MSE virtual symposium July 2022

The Microbes and Social Equity working group, and The University of Maine Institute of Medicine present a virtual symposium on:

“Developing transformative research skills”

July 18 – 22, 2022. Registration is free, and required for each session individually.

Format: virtual meeting, Zoom platform.

Summary

To understand a microbiome, you must learn about the bustling community of microorganisms and the complex ecosystems they live in, because one cannot exist without the other. So, too, does microbiome research rely on understanding the lives and ecology of humans, because there is no aspect of human life which does not involve microbes in some way. To become better microbiome researchers, we must understand social and environmental contexts which affect humans and, in many cases, prevent them from making choices which result in beneficial microbial exposures.

This symposium will focus on developing research skills to create transformative research, including context-aware experimental designs, engaging community stakeholders as research partners, writing transdisciplinary papers, translating research into policy, and creating curriculum which melds microbes and social equity.  

Meeting dynamics

This meeting will present some plenary-style talks by experts in the field, including biological scientists, social scientists, practitioners or policy makers, as well as facilitate discussion among participants. Each thematic section will feature 90 minutes of talks, which will be recorded and made publicly available after the live session.  After each plenary session, there will be 90 minutes of discussion in groups led by speakers and MSE group members, and assisted by notetakers, with ~10 participants per breakout room. Participants will be encouraged to collaborative develop skills for creating experimental design, interdisciplinary research or policy writing, creating community-based research, and pedagogy or lesson plans.  The goal is to create draft documents that are meaningful for group participants, which can lead to additional outputs or action.

If you would like to prepare for these conversations ahead of time, links to previous talks can be found in each section below, or you can read the latest articles from MSE members in the mSystems Special Series: Social Equity and Disparities in Microbial Exposure.

Program

Session 1: “Context-aware experimental designs”

Monday, July 18th, 12:30 ~ 16:00 EST. Register for this session.

Session leaders:

Dr. Ariangela Kozik, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Michigan, and the Co-founder and Vice President of the Black Microbiologists Association

Sue Ishaq

Dr. Sue Ishaq, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at University of Maine and Founder of the Microbes and Social Equity working group.

Scope: Microbiome research often uses broad categorical factors as proxy factors for complex social or environmental contexts, but these can ignore or obscure underlying trends. This session will unpack proxy terms like race, Western diet, dysbiosis, rural/urban, and more, to differentiate what variables we actually want to measure and how to accomplish this in data collection and analysis. This session will also discuss how to communicate microbiome results in relation to broader contexts of lived experiences, rather than attributing results to broad proxy categories.

Learning Objectives of Session: Attendees will learn 1) the process of identifying more precise and appropriate measurement variables when engaging in human-adjacent microbiome research, instead of using proxy factors, 2) how to include more resolution to factorial data during collection, and 3) examples of how to process complex social data during microbiome data analysis.

Format of talks: Three 30-min lecture-style talks will disambiguate proxy categorizations into more precise variables that consider social contexts, approach to course, lessons learned/challenges.

Format of breakout rooms: Each room creates a concept map which disambiguates a proxy category into specific variables, and/or discusses how to frame survey questions or leverage existing data to obtain this information. Each room has a designated topic area (e.g. environmental restoration) to help audience members group by discipline or type of information they are looking for.

Session Speakers:

Dr. Elizabeth Roberts

Dr. Elizabeth F.S. Roberts, PhD., Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan

Making better numbers through bioethnography

Dr. Kelly Jones

Dr. Katherine Maki, PhD., Assistant Clinical Investigator, Translational Biobehavioral and Health Disparities Branch, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center

Dr. Kelly K. Jones, Ph.D., RN, Research Fellow, Neighborhoods and Health Lab, Division of Intramural Research, National Institutes of Health

Dr. Nicole M. Farmer, M.D., Principal Investigator, Translational Biobehavioral and Health Disparities Branch, NIH Clinical Center

“Proposal of Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status Based Analysis of Human Microbiome Project”

Dr. Osama Tanous

Dr. Osama Tanous, M.D., Palestinian pediatrician based in Haifa and a board member of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel; Visiting Scientist, FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University; Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow of Public Health and Health Policies, Emory University. His recent publication can be found here.

“From bedside to the journal – understanding bacteria in a settler colonial setting”

12:30 – 14:15 Introduction and Speakers

14:15 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 16:00 Breakout room discussions based on skills development, in smaller groups

  1. Deconstructing race as a biological variable
  2. Common pitfalls/challenges to experimental design 
  3. Matching clinical work to social contexts.
  4. Bioethnography to generate hypotheses
  5. Planning for variables in microbiome and social research
  6. Combining microbiome and social data analysis
  7. TBD

Prior to this session, you may want to watch these recorded talks:


Session 2: “Blending biological, social, and humanities writing”

Tuesday, July 19th, 12:30 ~ 16:00 EST. Register for this session.

Session leaders:

Ashley Toney, PhD

Ashley M. Toney, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UTHealth School of Public Health, El Paso. Translational/Clinical Nutrition Researcher focused on Latine Health Disparities.

Dr. Kieran O'Doherty.

Kieran C. O’Doherty, PhD., Professor of Psychology, University of Guelph, and Director of the Discourse, Science, Publics research Group

Emily Wissel, Ph.D. candidate, Emory University. MSE Director of Resource Dissemination

Scope: Interdisciplinary experimental designs have been called for in research, but finding a publication venue can be tricky when manuscripts or presentations are deemed not discipline-specific, or are labeled opinion instead of research. This session will explore common gatekeeping problems of interdisciplinary research, cross-disciplinary writing categorization discussions (i.e. theoretical framing, etc.), and writing strategies and publication venues to make the most of your work.

Learning Objectives of Session: Attendees will become familiar with different expectations within research design/publishing across fields, and learn about tangible suggestions from research publishers. Audience members should walk away with more confidence in interdisciplinary publishing.

Format of talks: This will feature a 30-min plenary topic to introduce the concept that theory in psychology/philosophy is regarded as opinion in the natural sciences, followed by 1 hour of a panel of research journal editors to discuss flexible publication guidelines.

Format of breakout rooms: Each room creates a document, and each room has a designated topic area (e.g. environmental restoration) to help audience members group by discipline

Session Speaker:

Dr. Mark Risjord, PhD. Professor of Philosophy, Emory University

“Crossing boundaries, building bridges: some reflections on interdisciplinary writing.”

After the opening talk, the Speaker will be joined by additional Panelists to discuss interdisciplinary research, challenges, and opportunities.

Dr. Susan L. Prescott, MD, PhD, FRACP. President, inVIVO Planetary Health @ the Nova Institute for Health, Baltimore, USA; Director, ORIGINS PROJECT Telethon Kids Institute; Professor of Paediatrics, UWA Medical School; Paediatric Immunologist, Perth Children’s Hospital; Editor in ChiefChallenges journal.

Dr. James Stegen

Dr. James Stegen, PhD., Physical & Computational Sciences Directorate, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Michela Gambino, professional headshot

Dr. Michela Gambino, PhD. Assistant Professor at the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen; mSystems editor

12:30 – 14:15 Introduction, Speaker, and Panel discussion

14:15 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 16:00 Breakout room discussions based on skills development, in smaller groups

  • Pitching your paper to the right journal 
  • Finding and directing reviewers
  • “Ask a philosopher!”

Prior to this session, you may want to watch these recorded talks:


Session 3: “Transforming your research for policy engagement”

Wednesday, July 20th, 12:30 ~ 16:00 EST. Register for this session.

Section leaders:

Mallory Choudoir, Ph.D. Soil microbial ecologist. Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist at North Carolina State University September 2022. 

Mustafa Saifuddin, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, Sustainable Food and Farming Program at Earthjustice

Mustafa Saifuddin, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, Sustainable Food and Farming Program at Earthjustice

Amali Stephens, PhD Student, Interdepartmental Microbiology, Iowa State University

Scope: Microbiomes drive processes in all environments and are intimately intertwined with all aspects of our lives. Despite the central role of microbes in shaping systems, microbial researchers are often detached from shaping policies related to conservation, public health, land use, environmental justice, climate and other areas of intersection. Policy engagement is not typically included in the academic training of microbiome researchers, and there is a need for greater coordination between policy needs and microbial research. This session will explore integrated, collaborative approaches to research and policy making.

Learning Objectives of Session: Attendees will discuss 1) how to develop research in collaboration with policy needs, 2) policy levels and types (government, private), 3) how to identify stakeholders, and 4) how to communicate your research to policymakers.

Format of talks:  Three 30-min lecture-style talks will describe interdisciplinary research outcomes which transcend typical academic endpoints and engage in shaping policy.

Format of breakout rooms: Each room will create a policy brief outline or ideas list around a particular topic area (e.g. environmental restoration) to help audience members group by discipline.

Session Speakers: In development, details provided soon!

Dr. Caitlyn Hall

Dr. Caitlyn Hall, PhD., Assistant Professor of Practice, University of Arizona

“The Elephant in the Lab: How can scientists engage in policy and advocacy?”

Dr. Kathleen Treseder

Dr. Kathleen Treseder, PhD., Howard A. Schneiderman Endowed Chair and Professor of Biology at the University of California Irvine; Climate Activist; Irvine City Council Candidate

“My experience advocating for environmental policy with local policy makers: What worked, what didn’t.”

Dr. Sonja Birthisel

Dr. Sonja Birthisel, Ph.D., Director, The Wilson Center at the University of Maine; Councilor, Orono Maine Town Council; Faculty Associate, University of Maine School of Forest Resources

“Public Policy Engagement & Personal Sustainability: What’s Your “Sparkle Zone”?”

12:30 – 14:15 Introduction and Speakers

14:15 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 16:00 Breakout room discussions based on skills development, in smaller groups

  • How to talk to your politicians about science
  • How scientists get involved with policy
  • Curriculum for science policy
  • Environmental microbial policy issues
  • Microbial conservation
  • Soil carbon & climate justice issues
  • Agricultural antibiotic use
  • Microbial exposures (residential, worker exposure)

Prior to this session, you may want to watch these recorded talks:


Session 4: “Community engagement and collaboration”

Thursday, July 21st, 12:30 ~ 16:00 EST. Register for this session.

Session leaders:

Portrait of Mustafa Saifuddin, Ph.D.,

Mustafa Saifuddin, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, Sustainable Food and Farming Program at Earthjustice

Ashley M. Toney, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UTHealth School of Public Health, El Paso. Translational/Clinical Nutrition Researcher focused on Latine Health Disparities.

Scope: Due to the interconnectedness of microbial processes and social justice, many types of microbial research could benefit from closer collaborations with communities impacted directly by the public health, environmental and climate justice implications of microbiomes. Some styles of microbiome research would yield more positive outcomes if the collaboration was built around mutual long-term goals, instead of specific projects, and if it was initiated during project conceptualization instead of after the project has been designed. This session will explore different styles of interdisciplinary collaborations centered on community needs, such as community advisory boards, community partnerships, community-led research design, and how to implement this into microbiome research.

Learning Objective of Session: Attendees will learn 1) approaches to community-centered collaborations, 2) how to leverage community professionals (e.g. health workers) in a ‘train the trainer model’, 3) how to start ethical conversations around environmental samples & broader experimental design, and 4) how to emphasize collaborations – including public health, government, policy makers, etc. as a collaborator and how to ask for their help/mindful collaborations.

Format of talks: Three 30-min lecture-style talks from researchers who have successfully built research collaborations with communities.

Format of breakout rooms: Each room creates a plan for engagement, and each room has a designated topic area (e.g. environmental restoration) to help audience members group by research discipline.

Session Speakers: In development, details provided soon!

Dr. Pajau (PJ) Vangay, PhD. Science Community Manager, National Microbiome Data Collaborative, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“Advancing microbiome science, in partnership with communities”

Dr. Arbor Quist, PhD., Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Justice & Community-Driven Epidemiology at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Rosie Alegado, PhD., Associate Professor of Oceanography & Sea Grant College Program at  University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

12:30 – 14:15 Introduction and Speakers

14:15 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 16:00 Breakout room discussions based on skills development, in smaller groups

  • Topics in development

Prior to this session, you may want to watch these recorded talks:


Session 5: “MSE Education Practices and Curriculum Design”

Friday, July 22nd, 12:30 ~ 16:00 EST. Register for this session.

Session leaders:

Erin Eggleston, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biology, Middlebury College.

Monica Trujillo

Monica Trujillo, Ph.D., Associate Professor, of Biology Queensborough Community College, The City University of New York

Carla Bonilla, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of San Diego

Scope: Curriculum which blends disciplines is highly engaging, and can be used to teach complex concepts, and can help students combine their existing cultural and social identities with their growing researcher identity. However, creating an interdisciplinary curriculum can be challenging. This session frames educational conversations in MSE, and gives perspectives on creating courses that blend microbiome and social sciences for different levels of education.

Learning Objectives of Session: Attendees will 1) identify successes and barriers to entry for MSE curriculum at different education levels (K-12, UG, grad, general public), 2) Share ways in which we incorporate MSE in our curricula (i.e. assignments, class period, multi-day module, full course, etc.); 3) develop ideas for further curriculum design for their own courses.

Format of talks: Three 30-min lecture-style talks from education practitioners who have successfully built courses around MSE topics, including an outline of learning goals, approach to course, lessons learned/challenges, and more.

Format of breakout rooms: Each room creates a lesson plan outline, and each room has a designated topic area (e.g. human microbiome equity) to help audience members group by teaching discipline.

Session Speakers

Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller, M.S., Executive Director of Tiny Earth at University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Tiny Earth: Leveraging an instructor community to create antiracist curriculum in a research course”

Dr. Melissa Zwick

Dr. Ally Hunter, PhD., Lecturer, iCONS Program & Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Youth Engagement, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Part of NSF Project RAISE (Reclaiming Access to Inquiry Science Education for Incarcerated Learners), and NSF Project INSITE (INtegrating STEM Into Transition Education for Incarcerated Youth).

Dr. Melissa Zwick, PhD., Associate Professor of Biology, Stockton University

“Science through storytelling:  Using case study pedagogy as inclusive practice in undergraduate microbiology.” 

Dr. Davida Smyth

Dr. Davida Smyth, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology at Texas A&M University in San Antonio

“Using wicked problems to CURE your teaching”

12:30 – 14:15 Introduction and Speakers

14:15 – 14:30 Break

14:30 – 16:00 Breakout room discussions based on skills development, in smaller groups

  • Undergraduate microbiology courses resources/MSE integration
  • Pedagogy as scholarship/publishing mechanisms/resources
  • Assessing case study style teaching

Prior to this session, you may want to watch these recorded talks:


Planning committee:

  • Sue Ishaq (Lead Organizer), Kieran O’Doherty, Mallory Choudoir, Emily Wissel, Erin Eggleston, Katherine Maki, Mustafa Saifuddin, Ashley Toney, Patrick Horve, Amali Stephens, Monica Trujillo
  • Organizing administrative support: Cecile Ferguson, UMaine Institute of Medicine 

The Microbes and Social Equity Working Group is grateful to the University of Maine and the UMaine Institute of Medicine for providing financial and material support for this virtual meeting.