Thursday Seminar Series

On the second Thursday of each month in the 2020-2021 academic year, we’re bringing you a seminar full of microbial sciences and the awesome researchers who make it happen.

These monthly virtual seminars will be free and open to all. Faculty, staff, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, and microbe enthusiasts of any variety are encouraged to attend.

For full participation, please register for the Zoom webinar associated with each talk (links provided with talk information, below). If you cannot make it to the live event, or would like to revisit a favorite seminar, you can view all archived talks on the MSI YouTube channel.

For updates, make sure to watch this website, the weekly MSI newsletter, and @HarvardMSI on Twitter.




  • Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm EST
    • Dr. Kathryn Kauffman
    • Register HERE
    • Bio Kathryn completed her PhD in Biological Oceanography through the MIT–WHOI Joint Program in 2014 - working in the group of Martin Polz, with whom she stayed on for postdoctoral training. She joined the Department of Oral Biology in the School of Dental Medicine at the University at Buffalo in March of 2020. In transitioning between ecosystems - from marine to mouths, oceans to oral, seas to saliva - the fundamental question stays the same: how do viruses shape microbial systems? 
    • Topics phage host range; non-tailed phages; phage recombination
    • Title “Resolving the structure of phage-bacteria interactions in the context of natural diversity”
    • Abstract Viruses shape the structure and function of all microbial systems - from the ocean to the human microbiome. Yet, resolving which viruses (phages) and bacteria are interacting is a major challenge in the context of natural levels of microbial diversity. Thus, fundamental features of how phage-bacteria interactions are structured and evolve have remained poorly resolved. Here, I highlight insights into these questions that have emerged from our studies of a large-scale model system of marine heterotrophic bacteria and their phages. Using cultivation-based approaches to investigate sensitivity of 279 bacterial isolates to killing by 248 phages (>69K possible interactions), nearly all with sequenced genomes, we discover features that shed new light on key assumptions about phages and their host ranges in nature. 


  • Thursday, March 11 2021 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm EST
    • Dr. Arash Komeili
    • Bio Arash received his PhD from UCSF in 2001.  His thesis work was conducted in the laboratory of Professor Erin O'Shea on the mechanisms of nucleocytoplasmic transport of transcription factors. He then began a project to understand the formation of magnetosome organelles in Professor Dianne Newman's laboratory at Caltech.  In 2005 he joined the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley where he is now a Professor.  He holds an Affiliated Professor position in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and is a QB3 affiliate.  
    • Topics prokaryotic cell biology; bacterial organelles; magnetosomes; ferrosomes;
    • Title The ins and outs of bacterial organelles
    • Abstract Open any biology textbook and you are likely to learn that, in contrast to eukaryotes, bacteria do not contain organelles to compartmentalize and facilitate cellular functions. However, numerous protein- and lipid-bounded organelles are known to exist within a diverse array of bacterial species. In my group, we look at the process of compartmentalization at a molecular level in order to understand the origins and functions of bacterial organelles and exploit them for future applications. I will discuss our work on the biogenesis and subcellular organization of the magnetic magnetosome organelles of magnetotactic bacteria and our recent discovery of ferrosomes—iron-accumulating compartments that define a novel class of bacterial organelles.  


  • Thursday, Febuary 11, 2021 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm EST
    • Dr. Severine Atis
    • Bio Dr. Severine Atis is a postdoctoral fellow in the physics department at the University of Chicago where she studies self-organization in active fluids in Professor William Irvine’s group. She received her PhD from Sorbonne University in Physics where she worked with reaction wave propagation in disordered flows. She joined Professor David Nelson’s group at Harvard University as a postdoctoral scholar where she worked on evolutionary dynamics coupled with hydrodynamic flows in collaboration with Professor Andrew Murray in the department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
    • Topics viscosity; fluid flow; microbial metabolism; microbial growth dynamics
    • Title Growing in flows: from evolutionary dynamics to microbial jets
    • Abstract Biological systems can self-organize in complex structures, able to evolve and adapt to widely varying environmental conditions. Despite the importance of fluid flow for transporting and organizing populations, few laboratory systems exist to systematically investigate the impact of advection on their spatial evolutionary dynamics. In this talk, I will show how we can address this problem by studying the morphology and genetic spatial structure of microbial colonies growing on the surface of a viscous substrate.  I will illustrate how the interplay between microbial growth geometry, metabolic activity and fluid flows can generate positive feedback with the environment and lead to accelerated propagation, fragmentation of the initial colony and the formation of growing microbial jets.


  • Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 1:00pm - 2:00pm EST
    • Dr. Joel Freundlich, 
      • Co-hosted by the Boston Area Antimicrobial Resistance Network (BAARN)
    • Bio Joel S. Freundlich, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Rutgers University. His laboratory designs novel platforms for studying infectious diseases, with interests in Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the ESKAPE bacteria. Prior to his return to academic research, Joel spent eight years in the pharmaceutical industry as a medicinal chemist. His undergraduate and master’s degree training were in chemical engineering at Cornell University as a McMullen Dean’s Scholar. He received his doctorate in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the tutelage of 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awardee Richard Schrock.
    • Topics antimicrobial resistance; drug discovery; ESKAPE bacteria
    • Title Engineering Platforms for Infectious Disease Research 
    • Abstract Infectious diseases caused by bacteria are responsible for millions of new infections and deaths per year. The continued spread of drug resistance, both in terms of geography and extent of resistance to approved therapies, represents a global health pandemic. With this goal in mind, we have pursued programs focused on Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the ESKAPE bacteria. We have sought to discover novel therapeutic regimens through the development of novel platforms in computation (machine learning) and biology (intrabacterial drug metabolism) which have been blended with medicinal chemistry heuristics. This talk will discuss how these platforms have enabled the delivery of preclinical drug candidates, validated drug targets, and mechanism of action insights.


To view more past seminars, head over to the MSI YouTube channel.