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Happenings at the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists

By Kelly Weinersmith

Photos by Christina Anaya and Kelly Weinersmith

The American Society of Parasitologists (ASP) held our 94th Annual Meeting in Rochester, MN on July 11-14th. (For a funny and brief overview of the meeting, check out Resolutions from the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Parasitologists.)

The meeting kicked off with two free Clinical Parasitology Wet Lab Workshops organized by Dr. Bobbi Pritt (who also runs the Creepy Dreadful Wonderful Parasites blog). Participants who were new to parasitology got to see some amazing specimens for the first time, and those of us who have been at it for longer were thrilled at the chance to see some parasite “old friends”. (I haven’t seen Echinococcus in a lab in ages!) We reveled in live leeches, mosquito larvae, ticks, and a filarial worm (!), as well as preserved specimens including lice, Plasmodium falciparum, and Giardia. There was also a demonstration on how to make thick and thin blood smears, which are harder to make than they look!

The next day we rose bright and early to enjoy Dr. John Hawdon’s President’s Symposium entitled “Entomopathogenic Nematodes: Parasitism in Three Acts”. These nematodes are symbiotic with bacteria, and together they infect and kill insect hosts. Drs. Heidi Goodrich-Blair, Ioannis Eleftherianos, and Adler Dillman kept us entertained with talks about the symbiotic relationships between nematodes and bacteria, the use of fruit flies to understand the insect immune response to entomopathogenic nematodes, and how nematodes also cause pathology in insect hosts (pathology is typically attributed to the bacteria). The stop-motion animation of the entomopathogenic nematode life cycle created by Adler was particularly memorable, as was the video he shared of thousands of nematodes streaming from their dead insect host.

Christina Anaya kicking off the ASP Students' Symposium.

This year’s ASP Students’ Symposium was organized by ASP’s Student Representative, Christina Anaya. This year’s topic was “Preparing for and Navigating Your Parasitology Future”. Talks were given by Christina Anaya, Susan Perkins, Bobbi Pritt, Blaine Mathison, and me (Kelly Weinersmith). There were some surprising common themes that arose during the talks. In particular, nearly everyone on stage left a grad program at some point, and all of us took fairly tortuous paths on our journeys to becoming parasitologists.

Christina Anaya presenting an award to Staci Dreyer, this year's winner of the Palettes and Parasites competition.

Christina Anaya was an unstoppable force this year. In addition to organizing the Students’ Symposium, Christina oversaw the Vortex (a speed-meet event where students have an opportunity to ask various professors questions over the course of an hour), started the “Meal with a Mentor” program (where mentors volunteer to meet with students over a meal, and then students sign up to pick the mentor they’d like to chat with), and the “Palettes and Parasites” competition (where ASP members submit their artwork, and folks vote for their favorite piece during the poster session). There were some amazing SEMs on display and some inspired parasite-themed artwork this year. The winner was Staci Dreyer, for her cross-stitched her work entitled: “Parasites, Vectors, and Microbes, Oh My!"

ASP students posing for a photo with Nobel Prize winner Dr. William Campbell, after presenting him with a card thanking him for his support of ASP Student Travel Grants.

The 29th Annual ASP Student Auction was a huge success, raising over $10,000! This money will go towards Marc Dresden Student Travel Grants, to support students attending future meetings. We were also extremely thankful for the $5,000 donation from Dr. William Campbell, who sold a commissioned painting and requested that the funds be donated for ASP Student Travel Grants! Thanks so much to everyone who donated to or purchased items from the auction, and thanks to Dr. Campbell for his continued support of ASP students. And many, many thanks to Lee Couch and Kelly Sapp – who have served ASP as our auction organizers for over 10 years, and are stepping down this year. We all have great memories from the auctions they've organized, and many students have received support to attend our meetings due to their hard work.

ASP President Dr. John Hawdon presenting his Presidential Address.

John Hawdon’s Presidential Address was called “Hookworm and the ASP: A Presidential Perspective”. Many of ASP’s early Presidents (including Stiles, Cort, Hall, Chandler, Stoll, and Schad) studied hookworms and their implications for human health, and, as John told us, “It’s fair to say hookworm courses through the guts of our society”. (I’ll note that we all voraciously enjoyed our lunches after hearing this analogy, which tells you something about the kinds of people who attend ASP meetings.)

This year’s Stoll Stunkard Lecture was presented by Dr. Andre Buret, who discussed his research exploring how infection with enteropathogens can alter the microbiome and trigger downstream conditions like inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Jayne Raper then presented the R. Barclay McGee Lecture, and told us about her work to understand the arms race between trypanosomes and their hosts, and her ambitious efforts to make a transgenic cow capable of resisting trypanosomes in Africa.

John Janovy Jr. presenting the Ward Medal to Matthew Bolek.

The winner of this year’s Henry Baldwin Ward Medal Lecture was Matthew Bolek, who gave an incredible lecture called “Parasites in the secret garden: the ultimate teachers of natural history”. Matt became enamored of the idea of studying nature in a secret garden when his mom read him The Secret Garden as a kid. We learned that Matt was born in Poland, moved to Libya to escape Communist Poland, spent time at a refugee camp in Italy, and his family eventually settled in the Midwest in the USA. Through it all he was fascinated by wild animals and their parasites, and worked on setting up “zoos” wherever he went. It’s always a relief to learn that our parasitology heroes are humans like the rest of us, and so I appreciated that Matt shared that his grades weren’t always great, and that he puked due to nerves before giving his first scientific talk. Matt eventually found his own secret garden in the Cedar Point Biological Station, and I hear he has an amazing zoo at his house.

We closed out the meeting with our annual ASP Awards and Business Meeting. ASP awarded Timothy Geary the Clark P Read Mentor Award, and Tim’s acceptance speech had loads of valuable advice. He taught us that mentoring is different than advising – mentoring means welcoming the people you’re responsible for into your family and investing in their lives. The theme that life is not linear arose in the Students’ Symposium and was heard in Tim’s speech as well. Tim urged us to make the best of things, and learn to make wherever you are a good place to be.

It was a banner year for “Tims”, as we next awarded the 2019 American Society of Parasitologists Distinguished Service Award to Tim Yoshino. Congratulations, Tim! ASP also bestowed the 2019 Ashton Cuckler New Investigator Award to Graham Rosser (who, in addition to being a great parasitologist, had an amazing Van Gogh-inspired piece of parasite artwork in the Palettes and Parasites exhibit). Congratulations, Graham!

Thanks to Augustín Jimenez and the rest of the Awards Committee for all their hard work!

Student Paper Winners Scott Malotka, Anneke Lincoln Shoeman, and Adefunke Ogunkanbi.

Every year ASP recognizes the best oral presentations given by students at our annual meeting. This year’s Outstanding Student Paper Awards went to Anneke Lincoln Shoeman and Micah Warren! Our Meritorious Student Paper Awards went to Scott Malotka and Adefunke Ogunkanbi1 Congratulations to these amazing students, and to all of the students who presented this year! There were many excellent tanks.

We also recognized students who were awarded Willis Read Student Research Grants and Marc Dresden Student Travel Grants earlier this year. Congratulation to Tyler Achatz and Ryan Shannon (the recipients of our Student Research Grants), and to Tyler Achatz, Christina Anaya, Candace Ashworth, James Bernot, Seth Bromegan, Sara Carpenter, Haley Dutton, William Ellenburg, Thayane Fernandes, Demi Gagnon, Rita Grunberg, Collin Horn, Rachel Imai, Ryan Koch, Scott Malotka, Joshua Marquez, Nicholas Mathy, Brian Mullin, Adefunke Ogunkanbi, Brittany Pulkkila, Evelin Rejman, Anneke Schoeman, Ryan Shannon, Douglas Stephan, J. Trevor Vannatta, Fiorella Vialard, Micah Warren, and Elizabeth Zeldenrust.

Marc Dresden Student Travel Grant awardees.

Congratulations to ASP’s student members for all your hard work! We’re thrilled you joined us at this year’s meeting, and hope to see you again next year!

At the Business Meeting we also announced that this year ASP became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization! Many, many thanks to Lee Couch, who did most of the legwork to make this happen! A lot of the behind the scenes work done this year involved updating our procedures to fit nonprofit requirements and best practices. This ended up being a huge amount of work, and we thank President Hawdon for the countless hours he spent researching administrative rules and writing updated procedures so ASP could become and subsequently stay compliant. John tells me he eventually came to enjoy researching non-profit rules. Whatever John was taking that allowed him to reach this administrative state of Zen – we hope he saved some for incoming President Julián Hillyer, who took over ASP’s reigns at the end of the meeting. Congrats, Dr. Hillyer!

A huge thanks to our local organizing committee, which included Bobbi Pritt, Robert Sorenson, Andrew Dahl, Kirsten Jensen, Deb Clopton, Rich Clopton, Reginald Blaylock, Kaylee Herzog, and Sarah Orlofske! Additionally, after 20 years of service, Herman Eure and Kelli Sapp have announced that they’re stepping down from the Scientific Program Officer positions. Thank you so much for your service to the society!!

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