The ASBMB believes that students are best served when programs focus on the development of durable, translatable skills and fundamental knowledge rather than the rote accumulation of detailed facts.  Program effectiveness also is materially enhanced when guided by a set of clearly-stated educational objectives.  One important contributor to the development of capable life-long learners in BMB is the establishment of a strong grounding in its core concepts.  This firm foundation should be nurtured through a continual, progressive emphasis on critical reasoning skills, experiential learning, and the ability to communicate information and concepts in a clear, accurate, and organized form using both the written and spoken word.

Since both our discipline and educational best practices are subject to continual change and innovation, the recommendation regarding curriculum outlined below intentionally avoids providing a list of “required” courses.  Such a prescriptive, topics-based approach runs counter to ASBMB’s desire to focus on outcomes as well as our intention to provide the members of the educational community free reign to apply their creativity and experience to the continual improvement of BMB pedagogy.

Core concepts and learning objectives
An ASBMB-recognized program should be able to relate each element of its BMB curriculum to one or more of the core concepts listed below and their related learning objectives (sample learning objectives are available here):

  1. Energy is Required by and Transformed in Biological Systems.
  2. Macromolecular Structure Determines Function and Regulation
  3. Information Storage and Flow Are Dynamic and Interactive.
  4. Discovery Requires Objective Measurement, Quantitative Analysis, & Clear Communication.

The curriculum should present these core concepts in a manner that illustrates the pervasive role that Evolution and Homeostasis play in shaping the form and function of all biological molecules and organisms as illustrated here. 

Experiential learning
An ASBMB-recognized program requires participating students to engage in a cumulative total of 400 or more contact hours of direct, hands-on laboratory experience in STEM areas over the course of the degree program.  It is recommended that at least one of these experiences be research/inquiry-based.  Under certain circumstances undergraduate research, internship activities, independent and team projects, in silico research, etc., can substitute for more traditional laboratory courses.  Regular, explicit attention should be devoted to the topic of laboratory safety, including the recognition of common laboratory hazards, responsible laboratory practices, and methods and equipment used for the prevention of, protection from, and response to incidents involving potential hazards.  Regular, explicit attention should also be devoted to the principles of ethical conduct of research and scholarship, including plagiarism and appropriate citation, qualifications for authorship, appropriate application of image and data manipulation techniques, confidentiality, etc.

Communication skills
Oral and written communication skills represent important elements in preparing students for long-term professional success.  The required curriculum of an ASBMB-accredited program should afford students training in written and electronic communication practices, including:

  • Reading and consistently adhering to standard laboratory operating procedures.
  • Maintaining complete and accurate records, including laboratory notebooks
  • Preparing complete and lucid laboratory reports
  • Other potential activities include preparing research proposals or grant applications, writing intensive projects, constructing or contributing to web pages or blogs, etc.

An ASBMB-recognized program should also afford students opportunities to develop oral communications skills.  Methods for achieving this may include but are not limited to:

  • poster presentations
  • oral reports
  • oral examinations
  • team projects
  • classroom discussions

Presentations of posters and talks at meetings and conferences should provide particularly rich experiences for participating students.

Teamwork skills
The increasingly interdisciplinary nature of science and engineering demands that BMB graduates be prepared to work in a diverse, team-oriented environment.  An ASBMB-recognized program therefore should afford students the opportunity for training and participation in team activities.

Undergraduate research, cooperative experiences and internships
While it is desirable that every BMB major be given the opportunity to participate in research or related activities in an active research laboratory or other professional setting, ASBMB recognizes that the large number of students enrolled in many BMB programs renders 100% student participation impractical.  Nonetheless, mechanisms by which advanced students and those drawn from groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can further enrich their academic experience through direct participation as the member of an active research group or other professional entity are deemed an essential feature of a recognized program.  Some examples of such entities include quality assurance/quality control laboratories, analytical laboratories, and production units.

If the necessary research infrastructure to support undergraduate research is lacking within the host institution, it is expected that the program will provide and advertise mechanisms for assisting students in obtaining experience through internship, co-op, or summer research programs at other institutions.

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