Scientific sessions at a glance

Published October 01 2017

Below are brief descriptions of the scientific sessions slated for the 2018 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Annual Meeting scheduled for April 21–25 in San Diego. We asked the session organizers for their pithiest pitches — and advice for new presenters.

Biochemistry of autophagy and mitochondrial biology

Kun-Liang Guan, University of California, San Diego
The session will discuss biochemical and structural studies of autophagy, mitochondrial homeostasis and mitophagy in response to nutrient stress, and the crosstalk of mTOR and the Hippo pathway.
Keywords: autophagy, mitophagy, mitochondrial, mTOR, Hippo
Who should attend: researchers interested in cell biology, cancer biology, autophagy, mitochondrial homeostasis and metabolism
Theme song: “Autophagy Day” by Wumpscut

Advances in single-cell omics

Jim Eberwine, University of Pennsylvania
Single-cell omics is a rapidly developing field that is revolutionizing the study of cell biology. The speakers will highlight how the newest advances in transcriptomics, proteomics and live-cell–omics analyses are yielding novel insights into the functioning of subcellular compartments, including the nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondria and cellular processes.
Keywords: single cell, transcriptomics, proteomics
Who should attend: cell biologists, systems biologists, engineers, graduate students, professors, funding agency representatives, journal editors, polemicists
Theme song: “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong

Intrinsically disordered proteins and their regulation and functions

H. Jane Dyson, The Scripps Research Institute
Many important proteins and protein domains are intrinsically disordered. As more of these regions are identified, their repertoire of functions and the mechanisms used to achieve them continues to expand. This session includes recent advances in the understanding of intrinsic disorder in the functional life of cells.
Keywords: intrinsic disorder, protein–protein interactions, biophysical characterization
Who should attend: protein biochemists, biophysicists, spectroscopists, and those interested in cell signaling, viral proteins and protein structure
Theme song: “Bamboléo” by the Gipsy Kings

Adapting proteostasis to ameliorate neurodegenerative diseases

Jeffery Kelly, The Scripps Research Institute
Proteinopathies are a leading cause of death, and the families’ social burden of caring for neurodegenerative disease patients is immense. This symposium focuses on learning enough about these degenerative maladies to conceive of therapeutic strategies that adapt the chemistry or biology of protein homeostasis to slow disease progression.
Keywords: proteostasis, drug, misfolding
Who should attend: protein chemists, cell biologists, neuroscientists, physician-scientists, students, postdoctoral fellows
Theme song: “I am not going to miss you” by Glen Campbell

Glycobiology and functional glycomics

Linda Hsieh–Wilson, California Institute of Technology
This session will focus on mechanisms of protein glycosylation and new approaches to deciphering the functional roles of glycans and their associated proteins in the regulation of cell-signaling pathways and networks.
Keywords: glycosylation, glycan, signaling, networks, posttranslational modifications
Who should attend: glycobiologists, biochemists, cell biologists, systems biologists, chemical biologists
Theme song: “A Spoonful of Sugar,” because sugars are a delight both to eat and to study!

Signal transduction corrupted by pathogens

Kim Orth, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and Howard Hughes Medical Institute
This session analyzes signaling pathways in host cells that are rewired to benefit an invading pathogen. The manipulating virulence factors usually mimic or capture a eukaryotic activity to manipulate host signaling pathways. The mechanisms uncovered, more often than not, reveal new biology and novel biochemical mechanisms.
Keywords: posttranslational modifications, signal transduction, rewiring host signals, pathogenisis
Who should attend: anyone interested in how nature has evolved pathogens to biochemically rewire signaling pathways
Theme song: “Thriller” by Michael Jackson

Benedicta Ugochi Iwuagwu, center, of Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, received a travel award to attend her first ASBMB annual meeting in 2017. She is pictured at the poster and meet-the-speakers session on the final afternoon of the meeting in Chicago. ASBMB photo

Metabolism in health and disease

Lewis Cantley, Weill Cornell Medicine
The four speakers in this session will address metabolic changes that occur in human diseases. Much of the focus will be on altered cellular metabolism of cancers, though there also will be discussions on links between obesity, metabolic disease and cancers.
Keywords: cancer, metabolism, disease
Who should attend: basic scientists interested in cellular metabolism, cancer researchers, drug developers from pharma
Theme song: “All of me, my cancer affects all of me, but now I know how to live without it,” because the session will provide insights into how cancers use fuels to grow, how this affects the whole body and how we can intervene to prevent tumor growth.

Advice for new presenters

“Be concise and confident.”
– Kun-Liang Guan, University of California, San Diego

“Practice saying ‘I don’t know.’”
– Jim Eberwine, University of Pennsylvania

“Plan the talk carefully — what it’s about, what you did, what it means. Plan for approximately one slide per minute, but it’s important to have only one idea or point per slide. If you must put multiple points per slide, cut down the number of slides. Rehearse the talk in front of lab mates or other colleagues before the meeting.”
– H. Jane Dyson, The Scripps Research Institute

“Excellent slides make giving a clear and concise talk easier.”
– Jeffery Kelly, The Scripps Research Institute

“Practice your talk at home with colleagues so that you do not go over time. Keep slides simple, and only include things on the slides that you will talk about. Use simple animations so that the audience only sees what is being discussed. Listen to questions — repeat the question and then answer the question. Get a good night’s sleep, and enjoy sharing your science with others.”
– Kim Orth, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and Howard Hughes Medical Institute

“Try not to present too many ideas in one talk, especially if it is a short talk. Tell the audience what you intend to convey at the beginning, then show some data (not too much), and then give a concise conclusion that restates what you said at the beginning.”
– Lewis Cantley, Weill Cornell Medicine

“Emphasize the significance of your work to a broad audience.”
– Linda Hsieh–Wilson, California Institute of Technology

“Focus on presenting a clear message that can be appreciated by the nonspecialist as well as those working in your field. Remember that while you are the world expert on your work, not everyone will have your degree of understanding.”
– Michael Wakelam, Babraham Institute, Cambridge, England

“KISS — Keep it simple and snappy.”
– Lora Hooper, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

“Get the talk slides finished very early, and practice in front of anyone you can corner.”
– Benjamin Garcia, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

“Show your enthusiasm for your work.”
– Amnon Kohen, University of Iowa

“Be prepared, polished and personable, and enjoy the moment.”
– Ronald T. Raines, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“Less is more. Try to convey one clear idea on each slide. Use simple declarative titles that summarize your message. If you can’t summarize the slide in one sentence, then it contains more than one idea.”
– Amy Palmer, University of Colorado, Boulder

“Make clear in the first few slides what you are trying to do and, more importantly, why.”
– Daniel Nomura, University of California, Berkeley

“Your talk should have a clear narrative structure — a story you want to tell. Figure out what that story is and, once you have done that, make sure that every slide serves that story. If a figure or slide does not move the narrative forward, then leave it out, no matter how attached you are to it. Less is more.”
– Sean Cutler, University of California, Riverside

“Relax. You really belong and everyone is glad you are here and to hear your story.”
– Ileana Cristea, Princeton University

Lipid signaling and metabolism

Michael Wakelam, Babraham Institute, Cambridge, England
This symposium will focus on the importance of signaling and metabolic processes in regulating changes in lipid structures and how this affects cell function. The speakers will highlight the importance of lipidomics, imaging and knockout methods in facilitating our increasing understanding of the breadth of lipid-regulated physiological processes.
Keywords: membranes, lipid structures, fatty acids, lipidomics, lipid signals
Who should attend: lipid biochemists, cell biologists and molecular biologists who haven’t thought about the importance of lipids in cell function
Theme song: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2, because none of us has yet.

Biochemical communication between the microbiome and the host

Lora Hooper, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
Humans and other animals are home to enormous numbers of beneficial bacteria, yet we’ve only recently begun to acquire a detailed understanding of beneficial host–microbe interactions. This session will explore the molecular details of how resident microorganisms interact with their hosts and how these interactions contribute to health and disease.
Keywords: microbiome, host–microbe interactions, metabolism, intestine
Who should attend: clinicians, scientists, students, anyone hoping for better communication with their microbiome
Theme song: “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick, for the longstanding collaboration between humans and their microbes. (Or is it microbes and their humans?)


Benjamin Garcia, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
This symposium will focus on biochemical, quantitative and structural investigations of chromatin and epigenetic-related molecular complexes.
Keywords: epigenetics, chromatin, structural, proteomics, chemistry, NMR, histone
Who should attend: scientists at all levels who are experts or new to the chromatin field; there will be something for everyone.
Theme song: “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy, because once you hear these talks, “you will remember me; remember me, for centuries.” Well, remember us!

Enzyme dynamics

Amnon Kohen, University of Iowa
This session will focus on the protein motions, vibrations, and dynamics that are coupled to catalytic activity. It will bring in experimentalists (vibrational spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, enzyme kinetics) and theoreticians (molecular dynamic and quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics computations combining motions and chemical reactivity).
Keywords: enzymes, kinetics, dynamics, protein motion, computation
Who should attend: enzymologists, spectroscopists, theoreticians, protein biochemists and anybody who is interested as to how enzymes can achieve such amazing rate accelerations
Theme song: “Born to move” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Novel enzymology

Ronald T. Raines, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The four talks in the session will portray how enzymes have evolved to mediate key processes in biology and how enzymes can serve as targets for drugs and even as drugs themselves.
Keywords: chemical biology, molecular evolution, drug discovery
Who should attend: anyone who is interested in cutting-edge science that extends from organic chemistry, through biochemistry and molecular biology, and on to cell biology
Theme song: “Lone Catalysts” by J. Rawls — a song that is dope, like this session.

Metals in biology

Amy Palmer, University of Colorado, Boulder
An estimated 30 percent of proteins require a metal cofactor, and metals touch nearly every aspect of biology. This session will highlight cellular pathways and biochemical processes that rely on metal ions, from microbes and mammalian cells to the host–pathogen interface.
Keywords: metals, metalloenzymes, homeostasis
Who should attend: anyone interested in learning about the unique biochemistry conferred by metals and discovering how cells use metal ions for essential functions
Theme song: “Titanium” by David Guetta, because metals make proteins and cells bulletproof (or at least stronger than they would be without metals!)

Metabolomics and lipidomics

Daniel Nomura, University of California, Berkeley
This session will discuss new methods and their applications in the area of chemoproteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics. Method development and use to investigate drivers to disease will be presented.
Keywords: chemoproteomics, proteomics, metabolomics, lipidomics
Who should attend: biochemists, cell biologists, chemical biologists, scientists interested in hearing proteomic methods based on chemical reactivity and their use in investigating cellular processes
Theme song: “Let’s go crazy” by Prince, because not too long ago the idea that you could react the entire content of a cell with a reactive probe or look at all lipids in a cell would have been crazy. But with current methods, this is possible and highly informative. Hence, we can go crazy.

Plants do it all

Sean Cutler, University of California, Riverside
We will examine the molecular mechanisms underpinning plant responses to environment signals, the power of plants as factories for metabolic engineering and how genomes are being edited to deliver improved crops.
Keywords: signaling, metabolic engineering, genome editing
Who should attend: people with the modest goal of saving the world
Theme song: “Strawberry Fields forever” by the Beatles

Systems biology and proteomics

Ileana Cristea, Princeton University
This session will discuss state-of-the-art systems biology and proteomic techniques applied in a number of different areas, including virus infection, biomarker discovery and validation, and drug response.
Keywords: systems biology, virology, proteomics, bioinformatics, mass spectrometry, transcriptional networks, protein–protein interactions, signal transduction, pathogen–host interactions
Who should attend: systems biologists, therapeutic developers, virologists, cell biologists, scientists that want to apply systems biology and proteomic techniques to disease-related problems
Theme song: “Welcome to Paradise” by Green Day, because we are in a time when complex questions can be investigated by a multipronged approach at a scale never before possible. We have genomic information, transcriptomic information and bioanalytical tools to look at biology from a systems perspective, which not long ago would be considered paradise.