Scientific Conference Abstract Scholarship 2022: Jake Newitt

Conference: 19th International Symposium on the Biology of Actinomycetes (ISBA), Canada

Attending the 19th International Symposium on the Biology of Actinomycetes (ISBA) was an immensely valuable experience for my personal and professional development. It was truly a privilege to hear plenary talks from some of the most seminar researchers in our field. My research is focused on environmental microbiology, specifically how Streptomyces promote plant health in the wheat root microbiome. Attending this conference was beneficial for my research, as I gained new ideas by listening to leading experts in plant/Streptomyces interactions.

Prior to attending the conference, I was struggling with a research problem: - “How can I determine whether Streptomyces prime the plant immune system?”. I found a new way to approach this problem by discussing with Professor Gilles van Wezel from Leiden University, something that was made possible by this in-person international meeting.

Numerous sub-disciplines within the field were well represented by an excellent range of speakers delivering high quality talks. This really helped to improve my breadth of knowledge, and has shaken up my approach to experimental design.

I was invited to give a poster presentation at the conference, this was an incredibly valuable experience. Prizes were offered for the best presentations, I was very pleased to win first prize. To be able to claim such an accolade at an international conference is quite a prestige, of which I’m very proud. The poster presentation was an excellent chance to discuss my research project with the actinomycete community. During the formal two-hour presentation slot, I hardly had chance to catch my breath, as I found myself consistently engaged. Researchers from all over the world came to see my poster, ask questions, and make suggestions. Many of these suggestions were highly valuable, I am currently following up on them now I have returned to my research. My discussion with Dr. Geertje van Keulen was particularly valuable; I hope to analyze the wheat root metabolome in order to quantify Streptomyces metabolites, Geertje has been challenged with similar research problems in the past and recommended an appropriate methodology.

Dawn Bignell is a group leader from Newfoundland, she has made seminal contributions to the study of plant pathogenic Streptomyces. I had the privilege of talking with her on several occasions over the course of the conference, one of which was at my poster presentation. She shared with me several ideas that could help push forward both my research project, as well as the broader Streptomyces/plant research that is conducted within our (Prof. Matt Hutchings’) group.

These are to name but a few of the community that I engaged with at this conference, I left Toronto with a sense that I had made a lasting impression with potential future employers. Attending this conference and sharing my research has left me feeling refreshed and motivated to continue with my research.