'It substantially expanded my research interests and insight': our Millis-Colwell award recipient returns from the US

By Jiayuan Huang, recipient of the ASM Millis-Colwell award 2019

This year I was very fortunate to receive the Millis-Colwell Award from the Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) which supported my attendance to the American Society for Microbiology’s Microbe conference and a two-week research visit to Professor Deborah Hung’s laboratory at Harvard University. I was very excited about this trip to the US, encountered many excellent researchers and was inspired by their impressive research programs. So here I would like to share my experience with our community of microbiology researchers.

The Microbe 2019 conference was held in San Francisco, starting on the 20th of June, with nearly 4,200 abstract submissions and over 8,000 attendees. There are eight specialty tracks, and I focused on the Antimicrobial Agents and Resistance track. I was very thrilled to see great progress has been made in combating pathogenic bacteria, including: (1) new therapeutics, e.g. new antibiotics against Gram-negative bacteria, new vaccines for tuberculosis, and bacteriophage therapy; (2) mechanisms of antimicrobial resistance, especially in ‘ESKAPE’ pathogens; (3) improved methods of sequencing and data analysis for ‘omics’ studies. Also, some sessions discussed antimicrobial stewardship, antibiotic use in agriculture and economic barriers inhibiting antibiotic discovery.

 On the 22nd of June, I presented my poster highlighting my research on mechanisms of polymyxin resistance in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which received a Student and Postdoctoral Travel Award from the conference committee. Many microbiologists and antibiotic developers stopped by and discussed my research with me. This experience was very helpful in building my confidence as well as improving my communication skills with a scientific audience.


After the conference, I flew across the country to Boston and spent two weeks with the Hung laboratory at Harvard University. The Hung lab combines chemical and genomic approaches to identify new therapeutics against a variety of devastating pathogens, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) and P. aeruginosa. During my stay, the Hung lab was very welcoming and showed me several cutting-edge projects, including the newly developed Mtb inhibitor via large-scale chemical-genetic screening, and host-pathogen interactions using single-cell RNA-seq.

Started my visit to the Hung lab at Broad Institute and Mass General Hospital.

Started my visit to the Hung lab at Broad Institute and Mass General Hospital.


I received lots of useful suggestions from the group members regarding my PhD project. This visit will facilitate my career development as it substantially expanded my research interests and insight. I also made several friends during the conference and laboratory visit. We are at different career stages from all over the world, but gathered together because of science. What a wonderful sight!

Returning to my PhD candidature in Professor Jian Li’s laboratory at Monash University, I now have a broadened vision and momentum, to keep contributing to antimicrobial research. I sincerely thank Professor Jian Li, Professor Deborah Hung and ASM for this invaluable opportunity.

T: @jiayuan2017