MiTalk8@Tzu Chi University: A Gathering of Young Microbiologists from Across Taiwan


The 8th MiTalk Young Scientist Workshop (MiTalk8) took place at Tzu Chi University on January 17–18, 2024, drawing in more than 190 scholars and students. Designed as a dynamic platform for young Taiwanese researchers, the workshop facilitated the exchange of insights on microbiology. With an inventive setup, the event showcased a variety of stimulating activities, including expert lectures, rainbow bacteria crayon drawings, science podcasting experiences, and a display of research posters covering different areas of microbiology. MiTalk8 radiated with the brilliance of Hualien’s sun and sky, boundless and radiant.

The Microbiology Young Scientists Workshop (MiTalk YSW) first occurred at the Academia Sinica in 2017. It was created to fulfill young scholars’ desire for a meaningful discussion forum. Each edition of the workshop has been uniquely shaped by the passion of its organizers, showcasing distinct themes and content. This year, Tzu Chi University’s Professors Guang-Huey Lin, Han-Chen Ho, and Chun-Yao Chen, from the Departments of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering, took the helm to organize the event, marking a notable return to Tzu Chi University in 2018.

MiTalk 8 invited Deputy Director Chih-Horng Kuo from the Academia Sinica’s Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology as the keynote speaker, sharing insights on “A Perspective on Bacterial Taxonomy Based on Evolutionary Genomics.” The event also featured 18 specialized presentations from academic and industry experts alongside an exhibition of 55 research posters. The workshop offered a diverse exploration of microbial characteristics and applications, covering topics from methane and cyanobacteria to anaerobic bacteria. These ranged from global warming mitigation, plastic degradation, soil improvement, and wastewater treatment for power generation to the potential role of microbes in precision medicine.

At the event’s opening, Dr. Chao-Ren Shi from the Food Industry Research and Development Institute’s Bioresource Center presented “Methanogens: Beauty and Sorrow in the Quest for Net-Zero Emissions.” He captivatingly traced the journey of methanogens from being hailed as the future of biogas energy to being vilified as contributors to global warming, and now, amidst the net-zero emissions goal and the Ukraine-Russia war, their resurgence as a potential energy solution. Dr. Shi’s engaging narrative highlighted the complex relationship between microbes and humans, suggesting that with ongoing research, these invisible organisms might one day play a key role in saving our planet.

Researcher Yi-Ling Luo, a proud graduate of Tzu Chi University’s Life Sciences, who joined the University in 2006 and currently serves in a biotech company, was delighted to return to her alma mater as a speaker to share her research achievements in cultivating gut anaerobic bacteria.

Unlike traditional microbiology, focusing on isolating single species, Luo emphasizes the importance of interspecies relationships, suggesting that maintaining companion species nearby can enhance the success of isolating particular strains. This concept, akin to human connections, perfectly resonated with the conference’s theme of “Connection.”

In Hualien, microbiology aficionados from across Taiwan came together for a unique event, made even more special by the cheerful voices of National Education Radio, Hualien’s hosts: Wen-Ling Lin, Jia-Yun Zhao, and Xiao-Jun Lin. Xiao-Jun, enriching her studies at Tzu Chi University and blending her expertise in Molecular Biology and Communication, joined forces with Pr   ofessor Chun-Yao Chen to bring “Popular Experiment Factory” to life on air.

They transformed the venue into a welcoming live broadcast studio, giving budding scholars a first-time chance to share their microbial studies with a broader audience. Dr. Yong-Xian Shao from National Cheng Kung University found joy in the novelty of explaining his research to non-experts, remarking, “It’s been an eye-opening experience, paving the way for meaningful conversations. This has been a wonderfully inspiring journey!”

Professor Chun-Yao Chen, the beloved host of “Bacteria Mambo,” on Tzu Chi University’s radio, expressed, “For us enthralled by microbiology, every unseen microorganism has its own distinct charm, flourishing on the stage it’s meant for. We see the profound influence of their relationships and interactions, shaping the mountains, oceans, earth, and all living beings, including humans, in remarkable ways.”