Facts about the MAC

Published February 01 2017

Avery August In 2016, the Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science award went to Avery August of Cornell University.

People often tell me that they are unaware of the many activities carried out by committees at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. It is within these groups that members generously and unselfishly do most of the society’s work promoting discovery, education, career development, advocacy and outreach. So I thought I’d tell you more about them, starting with the Minority Affairs Committee, also known as the MAC.

The MAC’s goal is to advocate for ethnic and cultural diversity in science. Led by Takita Sumter of Winthrop University, who is the chair, and Sonia Flores at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, who is the deputy chair, this very active group makes enormous contributions to the ASBMB, benefitting everyone.

To begin with, the MAC plays a major role in organizing our annual meeting. Members arrange the “Issues in Depth” scientific symposium, which focuses on a cutting-edge problem in biomedical research. At the 2017 ASBMB annual meeting in Chicago in April, the topic is “Antibiotics and Resistance,” and speakers will address the pressing need for new knowledge and innovations in antibiotics discovery, resistance mechanisms and drug development.

The MAC presents the Ruth Kirschstein Diversity Award, honoring the former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the first woman to head an institute at the National Institutes of Health. Kirschstein was a major advocate for diversity in training scientists in biomedical, behavioral and clinical fields. This award recognizes individuals who have made great strides toward this goal.

Also, the MAC organizes the welcome reception for everyone on the Sunday evening of the annual meeting, which is our biggest, most rollicking party. During that event, we showcase posters by minority graduate-student and postdoctoral travel awardees. Also, the MAC pairs minority trainees with established scientists to discuss career plans as well as how to navigate the meeting.

The MAC reception at the ASBMB annual meeting is a popular event. The MAC reception at the ASBMB annual meeting is a popular event.

Recruiting underrepresented minority scientists to biochemistry and molecular biology is a major goal of our society. The MAC reaches out to minority students by representing ASBMB at national conferences focusing on career development and by awarding the Marion B. Sewer Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates. Named for our beloved late colleague, Marion B. Sewer at the University of California, San Diego, the scholarship recognizes individuals with high achievements in research who have demonstrated leadership in promoting diversity. The MAC also collaborates with the Student Chapters Committee to establish partnerships between minority-serving institutions and mentoring universities. The partnerships promote faculty interactions between neighboring institutions to enhance training in the biosciences and has increased the number of MSI student chapters nationally.

Finally, I must mention the IMAGE workshop, through which the MAC supports research careers by teaching grantwriting. IMAGE stands for “Interactive Mentoring Activities for Grantsmanship Enhancement.” This is not your typical writing course. It is a full-bodied mentoring program, in which participants work with experienced reviewers for two whole days, formulating proposals by testing ideas and strategies, with continued mentorship throughout the submission process. Participants emerge with increased confidence in their proposal writing abilities; 85 percent of the 2013 cohort received funding after the workshop. The next IMAGE workshop is scheduled for July, and the MAC will present a summary of best practices in the “Grant Success Demystified” workshop at the annual meeting.

The ASBMB is committed to diversity and inclusion in science, which expands creativity and innovation by broadening viewpoints and promotes societal fairness and equality. Check out the MAC website. Have new ideas or want to get involved? Contact Allison Goldberg

Natalie Ahn Natalie Ahn of the University of Colorado, Boulder, is president of the ASBMB.