A brief interview with our Diversity Session speaker, Dr. Jennie Hunter-Cevera. Come listen to her talk about Initiatives in Diversity at the SIMB Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

What is your role at the Maryland Higher Education Commission?
I am the Acting Secretary for the agency. I oversee staff that deals with curriculum approval, regulatory guidelines and coordination of higher education for public, private and trade schools in Maryland. We are responsible for not only ensuring that higher education is accessible and affordable but also of high quality. MHEC oversees all of the State and federal grants and loans to students requiring financial assistance to obtain post-secondary degrees.

What do you feel are the most important goals that our field must achieve in the next 5 years?
With respect to higher education and the STEM related topics, it is very important that the USA continues to encourage and support students to enter STEM fields especially over the next five years. Our current models for higher education are not sustainable and the student population is changing with respect to demographics and older students going back to school or people changing careers mid-stream in their path. We need to look at new models of funding higher education by being more flexible, more accountable and more responsive to the students and faculty. We also need to provide more internships or experience in industry and encourage industry to provide more scholarships and fellowships for STEM majors

What influenced you to pursue a career in science and how does that motivate you today?
My grandfather’s library was filled with so many books and I loved to spend hours looking at his medical and botanical books. I would ask what was going on in a blade of grass and what did it ‘feel’ when ants walked on the leaf surface? I thought nature was the best teacher to really understand life. I still become very excited when I walk in the woods and just observe all the various life forms and how they interact with each other on many fronts. There are so many health, environmental and agricultural problems to be solved today given the world population and climate change. I believe by elucidating ‘nature’s ways we can find solutions that would benefit societal needs and that keeps me involved in science.

What have you learned from your mentors- they could be personal friends, business contacts, or people you have read about and admire?
That you should always follow your heart and if you really want something, make it happen. Perpetual vigilance is critical to following through on any research project and asking questions from the microbe’s point of view rather than the human point of view can lead to really cool discoveries. Leaders create other leaders, not followers. That no question is too stupid and that team work really does work when the communication is happening at many levels.

Where are you from? And what is your favorite vacation spot?
I was born and grew up in Monessen, Pennsylvania which was a small steel mill town filled with so many diverse cultures and religions. My favorite vacation spot is Townsville, Australia when I am overseas, and Sedona, Arizona when home in the States.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned?
That you are never too old to reinvent yourself.

What are your hobbies?
Exercising and power lifting, painting water colors, tennis, singing.

What are your 3 favorite books?
Pillars of the Earth
The Great Gatsby
This is How

What do you look for in a poster presentation?
When I stop by and read a poster, I first examine to see if the methods employed really address the question or hypothesis being addressed. I look for how the results were interpreted and what future work is or will be planned based on the conclusion.

What have you seen on a resume that you never ever want to see again?
A long, long objective that wants to save the planet!

Bonus: Who do you follow online for tips on diversity or professional motivation?
I don’t follow anyone on line for tips on diversity or professional motivation. I mediate and read the Bible every day – that is pretty diverse and highly motivating!

Congratulations to the newly-elected board members. The new officers will be installed during the annual business meeting on Wednesday, August 5 at 11:45 am in Philadelphia during the SIMB Annual Meeting and Exhibition.

Winners of the 2015 SIMB Election for Board of Directors are:
President-elect: George Garrity, Michigan State University
Secretary: Rob Donofrio, NSF International (re-elected)
Director: Steve Picataggio, DuPont

JIMB is the flagship journal of SIMB. As stated in JIMB “aims and scope”, it is an international journal that publishes papers describing original research, short communications and critical reviews in the fields of biotechnology, fermentation and cell culture, biocatalysis, environmental microbiology, natural products discovery and biosynthesis, metabolic engineering, genomics, bioinformatics, food microbiology and other areas of applied microbiology. “Significantly novel industrial microbiology and/or biotechnology” is a major criterion for accepting manuscripts. Thus, manuscripts reporting on well described processes, organisms, enzymes, shake flask optimization, screening studies/isolation studies, etc. are not acceptable unless novel and significant new information pertaining to “industrial microbiology and/or biotechnology” is presented. JIMB publishes high quality manuscripts and reviews.
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The 2015 SIMB Election is currently in progress. You have until March 31, 2015, 3 p.m. EST to cast your vote.

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Username: Your last name with the first letter capitalized.
Password: Your customer ID number. Some members have an “I” (as in ice) in their customer ID number. This is capitalized and needs to be included.

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After logging on, you will select one candidate for the office of President-Elect, Secretary and Director. Each of the offices to be filled, will serve a three-year term. Vote for each office. You will have the opportunity to edit your choices on the confirmation page. You may exit at any time without voting by signing out.

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Three hundred attendees from twenty-four countries attended the recent SIMB Conference on Natural Product Discovery and Development in the Post-genomic Era. Members representing the Korean Society for Microbiology and Biotechnology and the Society for Actinomycetes Japan were well represented with over 70 delegates. The four-day meeting featured keynote and banquet talks by Greg Verdine, Warp Drive Bio and Julian Davies, University of British Columbia as well as six general sessions and over 125 posters. Many thanks to the international organizing committee and our corporate sponsors. Special thanks go to conference program chairs Richard Baltz, CognoGen Biotechnology Consulting and SIMB Past President, Leonard Katz, SynBerc, UC-Berkeley for developing.

A special issue of the Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology (JIMB) will feature selected papers from the meeting and is scheduled for publication in early 2016.