If you’d like to follow along with the presentation on your device, you can find the pdf formats below:

Sue Ishaq’s talk:

“Geographical Differences in the Moose Microbiome”Ishaq Eugene SciSalon 20180311

A few close-ups:

Yeoman_etal_2018_calves_digesta_all

Yeoman_etal_2018_calves_digesta_epithelia_all

Hannah Tavalire’s talk:

“Genetics and Environment Influence Human Microbiome Composition”; Tavalire_MB_talk_final_03112018

Acknowledgements to our wonderful support network

500 Women Scientists Eugene would like to thank the organizations that helped make this event possible.  First and foremost, First National Taphouse in Eugene, who shared their wonderful space with us and where we will be putting on future Salons, and donated a keg to the event!  We are also extremely grateful to several organizations which contributed raffle items for us to raise additional funds, including Broadway MetroSizzle Pie, and the Eugene Science Center.  Our beautiful logo was crafted by Cassie Cook,  our amazing event posters were designed by Serena Lim, and photographer Danielle Cosme took some incredible event photos. Fertilab generously lent us a sound system, the Biology and the Built Environment Center donated the bacterial culture supplies, and both Theresa Cheng and Jessica Flannery provided materials and support for the interactive portion of the event.  And of course, we want to acknowledge the national leadership of 500 Women Scientists, who brought us together, gave us a voice, and who suggested these Science Salons as a way to help CienciaPR, a organization which similarly supports science education and infrastructure.

I’d also like to acknowledge the powerhouse team of women who came together to organize this event, and who turned my silly event title into a reality: Karen Yook, Theresa Cheng, Leslie Dietz, and Hannah Tavalire.  500 Women Scientists was formed in the spirit of cooperation and support, and this team truly took that to heart.  I can’t wait to organize the next one with you ladies, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one…

“Gut Stuff: the battle of nature versus nurture in the microbiome”.

The 500 Women Scientists Eugene, Oregon Pod is inviting you to join our Science Salons for Puerto Rico Campaign. For the last year, our amazing women scientists have put their communication skills to use within our community. Now, we’re channeling that energy into a concerted campaign to raise money to support our amazing partners at CienciaPR as they work to transform science education in Puerto Rico and around the world.

The Eugene Pod’s evening of science will center around the gut microbiome:

“Gut Stuff: the battle of nature versus nurture in the microbiome”

March 11, 2018, 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm

First National Taphouse – Eugene

51 W Broadway, Eugene, Oregon 97401

  • Hands on activity: culture your own bacteria, 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
  • Presentations from Sue Ishaq, Ph.D. and Hannah Tavalier, Ph.D. on their microbiome work, 5 – 6 pm
  • Open Q&A: Ask a scientist, 6 – 6:30 pm
  • Raffle for prizes.  Tickets are eligible for raffle entry, and additional raffle entries may be purchased at the door.

Tickets may be purchased online or at the door, $5 suggested donation.  All proceeds go to CienciaPR.

Advance tickets may be purchased online here!

 


Throughout history, salons have acted as gathering places for conversation “either to please or to educate” (Latin: aut delectare aut prodesse). From the salons of the Enlightenment to the 1940s salons of Gertrude Stein, women have played a central role in guiding and driving the discussion.

500 Women Scientists has borrowed from the spirit of the salon to bring discussions about science to the communities we serve. We invite you to listen to speakers sharing 10 to 20 minute talks about their work, geared toward a public audience, followed by ample time for questions and discussion. The purpose of the salon is two-fold, creating an opportunity for the community to learn about our membership’s amazing research while giving our members a platform to hone their public speaking skills. And by charging admission — through a donation — the Salon will raise money for CienciaPR to transform science education in Puerto Rico. Ciencia PR is a global community of scientists, students, educators and allies who believe that science can empower individuals with the knowledge, capacity, and agency to improve their lives and society.

As a women-led nonprofit, CienciaPR taps into its rich and diverse community to democratize science and transform science education and career training in Puerto Rico. We’ve partnered with CienciaPR because our missions to democratize science and foster agency among underrepresented communities are well-aligned. While CienciaPR focuses on Puerto Rico and its diaspora, their strategy can serve as a model to other communities that are underrepresented in or disengaged from science. We are thrilled to support their ongoing efforts and learn from their organization’s successes in building capacity and fostering community.

Immediately after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, CienciaPR worked with the Department of Education to create disaster-related and project-based science lesson plans that could allow displaced students to continue learning. Early in 2018, CienciaPR will launch a pilot project to train educators to implement four science lessons in natural disaster and environment related topics: renewable energy, environmental sustainability, clean and potable water, and terrestrial ecosystems. Later in the year, they will bring together scientists and educators to co-create project-based science lessons that foster creativity, entrepreneurship, and critical thinking skills. These new lessons will serve as a platform for students to work together to address the challenges they see in their communities. This pilot project kicks off the implementation of CienciaPR’s new 10-year strategic plan of transforming science education in Puerto Rico, by engaging its community of scientists, educators, and students to bring discovery, experimentation, and problem-solving to the classroom in ways that are culturally and socially relevant to Puerto Rican children.

You can donate to CienciaPR at any time outside of the Science Salons campaign. You can also read more about CienciaPR’s strategic vision in their latest op-ed for Scientific American, “Rebuilding Science Education in Puerto Rico.”

 

BioBE Design Champs

Two weeks ago I participated in a BioBE Design Champs webinar on Daylight and Microbes.  Find out more here.

What is academic Outreach/Extension?

Service can be a vaguely defined expectation in academia, but it’s an expectation to give back to our community; this can be accomplished in different ways and is valued differently by institutions and departments.  Outreach is an easily neglected part of science, because so often it is considered non-essential to your research.  It can be difficult to measure the effectiveness or direct benefit of outreach as a deliverable, and when you are trying to hoard merit badges to make tenure and your time is dominated by other responsibilities, you often need to prioritize research, teaching, advising, or grant writing over extension and service activities.  Nevertheless, public outreach is a vital part to fulfilling our roles as researchers.  Academic work is supported by public funding in one way or another, and much of our research is determined by the needs of stakeholders, who in this sense are anyone who has a direct interest in the problem you are trying to solve.

Depending on your research field, you may work very closely with stakeholders (especially with applied research), or not at all (with theoretical or basic research).  If you are anywhere in agriculture, having a relationship with your community is vital.  More importantly, working closely with the public can bring your results directly to the people out in the real world who will benefit from it.

A common way to fulfill your outreach requirement is to give public presentations.  These can be general presentations that educate on a broad subject, or can be specifically to present your work.  Many departments have extension specialists, who might do some research or teaching but whose primary function is to connect researchers at the institution with members of the public.  In addition to presentations, extension agents generate newsletters or other short publications which summarize one or more studies on a specific subject.  They are also a great resource for networking if you are looking for resources or collaborations, for example if you are specifically looking for farms in Montana that grow wheat organically and are infested with field bindweed.

For my new job, I’m shifting gears from agricultural extension to building science and health extension.  In fact, the ESBL and BioBE teams at the University of Oregon have recently created a Health + Energy Research Consortium to bring university researchers and industry professionals together to foster collaborations and better disseminate information.  The goals of the group at large are to improve building sustainability for energy and materials, building design to serve human use better, and building microbiology and its impact on human health. I have a few public presentations coming up on my work, including one on campus at UO on Halloween, and one in February for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry Science Pub series in February.  Be sure to check my events section in the side bar for details.

Even when outreach or extension is not specified in your job title, most academics have some level of engagement with the public.  Many use social media outlets to openly share their current work, what their day-to-day is like, and how often silly things go wrong in science.  Not only does this make us more approachable, but it’s humanizing.  As hard as scientists work to reach out to the public, we need you to reach back.  So go ahead, email us (please don’t call because the stereotype is true: we really do hate talking on the phone), tweet, post, ping, comment, and engage with us!!

 

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Expanding Your Horizons for Girls workshop, MSU 2017

Yesterday I participated in the Expanding Your Horizons for Girls workshop at Montana State University!  EYH brings almost 300 middle-school aged girls from all over Montana for a one-day conference in STEM fields.  Twenty-seven instructors, including myself and other female scientists and educators, ran workshops related to our current research.  My presentations were on “Unlocking the Hidden World of Soil Bacteria”, with the help of undergraduate Genna Shaia from the Menalled Lab.

I gave the girls a brief presentation on microbial ecology, and how bacteria and fungi can affect plants in agricultural soil.  We talked about beneficial versus pathogenic microorganisms, and how different farming strategies can influence soil microbiota.  This was followed by two hands-on activities that they were able to talk home with them.  First, the girls made culture plates from living or sterile soil that was growing wheat or peas to see what kind of microbes they could grow.  Then, they planted wheat seeds in either living or sterile soil so they could track which soil made the seeds germinate faster.

 

The girls were enthusiastic to learn, asked lots of insightful questions, and it was awesome being able to share microbiology with kids who hadn’t given it much thought before!  If you are a woman in STEM, and have the opportunity to participate in a workshop or mentor a young scientist,  it is not only rewarding but can make a huge impact on encouraging women into STEM.

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Slideshow photos: Genna Shaia, reproduced with student permission.