Two Biology Societies To Meet Next Month

An estimated 11,000 of these researchers, representing dozens of disciplines and presenting thousands of papers and poster sessions, will be gathering at annual get-togethers of the nation's leading life sciences professional societies: Members of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) will meet in Washington, D.C., May 21-25; and, starting just two days later, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)

Apr 18, 1994
Karen Kreeger
Considering the vast number of life scientists expected to attend two major United States meetings during the coming weeks, someone, somewhere, might well have designated May as "National Biological Research Month."

An estimated 11,000 of these researchers, representing dozens of disciplines and presenting thousands of papers and poster sessions, will be gathering at annual get-togethers of the nation's leading life sciences professional societies: Members of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) will meet in Washington, D.C., May 21-25; and, starting just two days later, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) will convene in Las Vegas for a five-day meeting that will run through May 27.

As many as 3,000 researchers will take part in the ASBMB conference, to be held at the Washington Convention Center. Nearly 100 presentations, 1,400 posters, and an exhibition with 300 booths rep- resenting more than 100 organizations are scheduled.

The scientific sessions of the 1994 ASBMB program are organized into four thematic headings--Protein Targeting and Membrane Traffic; Structural Aspects of Signal Transduction; The RNA World; and DNA: Packaging, Replication, and Expression. The theme format is a new concept for ASBMB meetings. General features of past meetings, such as the poster sessions and the exhibition, will be retained, say organizers.

Two days after the start of the ASBMB meeting--and nearly 2,000 miles away--microbiologists from diverse subdisciplines including medical mycology, immunology, and bacteriophage biology will gather at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the 94th general meeting of ASM.

Five mini-themes--molecular detection and identification of microorganisms; emerging infections; molecular pathogenesis and molecular interactions at the prokaryote-eukaryote interface; cyto-kines; and regulation of gene expression--will link the 21 topical divisions for scientific presentations, according to a letter from Judith Domer, chairwoman of the program committee. The letter was distributed along with the ASM prelim- inary program.

Over 2,500 papers in more than 150 sessions are expected. Seminars, poster sessions, round-table discussions, workshops, and an exhibition make up the varied offerings for the anticipated 8,000 attendees.

Jack Dixon, ASBMB program chairman and a biochemist at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, points to two new aspects of the 1994 meeting: an explicit effort to "include women and younger investigators in the role of session chairs [and] speakers, and with the planning of the conference" and the inclusion of a special session called "The Washington Connection" (see accompanying story).


  • Charles Hancock, executive officer
  • Martin Gellert, president

    Nearly 3,000 members of ASBMB will attend the society's annual meeting May 21-25 at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Presentations include almost 100 talks and more than 1,400 posters, as well as an exhibition.

    Meeting Highlights
    "The Washington Connection," a series of public affairs sessions featuring:

  • "Science and Early Education," Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences, chairman (Sunday, 6:00 P.M.)

  • "Science and Technology Transfer," Daniel Vapnek, senior vice president for research, Amgen Inc., Thousand Oaks, Calif., chairman (Monday, 6:00 P.M.)

  • "Science and Public Policy," Howard Schachman, professor, emeritus, of molecular biology, University of California, Berkeley, chairman (Tuesday, 6:00 P.M.). Speakers will include Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Neal Lane, director of the National Science Foundation. According to Dixon, this session will address the "important role that Washington has on biomedical research."

    Alexandra Newton, a scheduled speaker at the structural aspects of signal transduction session and an associate professor in the chemistry department at Indiana University, Bloomington, says the wide array of session topics will be useful to her and to several students from her lab who are accompanying her. "I think it's great that [the meeting] is so diverse, representing many research interests, from RNA to protein signal transduction" as well as being "a great place for students to get to know other people working in similar areas," she says.

    Robert Schimke, organizer of "The Washington Connection" session and a molecular biologist at Stanford University, says that this is the first time ASBMB has had such a formalized symposium on public affairs. The purpose of this session, he says, "is to get our scientists involved in dealing with some of the policy issues, such as education and technology transfer, that impact on us."

    "My anticipation is that in future years we will change the subject" and attempt to "bring other people and institutions into the dialogue," Schimke says. It is ASBMB's goal, he says, to organize symposia that deal with policy issues when the society meets in Washington.

    Two satellite meetings--smaller conferences on highly specialized, emerging topics scheduled one to two days before the start of the annual meeting--will also be part of the overall ASBMB offerings, adds Dixon. He explains that the satellite meeting "Structure and Function of Kinases and Phosphatases," to be held at the Washington Convention Center May 20-21, "is going to be spectacular because [it represents] an effort to put structural biology and signal transduction together in some interesting ways."

    Newton, also a chairwoman of one of the sessions at the kinase and phosphatase satellite meeting, says that scheduling this symposium with the main ASBMB conference makes it easier, time- and funding-wise, for her "to send students to two meetings at the same time and place," rather than going to separate meeting locations.

    The second satellite meeting--"The Cytochromes P450: Structure, Function, Regulation And Genetics," held in conjunction with the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics--is slated for May 21-22 at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel.


  • Michael Goldberg, executive director
  • Gail Cassell, president

    More than 8,000 attendees are expected to convene for the 94th ASM meeting, slated for May 23-27 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Over 2,500 scientific papers and special sessions, as well as more than 25 workshops, will be offered.

    Meeting Highlights
    Roundtable sessions held throughout the meeting:

  • The Art of Seeking Employment and the Science of Finding It

  • Managing Your Graduate Education: Preparation, Direction, and Resources

  • Preservation and Biodiversity

  • The Postdoctoral Fellow Dilemma: Nowhere To Go?

    Although a relatively large meeting such as ASM's, with many concurrent presentations and special sessions, might be fraught with scheduling conflicts for attendees, frequent ASM meeting-goers agree that the wide variety of scientific and professional offerings are beneficial. Helene Marquis, chairwoman and presenter at a microbial pathogenesis session and a postdoctoral fellow in the microbiology department at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, finds little difficulty in shaping her meeting schedule.

    Although she plans to go to seminars led by well-known people--for example, the president's forum, "The Future of Biomedical Research: What Should We Expect," which features speakers Harold Varmus, director of the National Institutes of Health and Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences--Marquis primarily attends talks related to her research on intracellular pathogens, such as "bacterial pathogens and infectious diseases."

    Marquis also finds the peripheral services at the ASM meeting helpful. For example, she used the job placement program at an ASM meeting two years ago and found it "very efficient and well-organized." She adds that the publishers' stalls at the exhibition "are a good way to see what's on the market instead of buying from a catalogue," because attendees are allowed a first-hand look at texts.

    Phillip Fedorak, a professor of microbiology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, finds the large size of the ASM meeting advantageous. Fedorak, a frequent attendee of ASM meetings, says that he feels somewhat professionally isolated in Alberta and "what I appreciate the most is that this is a large meeting and that most people that you want to talk to you can track down."

    He will be attending the meeting with three of his students, one of whom will be presenting a poster on the microbial metabolism of sulfur compounds in petroleum and creosote. Fedorak mentions that making professional connections at the ASM meeting is also important for his students, noting that some have found doctoral and postdoctoral positions from contacts made at the ASM meeting. "The scientific content [of the ASM meeting] is always good, but in many ways, for us, it's the personal contacts that are important."

    Attending the 1994 ASM meeting will be a first for Karen Dierkson, a doctoral student in the microbiology department at Oregon State University in Corvallis, who will be presenting a poster on stress responses in E. coli. In addition to scientific sessions about food microbiology, she plans to attend some of the ASM roundtable discussions (see accompanying story).

    As a graduate teaching assistant, Dierkson is especially interested in the education seminars--"Preparing Graduate Teaching Assistants for the 21st Century" and "Interactive Multi-Media Instruction in Microbiology," for example. "Any further information I can get on teaching and education is always of value to me," Dierkson explains.

    She adds that microbiologists have much more than basic techniques like gram-staining and growing colonies of bacteria on agar plates to impart to students, so she hopes to add to her repertoire of teaching strategies by attending these sessions.

    Dierkson is also looking forward to the roundtable session entitled, "Classical and Alternative Pathways to Career Satisfaction: Options for Diversity." She anticipates that the speakers will discuss different ways "for both men and women in science to find a balance" between their careers and personal lives.