Visiting Phi Beta Kappa scholar to discuss intertwined worlds of humans, microbes

From the perspective of a typical bacterium or virus, the human body is a perfect incubator: constant temperature, filled with nutrients, bathed in moisture.

So why are we still around? How do bacteria sense the presence of a host’s immune response? How can both the bacterium and host survive?

These topics will be the focus of a free, public University of Maine lecture, “Dancing with the Bugs: Choreography for Humans and their Microbial Partners,” by Phi Beta Kappa visiting scholar Amy Cheng Vollmer at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 in Wells Conference Center, Room 1.

Vollmer is the Isaac H. Clothier, Jr. Professor of Biology at Swarthmore, where she has helped create initiatives to promote adult science literacy and increase access to and success in STEM fields for a diverse student population.

Her teaching, which incorporates active learning in large and small classes, includes microbiology, biotechnology, metabolism and introductory biology. Her research focuses on the regulation of the response of bacteria to environmental stress.

She has written works on basic bacterial genetics and physiology and on applied and environmental microbiology. Serving in numerous leadership capacities as a member of the American Society for Microbiology, Vollmer was the 2006 recipient of the ASM’s Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. She is past president of the Waksman Foundation for Microbiology.

“We’re very excited and fortunate to be able to host Dr. Vollmer,” says Tim Cole, president of the Phi Beta Kappa Delta Chapter of Maine. “She is a distinguished scholar and educator, and students and faculty from a variety of disciplines at UMaine will be fortunate to interact with her.”

Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program provides undergraduates with the opportunity to meet some of America’s most distinguished scholars. The program contributes to the intellectual life of the institution through the exchange of ideas between visiting scholars and resident faculty and students.

In addition to the public lecture, Vollmer will visit classrooms, meet with students and faculty and give a guest lecture to first-year genomics students, “Living the Scientific Method.”

Vollmer’s visit and lecture are co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, the Honors College and the Phi Beta Kappa Delta Chapter of Maine.

For more information, contact Cole at 581.3844. To request a disability accommodation, contact Tonya Corriveau,, 581.1954.