INTELLECTUAL MERIT: The conference is the first of its kind; it aims to establish a regularly occurring information and interaction platform for researchers that study the molecular foundations of diatom biology, ecology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. The conference is intended to serve multiple purposes: (1) Exchange of information on current and emerging research progress , (2) Establish and promote collaborations of existing research groups in the field, (3) Provide a scientific forum for undergraduate and graduate students, and for postdoctoral researchers to foster their research education and to facilitate their transition into new research areas, (4) Attract interest of research groups from other research fields in order to engage them as new collaborators. The main topics of the conference span the full range of diatom science: Genomes and Molecular Genetics, Cell Biology, Physiology and Ecology, and Applications in Nano-, Bio- and Environmental Technology. The PI has assembled a five-person organizing committee consisting of leading researchers in the field and confirmed the participation of at least 12 invited speakers, each of them outstanding player in the topic areas enumerated above. The conference will provide a forum for exchange of information and ideas within this diverse community.

BROADER IMPACTS: The conference provides a platform for a wide-ranging discussion of all aspects of diatom biology and technology. To stimulate the participation of undergraduate researchers, several travel fellowships will be awarded to undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers. Special consideration will be given to members of these groups who are female and/or belong to underrepresented minorities. Attendees from these groups will also be offered an opportunity to make poster presentations. To engage students at the high school to college transition the PI will take advantage of his established collaboration (since Summer 2006) with Science teacher Danielle Armstrong from the local Dekalb Early College Academy (DECA). DECA has highly diverse student demographics (10% Hispanic, 80% African American, 5% Caucasian, 5% other). Ms. Armstrong will select up to 20 students from DECA to attend the conference talks and discussions on the second and third days of the meeting.

Project Report

The first international Molecular Life of Diatoms conference was held in Atlanta, Georgia between July 5th and 10th 2011. This conference was the first of its kind and became necessary as the field of diatom molecular biology has continued to grow in an accelerating fashion since 2002 when the first diatom genome project was started. Diatoms are of interest in a wide variety of areas ranging from ecology to materials science. They are arguably the most species-rich group of algae, have conquered most aquatic habitats, and play a major role in the global ecosystem (especially the carbon cycle). Despite the diatoms’ global importance and extraordinary metabolic and cellular capabilities, they have received little attention by the molecular biology community in the past. Recently, this has changed due to emerging insight from diatom genome projects, and substantial progress in genetic manipulation of diatoms. The conference was attended by 110 participants from 12 countries (USA, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Japan, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Israel, Australia) coming from academia, government laboratories and industry. Approximately 37% of the participants were women. Over the six days both oral (47 speakers) and poster (38 posters) presentations covered a diverse range of topics that included Cell Biology, Bio/nanotechnology, Physiology, Ecology, Genomes and Evolution. The NSF funding helped to support the travel costs for the 11 invited speakers. The relatively small conference size allowed for ample opportunities for the young scientists to interact with the senior scientists. At the conclusion of the conference due to its overwhelming success, dates were set for subsequent meetings to take place in Paris in June 2013 and Seattle in July 2015.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Materials Research (DMR)
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mohan srinivasarao
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Georgia Tech Research Corporation
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