Meet FEMS Delegate: Paul Wilmes, Luxembourg Society for Microbiology (LU-LSFM)


Paul Wilmes is the FEMS Delegate for the Luxembourg Society for Microbiology, which joined FEMS as a Member Society in September 2018. He is also Associate Professor of Systems Ecology at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg, where he is Deputy Head of the Systems Biomedicine Department, and Head of the Eco-Systems Biology research group.

In this interview he talks about the goals, activities, and future plans for his society, now they have joined our Europe-wide microbiology community.

Paul’s main primary research focus is on using Systems Biology approaches to unravel fundamental ecological relationships within and between microbial populations in situ.

Could you tell us more about the Luxembourg Society for Microbiology (LU-LSfM) and its goals?

Within the Luxembourg Society for Microbiology (LSfM), we aim to regroup all the actors dealing either directly or indirectly with microorganisms in their professional life, studies or leisure activities. The multiple missions, aims and scopes of the LSfM are as follows:

  • federate microbiology topics in Luxembourg and abroad
  • organize events, conferences, workshops and expert groups
  • promote collaboration and information exchange among its members
  • seek “best practices” and offer training activities
  • support students in the field of microbiology with a link to Luxembourg

What does it mean to you to be a part of the FEMS community?

Given that Luxembourg is a very small country, we depend on international networking especially in the European context. Being part of the FEMS family is therefore very important for us.

What have been LU-LSfM’s most important achievements or milestones?

The major milestones for the LSfM has been its establishment three years ago and the building up of critical mass in Luxembourg in a relatively short period of time. We will hold out third annual meeting in 2019 and will again welcome leading microbiologists to Luxembourg. We have been successful in 2018 by securing a grant from the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) for the establishment of a doctoral training unit on the topic of “Microbiomes in One Health” (overall 19 positions are available under this grant). This grant will allow us to more closely integrate microbiology research efforts in Luxembourg as it involves research groups from all of the public research institutions. More recently, we have been awarded a further grant from the FNR for the establishment of a lecture series entitled “SIOtoSYS Lecture Series in Microbiology: From Single Organisms to Systems Ecology and Evolution”. This will allow us to attract world-wide leading microbiologists to Luxembourg and we will kick off the series in February 2019 with a lecture by the Luxembourg-born Nobel laureate Prof. Jules Hoffmann. On a national level, microbiology is on the map in Luxembourg with 4 out of 7 FNR Awards being awarded to microbiologist and members of the LSfM in 2017.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing microbiologists today? And how do you think that LU-LSfM and FEMS can work together in tackling these?

We see major challenges in how to keep up-to-date with the rapid technology-driven progresses in microbiology. In this context, we consider making our members “big data” literate as a top priority. We also would like to explore how to foster interdisciplinarity to tackle current topics in microbiology relating to the emergence and spread of anti-microbial resistance and the role of the human microbiome in chronic diseases. Another topic might be on Women in Science. In this context, it is important to highlight that the LSfM board has a clear gender parity.

What key events, activities and news are on LU-LSfM’s radar this year that the microbiology community should be aware about?

6 February 2019: Kick-off of the lecture series entitled SIOtoSYS Lecture Series in Microbiology: From Single Organisms to Systems Ecology and Evolution” with a lecture by the Luxembourg-born Nobel laureate Prof. Jules Hoffmann.

14 May 2019: Luxembourg Microbiology Day at the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg with a keynote lecture by Prof. Renée Schroeder from the University of Vienna.

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