The 5th meeting of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology (ismet2015) was held at Arizona State University on October 1-4th, 2015. We spent a significant amount of time organizing the meeting, involving more than half of SCEB in its preparation. Both of us were part of the Scientific Committee and played a key role in selecting invited and plenary speakers, as well as session topics. Through this selection, we steered ismet2015 to be a balance between science and engineering, hoping to bridge researchers that would not typically meet at other venues. While there are many stories that we can tell about our efforts in organizing the meeting, here we focus on discussing some noteworthy presentations that made ismet2015 a memorable event. In our opinion, we had excellent presentations throughout the four days of the meeting. We only present a skewed vision of our top picks.
César’s top picks:
Alfred Spormann – Alfred was one of our invited speakers for the “Novel microorganisms and synthetic biology approaches” session. He discussed his group’s efforts to identify mechanisms of electron uptake by the methanogen Methanococcus maripaludis. I had seen him talk about this work twice before and the story keeps getting better and better, showing definitive proof of direct electron uptake from a cathode.
Jon Badalamenti – In the same session as Alfred, Jon discussed his efforts on sequencing the genome of several iron reducers from the Soudan Mine in Minnesota. He discussed the advantages of long-read metagenomics and indications of viral-mediated cytochrome gene transfer. His talk was memorable due to his excellent graphics (despite the fact that the projector was not cooperating), making it very easy to understand genomic information.
Sudeep’s top picks
Sarah Strycharz-Glaven – Sarah was the invited speaker for the microbial ecology session, and talked about her group’s efforts on biocathodes. I think this was the most well-rounded talks I saw at the meeting. Their approach towards understanding biocathodes is multi-disciplinary, involving electrochemical techniques, spectroscopy and meta-genomics. Despite several years of research from several groups, I feel it is Sarah’s groups work which is getting us closest to really understanding biocathodes. And of course, it’s always a pleasure to see a sigmoidal cathodic CV!
Lars Angenent – Lars, our new ISMET president, stood in for his postdoc JJ Xu (who loves oil), and talked about including membrane electrolysis for separating and recovering caproic acid from chain elongation reactors. Lars’s talk really showed that the applications of microbial electrochemical technologies where we use electrodes not to exchange electrons with microorganisms directly, but rather as a way of guiding ionic transport in bioreactors, are not only possible, but also exciting, and possibly the next frontier in our field.