Meet Plenary Speaker Dr Petra Dersch

30-10-20 Carianne Buurmeijer

We are pleased to introduce Dr Petra Dersch, University of Münster, Institute of Infectiology, Germany, one of the plenary speakers at the FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology 2020*.

Plenary: Remodeling Yersinia-host interactions – for better or worse?
Friday 30 October, 14.00 – 14.40

*registration is open until 31 October 2020. Upon registration, all recorded sessions will be available also after the conference


Tell us about your current area of research: what is happening in the world around us that it is providing an answer to?

I study the interaction of bacterial pathogens (many enteric bacteria) with their hosts to understand how bacteria invade, circumvent and damage our body and how our immune system counters their attacks to eliminate the bacteria and cure the disease.

What attracted you to this area?

I was fascinated by the sophisticated strategies of pathogens how they exploit host cell functions for their own purposes and the complexity of virulence-related traits with which the pathogens ensure to survive and proliferate in our body. To gain a comprehensive knowledge of this process requires a very close cooperation with researchers (PhDs and MDs) from many disciplines, including immunologists, cell biologists, structural biologists, biochemists, geneticists and lately often bioinformaticians and data scientists.

A microbiologist rarely is a microbiologist ‘pur sang’, many crossovers and interdisciplinary working methods exist.

What other disciplines do you feel connected to? Why?

As just mentioned, this is a highly interdisciplinary field which allowed me to use a multitude of technologies and methods, including high resolution microscopy/live-cell imaging and omics/deep sequencing technologies. I feel very connected to the immunologists and cell biologists due to the fact that dynamic interactions between the pathogen and their hosts drive the infection and only a comprehensive knowledge about this interplay during the different stages of an infection will allow us to design effective therapies.
Many of the attendees at this conference are at the start of their scientific career. If you were to give them advice you wish you would have received at that time in your career, what advice would it be?
I think it is important for young researchers to find out what they really like, what they really are excited about, and then go for it …. find the best lab, PI and environment to do it, – you will always be most successful and happy if you can do what you love most….and you will overcome drawbacks more easily.

What act or accomplishment of your lab made you proud recently?

Of course, I could name a recent paper or research result, but honestly, all progress in the ongoing research projects is very valuable to me. Recently it made me most proud, when I can still generate enthusiasm and excitement in the students and postdocs for their research topics (despite all troubles with COVID-19) and see how they become independent researchers.

The FEMS Online Conference on Microbiology is planned to be small to medium sized, happening in alternate years to the Congress of European Microbiologists and organized in close collaboration with a local microbiology society. Here, intercontinental, European, regional, and local scientists, from all stages in their career and from all demographical backgrounds, can participate in a high-profile conference. This year, it is based on an intense collaboration with the Serbian Society for Microbiology and boasts a variety of regional speakers.
Our commitment at FEMS is to help support microbiologists do their work, promote the best in microbiology research and knowledge to the world, and bring microbiologists together to share that knowledge. This event supports that commitment: giving high value for money at a low registration fee it opens possibilities for networking and exchanging knowledge and experiences to all.
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