The discoveries over the last decade have demonstrated that microbiology is a central scientific discipline with practical applications in agriculture, medicine, bioremediation, biotechnology, engineering, and other fields. It is clear that the roles of microbes in nature are so diverse that the process of mining this genetic variation for new applications will continue long into the future. Moreover, the rapid rate of microbial evolution ensures that there will be no permanent solution to agricultural, medical, or environmental problems caused by microbes. These problems will demand a continual stream of creative new approaches that evolve along with the microbes. Thus, the excitement of this field will continue long into the future. However, these opportunities and imperatives demand a deep understanding of basic microbial physiology, genetics, and ecology. Major challenges that lay ahead are to impart the broad training needed to entice and enable the next generation of microbiologists, and to educate the public and government representatives about the continued and critical importance of this field for health and the economy.