Early Career Scientist Committee (ECSC)

Mission Statement
with the realization that microbes play fundamental roles in ecosystem functioning and ultimately drive human and environmental health, the field of microbial ecology is steadily gaining influence and attention. Considering the important part that microbial ecology will undoubtedly play in solving humanity’s problems from obesity to climate change, we must ensure the future of this field by supporting microbial ecologists in the early stages of their careers and by communicating our excitement about microbial biology to up-and-coming scientists across the life sciences. 

In practical terms, we are the voice of early-career microbial ecologists from around the world to the ISME board and executive committee, thus, at least one representative from the ISME-ECSC will always take part in ISME board meetings.

We will kick-start activities by and for early career microbial ecologists, including, but not limited to:

  • Organizing and leading pre- or post-ISME meeting hands-on methods workshops, mini-courses, and topical sessions of interest to ISME Early career scientists.
  • Fostering international networking with a special focus on under-represented countries.
  • Establishing and running webinars, or other video communication forums to link ISME ECS members around the globe.
  • Providing resources to overcome common struggles that Early career scientists face through our website and social media channels. Listen, formulate the problem, come up with solutions. We are all in this together. If you are an early career microbial ecologist, have ideas, suggestions, criticism – we’re all ears!

Are you interested in becoming a member of the committee? We are currently in the process of establishing fair and equitable procedures for nomination, service period, selection of chairs/co-chairs – we will post more information here as it becomes available. 

Contact us or any member of the committee:

Jillian Petersen (chair), Assistant Professor, University of Vienna, Austria
I have been an Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna since 2015. I work at the Centre for Microbiology and Environmental Systems Science. My main research focus is beneficial interactions between marine invertebrate animals and the symbiotic bacteria they can’t live without. I was born in Brisbane, Australia. After doing my Bachelors degree at the University of Queensland, I moved to the Max Planck Institute in Bremen, Germany, where I got my PhD with Nicole Dubilier in 2009. After postdoctoral studies at the Max Planck Institute, I moved to Vienna to establish a research group with a start-up grant from the Vienna Science and Technology Fund. My research spans host-microbe interactions from the deep sea to ecologically and economically important coastal habitats worldwide. My main goal is to understand how animals and microbes develop and evolve together, and how they come together to form lifelong partnerships amidst the immense diversity of other organisms in nature.

Evodia Setati , Stellenbosch University, South Africa
I am a chief researcher in grape and wine microbial ecology. I did my PhD on heterologous expression of plant cell wall degrading enzymes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae at Stellenbosch University, then a postdoc on alkane metabolism in Yarrowia lipolytica at Free State University both in South Africa. When I started with my own research in 2003, I focused on the microbial diversity of hypersaline environments and worked on that for a few years. In 2010 my research changed to the vineyard and wine microbiome with focus is on the impact of different farming practices on soil and grape microbiomes, the interactions between different yeast species during fermentation as well as possible application of different microorganisms in wine fermentation management. I do undergraduate teaching in grape and wine sciences and postgraduate supervision in wine biotechnology.

Yinzhao Wang, Assistant Professor, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China
I'm an Assistant Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. Currently my main research focus is methane and multi-carbon alkanes-metabolizing microorganisms with emphasis on their geological and ecological functions. I was born in an ancient city, Xianyang, China, and set my dream as a biologist when seven years old. Then I went to Northwest University, China, for Bachelor in Biological Sciences. I got my Ph.D. for geomicrobiology with Prof. Yongxin Pan from Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, working on magnetotactic bacteria. I also took half a year working with Prof. Wayne L. Nicholson in University of Florida for Space Microbiology. For postdoctoral study, I spent three years in Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) with Prof. Fengping Wang on alkane-oxidizing archaea. In 2020, I got a position in SJTU to continue my research, trying to reveal the interactions, evolutionary history, and community assembly processes of methane related microorganisms.

Sarah Preheim, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
I'm an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering. I study microorganisms that contribute to poor water quality, such as fecal contamination, harmful algal blooms and low oxygen dead-zones. My lab applies a combination of approaches, such as field observations, laboratory experiments, bioinformatics and quantitative modeling, to ultimately predict how the microbial community contributing to these problems will respond to engineered or environmental changes. I got my bachelor's degree in Biology from Carnegie Mellon University, and a PhD from a joint program with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. I continued on at MIT as a postdoc working with Eric Alm, and started my current position in 2015.

Laetitia Wilkins (co-chair), Postdoc, Eisen lab, University of California, Davis
Soon Postdoc, Max Planck Institute of Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany

I am a postdoctoral research scholar in Jonathan Eisen’s lab at UC Davis, California. I study host-microbe interactions at early development stages of salmonid fishes. Recently, I dove into the marine realm. Now, I am finding ways to quantify how the rise of the Isthmus of Panama affected the evolution of symbioses between marine animal hosts and their associated microbes. I am using lucinid clams, nematodes and porcelain crabs as my host systems. My collaborator in Panama (Matt Leray) works mostly with snapping shrimp and reef fishes. Together we are moving beyond an organismal view to an ecosystem perspective with the Isthmus in the center to answer evolutionary biology questions about the evolution and diversification of marine microbial symbioses. I am passionate about diversity and critical thinking in academia and strive to make it more family-friendly. I am a co-founder of the Berkeley Spouses, Partners & Parents Association. I am also an active science communicator.
You can read some of my blog posts on The Molecular Ecologist, the Research Coordinated Network for Evolution in Changing Seas, or our project website.

Laura Lehtovirta-Morley, Group leader, University of East Anglia, UK
I am a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow and have been at the University of East Anglia since 2017. Prior to starting my independent research group, I was a PhD student and a postdoc at the University of Aberdeen and also spent some time working at the Oregon State University and the University of Alberta. My research focus is on terrestrial nitrogen cycling, especially on ammonia oxidising archaea. I am interested in the interplay of physiology and ecology of ammonia oxidising microorganisms and want to understand the mechanisms underpinning the adaptation of these microbes to the environment.  

Rochelle Soo, Postdoc, Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, University of Queensland, Australia
Currently I’m a Research Fellow in the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics (ACE) at the University of Queensland (UQ), Brisbane, Australia. My main research focus is on non-photosynthetic Cyanobacteria (where they are found, how they function and their evolution), however I also work on marsupial microbiomes (koala, wombat, possum and kangaroo). I completed my Bachelor degrees at Victoria University of Wellington and became interested in environmental microbiology after taking a summer course looking at microbes in hot springs. I then undertook a Masters at The University of Waikato looking at microbial communities in hot soils on Mt Erebus, Antarctica. After my Masters I moved to Australia and worked as a lab technician for 4 years at the Australian Institutes of Marine Science (AIMS) looking at sponge microbial communities on the Great Barrier Reef and lobster disease. I then moved to Brisbane to start a PhD at ACE working on the non-photosynthetic Cyanobacteria and finished in 2015. I stayed on at ACE as a Postdoc and in 2018 I was awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award. 

Paulo José Pereira Lima Teixeira, Assistant Professor, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
I am an Assistant Professor at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Piracicaba, Brazil. My research focuses on plant-microbe interactions. More specifically, I am interested in understanding how microbes (pathogens or not) interact with and manipulate the plant immune system. I studied biology at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), where I also did my PhD research in the field of Microbial Genetics and Molecular Biology under the supervision of Prof. Gonçalo Pereira. Up to this point of my career, I was mostly interested in microorganisms that cause diseases in crops. After graduating in 2013, I moved to the United States to work with Prof. Jeff Dangl at the University of North Carolina (UNC). There, I became fascinated by the plant microbiome and by its potential to promote plant health. We investigated how bacteria that form the root microbiome interact with the plant immune system to colonize the host and assemble communities. I moved back to Brazil in June 2019 to start my own group at USP. 

Mohammad Alnajjar, Assistant Professor, Applied Science Private University, Jordan
Currently, I work as assistant professor of Microbiology in the Faculty of Pharmacy at the Applied Science University in Jordan. I am focusing in my current research on effect of drugs and food supplements on gut microbiota, as well as, on investigating potential antimicrobial compounds extracted from the hypersaline microbial mats (still at the preliminary stage). I got my Master degree and my PhD from Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in 2010. My PhD work was about the light energy budget in hypersaline microbial mat ecosystems. The work was done in the Microsensor group under the supervision of Lubos Polerecky and Dirk de Beer. I stayed in the same group for 1.5 years as a postdoc, and then moved to KAUST in Saudi for a postdoc position in the Red Sea Research Center. In KAUST, I was working on the giant bacteria (Epulopiscium) that live in the gut of the coral reef fish (work has not been published yet). Then I got the current position in 2016, when I moved to Jordan.


Twitter: #ECSC-ISME