This project is to provide partial financial support for up to 15 United States graduate students to present their work at the 15th International Congress on Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (15th IC-MPMI), which will be held at Kyoto International Conference Center, Kyoto, Japan, on July 29-August 2, 2012. For the past 30 years, this meeting series has been the premier forum for announcing and presenting the most compelling scientific discoveries about the molecular events that mediate the interaction of plants and microbes. The meeting content includes both pathogenic and symbiotic associations and covers oomycete, fungal, bacterial, viral, and nematode pathogens; nitrogen-fixing and mycorrhizal symbioses; and even some unusual associations, such as parasitic plant-plant interactions. Awardees will be chosen by an ad hoc committee consisting of the Principal Investigator of the project and the United States members of the Board of Directors of the IS-MPMI based on the quality of the science reflected in the abstract, a statement regarding how attending this congress will impact the applicant's research and/or career, and the applicant's curriculum vitae. Ethnic and gender diversity and disabilities will be considered to achieve a broad and balanced awardee portfolio. Past meetings of this series have fostered intensive exchange of scientific information and collaborations across a broad range of research topics and geographic locations, and have provided opportunities for graduate students to present their work and to network with leading scientists. As such, this meeting series has played a major role in the buildup of fundamental knowledge in the area of plant-microbe interactions and in the training of the next generation of scientists.

Project Report

This project provided partial financial support for 17 US graduate students to present their work at the 15th International Congress on Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (15th IC-MPMI), which was held at Kyoto International Conference Center, Kyoto, Japan, on July 29-August 2, 2012. On the last day of the Congress a special lunch was arranged by the Congress organizers for the awardees to meet and discuss about their experiences during the Congress. All awardees, most of whom were first-time attendees of the IC-MPMI Congress, found both the meeting and Japanese culture exciting and beneficial to their scientific career development. Many highlighted the precious opportunities to interact with colleagues and leaders of the field. The following are selected comments from awardees. Student #1 My experience in Japan at the XV International Congress of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions has been extremely rewarding, not only with respect to the abundance of knowledge that I have received, but also with respect to meeting eminent scientists in the field and networking. My university does not have a plant science department and hence this meeting was my only opportunity in the near future to listen to renowned scientists talk about their research. I love research and I plan to have a career in academics in the near future. I realize the importance of having opportunities for learning. The financial assistance provided by this award has helped me cover a lot of expenses on the trip and go to a country, which I could not have envisaged visiting in the near future. One additional advantage of this meeting was experiencing the beautiful culture and traditions of Japan through the excursion planned by the MPMI committee. The Congress dinner also gave us a glimpse of Japanese culture. It was very exciting to meet scientists and early career professionals like me from several different countries. Even with so much diversity, it was fun to talk the same language, rather the same jargon. Vast knowledge was gathered from not just the talks, but from the poster sessions as well. Student #2 During my time at the IS-MPMI conference, I was able to build relationships that I would never had the opportunity to otherwise make with professors and graduate students alike. Establishing these relationships will have an immeasurable benefit to my career and having the chance to meet with those that have greatly influenced my work have made this trip an invaluable experience. In addition to meeting those that share similar research interests, hearing them present about their current work brought me up to speed on new developments that are emerging in their respective labs. Beyond meeting new people and hearing presentations that are both exciting and relevant to my work, experiencing a new culture that I never experienced before was something I will never forget. Student #3 I had a great time in IS-MPMI Congress. In the conference, I learned a lot of up-to-date knowledge and approaches in the area. Besides, I got the precious chance to present my own research and introduce myself to many other scholars. By attending this conference, I like this academic area even more than before, which is very important to my future career. Student #4 The congress was a great success, which I really enjoyed. I learned a lot from the Plenary and Concurrent Sessions. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk to great scientists in the field of molecular plant-microbe interactions. The Poster sessions were also a great learning experience. I will finish my Ph.D. degree next year, thus attending this congress was key to the development of my professional career since I was able to pinpoint research areas of interest and to interact with potential postdoctoral advisors. Besides attending the congress, it was a fascinating experience traveling to Japan and getting to know this amazing culture. Student #5 The travel award I received to attend the XV International Congress on MPMI helped make possible an invaluable experience in my training as a scientist. The poster area alone was a gold mine. I often visited in the morning before talks began at 8:30 due to jetlagged early mornings and the fascinating, unpublished work presented there. What I learned from the posters and from the talks have given me a huge step forward. This is especially critical now that I’m preparing to publish my work and defend my doctoral dissertation. This Congress was the first chance I’ve had to give an oral presentation of my work at a major conference and to present a poster. Both were valuable learning experiences. I’m extremely grateful for both the scientific and the cultural growth I’ve come away with.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)
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Michael L. Mishkind
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Michigan State University
East Lansing
United States
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