Stolen: Celebrating The Keystone Symposia
I had the opportunity to bring my microbiology students at CMC to the Keystone Symposia on malaria on a recent Tuesday night. This particular symposium was held at the Copper Mountain Conference Center. We attended the poster session and were first given an orientation and background information on the Keystone Symposia by chief science officer Andy Robertson. It was perfect for my students, as we had just studied the life cycle of malaria and had covered the immune system in a recent lecture. Many of the posters centered on the immune response to the elusive malaria parasites. Other posters focused on the vector of the disease, the mosquito. Malaria has killed half the human populations that have died on this planet. Many in Africa have both malaria, HIV and TB. Most of the top scientists and students studying malaria worldwide were at this conference. There were attendees from at least 40 different countries. Grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation allowed scientists and students from many Third World countries to attend, and many were from Africa, where malaria is a serious problem. My students had an opportunity to meet and engage in conversation with many of the scientists presenting posters. I met a scientist working in Australia who was from South America. He was working on a bacterial parasite of mosquitoes which inhibited it from carrying the malaria parasite.
What many Summit County residents don’t realize is that the offices of the Keystone Symposia are right in Silverthorne. The CEO, Jim Aiken lives in Breckenridge. These Symposia have been in existence for 38 years. Conferences are a means by which scientists share their work and form collaborations. They are very important in the advancement of research in science. If you are a scientist, you need to present your work to your peers. Then you need to interact. Many an important collaboration is formed over a beer or a meal. The Keystone Symposia are held in many locations worldwide, including Keystone and Breckenridge. It is expanding to areas accessible to the community of scientists living in Europe, Asia and Africa. They are on important areas of research in biomedical science, such as cancer, AIDS, human health and biology. In 2011, there will be a conference on global climate change.
One goal of the Keystone Symposia is to bring together top scientists with young investigators; post doctoral and graduate students and reach out to minority and third world scientists by providing funding for them to attend. This is called the Diversity Initiative: to tap the brain power of ethnic minorities, looking for the best and the brightest. Much of the funding comes from corporate gifts and foundation/government grants. Despite the economic downturn the symposia set a record for total attendance in 2009 of 14,000 participants at 57 symposia.
Advancement of science is our hope for the future of our planet and the health of humankind. Kudos to the Keystone Symposia, and the vision of the organizers. For more information, visit their website at http://www.keystonesymposia.org.
Breckenridge resident Dr. Joanne Stolen is a former professor of microbiology from Rutgers now teaching classes at CMC. Her scientific interests are in emerging infectious diseases and environmental pollution.
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