Tag Archives: conferences

On the importance of conferences

I just returned from the biennial Fungal Genetics Conference held at Asilomar State Park in Pacific Grove, California. It is wonderful, exhausting, invigorating, at times overwhelming firehose of new information. Nearly 900 researchers who work on fungi in some form come to attend.  This meeting grew out of a primary focus on fungal genetics, but has now become a gathering that encompasses epigenetics, genomics,  ecology, population and evolutionary biology, fungal associated chemistry, medical and animal associated mycology, and education and outreach on fungal biology. For me, it has become a special meeting since my first attendance as a graduate student. I’ve made friends, met mentors, got to know the fungal biology stars and rockstars (and more).

On the importance of gathering

I was thinking about the need for conferences and whether it was worth it for ~900 people to get on planes and cars and assemble in one place for a 4-5 day meeting. We read the papers, communicate by emails and video, what is special about a conference? I think there are a few essential things that come out of the meetings.

One is building community. Science is not done in a vacuum. The connections with close friends are strengthened, projects are discussed well past normal bedtimes. The zone that separates competitors and collaborators can be more flexible, or at least the shape of the competition can seem more human than the generic sense of trying to be first to finish and prove a new theory or idea. The mentorship and advice that comes from late night talks at poster sessions and over breakfast are not easily had outside of the conference. I met my postdoc mentor first at this meeting and that helped chart a lot of career.

Another is to hear the latest work. While some people may only cover summaries of published work, there is the exchange of  information all at once that is hard to get in any other way. The nuance of the ideas shared in a presentation can also communicate more effectively than a written publication in some ways, so I enjoy the chance to hear and share the science in this way. Often the Q&A can bring up additional perspectives that add to the discourse.

A concentrated time to think just about the science. The increasingly busy daily routines make it hard to really sit and think about new ideas. While this conference no means has a lot of time for sitting and thinking, there is both the forced occasion to summarize your own work in a short talk and to try and digest the key points of a research project from others. The constant storm of work before the meeting does lead to the inevitable “I’m still working on my talk” that continue before you give you talk … but still this provides a chance to plant a flag on where you are in a project and get perspective on what the rest of the field is doing.

On the importance of place

I’ve only ever attended this conference at Asilomar Conference Grounds. It is a fantastic place for conferences, because of its history, the setting on the dramatic California coastline, the hallowed ground of historic scientific conferences as well as just the general fun and collegiality that being at ‘science camp’ on a grounds that was at one point a YMCA,YWCA summer camp. It is definitely one of the places many who have attended like to call one of their scientific homes. Much like MBL – Woods Hole or Cold Spring Harbor, or Friday Harbor are key places for doing science (and also places for great meetings) I think Asilomar has a clear place for defining the history of Fungal Genetics.

I’ve been to meetings without the sweeping landscape and in sterile hotel conference rooms. That certainly is less exciting, but doesn’t diminish the scientific discussion. But I think there is something different about a place which has the feel of a camp with outside and inside areas to gather in groups to discuss. Some years when the weather is less cooperating and we only can see misty fog and tug up the zippers on our jackets instead of a short sleeve, I still find myself taking a beach walk to catch up on latest projects with colleagues or listening to stories from the seasoned scientists about how a particular technique was perfected on account of seredipity.

Personal connection

The Fungal Genetics and Neurospora Genetics meetings are also a personal waystone for my career and friendships. I gave my first talk at this meeting as a graduate student and have had the opportunity to continue participate and serve on policy committee to help represent the community. I learned I got tenure just before one of the conferences and was able to celebrate with colleagues and friends where it (usually!) feels like success of any is success for the community. Conferences like these have been an important part of my scientific education and a chance to make lifelong friends with shared interests. I see grad school classmates, mentors, former graduate students or postdocs, and meet new people every time.


I wanted to write these thoughts because it is has always been an exhausting but satisfying conference I look forward to. I also know the perpetuity of these events are not guaranteed. It is expensive to run one of these meetings. We are lucky to have the support of the Genetics Society of America for so much of the logistical aspects of organizing the meeting. Nor take for granted that the costs are still approachable for many to attend. Especially as part of my policy committee service, I am more aware of how much it costs to stay, feed, and rent space at a seaside resort in Northern California. Things can change as to who attends these meetings: pricing inevitably goes up, funding available for travel and conferences may be harder to get, or if for some other reason the diverse spirit or culture of the attendees of meetings might change. I can hope we keep infecting new folks with excitement for fungal biology and genetics to keep our field growing and engaged.

Not all change is bad, influx of new people or shifts in the scope of main research topics can invigorate a field with new ideas. Certainly some things will be different by 2019, but I hope many of us find ourselves back to Asilomar for the next installment of the Fungal Genetics conference.


Link to the program and a PDF link

WRIFO: Women Researchers in Fungi & Oomycetes

In an effort to promote the diversity of women in fungal and oomycete biology research we started a list of Women Researchers in Fungi & Oomycetes (#WRIFO) in our fields. We hope this will make it easier for conference, seminar and award committees to consider a broad pool of candidates when inviting speakers or nominating individuals.

We seeded the WRIFO list with 150 women whose research we know or who were suggested by colleagues, but it is by no means complete. Please add names and add missing details to those already on the list. The WRIFO list is available as a google spreadsheet here (shortlink: http://s.fungidb.org/1SU45hk ). As an experiment in community dynamics WRIFO is an open sheet for editing. We will change this to “make comment-only” after a time to try to avoid getting overrun with spam. If you cannot add to the WRIFO list directly, comments on this post are accepted. However direct adding is preferred to avoid losing track of any suggestions.

As a test for how many will read directions:

  1. Please add new entries at the end of the sheet rather than trying to insert alphabetically.  You can always re-sort the sheet by last name after entries are made
  2. List institution, include 2 letter country code in parentheses.
  3. Select region from the available options.
  4. Pick up to two general research areas from the drop down lists.
  5. Add specific Keywords for research.  Make these as general as possible–a meeting organizer is much more likely to search “cytoskeleton”, than “tyrosinylated microtubules.”
  6. Include a laboratory website link. Use publicly available websites that do not require memberships to view
  7. Select the classification of career stage. Mapping this to job titles in the US
    • Junior: Assistant Professor, Assistant Research Scientist, or equivalent
    • Intermediate: Associate Professor, Associate Research Scientist,  or equivalent
    • Senior: Full Professor, Research Scientist or equivalent
    • Emeritus

–Michelle Momany (@mcmomany) & Jason Stajich (@hyphaltip)

Update 1: A landing page was made for info on WRIFO and where archive and Excel versions of the spreadsheet will be made available.

2014 Neurospora conferences

The 2014 Neurospora conference at Asilomar conference grounds in Pacific Grove, CA will be held March 6-9, 2014. Registration is now open and a large proportion of the talks will be chosen from the abstracts. Deadline for registration is Dec 31, 2013 but sign up soon to get your preferred housing.

The  Neurospora satellite meeting will be held just prior to the 2014 European Fungal Genetics conference in Seville, Spain.  Additional the 11th International Aspergillus Meeting (Asperfest), and meetings for each of Fusarium, Dothideomycete, Colletotrichum and Mycorrhizal Genomics Initiative will be held just prior to or after the conference. Sign up soon (before 16-Decemeber) to receive reduced participation fees.

Fungal conferences abstract wordle

I am preparing to read through the abstracts submitted for the 26th Fungal Genetics Conference in choosing talks for my session and I wondered if there were any changing trends in the topics over the years. While I won’t put up the Wordle for this year’s abstracts till the booklet is published, I thought I’d see how the topics trended in the last few years for some of these meetings. Will be fun to do this for a few more years back to see whether real trends emerge.

The data is a little cleaned up but the text included institution and individual names so things like university and department show up as prominent in some of these graphs.

Here is the Neurospora 2010 meeting (wordle page)

Neurospora 2010 abstracts Wordle
2010 Neurospora abstracts Wordle


Neurospora 2008 (wordle page)

2008 Neurospora conference abstracts Wordle

25th (2009) Fungal Genetics Conference (wordle page)

25th Fungal Genetics Abstracts
25th Fungal Genetics Wordle

24th (2007) Fungal Genetics Conference (wordle page)

24th Fungal Genetics abstracts Wordle


IMC9 Registration Open

Registration for the 9th International Mycological Congress, held 1-6 of August, is now open.  This looks to be an exciting, dynamic, and broad conference on fungal biology covering a great breadth of topics.  These include: intricate look at fungal cell biology using microscopy, genetic and molecular biology tools; Evolution of fungi through systematics and comparative biology and new aspects of taxonomy; genetics and genomics of fungi; Studies of plant and animal pathogens.  The meeting is only held every 5 years so I hope you can advantage of it! This year it will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.  The early registration is 5 February and you have until 9 April to submit abstracts.


Hope to see you there

Neurospora 2010 and upcoming fungal conferences

Don’t forget to register for Neurospora 2010 held at the beautiful Asilomar Conference center in Pacific Grove, CA held April 8-11, 2010. Get your filamentous fungi fix here!

Also save the date for some other important upcoming conferences you may consider attending

Other evolutionary and genomics meetings

Emerging Fungal Disease Conference

[This was postponed due to Eyjafjallajökull – see a recent post about the 2011 conference]

New and Emerging Fungal Diseases of Animals and Plants : evolutionary aspects in the context of global changes

Roscoff,Brittany FRANCE

April 17, 2010

The CNRS and Conferences Jaques Monod are hosting a 4-day meeting at the French Marine Biology research station in Roscoff, Brittany on the evolution and dynamics of emerging fungal pathogens. This meeting will focus on the widening impacts that fungi are having on human, plant and animal health by considering the factors that drive their emergence within an evolutionary context. Specifically, the meeting will consider whether environmental change is facilitating fungal range expansions and genotypes, and to what extent this is predictable. The meeting will bring together leading evolutionary biologists, theoreticians and fungal biologists/ecologists in a beautiful setting to consider these questions and to formulate new research strategies.

Continue reading Emerging Fungal Disease Conference