Furthering Bench Scientist Careers at ASM Microbe 2018

Nine young clinical laboratory scientists were recognized for their enthusiasm and commitment to the clinical microbiology profession and given a chance to gain valuable insight into career advancement during ASM Microbe 2018. The recipients were awarded professional development grants to help facilitate their attendance at the meeting.  Funding was generously provided by Accelerate Diagnostics, AlphaTec Systems, Beckman Coulter Foundation, BioFire Diagnostics, Check-Points BV, COPAN Diagnostics, Hardy Diagnostics, Hologic, Liofilchem, Inc., Medical Chemical Corporation, Pocared Diagnostics, Quidel Corporation, Tech Lab and TIB MOLBIOL Inc.

Kunkler Zara Photo



"ASM Microbe was the first career conference I’ve attended as a CLS. Having a mentor to guide me during the meeting helped me to make the most of what could have been an overwhelming experience. Speaking to him about my current position and what opportunities were available to me helped me to understand where my passions lie and how I can go about shaping a fulfilling career in microbiology.”   

-Zara Kunkler, 2018 Awardee

Bandali Mehdi


 “I had the opportunity to interact with other mentors as well as my fellow mentees who were new bench technologists. These interactions provided me with very useful information regarding how different labs across the country approach clinical microbiology. I was able to take a lot of information back to my manager regarding ideas to improve workflow and instrumentation.”

-Mehdi Bandali, 2018 Awardee



Established by the Clinical Microbiology Mentoring Subcommittee (CMMS) in 2014, the ASM 2018 New Tech Professional Development Grant Program provides an opportunity for the awardees to interact with pre-assigned mentors, attend symposia, and visit poster sessions. Awardees also get the chance to network with fellow bench scientists and mentors, peruse industry-sponsored exhibits featuring the latest technological advances, and learn more about the profession of microbiology.

Weber Kylie



“At ASM Microbe 2018, I experienced a level of camaraderie and interconnectedness across the entire scope of microbiological careers that was 
unlike anything I could have expected. I found an unparalleled amount of support, not only from other technologists, but also from professionals in every corner of the field.” 

-Kylie Weber, 2018 Awardee

Odusanya Oluwadamilola



“Prior to ASM Microbe I was undecided about the next step to take in my career. As I sat in the large conference room and listened to Dr. Anne Schuchat’s key note address, I received confirmation of pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Health: Epidemiology.”

- Oluwadamilola Odusanya, 2018 Awardee




The awardees for 2018 are:

  • Katherine Auernheimer, Sonora Quest Laboratory
  • Mehdi Bandali, University of Colorado Hospital
  • Aaron Beczkiewicz, Minnesota Department of Health - Public Health Laboratory Division
  • Chelsea Bressler, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
  • Abby Crozier, Barnes Jewish Hospital
  • Kanyeba Ilunga, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
  • Zara Elysia Kunkler, Children's Hospital Los Angeles
  • Oluwadamilola Odusanya, National Institutes of Health
  • Kylie Weber, University of Florida Shands Hospital

BeczkiewiczA headshot


“I really enjoyed hearing about the experiences of the other mentees in their laboratories and how they got to the point they are currently at. Overall, attending ASM Microbe for the first time through this program was without a doubt one of the best experiences I have had to expand my knowledge of both clinical and public health microbiology beyond my focus of enteric bacteria and I would like to thank the Mentoring Committee for selecting me as one of their 2018 grantees.”

– Aaron Beczkiewicz, 2018 Awardee  


 To be eligible for the grant, applicants must be ASM members, have less than five years of clinical microbiology laboratory experience, are non-doctoral bench-level clinical microbiologists, and have never attended an ASM General Meeting or Microbe Meeting. Additionally, applicants cannot be presenting a poster or talk at ASM Microbe the year they are applying for the grant. Information on the 2019 application process will be available at a later date. Visit the Clinical Microbiology Portal for specifics.


 All Mentees2018 awardees at ASM Microbe 2018

Crozier Abby


"My experience at ASM 2018 was priceless. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to have gone to ASM and have met so many bright current and future leaders. ASM connected me with fellow microbiologist from all over the country that I look forward to keeping in touch with."

-Abby Crozier, 2018 Awardee

Ilunga Sandra



"The experience at the conference was truly inspiring. Though, I have been around microbiologists daily for the past 3 years, being around so many of them from all over the nation was extraordinary. It was enriching to exchange knowledge about procedures and bench experiences with peers. It was also comforting to find out we shared similar hurdles."

-Kanyeba Ilunga, 2018 Awardee 


Medhi 1
2018 awardee with Accelerate Diagnostics                                                             

Bressler Chelsea


"Getting to go ASM Microbe was a great experience.  The symposium was informative and engaging.  My mentor was able to introduce me to many of the vendors, who then explained all of their new technology to me.  She also gave me guidance in climbing the career ladder as a technologist.  I was able to network with many people and learn more about other labs through talking to the other mentees."

-Chelsea Bressler, 2018 Awardee 

Auernheimer Katherine choice 1



"Attending ASM Microbe as a travel grant award winner was an unforgettable experience. I met so many exceptional members of the microbiology community, including my mentor.  I attended several fascinating sessions, and I learned so much that I cannot wait to share with my friends and co-workers."

-Katherine Auernheimer, 2018 Awardee 





Auernheimer and Bressler 1          

Two 2018 recipients with BioFire Diagnostics


          Kunkler and Liofilchem

2018 recipient with Liofilchem, Inc.


ASM Hardy 2018          

2018 recipient with Hardy Diagnostics


          Medhi 2

2018 recipient with POCARED Diagnostics


ASM Alpha Tec 2018          

2018 recipient with AlphaTec


             Auernheimer and BC MicroScan Lynn Boyer 2  

2018 recipient with Beckman Coulter Foundation


Medhi and COPAN          

2018 recipient with COPAN Diagnostics

ASM Med Chem 2018

2018 recipient with Medical Chemical Corporation