UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Do the microbes associated with apples help keep the doctor away? This is one of the many questions that will be investigated at "An Apple a Day!" The event, hosted by the Microbiome Center at Penn State, will enable participants to learn about and discuss the "apple microbiome" — the community of organisms interacting with each other and the environment in and around apples — from seed to soil to the human gut and beyond.
Free and open to the faculty, staff and students of Penn State, "An Apple a Day!" will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on May 24 at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus. Faculty members and students at all Penn State campuses are encouraged to attend.
According to Carolee Bull, interim director of the Microbiome Center and professor and head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the apple event will give participants an opportunity to trace the life cycle of an apple, from its planting to its return back to the environment after it has been eaten — all as it relates to the apple microbiome.
Specifically, guests will hear from faculty researchers about the ecological effects of pesticide applications on apple microbiomes, the impacts of industrial processing on apple microbiomes, and the influence of the apple and its microbiome on human health and behavior, among many other topics. Participants will contribute to discussions about these sometimes little-understood parts of the apple microbiome life cycle. Industry representatives will set the stage and help ground the discussion.
"The event is intended to be a thought experiment designed for participants — from zoologists to artists — to see how their various disciplines and approaches differ and converge," Bull said. "The hope is that by providing lots of time for questions and discussions, we can stimulate research, outreach and educational team building, while fostering interest groups that can collaborate and write grants together."
Bull noted that the morning sessions will focus on exploring aspects of the apple life cycle, as well as the nature of microbiomes and how researchers in different disciplines, including the arts, think. The afternoon will be reserved for developing grant-writing strategies. "The Microbiome Center will invest in ideas that we think can be leveraged into larger research grants," she said.
"An Apple a Day!" is just one of several events the Microbiome Center will host in the near future. "The goal of these events is to unite all the Penn State campuses around the theme of microbiome research," Bull said.
The draft apple event itinerary is available at the Microbiome Center's events webpage.
The event is limited to 100 participants, and availability is first-come, first-served. Faculty members can register online for themselves and one accompanying student or postdoctoral fellow.
Bull also asks anyone interested in microbiome research and/or scholarly endeavors to fill out an online survey.
Any questions can be directed to Carolee Bull at firstname.lastname@example.org.