Accreditation — coast to coast

Published December 01 2018

Now at the end of its fifth year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s accreditation program for undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology continues to grow at an average rate of 14 programs per year, with nearly 1,000 students taking the 2018 certification exam.

Accredited programs are now in 38 states, spanning the continental U.S. Among the 85 accredited institutions are 20 R1 universities, led by four from the Big Ten — Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue — along with three each from the ACC and Southwest conferences. At the other end of the spectrum are primarily undergraduate institutions with enrollments of 1,500 or fewer, such as Earlham, Hampden Sydney, Hendrix and Huntingdon colleges.

Continental U.S. This map shows the geographic distribution of accredited programs. States highlighted in orange are home to 4 to 7 accredited programs. Yellow, green and blue states have three, two and one accredited programs, respectively. Gray indicates no accredited programs.PETER KENNELLY/MAPCHART.NET

Over the past year, we aimed to improve the quality and visibility of our growing program. In 2017, ASBMB volunteers conducted a survey of current and prospective accreditation stakeholders; the results were recently published in the journal Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Education. In response to the feedback, we have streamlined and clarified the accreditation application and introduced updated sample examination questions on the accreditation website.

ASBMB volunteers hosted in-person and remote question-writing workshops that have given us more, and more consistent, questions in the certification exam. In April, 994 students took the annual exam. Of these, 417 (42 percent) earned ASBMB certification, of which 122 (12.3 percent) were certified with distinction. This was somewhat lower than the record high certification rate of 53.3 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively, for the 2017 exam. The 2018 version contained an identical number of questions and employed the same scoring criteria as the year prior.

The expansion and improvement of the accreditation program and its associated certification exam is a tribute to the commitment and skill of scores of volunteers supported by a handful of full-time ASBMB staff. These volunteers, whose efforts are acknowledged by their designation as ASBMB education fellows, report that their participation offers valuable experience in honing their skills as educators and evaluators, opportunities for stimulating discussions with peers from across the country, and a sense of ownership of a much-needed resource for biochemistry and molecular biology scientist–educators.

Why do I mention this? Because this is a program for the biochemistry and molecular biology education community run by scientist-educators from this community. Ownership comes with responsibilities, and we want more of our stakeholders to join with us in providing the ideas, perspective and plain old elbow grease needed to sustain the growth and development of the accreditation program.

If you’d like to learn more, contact Quira Zeidan, Adele Wolfson or myself.

Newly accredited

The ASBMB accredited programs at 15 colleges and universities between fall 2017 and fall 2018.

Colorado State University
Central Michigan University
Clemson University
Duquesne University
Earlham College
Eastern Mennonite University
Elon University
Grand View University
Houston Baptist University
Huntingdon College
St. Bonaventure University
St. Olaf College
University of South Carolina
University of Wisconsin Parkside
West Virginia University
Peter Kennelly Peter Kennelly is a professor of biochemistry at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.