|December 22, 2012
CSM President’s Newsletter December 2012
Dear CSM members,
How quickly time flies! Looking back to June, the annual conference was a scientific showcase featuring the work of established researchers and our young scientists. I was impressed by the high quality of the science all around and hope everyone enjoyed being in Vancouver as much as I did. Thanks to the LOC for their efforts in pulling together a great mix of speakers and poster presentations with the added benefit of great facilities and a spectacular location.
2013 Annual Conference at Carleton University
Going forward we are preparing for next year’s Annual Conference in Ottawa by taking stock of how things went this year and passing along lessons learned. The spotlight is now on Dr. Ashkan Golshani and his local Ottawa team to develop an exciting program for 2013. A new addition to the program that was developed by our Education Committee is a symposium dedicated to highlighting the work of postdocs and early career researchers. Conference program information will be posted on the CSM website as we receive updates from the LOC. The conference is scheduled for June 17 – 20, 2013. I hope to see you there.
An exciting addition to the 2013 events will be a 1½ day symposium entitled “The Environmental Dimension of Antibiotic Resistance” to be held immediately preceding the Annual Conference. The symposium is being organized by former CSM president Ed Topp and will include an engaging platform of speakers addressing a wide range of issues related to development of bacterial resistance to antimicrobials. The symposium is scheduled for Sunday, June 16 & Monday, June 17, 2013.
CSM Advocacy Roles
To those of you working on securing research funding – perseverance is definitely a necessary asset. With the impending CIHR program revisions and changes to funding at NSERC it will be interesting to see the impact of these strategies over the next few years. I hope that we can work to make these changes positive ones. One avenue that the CSM is taking to increase our advocacy role is our involvement with the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE). The mandate of this body is to represent the Canadian science and engineering community to the Government of Canada. I participate in monthly meetings that host guests representing science and engineering in the government and industry sectors who present their perspectives on science/engineering in Canada and on the activities of their organizations. These informal discussions raise potential issues and challenges that guests would like to see PAGSE address. For additional information and an outline of PAGSE activities check out: http://www.pagse.org/en/main.htm.
I have also been participating in reviewing/revising the current draft of the Canadian Biosafety and Standards Guidelines via regional information meetings and through my own university biosafety committee. These guidelines represent an amalgamation of previous regulations administered through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Those of you running Biosafety Level 1, 2 or 3 laboratory or animal facilities will be directly affected by these guidelines as we move deeper into implementation of the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act. I urge people to become familiar with the guidelines.
Research funding and graduate training in the current fiscal environment
As I look around at my own and my colleagues research programs and see the cumulative effects that the ongoing historically low granting success rates have caused, I find myself asking a number of questions. How do we continue to justify training relatively large numbers of PhD students and Postdoctoral fellows given the career options that they will have in, at least, the near future? And is it a good thing that the pressures seem to be overwhelming to train generalists instead of specialists? At my institution, Queen’s University, the Microbiology and Immunology Department has been dissolved and amalgamated into an administrative unit containing the former Anatomy and Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Physiology, and Pharmacology and Toxicology Departments. The Microbiology and Immunology Graduate Program is also about to collapse into a single program that will be responsible for training students from all the above-mentioned former departments. The Microbiology/Immunology program will become a “field” of study within the larger unit. While I understand the fiscal pressures driving these changes, such as a record number of personnel heading for retirement with virtually no monies available to hire replacement faculty over the next 10 years, it is sometimes difficult to see the way forward in a positive light. I am apprehensive that we will loose the depth of knowledge that the specialized graduate programs used to provide and end up making it more difficult for our trainees to flourish in their careers. I’m certainly in agreement that our universities should be teaching our students “how to learn”, but I strongly feel that this should be the goal of the undergraduate programs and graduate school is the place to use those skills to dig deeply into a specific research area. I’d be interested in hearing about your ongoing challenges and thoughts – what is working well at your institution? What is not?
Microbiology in the News
Microbiology-related news articles and novel research findings are published daily and its hard to stay current. Our graduate student representative, Josie Libertucci is going to help us stay up to date by publishing information on current research on the CSM website under the “What’s New” drop down menu. Not only is she gathering info, but she is also providing a critique of the chosen article and highlighting related research being carried out by Canadian student researchers and their supervisors. Help Josie out by sending ideas for topics you would like to see covered to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we move toward the New Year, I’d like to wish you and your families all the best. It is my hope that you are able to take some time to enjoy the holiday break before we all launch into a busy 2013. I also hope that your endeavors in the coming year excite and engage you, and help others to better appreciate our favorite topic – Microbiology!
Regards, Nancy Martin