Continuity and expansion for minority affairs

MAC members Marion Sewer and Takita Sumter, with Ruth Kirchstein Diversity Award winner JoAnn Trejo at the 2015 ASBMB annual meeting. ACTIONFOTO CONVENTION PHOTOGRAPHY

In 2015, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Minority Affairs Committee continued its work to diversify the scientific workforce and spearhead new initiatives that promote inclusivity, engage and expand membership, and offer career development and outreach opportunities.


At the 2015 ASBMB annual meeting, the MAC sponsored sessions that targeted constituents at various stages of career development. We held symposia linking the gut microbiome to health disparities; spotlighted the FASEB Minority Access to Research Careers graduate student travel award winners at the MAC networking reception; and offered professor rounds, a mentoring program that paired travel award winners with mentors offering career advice and guidance on navigating the meeting.

Also at the meeting, JoAnn Trejo, a professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, received the 2015 Ruth Kirschstein Diversity Award, which recognized her efforts to increase diversity of the professoriate.

The MAC’s Grant Writing and Mentoring Workshop continued to be a valuable opportunity for junior faculty members and postdocs who are seeking extramural funding for independent research. The 2015 workshop featured peer mentoring by previous workshop attendees, presentations by representatives from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and discussions by an experienced group of ASBMB members committed to mentoring and offering constructive feedback on applications.

During the year, the MAC established the Distinguished Undergraduate Scholarship, which supports students who are interested in biochemistry and molecular biology and in diversifying STEM disciplines. Five students from universities across the country were awarded $2,000 each to help defray the continually mounting costs of their education.

The MAC and the ASBMB’s Student Chapters' Steering Committee also aligned in 2015 to help existing ASBMB Student Chapters partner with minority-serving institutions and bolster participation in the society.The MAC joined forces with the Public Outreach and Education and Professional Development Committees to run Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science program, a platform for immersing budding K – 12 scientists in research through neighboring universities.


Looking forward to 2016, the MAC will continue its collaborations with the ASBMB’s Student Chapters and Public Outreach committees with an eye to expanding initiatives. We also are excited in particular about developing a workshop that will target graduate students and postdoctoral scientists interested in careers that are not research intensive. Coined “Beyond the Bench,” this initiative grew out of the realization that most trainees matriculate into careers outside the realm of faculty positions at large research institutions. These careers include teaching, science policy, science communication and outreach. The workshop will help participants develop and refine individual development plans tailored to their career goals, get real-time feedback on key job application components and establish a network of mentors who are more closely aligned with their desired future positions.

The MAC will hold its Grant Writing and Mentoring Workshop in the summer of 2016 and continue to extend the one-on-one mentoring begun during the workshop throughout each participant’s grant-writing and submission processes. A Web-based forum also is being developed so workshop participants can continue to exchange best practices for proposal preparation, strategies for training and mentoring students and postdocs, and career development advice.

Finally, a series of MAC-sponsored symposia at the 2016 ASBMB Annual Meeting will provide an update on novel research being carried out on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and explore why minorities disproportionately opt out of academic careers.

Keep an eye on the ASBMB website and ASBMB Today for more about all of the MAC’s exciting 2016 initiatives. We welcome your participation and support for these efforts!

Marion Sewer Marion Sewer is a professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego.