Keynote Speakers

Confirmed Keynote Speakers for ISME16 are:

Emma Allen-VercoeUniversity of Guelph, Canada

Emma Allen-Vercoe is an Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph, Canada, and a co-founder of Nubiyota LLC, a company dedicated to the development of microbial ecosystem therapeutics for the treatment of diseases that have gut microbial disturbances as a root cause. Dr. Allen-Vercoe’s research group has developed an experimental bioreactor platform, dubbed ‘Robogut’, to model the interactions that take place within the human gut microbiota in response to various stimuli. This platform is helping to explore some fundamental questions in gut microbiota research, including the importance of certain keystone species in the maintenance of microbial community stability. This knowledge is, in turn, being directed towards the generation of therapeutic microbial ecosystems that can be used to modulate human and animal microbiota communities that are imbalanced as a result of insults caused by for example, antibiotic use. Dr. Allen-Vercoe’s research portfolio includes studies of gut microbial disturbance in a range of diseases including Clostridium difficile infection, inflammatory bowel diseases, autism spectrum disorder, colorectal cancer and neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis. Along the way, her group has amassed a large library of microbial isolates from the human gut representative of many different, usually fastidious species, many of which have been provided to the scientific community as reference strains for the Human Microbiome Project.  


Siv AnderssonDepartment of Molecular Evolution, Cell and Molecular Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden

Prof. Siv G.E. Andersson completed a PhD in molecular biology at Uppsala University, Sweden. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK and at Columbia Medical School in New York. She is now professor and chair in Molecular Evolution at the Biomedical Center, Uppsala University. She is a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, the Swedish Royal Academy of Engineering Sciences, and the European Molecular Biology Organization. She has been the President of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology. Her research interests are microbial evolutionary genomics, with a focus on genomes of endosymbiotic bacteria and their adaptations to invertebrate and vertebrate hosts. She performs broad comparative genomics studies of environmental microorganisms to place the emergence of host-adapted bacteria in an evolutionary context. Prof. Andersson is also interested in questions concerning early microbial life and the origin of mitochondria. 


Jim Tiedje Award Recipient
Sallie W. ("Penny") Chisholm, 
MIT, United States

Penny Chisholm is an Institute Professor at MIT where she resides in the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Biology. She is a biological oceanographer whose research interests are focused on understanding of the role of microorganisms in shaping marine ecosystems.  Her research is centered on understanding the biology and ecology of Prochlorococcus, which is the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic microorganism on Earth.  Discovered only 30 years ago, it numerically dominates large regions of the world’s oceans and is responsible for a sizable fraction of ocean photosynthesis.  In addition to her scientific publications, Chisholm has published (with Molly Bang) three award-winning children’s picture books – Living Sunlight, Ocean Sunlight, and Buried Sunlight – which describe the central role of photosynthesis in shaping life on Earth.
Chisholm has been a member of the MIT Faculty since 1976. Over the years she has received numerous in recognition of her work.  She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has been a Guggenheim Fellow, received the 2013 Margalef Prize in Ecology, and the 2011 National Medal of Science.  


Bird's Eye View Presenter
Tom Curtis,
Newcastle University, United Kindom

Tom Curtis decided to become a microbiologist as a teenager after reading “Invisible Allies” by Bernard Dixon, a popular science book showing microbes as a force for good in the world.  An undistinguished graduate of the BSc in microbiology at Leeds he joined the Public Health Engineering research team in the same university under Duncan Mara, who sought to put Dixons words into action. Working primarily in Northeast Brazil on low cost wastewater treatment systems he gained an MEng and PhD in Public Health Engineering, with a brief interlude in Jordan starting up and managing Aqaba water reclamation plant.  As a PhD student he read Tom Brock’s short essay “The study of microorganisms in situ”  and realised that microbial ecologist were the people who understood how microbes behave in the real world and that doing good in the world with microbes meant doing microbial ecology.  Eschewing a post doc (and the dole) for a period working on public health policy for the UK government. He eventually became a lecturer and latterly Professor of Environmental Engineering in Newcastle University. His core interest is now the engineering of real open microbial systems and his abiding belief is that these systems obey a suite of fundamental and universal rules. Furthermore, we will only unlock the power of engineered systems in particular, and microbial systems in general, when we grasp those rules. He is particularly interested  in the engineering of the  diversity and community assembly of microbial communities. This work is central to all open biological systems, engineered or otherwise.

Charles Greer, National Research Council, Canada

Charles Greer is a Principal Research Officer and the Group Leader of the Biomonitoring Group in the Energy, Mining and Environment Portfolio at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) in Montreal. He was previously the Director of Research and Development in the Montreal and Boucherville locations of the portfolio. He is an adjunct professor in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences of McGill University and the Biology Department of the University of Sherbrooke, an Associate Editor for the Canadian Journal of Microbiology and a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Life.
The Biomonitoring Group has been working on the biodegradation of organic pollutants and the remediation of contaminated sites in Canada for more than 20 years, with a focus on the Arctic. Large regions in the high Arctic are characterized as polar deserts and as such represent extreme environments that are particular challenges for bioremediation. Through the development of microbiological and molecular tools to isolate, characterize and monitor key microorganisms involved in degradation processes, the group has been able to develop remediation strategies and performance monitoring procedures that are applicable to many terrestrial and aquatic environments, including off-shore and oil sands petroleum production facilities.
Current research and development activities include bioremediation in the high Arctic, reclamation and monitoring of oil sands and other mining sites, characterization of microbial community diversity and function in natural and disturbed environments and the development of metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches to support environmental effects monitoring. An area of particular interest is the development of a better understanding of the complex interactions between plants and their associated microbial communities (bacteria and fungi) towards improving strategies to apply plants more effectively in the remediation and reclamation of disturbed areas.


Richard Lenski, Michigan State University, USA

Richard Lenski is the John Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University.  His research examines the genetic mechanisms and ecological processes that cause evolution.  Unlike most other evolutionary biologists, Prof. Lenski pursues an experimental approach to study evolution in action.  In an experiment started in 1988, he and his team have studied 12 populations of E. coli as they have evolved in the laboratory for over 60,000 generations, providing insights into the process of adaptation by natural selection, the dynamics of genome evolution, and the origin of new functions.  Prof. Lenski helped found the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action, an NSF Science and Technology Center that brings biologists, computer scientists, and engineers together to harness and illuminate the power of evolution in action.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Roman Stocker, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Straddling microbial ecology and fluid mechanics, Stocker's research has addressed a long-standing challenge in microbial oceanography: to study marine microbes in the context of their microenvironment. Stocker has pioneered the use of microfluidic technology in microbial oceanography, creating microscale model systems of marine processes by generating controlled nutrient landscapes and flow conditions. Combined with high-resolution dynamic imaging, a focus on fundamental physical processes (diffusion, turbulence, settling, motility), and mathematical modeling, this approach has brought an unprecedented level of resolution and thereby a new perspective to the study of marine microorganisms and their interactions (Stocker, Science 2012). Contributions from his group include the first experimental study of particle plume utilization by marine bacteria (Stocker et al, PNAS 2008), a characterization of the signaling role of DMSP within the microbial loop (Seymour et al, Science 2010), a mechanism for the formation of thin phytoplankton layers (Durham et al, Science 2009), the discovery that fluid flow causes patchiness in the distribution of phytoplankton (Durham et al, Science 2010 & Nat Comm 2013) and bacteria (Rusconi et al, Nat Phys 2014), the high-speed imaging of a new motility mode in marine bacteria (Son et al, Nat Phys 2013), and the direct visualization of the fascinating fluid mechanics of a coral surface (Fernandez et al, Science 2014; Shapiro et al, PNAS 2014). His research group, which hinges on interdisciplinary expertise from engineers, microbiologists, physicists and oceanographers, currently focuses on microbial motility, cell growth, viral infection, coral disease, oil degradation, particle consumption, and bacteria-phytoplankton interactions. In his spare time, Stocker has studied the biophysics of how cats lap (Reis et al, Science 2010 :).


Gerry Wright, McMaster University, Canada

Dr. Gerry Wright received his BSc in Biochemistry (1986) and his PhD in Chemistry (1990) from the University of Waterloo working in the area of antifungal drugs. He followed this up with 2 years of postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School in Boston where he worked on the molecular mechanism of resistance to the antibiotic vancomycin in enterococci. He joined the Department of Biochemistry at McMaster in 1993.
Gerry holds the Michael G. DeGroote Chair in Infection and Anti-Infective Research, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Biochemistry and has received Canadian Institutes of Health Research Scientist (2000-2005) and Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar (1995-2000), Killam Research Fellowship (2011-1012), Premier’s Research Excellence (1999) and Polanyi Prize (1993) awards. He was the American Society of Microbiology Division ‘A’ (Antimicrobial Chemotherapy) lecturer in 2007, received the Faculty of Science Alumni of Honor Award from the University of Waterloo (2007), was the 2012 Hopwood Lecturer (John Innes Centre, Norwich UK), and received the R.G.E Murray Award for Career Achievement, Canadian Society of Microbiologists in 2013. He was elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of Canada in 2012 and to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2013. He is the past director of the American Chemical Society Short Course on Antibiotics and Antibacterial Agents, . Dr. Wright was Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences for 6 years (2001-2007) and the founding director of the McMaster Antimicrobial Research Centre; he is co-founder, with Dr. Eric Brown, of the McMaster High Throughput Screening Facility. He has or is training 18 MSc and 21 PhD students along with 18 postdoctoral fellows.
Gerry has published over 215 papers and book chapters and is a member of the editorial boards of journals Chemistry and Biology, The Journal of Antibiotics, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Antimicrobial Therapeutics Reviews, mBio and Antimicrobial Agents Chemotherapy and is an Associate Editor of ACS Infectious Diseases.