Meeting the needs
of a diverse membership

A look at your ASBMB education department

Andrew Macintyre Macintyre

Andrew Macintyre grew up in Scotland, where he earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the University of Glasgow and a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology at the University of Dundee. During graduate school, Macintyre became interested in the role of sugar metabolism in immune-cell fate, a topic that largely had been overlooked for 40 years. After some globetrotting interview trips, he took a postdoctoral position at Duke University in North Carolina, where he worked with leaders in the field and many clinical collaborators. Toward the end of his postdoctoral stint, Macintyre spent a lot of time mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, eventually teaching an undergraduate biochemistry course at a local college. He enjoyed working with this cross-section of the biochemical community, leading him to take on his current role at the ASBMB.

Erica Siebrasse Siebrasse

Erica Siebrasse attended a small high school in rural Kansas before completing a bachelor’s in biochemistry/molecular biology at Hendrix College. In high school and college, she was very interested in science, particularly in infectious diseases. Siebrasse completed a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology at Washington University in St. Louis, where she discovered new viruses and studied how these viruses infect humans. While in graduate school, Siebrasse also helped run a large science-outreach organization. Her lab and volunteer experiences led her to seek a career outside the lab where she could work with people to use science to improve society. After graduate school, Siebrasse was a science policy fellow at the ASBMB before taking her current position.

Are you an undergrad, grad student, postdoc, faculty member, department leader, research staff member or scientist — research or nonresearch — working outside academia? Oh, wait! Did we just include the entire membership of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology?

The ASBMB education and professional development department aims to provide resources for members at all stages of their careers. As new department managers, we are planning to continue the excellent initiatives the society offers while expanding our programming to support the needs of our increasingly diverse membership.

Established and ongoing programs

For biochemistry and molecular biology programs: The ASBMB began its accreditation program in 2013 as a way to recognize undergraduate biochemistry and molecular biology programs that fulfill the educational expectations of the society; to provide access to an independent instrument to assess student achievement and program effectiveness; and to provide a mechanism for students to obtain certified degrees. To date, 30 undergraduate programs have been accredited.

Students from accredited programs are entitled to take the ASBMB certification exam. The exam offers schools and students a nationally recognized marker of achievement. Programs interested in accreditation can find more information on the accreditation website. The next application deadline is Oct. 15.

For early career scientists: The society began hosting an annual grant-writing workshop in 2013. The workshop is designed to help senior postdoctoral fellows and early-career faculty, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, develop successful National Science Foundation grant applications.

The program includes mock review panels, presentations from NSF program directors and panel discussions on how to respond to reviewer feedback. Critically, workshop participants receive individualized feedback on their proposals. The next workshop is scheduled for June 4 – 6 in Washington, D.C.

For educators: The ASBMB received a grant from the NSF in 2010 to develop the concept-driven teaching strategies project. The project’s goal is to develop a resource library of classroom tools to help biochemistry and molecular biology educators.

Over the past five years, the project’s leaders have hosted workshops across the country to bring together educators with expertise in concept inventory development, science education research and student assessment. While the full resource library is still in development, the core biochemistry and molecular biology foundational concepts and skills identified at the workshops and a compilation of assessment instruments and tools are already available.

Educators interested in the project should consider attending our upcoming workshop at the University of Michigan-Dearborn on May 30 or our special symposium on transforming undergraduate education in the molecular life sciences July 30 through Aug. 2 in St. Joseph, Mo.

For undergraduates: The ASBMB Student Chapters program (formerly the Undergraduate Affiliate Network) provides networking and career development opportunities at regional and national conferences, access to research and science outreach, and funding awards to facilitate these aims. There are currently 100 ASBMB student chapters nationwide. Those interested in establishing a chapter must have a faculty mentor and five students interested in membership.

To help undergraduates find summer research opportunities, the society maintains a database of opportunities across the U.S. While most students probably already have made their summer plans, research programs can begin submitting new or updated 2016 information now.

For members interested in increasing diversity: The ASBMB is committed to supporting and promoting diversity in BMB. The EPD department runs the Partnership for Diversity listserv and organizes the Research Spotlight series, which profiles the accomplishments of scientists from diverse backgrounds. At the 2015 annual meeting in March, the society announced a new undergraduate scholarship to recognize students who contribute to the diversity of the field.

Future initiatives

For graduate students and postdoctoral scientists: The EPD committee recently established a new subcommittee to study how better to support graduate student and postdoctoral members. In particular, the number of people holding Ph.D.s who are pursuing careers outside of academic research is growing, and their needs are diverse. The society has a number of resources available to undergraduates, educators and faculty members, but we aim to expand and improve our initiatives to serve other groups within the community.

For all members: We are also enhancing the content available on our website, including the education, minority affairs and careers sections. We intend to make it clearer where resources are located and to improve and expand existing resources. These changes will come alongside the work of the new EPD subcommittee.

The programs and ideas described above would not be possible without the many ASBMB members who volunteer their time and expertise. In particular, members of the EPD, minority affairs and Student Chapters committees have worked incredibly hard to ensure the ASBMB has quality programs to offer its members. In addition, more than 70 ASBMB education fellows have contributed to the development and administration of the accreditation program.

More information on the programs and committees is on the education department website. It is our hope that the education department reflects the needs of our membership. If you have ideas or would like to get involved in any of our programs, please contact us.