A chat with Nancy Keller

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.

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Sep 14, 2018

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?

One advance, unintended, was the ability to reach the general public's attention.  And that is the topic of the microbiome. My own relatives and non-scientific friends have asked me about this, mostly in the sense of health benefits.  There are down sides to this however, as the misinformation on the web is significant, especially on the topic of weight loss.  Worthy of an article in my opinion.   Advances, from my own field, the enabling technology to identify secondary metabolites AND their targets.  I also expect advances in precision health developments towards understanding infectious disease, centered on how heterogeneity of both host and microbe directs outcome of disease.  

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

Wow!  what a hard question. I do lean towards articles that intersect with my own research, e.g. those addressing aspects of fungal biology.  I teach an advanced fungal genetics and biology class for graduate students and I often assign NRM articles for background and vision reading.  I do have two articles I particularly liked. One was ‘The social network: deciphering fungal language' (by Abigail C. Leeder, Javier Palma-Guerrero & N. Louise Glass. Nature Reviews  Microbiology 9, 440–451 (2011)).  I liked this article as it lays out a framework on both conserved and taxon specific chemical coinage used for fungal communication.  This language can be harnessed for numerous applied applications.  I also liked ‘Interactions of fungal pathogens with phagocytes’ (by Lars P. Erwig & Neil A. R. Gow. Nature Reviews Microbiology 14, 163–176 (2016)).The clarity of writing and illustrations were very helpful for my class and lab.

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

The process was collaborative and helpful. I was very appreciative the insightful suggestions from the editorial team and was very happy with the quality of the illustrations that accompanied my article. The illustrator was responsive and we worked together well to get the salient points across in a pictorial manner.

Read the Review by Nancy Keller and colleagues here:

Fungal secondary metabolism — from biochemistry to genomics
Nancy P. Keller, Geoffrey Turner & Joan W. Bennett
Nature Reviews Microbiology 3, 937–947 (2005)

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Andrea Du Toit

Senior Editor, Nature Reviews Microbiology

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