Koehler, Kaplan elected to ASM leadership positions

By Roman Petrowski, Office of Communications

Theresa Koehler, PhD, and Heidi Kaplan, PhD, have been elected to leadership positions within the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). Their terms begin July 1, 2023.

Dr. Theresa Koehler - ASM President Elect
Theresa Koehler, PhD

Theresa Koehler, PhD, president-elect
Koehler is the President-Elect for the society and will serve a one-year term until 2024. As president, Koehler will chair the ASM Board of Directors. She will be responsible for ensuring the execution of the policies determined by the board of directors and will serve as a primary spokesperson for the society.

Koehler’s goals as president of the society are to (1) strengthen public confidence in the ability to improve the human condition through the advancement of scientific knowledge, (2) employ creative approaches to enhance and embrace membership of diverse backgrounds, and (3) capitalize on increased interest in infectious disease to engage scientists who are not formally trained in microbiology to join the efforts to respond to emerging threats.

In the lab, Koehler’s research focuses on bacteria of the Bacillus cereus group. Her research is at the forefront of B. anthracis genetics and regulation of gene expression with findings being reported in multiple peer-reviewed publications.

At the McGovern Medical School, Koehler trained and mentored postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, medical students, and undergraduates through the Microbiology Summer Research Program. She played a key role in the Microbiology and Infectious Disease Training Program and serves as a principal investigator on a T32 training grant.

Koehler joined the Medical School as an assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics in 1991 before advancing to the rank of associate professor in 2000 and professor in 2005. In 2011, she became the chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, a position she held until her retirement in 2022. Koehler was named chair emerita for the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

Koehler began serving on the program committee for the ASM Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases Research Meeting in 2006 before being elected as the meeting’s co-chair in 2008. She was elected as an American Academy of Microbiology fellow in 2008.

Koehler earned a master of science degree (1984) and a PhD (1987) in microbiology at the University of Massachusetts before completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Heidi Kaplan - ASM Leadership
Heidi Kaplan, PhD

Heidi Kaplan, PhD, vice chair
Kaplan was elected vice chair for the Council on Microbial Sciences. The COMS is a key connection between ASM’s members and ASM’s leaders—and serves as a place where members can get involved with the society.

COMS represents eight communities in the American Society for Microbiology, including Antimicrobial Agents and Resistance; Applied and Environmental Science; Clinical Infections and Vaccines; Clinical and Public Health Microbiology; Ecology, Evolution, and Biodiversity; Host-Microbe Biology; Molecular Biology and Physiology; and Profession of Microbiology.

As vice chair for COMS, Kaplan said she hopes to have an impact on the COMS mission by overseeing and facilitating the activities of all eight communities. She has an interest in helping to guide the subset of communities that will prepare and hold retreats and develop recommendations for ASM leadership.

Kaplan also hopes to implement an onboarding program for new COMS members to enhance understanding of their role in COMS and the society before attending their first meeting, as well as aims to strengthen COMS charge to serve as the connection between ASM members and leaders.

Kaplan served as the national chair for the ASM General Microbiology Division in 1997 and as chair of the ASM Distinguished Lecturers Committee from 2015-21. She has held roles on the ASM membership committee (2015-21) and nominating committee (2021-22) and is the Texas Branch Councilor for COMS.

Kaplan received her PhD in microbiology from Cornell University in 1986 before completing a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dale Kaiser, PhD, at Stanford University Medical Center in 1991. She joined the McGovern faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor before becoming associate professor in 1999.

The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences and is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

ASM advances the microbial sciences through conferences, publications, certifications, educational opportunities, and advocacy efforts. It enhances laboratory capacity around the globe through training and resources, and it provides a network for scientists in academia, industry, and clinical settings. Additionally, ASM promotes a deeper understanding of microbial sciences to diverse audiences.