Programme Chair Jean-Claude Piffaretti about the holistic approach of FEMS2019

As chair of the FEMS2019 Programme Committee, Jean-Claude Piffaretti coordinates and supervises the work of the committee, together with Co-Chair Wolf-Dietrich Hardt. The committee is formed by a number of European outstanding scientists dealing with different aspects of microbiology, such as environment, genetics, health, food, virology, mycology, and, since FEMS2019 is hosted by SfAM (Society for Applied Microbiology), it also includes a representative of this society.

1)    What were important basic choices of the Programme Committee?

Because FEMS is encompassing all the fields of microbiology, it was important to offer a variety of symposia and workshops matching these fields. Another key point was to focus on relevant hot developments of microbiology. For instance, we have several events considering CRISPR, including ethical aspects which are intensively discussed nowadays. In addition, since FEMS congresses are very well attended by young scientists, a number of special events are addressed particularly to them. Finally, education in microbiology has also been considered a strong feature of the congress.

2)    Could you give some examples of what hurdles you had to take before achieving a programme?

I would not speak of hurdles but rather of some difficulties related to the fact that the committee is composed of busy scientists spread all over Europe. But this could be easily coped by digital communication and online meetings. The group is formed by highly dedicated persons who contributed efficiently to building the programme. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, as well as FEMS office and CAP-Partner (our congress organizer) for their input and backup.

3)    What session do you consider your personal favourite?

I do not have particular favourite sessions. Obviously, I am much interested in the events related to my specific fields (bacterial genetics, typing and clinical microbiology) but I am also highly interested in all the other topics! This is also the purpose of a "holistic" congress considering various aspects of microbiology.

4)    Why do you think people should attend FEMS2019?

For the scientific reasons mentioned above and also for interconnection and net-building. Many of the FEMS congress attendees are young scientists coming not only from all over Europe but also from other continents, such as America, Africa, Asia. They are the future of microbiology and participating in the congresses gives them the opportunity to get to know each other and to establish friendly relationship as well as to start cooperation activities or projects. 

5)    The work for the Programme Committee is not done yet, what is coming up next in your agenda?

We have finished organising symposia and workshops and establishing the schedule. We are now addressing special events to be held during the lunch breaks. These are also intended for the industrial companies to propose a number of topics of interest for them, obviously provided the agreement of the scientific committee.

6)    What “microbiology hero” inspired you to pursue a career in microbiology?

I have to admit that I never have been attracted by the notion of "hero" in this context. During my youth, I have always been interested in the sciences of life: at that time, the discovery of DNA and molecular biology was a new field developing at fast pace and I used to find that tremendously captivating. Why did I come to microbiology? Simply because I was offered the possibility to achieve a PhD thesis in a laboratory working in this sector. This is not extremely fascinating but is real life! However, I never regretted this decision and if I would have the possibility to start everything again, I would do that all over again!As chair of the FEMS2019 Programme Committee, Jean-Claude Piffaretti coordinates and supervises the work of the committee, together with Co-Chair Wolf-Dietrich Hardt. The committee is formed by a number of European outstanding scientists dealing with different aspects of microbiology, such as environment, genetics, health, food, virology, mycology, and, since FEMS2019 is hosted by SfAM (Society for Applied Microbiology), it also includes a representative of this society.