Two weeks ago, we (Dwayne & I) traveled to Olympia, Washington to attend the 23rd Evergreen International Phage Meeting at The (beautiful) Evergreen State College (TESC) campus. I had heard about previous Evergreen meetings from Dwayne and about all the cool scientific/social opportunities that took place, but it was another thing entirely to experience it.
It was pretty exhausting to fly at 7AM (I am not a morning person... 😴) but it was exciting enough that Hedieh, Dwayne, and I had a great time (chugging coffee) and chatting about phage and science on the scenic drive into TESC. We passed by beautiful forests and caught glimpses of the Puget Sound and the state capitol building on our journey.
The conference itself was a whirlwind of exciting phage workshops, talks, and socializing!
During the first two days, we had three amazing workshops on Galaxy, PATRIC, and Viromics led by Dr. Jason Gill (Texas A&M), Dr. Ramy Aziz (Cairo University), and Drs. Evelien Adriaenssens (Quadram Institute) and Alejandro Reyes (Universidad de los Andes) respectively.
Though my personal background in bioinformatics isn’t that strong (YET!) the workshops were incredibly helpful in figuring out what languages, tools, and techniques I’ll need to acquire to integrate viromics and bioinformatics into my PhD studies. I’m looking forward to future events and meetings where I’ll be able to attend workshops such as these!
Our first foray into the literal forest of people attending Evergreen was at the Sunday afternoon barbeque/cook-out at Dr. Elizabeth Kutter’s home near TESC. Elizabeth “Betty” Kutter is a renowned phage researcher whose work at Evergreen started with T4 phage research in 1973 and hasn’t stopped since. She was the organizer of the first Evergreen meeting and has been deeply involved in the phage community ever since. Read more about Betty here: interview with PHAGE magazine.
On Sunday night, Betty officially opened the conference with a brief talk and introduced various opening speakers, including our fearless leader Dwayne.
The following few days were peppered with a variety of interesting phage talks including topics on: phage ecology, phage use in agriculture and food safety, phage and molecular biology, phage-host interactions, phage engineering, and phage therapy. By the end of all the talks I had learned so much about phages that I’m fairly convinced phages can accomplish practically anything.
Evergreen was also incredibly unique in that we had insane dance parties (that’s right, multiple dance parties) where Roger Plaut (FDA), Ramy, and Jessica Sacher (of Phage Directory) taught us swing dancing, salsa, and the Cadillac ranch.
In between talks, we also had the honor of being there when Evelien announced (on behalf of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV)) that a new genus of phage is being named “Kuttervirus” after Betty.
In the realm of personal accomplishments, I presented my (and technically the lab’s!) very first poster several times during the week. Thankfully there was wine and cheese available to relax and distract me from feeling too nervous about the whole affair.
All in all, Evergreen 2019 was a truly an exciting and amazing experience for me (and hopefully others who attended). I was pretty nervous traveling to the conference since it was my first one (ever!) but every person I met and interacted with at Evergreen were incredibly kind, energetic, and helpful. I learned a lot from other PIs, senior scientists, and peers. I met an amazing, talented, and diverse group of people and I can’t wait to interact with them even more at future Evergreen meetings and other conferences.
Phages are incredibly new and exciting for me to study, but even better is the community I’ve joined. 😍💕
Until next time!