June 2011

A changing of the guard


This summer, the ASBMB Minoirty Affairs Committee will get a new leader. 

As July 1 draws near, with it comes a change in the composition and leadership of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Minority Affairs Committee. For the past three years, the MAC has been chaired by Craig Cameron, who will remain on the committee as past chair, while the responsibilities of chairman will be handed over to me.

MAC has been busy under Craig’s leadership and has enjoyed a number of noteworthy accomplishments: the online publication of minority scientist research spotlights that highlight careers of minority scientists and provide inspirational anecdotes on strategies for success; the establishment of the Partnership in Diversity, a registry of minority scientists and others interested in fostering diversity in the biological sciences; the organization of a workshop, funded by the National Science Foundation, to identify barriers that minority scientists share in applying for and obtaining federal funding for their research; and the establishment of the first ASBMB Diversity Award, named after Ruth Kirschstein. The inaugural award was presented at the 2011 meeting to Arthur Gutierrez–Hartmann, a professor at the Anschutz Medical Campus of the University of Colorado-Denver School of Medicine who studies the role of ETS transcription factors in development and cancer. His accomplishments and dedication to serving at-risk populations are exemplary. The MAC set the bar high and is excited about identifying future candidates for this prestigious honor.

Also of note is the organization of several successful scientific and issues-based symposia at the ASBMB annual meeting. It goes without saying that these accomplishments could not have been possible without a great team of committee members (Sydella Blatch, Nester Concha, Sonia Flores, Thomas Landefeld, Ishara Mills-Henry, Phillip Ortiz, Regina Stevens-Truss, Marion Sewer, Michael Summers, Takita Felder Sumter and Frank Talamantes), and staff (Barbara Gordon, Gail Pinder and Weiyi Zhao) who worked tirelessly to set objectives, outline strategy and secure appropriate funding.

As we transition into this next phase of leadership, the MAC will remain committed to many of the initiatives established during this past term. We also will continue to attend conferences that target aspiring young scientists from underrepresented groups, such as the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science annual conference. Each year, the MAC sponsors booths at these and other conferences to provide information about ASBMB and the benefits of belonging to a professional scientific society as well as information pertaining to career development, summer research programs and applying to graduate school. Moreover, the MAC distributes complimentary one-year memberships to students who visit the booths. Our goal in the near future will be to develop strategies to better engage these students in the society so they recognize the benefits of membership and maintain their association with ASBMB. We also will target students who attend the ASBMB annual meeting and will seek to engage them through effective programming and targeted events and workshops. For the past two years, we have enjoyed strong turnout at the annual ASBMB Minority Scientist Networking Reception and have begun to use this event as a hub for pairing students with academic and professional scientists to facilitate communication and mentoring. 

The MAC also is committed to furthering the careers of underrepresented minority scientists and elevating the stature of minority scientists within ASBMB. By forming the Partnership in Diversity, we are hoping to create a database of minority scientists in all areas of biochemistry and molecular biology that can be used to identify suitable speakers or organizers for ASBMB thematic programming and as a resource for other organizations interested in identifying minority scientists for various reasons. It is our hope that in the not-too-distant future it will appear odd to ASBMB members not to see ethnic diversity among its leaders, award winners and symposia speakers.

In short, the MAC remains vibrant and is looking forward to keeping busy and ambitious during the next few years.

Squire BookerSquire Booker (sjb14@psu.edu) is associate professor of chemistry and associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at The Pennsylvania State University.

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