Professor Margaret J. McFall-Ngai – University of Hawaii at Manoa
Professor Margaret McFall-Ngai is currently Director of the Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC), University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Professor at PBRC’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory. Her laboratory studies two areas: 1) the role of beneficial bacteria in health using the squid-vibrio model; 2) the biochemical and molecular ‘design’ of tissues that interact with light. In addition, she has been heavily involved in promoting microbiology as the cornerstone of the field of biology. Prof. McFall-Ngai also currently holds emeritus status at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the positions of AD White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. She was recently (2011-2013) a Moore Scholar at California Institute of Technology. Prof. McFall-Ngai has been a Guggenheim fellow, and is a member of the American Academy of Microbiology (2002), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2011), and the National Academy of Sciences (2014).
Professor Dan Tawfik – Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel
Professor Tawfik’s research seeks to understand how proteins evolve. His experimental work lies at the interface of chemistry, biology and microbiology. He developed a range of experimental systems that reproduce protein evolution in the laboratory and in real time. His works address protein structure, function and evolution, including how the very first proteins emerged ca. 3.8 billion years ago. Knowledge derived from the reconstruction of past evolutionary events enables his group to engineer new enzymes with tailor-made properties, for a various applications, e.g. nerve agent detoxification or improved crop yields. Prof. Tawfik joined the Weizmann Institute faculty in 2001, and holds the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Professional Chair. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including the Sir Charles Clore Prize, the Weizmann Institute’s highest honour for a newly-appointed senior scientist, the Wolgin Prize, and the Haim Weizmann Prize by the City of Tel-Aviv, and is an elected member of The European Molecular Biology Organization.
Professor Ariane Briegel – Leiden University, Netherlands
Professor Briegal’s research is a leader in electron cryotomography and bacterial chemotaxis. She is interested in understanding how microbes sense and respond to their environment. How are the cells able to actively seek out their preferred environmental niches, how can they effectively evade toxins and predators, and how can they adapt to thrive in changing environments? In order to gain insight into the structure and function of the molecular complexes involved in these behaviors, the Briegel lab use electron cryotomography (ECT). This technique allows her group to directly study microbes in their native state at resolutions capable of visualizing individual proteins.
Professor Sylvain Moineau – Université Laval, Québec, Canada
Professor Sylvain Moineau is based in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Bioinformatics at Université Laval and holds the Canada Research Chair in Bacteriophages (2011-2018). He curates the world’s largest collection of phages (www.phage.ulaval.ca). His research group combines omics data (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics) and structural biology, to understand interactions between phages and bacteria. New strategies are also developed to control phages in dairy fermentations. He has characterized phage resistance mechanisms, including landmark discoveries on CRISPR-Cas systems that are at the heart of current genome-editing technologies. He has been ranked amongst the most cited and influential microbiologists in the world for the past four years.
Dr Kathryn Holt – University of Melbourne
Kat is a NHMRC Career Development Fellow in the University of Melbourne’s Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Bio21 Institute. She has a BA/BSc majoring in Biochemistry, Applied Statistics and Philosophy; a Master of Epidemiology; and a PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Cambridge and Sanger Institute. Kat’s research focus is microbial genomics, focusing on sequencing-based approaches to understanding bacterial pathogens and infectious disease, particularly typhoid, dysentery and hospital associated infections.
Professor Christopher Rao – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Professor Rao’s group investigates the complex mechanisms that enable bacteria to sense and respond to their environment. Examples of systems studied in our lab include nutrient sensing, foraging, antibiotic resistance, stress to aromatic compounds, and host colonization (in the context of infectious diseases). The ulitmate goal in studying these systems is not solely to advance biology but ultimately to reprogram this behavior for the treatment of disease and productions of novel chemicals.
Professor Edward G. Ruby – Pacific Biosciences Research Center, University of Hawaii-Manoa
Professor Ruby’s doctoral training was at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD, with postdoctorals at Harvard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and UCLA. He joined the faculty at USC, and entered into a collaboration with Prof. Margaret McFall-Ngai to develop the Vibrio fischeri-sepiolid squid light-organ association as a model for beneficial bacteria-host interactions. After eleven years at UW Madison, Prof. Ruby moved to the University of Hawaii in 2015. His lab analyzes how signaling cascades and rhythmic nutrient manipulation underlie symbiotic persistence in the host, and uses new imaging approaches, and comparative and functional genomics to discover principles controlling population-level interactions among symbionts.