Moselio Schaechter and Roberto Kolter

The ASM Blog “Small Things Considered”

“The purpose of this blog is to share our appreciation for the width and depth of the microbial activities on this planet. We will emphasize the unusual and the unexpected phenomena for which we have a special fascination.”

On the occasion of the annual retrospective of blog entries in 2017 I want to recommend this blog hosted by the ASM and run by (Mos)Elio Schaechter and Roberto Kolter since 2006.

I give no examples of blog entries because there are so many interesting and fascinating ones – you have to look yourself. Just two hints. First, in 2016 a book was published in which the authors collected about 70 blog entries selected out of ten years: “In the Company of Microbes – Ten Years of Small Things Considered”. And second, I want to point at the so called “Talmudic Questions”, which are regularly published in this blog. These are questions “whose answers cannot be found by a google search but are intended to provoke thought and discussion”.


It is the basic business of microbiologists: growing microorganisms. Despite of the apparent simplicity of this task, there are lots of pitfalls, which – in the worst case – render experimental results useless. Knowing the physiological state of a bacterium / a fungus used for an experiment is one of the crucial aspects of this subject – which is ignored all too often. Thomas Egli, an expert in the field of the growth of microorganisms, has compiled basic mistakes frequently committed in batch and continuous cultivation – and still more important, he tells us how these mistakes can be avoided. So no one should start a microbial culture without having read this article at least three times …

“Microbial growth and physiology: a call for better craftsmanship” (Egli, 2015)


Hi everyone,

to those of you that like podcasts I wish to recommend the following providers which cover a lot of - but not exclusively - science topics:


Nature Podcast

BBC 5 Live Science


Of course you can also access all of them via the 'Podcasts' App of your mobile.

Have fun listening & learning.


Ron Milo, Rob Phillips, illustrated by Nigel Orme: Cell Biology by the Numbers. Garland Science 2016


This is the book we - or at least I - have been missing for decades. If we agree that physiology is first and foremost a quantitative science then back-of-the-envelope calculations are the best means to get a feeling for the cell census and the dynamics within a cell. The book is divided into five chapters: Size and Geometry; Concentrations and Absolute Numbers; Energies and Forces; Rates and Durations; Information and Errors. Each chapter contains "Estimates" which are step by step calculations for key numbers. A few examples: How much headspace is required to supply oxygen for growth? How many proteins are in a cell? What is the fractional change in occupancy of a receptor in a concentration gradient? How many protons are needed to build up membrane voltage? What is the fraction of of membrane taken up by transporters? What is the turnover time of metabolites and proteins? And many more ... In general, three cell types are treated in comparison: the bacterial cell, the yeast cell, and the animal cell (note: filamentous fungi are missing!). I myself have successfully tried a further estimate: to calculate the specific growth rate from the rate of amino acid connections by ribosomes ...

The book is avaliable in the Internet (see link) and is intimately connected with the database "BioNumbers - The Database of Useful Biological Numbers" (

Wolfgang Burgstaller


Dear colleagues,

the FEMS 2017 - 7th Congress of European Microbiologists held from 9th - 13th July 2017 in Valencia, Spain is certainly a date to save.

Early bird registration is open until 4th of April.

All details can be found here:

Looking forward to seeing some of you there.




I would like to call attention to a report of the American Academy of Microbiology entitled “The Fungal Kingdom – diverse and essential roles in earth´s ecosystem”. This 48 pages report from 2008 culminates in ten recommendations for the further development of mycology, which are still of unchanged importance in 2017. As a fungal physiologist I especially appreciate recommendation 6 – “Increase Training in Fungal Physiology and Classical Mycology” – which emphasizes that this is a clear need to maintain a pool of expertise in these fields, because as stated in this report: “Despite the diversity that science has revealed about fungi and their myriad roles in health, ecology, and industry, much about these organisms remains a mystery”.


Meyer V, Andersen MR, Brakhage AA, Braus GH, Caddick MX, Cairns TC, de Vries RP, Haarmann T, Hansen K, Hertz-Fowler C, Krappmann S, Mortensen UH, Penalva MA, Ram AFJ, Head RM

An article with ideas, statements and summaries valuable for all scientists working with filamentous fungi. Especially attracting is the demand that what is necessary is the “understanding of basic principles underlying fungal growth, development and gene expression”. This is the indispensable fundament for all other research opportunities listed in this article such as mutant libraries, high throughput technologies, genome editing, omics databases, targets for antifungals, improved morphologies etc.

Wolfgang Burgstaller