Field of Science

Why you should be at this Spring's Society for General Microbiology conference in Dublin

From the 26th to the 29th of March this year, Dublin - the capital of the Republic of Ireland - will host the Spring conference of the Society for General Microbiology, the UK's (make that Europe's) major group for all things microbial. Most importantly, according to wikipedia it was founded in 1945 by none other than Alexander Fleming, plus the city is now becoming pretty cheap to live and stay in and has the best Guinness in the world - what more do you want from a science meeting?

Dublin at night -

This four day event, held in the centre of the city, will deliver talks from some of the world's most esteemed bacteriologists, virologists and parasitologists - not to mention the hundreds of students and post-docs who will attend to showcase their work in the usual wine and cheese fueled poster session (I will - fingers crossed - be one of them) or short-talk form. The UK clinical virology network and Ireland's Royal College of Surgeons will also be meeting - so expect our best clinicians to be present.

There will be a number of major sessions put on (see timetable here), covering wide scientific topics such as: the mechanisms behind how bacteria and viruses jump species, bacterial and parasite evolution, microbial metabolism, deadly pathogens, climate change and how to control microbial disease using other organisms. The American Society for Microbiology will be jointly meeting for a session on hospital acquired infections. 

On top of this, a number of more intimate workshops have been set up, which focus particularly on virology (RNA/DNA/retro-viruses etc). As well as hosting the science, there are two series of talks based around new communication technologies and research: 'E-learning' and 'New media'. These two include discussion of web-based teaching aids alongside how and when to use twitter and other social networks in your teaching and in research.

Of special note, there are four prize-awarding events featuring talks from the winners: Julian Davies for his work on 'natural' antibiotics; Yuan Chang & Patrick Moore - the husband and wife research team responsible for some great work on cancer-causing viruses (who also discovered a number themselves and for more info see a recent TWiV podcast featuring Patrick); William Hanage who works on the bacterial molecular epidemiology and last but not least, for his long-term work on high-quality microbiology education: Vincent Racaniello. 

If you are interested in going, you can register here until the 24th February if you want it slightly cheaper. Also, if you wish to submit an abstract for consideration in preparing a poster/short talk get this form here. Most importantly there are grants to be awarded (especially to post-grad students) here.

Of particular interest I have listed below some - in my highly subjective opinion - good talks:

  1. Linfa Wang the head of Virology at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory. He will be there discussing his team's work on emerging viruses in bats, especially paramyxoviruses. They also do work on bat genetics, focusing on immune-related genes. 
  2. The session on 'biocontrol of disease' will concentrate on how we can use living organisms (mainly bacteria and their viruses) to protect and treat against microbial diseases like human papilloma viruses. Something a bit unusual: many talks are from the commercial sector.
  3. The talks on 'New media' look to be great if you are interested in using technological/social advancements in communicating about research - or to join in the discussion. In particular: Alan Cann, Alice Bell and Benjamin Thompson will be speaking on the use of social media, twitter and blogging in taking science to the public. 
  4. One from my own institution will feature John McGrath talking about how we can exploit bacterial metabolism in the treatment of waste water. 
  5. There's an excellent session on innate immunity to bacteria and viruses that will include talks defence against HIV, viruses versus interferons and insect antiviral immunity from Raul Andino. See TWiV for some background on his work.


  1. The SGM conferences are amazing, and well worth attending. I went to two of them while I was an undergraduate (including catching a Julian Davies talk which I was really excited about).

    Make sure you blog about it if you're going! I'm not longer a researcher so attending would cost me more money than I have (because I am now a writer :p )

  2. I would second that. SGM conferences have a great atmosphere, with tons of researchers from all sorts of fields attending, and you are exposed to all sorts of different ideas. Last year, I remember getting inebriated late into the night with a zebrafish researcher and coming out with ideas for a whole new set of experiments.
    Good luck with the poster/ oral presentation (I always tick both boxes) !
    @Labrat- Have you tried contacting the SGM media centre to get some funds? Considering your history with blogging the SGM, it would be diabolical if you couldn't go to talks that would focus on this very topic !

  3. @Labrat - they really are great. I have only to been the one last spring. And of course I'll blog it but you should check out what @DefectiveBrain's saying, I'm sure they'd love you to be there.
    @DefectiveBrain, I think that's the best thing about it, drinking with people outside of your specific field!

  4. @Defective Brain: Thanks for the information! I really hadn't considered going as a blogger before, definitely one to think about.

    It probably won't happen this year, as I'll be using up half my holiday allowance for my honeymoon and taking off a whole week for a conference would leave me with very little for summer and next Christmas. Next year though, I might try and get in touch with the SGM people to see if they're happy to help fund me to turn up and blog about it :D

  5. Benjamin Thompson6 January 2012 at 03:49

    Hey Connor,

    Thanks for flagging up my talk! I'm very much looking forward to it. Sadly, I can only be at the Conference for the day, so I need to cram in as much as I can in the Monday morning session...

    Come say hi when we're there!

  6. @Benjamin Thompson - no worries, it looks to be a great conference, in particular the 'New media' session. A specific talk on microbiology blogging is right up my street! Hope to see you then.


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