You can make a difference

Published September 01 2017

The ASBMB booth attracts visitors at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students.

Of the many interventions used to encourage underrepresented minorities, or URMs, to pursue biomedical research careers, undergraduate research experiences appear to be among the most effective. These experiences typically culminate in symposia where participants present their research findings in poster and/or oral presentations.

The Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students, or ABRCMS, is among the largest and most comprehensive biomedical conferences in the U.S. that target URMs at the undergraduate and postbaccalaureate levels. The theme for the 2017 conference, to be held Nov. 1–4 in Phoenix, is “Promoting Change and Transformation.”

At ABRCMS, undergraduate students present their research findings in a supportive and enriching environment. In addition to inspirational talks by celebrities, dignitaries and notable scientists, the conference offers opportunities for learning, networking and professional development. In 2016, ABRCMS hosted more than 4,050 attendees in Tampa, Fla., of which 2,150 were undergraduate students and postbaccalaureates; 400 were graduate students and postdoctoral scientists; and 1,500 were faculty members, program directors and administrators.

Some ABRCMS participants have the opportunity to travel to national scientific society events to present their findings in settings such as the undergraduate poster session at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology annual meeting. In these larger venues, they can gain a broader perspective on the scientific enterprise and how they fit into it; they can formulate goals and then strategies to achieve them.

To remain successful and grow in this endeavor, ABRCMS needs strong support and buy-in from the biomedical community and beyond, especially from URM scientists who serve as role models. This support can be in the form of judging posters and/or oral presentations in any of a number of scientific disciplines, such as biochemistry and molecular biology, cancer biology, cell biology, chemistry, computational and systems biology, developmental biology and genetics, engineering, physics and mathematics, immunology, microbiology, neuroscience, physiology, social and behavioral sciences, and public health.

Organized judging is a key component of ABRCMS, but simply attending is critical to creating a nourishing atmosphere and sense of community. For minority scientists in particular, ABRCMS has the potential to be that one not-to-be-missed conference each year, where they can assemble, irrespective of scientific discipline, to meet each other, network, mentor, motivate and cultivate the next generation of scientists. Indeed, many URM students report a sense of pride when they see large numbers of minority scientists who look like them and with whom they share cultural ties.

You can help ABRCMS make a difference. Your presence is all we need. Together, we can continue to create a biomedical workforce that is more reflective of the great diversity of our society. Visit abrcms.org to learn more. Direct your questions to Irene Hulede, ABRCMS project manager.

Squire J. Booker Squire J. Booker is a Howard Hughes medical investigator at Pennsylvania State University and an ABRCMS steering committee member.