November 2011

Education and professional development

Maximizing competitiveness during challenging times  


Although the economy shows some signs of recovery, today’s college graduates continue to face a challenging job market. Similarly, institutions of higher learning face the challenge of maintaining economic viability while continuing to deliver comprehensive instruction using state-of-the-art technologies.

At the faculty level, diminishing resources and increasing time commitments have redefined the three major missions of academia: scholarship, teaching and service. Finally, the emergence of strong economies and research infrastructure in other countries challenges U.S. scientists to remain competitive and develop collaborations on a global scale. Recognizing these challenges, the 2012 education and professional development theme is focused on increasing competitiveness at the global, institutional and individual levels.

Outreach and research 

The program is organized into six sessions. On Saturday, April 21, the activities will focus on education and outreach in coordination with the 16th annual undergraduate poster session, sponsored by the Undergraduate Affiliate Network. After the poster session, students will be invited to a speed-dating-like session with representatives from various career paths called “Finding Your Perfect Career Match.”

Undergraduate research experiences provide a unique means for developing the technical and critical-thinking skills that allow graduates to be competitive in the job market. As such, Sunday morning’s session, “Maximizing Institutional Effectiveness,” will focus on approaches to bolstering undergraduate research/research training. Peter Kennelly (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) will approach the issue from the perspective of a research-intensive institution. Next, Joseph Provost (Minnesota State University Moorhead) will discuss this issue from the perspective of a primarily undergraduate institution. Finally, Cecile Andraos-Selim (Hampton University) will discuss the unique challenges to undergraduate research/research training at a minority-serving institution.



Talks for teachers 

On Sunday afternoon, the emphasis will shift to the classroom with a session titled “Maximizing Teaching Effectiveness.” In the first talk, Paul Craig (Rochester Institute of Technology) will discuss cutting-edge instructional technologies in a presentation titled “Effective Use of Electronic Teaching Tools and Resources.” Dennis Wykoff (Villanova University) will discuss the unique challenges facing today’s junior faculty in his talk, “Effective Teaching and Mentoring While Publishing and (Hopefully) Having a Life.” In the last talk, Neena Grover (Colorado College) will describe the Undergraduate Affiliate Network as a means to promote science education and outreach.

On Monday morning, the focus will be on maximizing marketability through development of survival skills for careers in academia and industry. Judith Bond (The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine) will discuss strategies to develop administrative and organizational skills. Her talk will be followed by Martin Rosenberg (Promega Corp.), who will focus on opportunities in the private sector and the skill sets required to be competitive for securing those opportunities. The last talk will focus on the interface between technology and networking. Lisa Balbes (Balbes Consultants) will give a talk titled “Effective use of Social Networking for Career Development,” which will focus on the advantages and potential pitfalls of this emerging means for connecting with potential employers.

A competitive world 

The Monday afternoon session broadens the theme to take on a global perspective. In the first talk, Anthony James (University of California-Irvine) will present his work on malaria as a model for developing collaborations on an international scale. Estralita Martin (San Diego State University) will use the second talk to discuss cultural competency, an emerging concept that is of growing importance as our classrooms and laboratories become more diverse. In the last talk, Shirish Shenolikar will discuss his experiences at Duke and the National University of Singapore Medical School and how they can be a model for understanding the unique challenges to science and science education in emerging countries.

We realize that these presentations address only a subset of the challenges facing scientists and science educators in the 21st century. However, we hope that attendees will come away from these sessions with a renewed sense of confidence that they can and will be competitive during these challenging times.


Suzanne E. Barbour, not pictured, ( is a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and Peter J. Kennelly is professor and head of the department of biochemistry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and chair of the Education and Professional Development Committee of the ASBMB.

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