A chat with Julia A. Segre

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Nature Reviews Microbiology and to give our readers a glimpse behind the curtains, we asked a few of our past authors about their views on microbiology, the journal and their experiences of working with the journal.
A chat with Julia A. Segre

In your opinion, what have been the most noteworthy advances in the field of microbiology research in the past 15 years? Looking forward, what do you expect to be the most exciting advances in the next few years?

Most noteworthy advances in my biased opinion is the introduction of genomic sequencing to both microbial organisms and communities.  Next advance is to tie these associations to human health in the context of clinical trials that demonstrate disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Do you have a favourite article that was published in Nature Reviews Microbiology, and if so, can you tell us why?

Earliest favorite – Falkow’s recollections on bacterial pathogenicity January 2004 in which you learn about science and the man who nurtured the field of host-microbe interactions.

Molecular Koch's postulates applied to bacterial pathogenicity — a personal recollection 15 years later
Stanley Falkow
Nature Reviews Microbiology 2, 67–72 (2004)

For a long time, my favourite NRMicro article was Stephen Bentley explaining the species pan-genome (April 2009) because I was new to microbial genomics and this review told me everything I needed to know to enter the field, but it was amazing succinct.

Sequencing the species pan-genome
Stephen Bentley
Nature Reviews Microbiology 7, 258–259 (2009) 

From that same era, I’ve read and referenced Michael Otto’s ‘S.epi – the ‘accidental’ pathogen’ a hundred times.  Again, this review provided the history of the field and the highlighted the exciting new findings, while articulating challenges ahead.  The key is that one can read it a decade later and it still feels timely, even though some of the questions have been answered.  It’s still a definitive piece on the molecular basis of commensalism, which might now be called a pathobiont.

Staphylococcus epidermidis — the 'accidental' pathogen
Michael Otto
Nature Reviews Microbiology 7, 555–567 (2009)

And finally, my last favorite from 10 years ago was Jonathan Dworkin’s perspective on Exit from dormancy.  I give this to all my new students to explore about how microbes have evolved to exist in metabolically inactive states.

Exit from dormancy in microbial organisms
Jonathan Dworkin & Ishita M. Shah
Nature Reviews Microbiology 8, 890–896 (2010)

Okay, I just found another one.  Blaser & Falkow ‘consequences of the disappearing human microbiota?” this is a classic that grew an entire field.

What are the consequences of the disappearing human microbiota?
Martin J. Blaser & Stanley Falkow
Nature Reviews Microbiology 7, 887–894 (2009)

as well as 

The damage-response framework of microbial pathogenesis
Arturo Casadevall & Liise-anne Pirofski
Nature Reviews Microbiology 1, 17–24 (2003)

a classic that’s still as relevant today !

You have written for Nature Reviews Microbiology in the past, can you tell us about the experience?

You will see those figures used by the entire community for a decade (often with no attribution but that’s okay) so really try to communicate both with your writing and your visual aids. It’s a great experience to really think about a field and also a great opportunity to work closely with a member of your lab or a colleague.

Read the Review by Julia A. Segre  and colleagues here:

The human skin microbiome
Allyson L. Byrd, Yasmine Belkaid & Julia A. Segre
Nature Reviews Microbiology 16, 143–155 (2018)

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