We are organizing a workshop on theoretical aspects of microbial symbiosis, including holobionts, for theoretical postdocs and advanced graduate students for three weeks from Feb. 26 to March 15, 2024. The workshop will be held at the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB, The workshop is for 12 postdocs/students. Also, three experienced biological guest speakers will participate, one per week, in addition to the conference organizers. Expenses for participants including airfare, food, and lodging will be included. Lodging will be in the dorms at HIMB.

The purpose of the workshop is to introduce young theoretical investigators to biological issues pertaining to microbial symbiosis, including holobionts, that need new conceptualization and/or mathematical formulation. The premise to the workshop is that young theoreticians are often unaware of what the problems are that biologists wish to see addressed and conversely, that biologists are often frustrated that young theoreticians are ignoring what they believe to be the important issues while extending and refining older models that have limited potential for providing biological insight. In a sense, this workshop is an extended meet-and-greet: junior theoretician meet experienced biologist and experienced biologist meet young theoretician. The product of the workshop is the formulation of new models that are known in advance to address issues that biologists regard as important. The new models might then be incorporated in the postdoc or student’s own research agenda for later analysis and publication after returning home. These models and the discussions that lead up to them might help close the notorious gap between theoretical and experimental research. The workshop might also sketch a vision for a new discipline of theoretical microbiology.

We request that you share this announcement to the attention of postdocs and students who might be interested. The participants must already have a strong background in theoretical/mathematical biology, perhaps coming from disciplines such as population genetics, mathematics, physics, or neural networks. Information will be posted on the workshop’s website at as it becomes available. Postdocs and students are invited to contact the organizers for more information.

Conference Organizers:

Joan Roughgarden, Adjunct Researcher, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Professor Emerita, Department of Biology, Stanford University,

Lisa C. McManus, Assistant Research Professor, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa,

Confirmed Guest Speakers:

Seth Bordenstein
February 26 — March 1, 2024
Professor of Biology and Entomology
Director of the One Health Microbiome Center
Pennsylvania State University
Microbiomes/viromes in arthropods and vertebrates, phylosymbiosis, hologenomic adaptation and speciation.

Cynthia Silveira
March 4 — March 8, 2024
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
University of Miami
Bacteriophage in corals, tripartite symbiosis.

Zoe G. Cardon
March 11 — March 15, 2024
Senior Scientist
The Ecosystems Center
Marine Biological Laboratory
Woods Hole, MA
Salt-marsh grass and soil microbiome, sulfur/sulfate bacteria.

Order of speakers covers topics ranging from microbiomes internal to symbiotic partner (eg. gut microbiomes), to microbiomes partially contained in symbiotic partner and partly contained in surrounding mucus (eg. corals), to microbiomes primarily external to their symbiotic partner (eg. salt-marsh grass).

Application Deadline: Students/postdocs should apply by September 30, 2023. The list of accepted students will be announced in mid October, allowing time to make travel arrangements prior to the Feb/March 2024 meeting. Application consists of a CV plus a letter explaining the reason for wishing to attend and describing relevant qualifications. Application should also include one or two manuscripts, preferably published, illustrating the type of theoretical/mathematical experience being brought to the workshop. Application should be sent by email to both workshop organizers.

Workshop schedule: A screen-grab of the tentative schedule is below.

Funding Source. This workshop is funded as part of a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, # GBMF10000, to the University of Hawaii, J. Roughgarden, PI.