NZMS 2014 Conference Report

Monday, 24 November, 2014

The NZMS annual conference was held in Wellington last week. This year we joint with the New Zealand Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a fitting union given the conference’s theme of “Molecules and Microbes more –omic than ever?”  The conference was started with a thought provoking public lecture by Assoc. Prof. Mark Thomas on antibiotic use in New Zealand, and was followed by two and half days of outstanding scientific presentations - both oral and poster.

The conference was supported with plenary sessions from leading international researchers (Professors Andrew Benson, Albert Heck, Tjakko Abee and Kirill Alexandrov) and a range of invited speakers that supported each of the topic areas covered. Presentations selected from the abstracts made up the sessions. With over 200 delegates, presenting on a wide range of topics, there was plenty of discussion during the refreshment breaks and at the poster session!

NZMS has always been supportive of students, encouraging them to attend and engage with others in the science community. This year we held a Careers Workshop for our up and coming young scientists, ably chaired by Prof. Iain Lamont. Round table discussion groups were lead by microbiologists coming from a diverse range of career backgrounds, including the traditional and the not so traditional. Having been bolstered by pizza at the student function, discussions were lively and interesting with some common themes coming out: publish if you can during your studies, take opportunities when presented, find what you are passionate about and enjoy your work, don’t be afraid to contact people it shows initiative, and lastly and possibly the most importantly, don’t take rejection to heart, it’s happens a lot in science!

Students were given the opportunity to enter oral and poster competitions. For the oral competition, 21 students presented their work in 3 minutes, no easy task! Six finalists were selected and invited to give a full 12 minute presentation. Congratulations to Adrian Patterson from University of Otago who was the winner of the oral competition. 23 students participated in the poster competition, which was held over two sessions. Congratulations to Todd Wrightman (Otago), Katherine Robins (Victoria) and Charlotte Pushparajan (Canterbury) that were first, second and third respectively. Thanks to all the students who participated; the standard of presentation was extremely high making it quite challenging for the judges to select a winner.

As well as the usual scientific sessions, three societies held their AGMs (NZMS, NZSBMB and NZAFP) during the course of the conference.

To close the conference the 2015 NZMS Orator Professor John Brooks gave a fascinating presentation, describing his career and scientific aspirations, as well as those of being a fighter pilot! You can’t do everything but it is important to balance work and life aspirations!

Finally, in addition to thanking all of the conference attendees and the sponsors for making this a successful and memorable conference, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organising committee (Muriel Dufour, Kristen Dyet, Ron Xavier, David Ackerley, Bill Jordan, Katherine Campbell and Rosemary Hancock) for their support in making this such a great event.

I am pleased to say that microbiology, in all its forms, is alive and well in New Zealand.

I look forward to seeing you all again in 2015 at the next NZMS conference in Rotorua.

Helen Withers

Chair of the Conference Organising Committee