Amelia Lovelace,1 Andrew Read,2 Nichole Ginnan,3 and Kevin Cox4
1 The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park, NR4 7UH, UK
2 Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
3 Microbiome Center, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
4 Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO, USA
The ongoing COVID pandemic has impacted many facets of our personal and professional lives, including the cancellation of in-person scientific conferences. Conferences are vital for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and building professional networks—both of which are particularly crucial for researchers at early stages of their careers. IS-MPMI leadership recognized that our community must adapt and, thus, designed a virtual conference to create opportunities for early career scientists to share their innovative research within our community.
Members of the plant–microbe interactions community from across the globe gathered virtually for the 2022 Early Career Showcase Symposium. This seminar series took place over 4 days, June 8–9 and September 20–21, and featured talks from 35 nominated researchers housed at institutions in 15 countries. In addition to geographic diversity, topics presented spanned the spectrum of plant–microbe interactions. Several talks focused on new discoveries related to plant immunity and effector biology, in addition to advances in biological controls, symbiosis/microbiome studies, and intriguing data analysis tools. Speakers were selected for their excellence in science, as well as their efforts in creating and maintaining diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.
Each day research talks were followed by breakout sessions led by prominent members of the IS-MPMI community. These more intimate groups enhanced networking opportunities and centered discussions around future career options, fellowships and grants, scientific intuition, effective networking, and pitching concurrent IS-MPMI session ideas. In addition to the live event, research talks were recorded and are available to the IS-MPMI community
You can also follow the conversation on Twitter, which includes links to preprints and published manuscripts, as this symposium was tweeted live by the official IS-MPMI Twitter account (@IS-MPMI) handle using the #ISMPMIShowcase hashtag.
Although not a substitute for in-person meetings, the virtual format removed some significant hurdles, such as financial and visa requirements, that limit the ability of numerous scientists to attend national and international conferences.
We believe that the success of the Early Career Showcase should serve as a model for future virtual or hybrid opportunities that allow us to highlight the contributions of the global IS-MPMI community—especially in years when there is no in-person IS-MPMI Congress. We would like to thank the presenters, the IS-MPMI Board of Directors, and the moderators who volunteered their time to put together this wonderful showcase.
Figure 1. Summary of symposium program and speaker demographics.