Tag Archives: Microbial Population Biology

Ben Kerr on the Gordon Research Seminar on Microbial Populations

8 Jan

Ben Kerr, a professor at the University of Washington was one of only two faculty at the Gordon Research Seminar on Microbial Population Biology in the summer of 2013 (everyone else was grad student or postdoc). I asked him how he experienced the meeting.

I have written about the Gordon Research Seminar and Conference previously here (link). If you are interested in microbial populations, and if you would like to meet others who are interested in microbial populations too, please consider signing up. If you are unsure whether you’d be a good fit for the meeting, feel free to send me an email (pennings at sfsu dot edu).

Ben Kerr’s opinion: one of the most dynamic meetings I’ve attended!

Ben Kerr

Ben Kerr

“The 2013 Gordon Research Seminar was really quite a wonderful meeting.  As one of a few faculty members attending, I noticed some very positive deviations from a traditional small meeting (i.e., one featuring faculty).

First, here was a chance to hear presentations of the highest quality by the graduate students and postdocs actually doing the research.  This gave the session a tangible authenticity, featuring a unique perspective from those on the front line of research.

Second, the atmosphere of this meeting was extremely welcoming and supportive.  Constructive conversations about research, scientific communication, and professional development occurred both formally and informally throughout.  More than many other meetings, the GRS gave a wider audience a voice (regardless of age, gender and background, which was truly refreshing).

Third, the meeting allowed attendees to connect with others whose research complemented their own.  Several members of my lab (including me!) made important contacts during the GRS, which have led to productive collaborations.

Finally, the meeting was just plain fun!  Attendees seemed genuinely galvanized about their own work and ready to dive into conversation about the work of others.  For me, it is these dynamic interactions that make the social dimension of science so enjoyable— and the GRS was one of the most dynamic meetings I’ve attended.”

Come to the GRC and GRS on microbial populations!

12 Nov

In 2013 I went to the Microbial Population Biology GRC for the first time. GRC stands for Gordon Research Conference. GRCs are weeklong meetings, with around 150 participants, which typically repeat every other year. The GRC on Microbial Population Biology has been running since 1985!

The GRS: a pre-meeting for young scientists

Attached to the GRC is a GRS. GRS stands for Gordon Research Seminar. A Gordon Research Seminar is basically a mini-meeting for young scientists that takes place in the weekend before the GRC. At the GRS there are only students and postdocs, and this meeting is much smaller. I really liked the GRS because it was very easy to get to know people there. It was also nice to see postdocs and graduate students give talks, which is quite rare during the GRC. When the GRC started, I already knew quite a few faces and names.

This year (well, 2015) I am the chair of the GRS that is attached to the Micro Pop Bio GRC. Elizabeth Jerison, Lena Mendes-Soares and Krishna Swamy are co-organizers.

You should apply!

If you are a graduate student or postdoc in the field of microbial population biology, I want to encourage you to apply for the GRC and the GRS. Both meetings will fill up, so it is better to apply early (long before the official deadline). If you are unsure whether you can afford to come, apply anyways. Funds may become available. If you are from one of these countries: China, Russia, Ukraine, India, Africa, Central America, or South America, OR if you are a member of an underrepresented minority OR if you work at a primarily undergraduate institution, it is more likely that we could help you pay for participation.


One of the things I enjoyed most about the GRC in 2013 is how diverse the participants and speakers were. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a meeting where there were so many women and people of color. And I am not entirely sure why, but it felt very nice. It felt like this is a community that I’d want to be part of.

If you are not yet convinced, read what my fellow GRS organizers have to say:

REU07JerisonElizabethElizabeth Jerison: “everyone was really interested in each others’ science”

The 2013 GRS was a great experience. I particularly liked meeting fellow students and post docs in a smaller-group setting before the other conference participants arrived. This way, when the GRC began, I felt comfortable and knew several people. It was also fun and constructive to share my work, and hear about others’ research, in setting where everyone was really interested in each others’ science. Conversations that started at the GRS continued throughout the week at the GRC, as we discussed talks and posters. I think I got much more out of the Gordon Conference as a whole by attending the GRS.

lenaMendes-SoaresLena Mendes-Soares: “will lead to the development of more successful scientific careers”

While the Gordon Research Conference is considered the main Gordon scientific event for presenting research, at the Gordon Research Seminar, students and postdocs are given an added opportunity to showcase their research to an audience with varied scientific backgrounds, and receive valuable feedback on their work. In addition, the Gordon Research Seminar is an ideal venue for students and postdocs to informally share experiences characteristic of their stage in the research career. The chat about the renewals of grants, and editorial and administrative hardships experienced by senior researchers are replaced by chats about the submission of the first grant to NIH, the writing of the first lead-author paper, or the upcoming defense of the degree. Due to all this, the Gordon Research Seminars result in the establishment of collaborations between early career scientists with similar interests that will ultimately lead to the development of more successful scientific careers.