Visiting Speakers Program

About the Visiting Speaker Program:

The purpose of the Visiting Speaker Program (VSP) is to provide a mechanism by which presenters may be supported to visit a number of State Branches to present on topics of interest and relevance to the ASM membership. It may also be a means of providing an interface between the Society and the broader population, through media opportunities, public lectures or similar means that will enhance the reputation of the Society.

Recommendations for potential VSPs can be made by any member of the Society using the form present here on the website.

Download the VSP recommendation form here

Please note that:

-This award does not support international flights and accommodation. It is solely for the use of visiting speakers for travel and accommodation within Australia.

-A detailed itinerary is requested.

-The recommended site visits are used as a guide only; the States and VSP representatives will determine the final makeup of the program based on their involvement and support for the recommended speaker.

-A budget will be determined by the National Scientific Advisory Committee (NSAC) based upon standard accommodation costs and best available airfares.

-ASM National Office will make the bookings for the trip.

The Recommendation form is the first stage of the process, after which, should there be sufficient interest from the Branches, an application will be made to NSAC for funding. Should this then be approved, then organisational steps will be undertaken by the Branches and the VSP representatives. The form is a fillable pdf form that needs to be saved and then emailed to the VSP Coordinator.

If you have any questions about the process or any recommendations, please contact the VSP Coordinator.

Mitchell Brown
VSP Coordinator
Australian Society for Microbiology, Inc.



Plenary Presentation:
Understanding Syphilis: Antigenic Variation and Diversity in Treponema pallidum

Symposium Presentation:
Using  Molecular Approaches to Answer Public Health Questions about Syphilis

Speaker Information:

Sheila Lukehart is Professor of Medicine and Global Health, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, and Adjunct Professor of Microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington.  She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at the University of California, San Diego, and her PhD in Microbiology & Immunology at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Following postdoctoral training at UC San Diego in Immunopathology, she moved to the University of Washington where she joined the faculty.  Dr Lukehart is a recognized expert on syphilis and Treponema pallidum, and her research has been actively supported by the National Institutes of Health for over 30 years.  Dr. Lukehart has focused her research on the molecular pathogenesis of syphilis and the host immune responses to Treponema pallidum.  Although her work is largely laboratory-based, she has also conducted several clinically relevant investigations, most notably on neurosyphilis, syphilis-HIV interactions, and antibiotic resistance in T. pallidum.  She has published over 120 original scientific papers, numerous chapters and reviews, and has co-edited a book on Molecular Biology and Pathogenesis of Treponemal Infections.  In addition, Dr. Lukehart is actively involved in the training of young STD scientists as Director University of Washington STD & AIDS Research Training Program, and former Director of the National Sexually Transmitted Infections Developmental Award Program.


Plenary Presentation:
Uncorking the Past: Fermentation as Humankind's First Biotechnology

Symposium Presentation:
Ancient Fermentative Microorganisms: Botanical and Chemical Perspectives

Speaker Information:

Dr. Patrick E. McGovern is the Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, where he is also an Adjunct Professor of Anthropology.  Over the past two decades, he has pioneered the exciting interdisciplinary field of Biomolecular Archaeology which is yielding whole new chapters concerning our human ancestry, medical practice, and ancient cuisines and beverages.



Professor Jizhong Zhou from the University of Oklahoma will be in Sydney on 2nd -3rd July, and in Brisbane on 4th -5th July, as part of the Visiting Speaker Program organised by the ASM.

Details of the locations and times for presentations by Prof Zhou are available through your local State Branch. Contact your local VSP representative for more details, or visit your Branch website, or check your Branch communications.

Speaker Information:

Professor Jizhong Zhou, Director and Presidential Professor, Institute for Environmental Genomics (IEG) ( at the University of Oklahoma, is a molecular ecologist well known for his research in the fields of functional genomics, genomic technology and evolutionary genomics. The development of the functional microarray, GeoChip, has revolutionized the use of advanced genomic technology in routine environmental microbiology research. GeoChip is used worldwide to study the functional diversity, composition, structure, and functions of microbial communities from a variety of habitats (e.g., water systems, air, soil, extreme environments, contaminated sites, reactors, human microbiomes). Here is a link to the GeoChip article in ISME Journal: His group at the IEG is at the forefront of cutting edge molecular techniques in ecological and diagnostic research addressing wide ranging issues such as impact of global warming, Gulf of Mexico oil spill etc. He has published more than 150 publications in refereed journals and received numerous awards both within USA and around the World.



Professor Gisela Storz from the National Institutes of Health in Maryland will be in Brisbane on Thursday 11th July, and in Sydney on 12th July, as part of the Visiting Speaker Program organised by the ASM.

Details of the locations and times for presentations by Prof Storz are available through your local State Branch. Contact your local VSP representative for more details, or visit your Branch website, or check your Branch communications.

Speaker Information:

Gisela Storz received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. She carried out post-doctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Sankar Adhya at the National Cancer Institute and in the laboratory of Dr. Fred Ausubel at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is currently head of the Section on Environmental Gene Regulation.





Jill Banfield is a geomicrobiologist whose work focuses on the relationship between microorganisms and their chemical environments, most notably minerals. Her work has helped us understand how microorganisms alter their chemical and physical environments, such as during bioremediation. As an Australian native, Banfield’s career began at the Australian National University where she completed her bachelors and masters degrees (1985). She graduated with a PhD in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1990. Throughout her career, Banfield has been a professor at universities worldwide, including the University of Wisconsin, Madison and The University of Tokyo. Since 2001, she has been a professor at the University of California Berkeley, where she heads their geomicrobiology program and works under the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Her research spans from field sites in California to Australia and from subjects of astrobiology, extremophiles, how microorganisms impact mineralogy, and genomics/geosciences. She is a pioneer in the new scientific field called "nanogeoscience" which investigates geological processes that involve particles no larger than 100 nanometers. She also leads a NASA-funded study to determine whether life ever existed on the planet Mars. Her work has appeared in the world’s top scientific publications including Science and Nature, and she is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2010, Jill was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth and Environmental Science, and The L'Oreal.-UNESCO Award for exceptional women in science.

Friday 6th and Monday 9th in Sydney
Tuesday 10th Canberra
Thursday 12th and Friday 13th in Melbourne.

Topics of talks:

Titles of talks:

For further information, please contact your local (state) VSP representative:


Sue Cornish (VIC)
Ruiting Lan (NSW)
Mohammad Katouli (QLD)
Peter Traynor (SA)
Tom Riley (WA)
Louise Roddam (TAS)
Harvey Rubin

Dr. Rubin received his PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1974 and his MD from Columbia University in 1976. He was a House Officer in Medicine at The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston and did his fellowship in infectious diseases at Harvard and the Brigham. Dr. Rubin joined the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania in 1983 and became Professor of Medicine in 1998. Dr. Rubin holds secondary appointments as Professor in the Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine and as Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. At the present time Dr. Rubin serves as a member of the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee. He won the Donald B Martin, MD Teaching Service Award in 1996. He also serves as the course director for the Wilderness Medicine elective. He is the Director of the Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response (ISTAR) at the University of Pennsylvania .

Research interests:

The Rubin laboratory is involved in several projects.


Pathogenesis of dormancy in Mycobacterium tuberculosis: It is widely and believed that oxygen limitation, amino acid starvation and carbon source restriction are involved in establishing and maintaining Mycobacterium tuberculosis in a dormant state. Correspondingly, emergence from dormancy is related to a partial or complete amelioration of these conditions. The lab identified three genetic and enzyme systems that comprise regulatory networks in M.TB that may be involved in pathogenesis.
Enzymology and cell biology of serine proteases and serine protease inhibitors: Serine proteases and serine protease inhibitors (serpins) play critical roles in inflammation, coagulation, growth and development. The lab has proposed a general model for the mechanism of inhibition of serine proteases by serine protease inhibitors based on site directed mutagenesis, atomic resolution crystal structures and NMR spectroscopic analyses, and is exploring the consequences and extensions of this model.
Biomolecular Computation: A new area of investigation is known as biomolecular computation where complex computational operations are carried out using biomolecules, in particular using DNA. The lab showed how macromolecules can be manipulated to carry out fundamental logical operations and can be wired together as reversible logic gates. The lab is collaborating with members of the School of Engineering on modeling complex biological behavior using a hybrid systems approach that combines continuous and stochastic modalities.
Thur 5th July
Visit Mycobacteria reference Lab, VIDRL (Melbourne)
Presentation to ASM Vic Branch in evening

Fri 6th July
Visit Mycobacteria Reference Lab, SA Pathology (IMVS) (Adelaide);
Presentation to SA Branch in evening.

Mon 9th July
Visit Mycobacteria Reference Lab, PathWest (Perth)
Presentation to WA Branch in evening.

Tues 10th July
Presentation to SA/NT Branch in evening. (Darwin)

Wed 11th July
Visit to CDC NT, Menzies School of Health (Darwin)

Topics / titles of talks:

Molecular Mechanisms of Dormancy in Mycobacteria
Energy Production in Mtb--the Oxidative Phosphorylation Pathway, and can combine the two and talk on Molecular Mechanisms for New Anti-TB Drug Discovery
Forbidden Knowledge--Is Some Scientific Inquiry Just Too Dangerous?
Biosecurity and Biosafety- The Balance Between New Knowledge and Dangerous Research