The Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics celebrated its 30-year history Nov. 8 with a daylong reunion featuring those who have made the department what it is today. Former faculty, postdoctoral fellows, students, and staff – coming as far away as from China – returned to the department to celebrate the department’s milestone. More than 130 attendees participated in the events which included a scientific program, laboratory tours, a mixer, and dinner.
Theresa Koehler, PhD, chair of the department and holder of the Herbert L. and Margaret W. DuPont Professor in Biomedical Science, kicked off the event at the Onstead Auditorium of MD Anderson Mitchell Research Building with a timeline of the department, outlining the history and the addition of each faculty member, providing an overview of how the faculty have given rise to the department’s five research program areas: cell cycle and development, gene regulation, host-pathogen interactions, microbial stress response, and molecular machines.
The 14 invited speakers included former trainees, who were introduced by their mentors, and some founding faculty who have relocated to other institutions. The scientific program concluded with a talk presented by the newest faculty member of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Jennifer Walker, PhD.
Following laboratory tours in McGovern Medical School, the group gathered for a mixer and dinner at the Memorial Hermann Conference Center. After dinner, current graduate student and postdoctoral leadership made brief presentations on current training programs and founding chair Samuel Kaplan, PhD, provided the keynote address, “In the beginning …” an historic overview of the department.
He said building the department back in 1989 was challenging but filled with opportunities. “How do you recruit faculty into a vacuum?” he asked, adding that space was completely redesigned in the John Freeman Building and the Medical School Building to accommodate the department’s laboratory needs.
“It was wonderful to have alums join us from all over the country – from California to Maryland – to celebrate our accomplishments and reconnect with each other and past colleagues,” Koehler said. “It was quite special to gather current and past MMG members with folks who were never officially members of the department but who were in the Texas Medical Center when the department was just beginning and who supported Dr. Sam Kaplan’s mission.”