Introducing the new MSE Directors Team!

As the Microbes and Social Equity group (MSE) has grown and dramatically gained members (~120 members and many more subscribed to our newsletter) in 2021, it has become time to add leadership roles in charge of different aspects of running the group! The current list of Directors are self nominated MSE group members, who have generously volunteered their time in 2022 to support the initiatives and development of this international collaboration alongside Sue Ishaq.

The MSE group logo, microbes being weighed on the scale of justice!

MSE Director of Professional Development

Dr. Srinivasan Mahalingam, PhD, searching for post-doc position

This position will focus on finding existing professional development opportunities, as well as working with MSE members to develop new professional development opportunities which may be used for existing MSE members or the general scientific community.

Srinivasan is pictured from the shoulders up, wearing a light blue and red plaid button-up collared shirt, against a beige background.

Srinivasan Mahalingam: Srinivasan is a Ph.D. student in Animal Science at Bharathidasan University (India), working under the guidance of Professor Govindaraju Archunan. His PhD research focuses on the impact of cervicovaginal mucus microbiota (bacterial diversity, volatile fatty acids, and secretory proteins) on buffalo estrus. His is particularly interested in learning more about role of microbiota and their biomolecules (bacterial generated fatty acids and proteins/peptides) on the reproductive tract and intestine. He is currently seeking post-doctoral training to advance my professional research career. The opportunities and resources are immense. People in working societies are tremendously helpful and encouraging, and networking with other scientists has led to a wealth of opportunities. As he wishes to continue his contribution towards science and humanity, he feels MSE can provide ample opportunity to extend group members research professional in an adequate way.

MSE Director of Fundraising

Dr. Ashish Pathak, J.D., LL.M, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor/Research Scientist, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

This position will focus on finding funding for current and future MSE initiatives, such as events, travel to conferences, professional development, and salary compensation for MSE Director or assistant roles.

Ashish Pathak standing in front of calm ocean water on an overcast day, wearing a yellow collared polo shirt.

Ashish Pathak: Ashish’s academic background includes a BS in Biology followed by an MS and PhD in Environmental Sciences from FAMU, Tallahassee. Prior to graduate school at SOE, Ashish completed a law degree (akin to JD in the US) followed by an LLM degree (Master’s in Legal Law). During the MS program in law, he researched the nexus between impoverished communities and decline in human health due to complete lack of environmental equity and related environmental justice issues. Having held post-doctoral and now a research scientist position at FAMU’ SOE, he continues to conduct research at the intersection of sustainability sciences, the nexus between Food-Energy and Water, especially surrounding racial disparities and inequity with populations of color, and accomplish 14 out of the 17 sustainability development goals adopted by the United Nations in 2016

Social Media Management Team

This team will focus on connecting our members to our social media accounts and vice versa, to streamlining our social media content, and to assist in communications within the group and to the general scientific community. This position will also help improve existing webpages and consider additional functionality (e.g. online reading lists, a group-facing or public-facing member directory)

MSE Director of Social Media

Sarah Ishak, M.S. student, Université de Sherbrooke

arah is pictured here in front of a large body of water along a green trail. She is holding up two peace signs with her hands and is wearing a blue top and grey pants with a purple jacket tied around her waist.

Sarah Ishak: Hailing from the Land Down Under (Australia), Sarah is now a Master’s student at Université de Sherbrooke in Québec, Canada. She graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) degree, and a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Ecology and Environmental Science. Her current research project is looking at the microbiome of boreal mosses from the Eeyou-Istchee region of Québec. She joined the MSE working group in the hopes of helping to provide under-represented communities the space to share their research. In conjunction with Emily Wissel and Dr. Katherine Maki, we hope to share stories and keep you updated on what the MSE Working Group has in store! You can find Sarah on twitter @microbluvrsarahvrsarah

Social Media Curator

Emily Wissel, PhD candidate, Emory University
Bio below!

Social Media Curator

Dr. Katherine Maki, PhD., Post Doc at NIH

Katherine Maki is pictures here in front of a field in a flowery blouse and a black blazer.

Katherine Maki: Katherine Maki is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institutes of Health, Clinical Center, in the Translational Biobehavioral and Health Disparities Branch, and she is transitioning to an Assistant Clinical Investigator Position in the same department early 2022. Dr. Maki is a nurse practitioner and received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing. Her dissertation research examined the effects of chronic sleep disruption on the microbiome and cardiovascular system in rats. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Maki worked on an interdisciplinary team on several intramural and extramural research protocols focusing on the human microbiome. She combines oral and gut microbiome analyses with biosignal and neuroimaging technology to study the gut-brain axis, and how it relates to health and disease. Dr. Maki is particularly interested in the relationship between environmental factors such as poor sleep and alcohol abuse with cardiovascular risk through microbial and metabolite mechanisms in humans.

MSE Director of Resource Dissemination

Emily Wissel, PhD candidate, Emory University

This position will work closely with Social Media and Resource Archiving Teams, and will focus on gathering information and resources to share within the group (e.g. new publications, funding opportunities). This position will facilitate resource gathering from members, and curate in-group emails to disseminate to interested members only to avoid excessively emailing group members.

Emily Wissel on a sandy beach, with a view of the ocean and a mountainside in the background. She has glasses and is wearing a long sleeve green jacket.

Emily Wissel: Emily Wissel is a PhD candidate and NSF Graduate Research Fellow at Emory University. Her dissertation work explores how the gut and vaginal microbiome change during pregnancy and how factors like antibiotics impact that shift. Emily explores how our understanding of the microbiome can meaningfully inform health interventions and help us better understand mental health and cognition. You can find Emily on Twitter @emily_wissel

MSE Director of Resource Archiving

Patrick Horve, PhD student, University of Oregon

This position will focus on the long-term archiving of group documents, media, and other materials, including making them readily available to members, and revising working documents into a more professional draft before archiving.

Patrick is pictured here in a navy blue suit and tie against a red brick

Patrick Horve: Patrick is currently a PhD student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon in the Institute of Molecular Biology. He is broadly interested in the interactions between microorganisms and the world around them, including the environment, other microorganisms, animals, and humans. These interactions can be both detrimental and beneficial for all of the individuals involved, making both positive and negative engagement with beneficial microbiomes through access to public resources, nutritious food, clean water and air, safe shelter, social interactions, and effective medicine a potentially (and often) inequitable process. By working with MSE, he hopes to encourage the combining of microbiology and social equity work and the promotion of evidence-based and equitable public policy. You can find him on twitter at @PatrickHorve

2016 Year In Review

Looking back

2016 started with a bang when I launched this site and joined Twitter for the first time!  For the first quarter of the year, I was a post-doctoral researcher in the Yeoman Lab in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at Montana State University.  I was working on a total of eight grants, ranging from small fellowships to million dollar projects, both as a principal investigator and as a co-PI.  I was also doing the bioinformatic analysis for multiple projects, totaling nearly 1,000 samples, as well as consulting with several graduate students about their own bioinformatic analyses.

In late spring, my position in the Yeoman lab concluded, and I began a post-doctoral position in the Menalled Lab in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at MSU.  This position gave me the opportunity to dramatically increase my skill-set and learn about plant-microbe interactions in agricultural fields.  My main project over the summer was studying the effect of climate and other stresses on wheat production and soil microbial diversity, and this fall I have been investigating the legacy effects of these stressors on new plant growth and microbial communities.  I have extracted the DNA from all of my Fort Ellis summer trial soil samples, and look forward to having new microbial data to work with in the new year.  Based on the preliminary data, we are going to see some cool treatment effects!

Over the summer, I attended the American Society for Microbiology in Boston, MA in June, where I presented a poster on the microbial diversity in organic and conventional farm soil, and the Joint Annual Meeting for three different animal science professional societies in Salt Lake City, UT in July, where I gave my first two oral conference presentations. One was on the effect of a juniper-based diet on rumen bacteria in lambs, and the other was on the biogeography of the calf digestive system and how location-specific bacteria correlate to immune-factor expression.

Thanks to a lot of hard work from myself and many collaborators, a number of research projects were accepted for publication in scientific journals, including the microbial diversity of agricultural soils, in reindeer on a lichen diet, and in relation to high-fat diets in mice, it also included work on virulent strains of Streptococcus pyogenes, and a review chapter on the role of methanogens in human gastrointestinal disease.

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Looking forward

A whopping thirteen manuscripts are still in review at scientific journals or are in preparation waiting to be submitted! Some of those are primarily my projects, and for others I added my skills to the work of other researchers.  Editing all those is going to keep me plenty busy for the next few months. I’ll also be writing several more grants in early 2017, and writing a blog post about the Herculean task that can be.

I’ll be concluding my greenhouse study by March of 2017, just in time to prepare for another field season at Fort Ellis, on the aforementioned climate change study that is my main focus. In January, I’ll be spending time in the lab helping to process and sequence DNA from my 270 soil samples, and begin the long task of data quality assurance, processing, and analysis.  I’m not worried, though, 270 samples isn’t the most I’ve worked with and bioinformatic analysis is my favorite part of the project!

This year, I am hoping to attend two conferences that I have never previously attended, and present data at both of them.  The first will be the 2017 Congress on Gut Function in Chicago, IL in April, and the second will be the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting in Portland, OR in August.  Both conferences will give me the opportunity to showcase my work, network with researchers, and catch up with old friends.

If 2017 is anything like the past few years, it’s going to be full of new projects, new collaborators, new skills, and new opportunities for me, and I can’t wait!  So much of what I’ve accomplished over the last year has been possible because of the hard work, enthusiasm, and creativity of my colleagues, students, friends, and family, and I continue to be grateful for their support.  I’d also like to thank anyone who has been kind enough to read my posts throughout the last year; it’s been a pleasure putting my experiences into words for you and I appreciate the time and interest you put in.  I look forward to sharing more science with you next year!

The Reluctant Interplay of Science and Social Media

Recently, I had another in a long series of conversations with scientists about how they got into science so that they wouldn’t have to use any of their rusty social skills, only to find that social interaction, meetings, and now online communication were a huge part of their daily routine. The myth of the curmudgeon scientist holed up their lab seems to persist despite the current age of social media, perhaps because we scientists don’t seem to understand the appeal of Twitter (how do you include the p-value when you only have 140 characters?!). But in reality, a great deal of our time involves communication, and having practiced social etiquette can make or break you in an interview, at a conference, or at a project pitch meeting.

Many researchers wait until they are hired as assistant professors before they reluctantly make a website, start a blog, or even set up an email account for the lab. How disappointing it must be to wait all those years as a graduate student and a post-doctoral researcher, only to find that a website with your last name has already been taken! And what a hassle to have to generate blog posts, update project and personnel pages, and keep up with social media when you have just landed a professorship and are swamped with grant proposals, manuscripts from old projects that keep hanging around, comparison shopping for equipment to set your lab up, generating coursework for one or several courses, recruiting students…. It’s such a hassle that a friend of mine created an entire business around helping new professors create and manage an online presence: Tenure Chasers.

It really got me thinking, shouldn’t I be starting this?  It’s a little preemptive, after all, I’m a post-doctoral researcher without a lab of my own.  But it makes sense to start it now; for one thing, I have the time to devote to creating the mainframe.  For another, as a new researcher, I sometimes need to prove that I exist.  It seems like a silly thing to think about, but sometimes you need to prove that you are, in fact, a real researcher will real work experience and not just an email scam targeting disused academic email servers (happens quite often).  And hiring someone is a serious consideration, as research funds are limited, indirect costs for personnel make total personnel costs high, you are trusting this person with your research and your career reputation, and you may need to work with this person for several to many years.  It’s a commitment to hire a scientist, and you need to be sure about them.  Thus, having at least one thorough online profile, or better yet- connections to other well-known researchers, can give employers more confidence in you.

Finally, having an online presence improves your communication skills, and shows a commitment to outreach, which is a component in any career level of academia.  It helps to get your work out to other scientists, especially those outside your field whom you wouldn’t run into at a conference or seminar, and more importantly, it disseminates it to the general public.  Graduate school and post-doctoral positions are designed to teach and refine skills, and the skill of communication is no different.  So don’t wait until you really need it, start early and improve the quality of your social media presence, before anyone is paying attention.