January 2012

New initiatives for 2012

Public outreach and professional development


The start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on the successes of the previous year and to set goals for the months ahead. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Council met in early December to discuss two new initiatives that I am pleased to describe for you here.

Lee Gehrke, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chairman of the Public Outreach Task Force

The ASBMB Council and Public Affairs Advisory Committee feel strongly that public outreach and increasing scientific literacy are two very important society goals. To forge ahead in these areas, the ASBMB has assembled a Public Outreach Task Force chaired by Lee Gehrke of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The goal of this task force is to enhance the ability of ASBMB members to contribute to the public understanding and appreciation of science. Because this is a highly ambitious undertaking, it will be important for the us to leverage the resources of other existing programs and organizations. During this first year, the Public Outreach Task Force will survey the outreach landscape and determine how ASBMB can have the greatest impact toward promoting science communication and scientific literacy worldwide. The task force will investigate the activities of a number of existing organizations, including the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science, the Science Festival Alliance, sciencecafes.org, the International Public Science Events Conference and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

To support the work of the task force, we are looking for an energetic, enthusiastic, innovative and organized individual to serve as a new public outreach coordinator. This individual should exhibit a vision for establishing a broad contact network and great initiative to help establish
our new program. We seek applicants with a passion for promoting science and strong interpersonal and communication skills to galvanize the ASBMB membership to promote science communication and scientific literacy. The coordinator will facilitate volunteer activities that promote public understanding of science. The top candidate will write well, be fluent in the use of modern media and have the ability to make science both relevant and accessible to nonscientists. A Ph.D. in biological or chemical sciences is helpful but not required.

Concrete goals include the generation of a toolkit to help members initiate science cafés and festivals, the creation of a Web portal to help ASBMB members learn from each other how to plan local community events, and the establishment of mechanisms to motivate members to initiate events and foster partnerships with local organizations to promote scientific literacy.

In the first year, the science outreach coordinator will prepare a white paper for the Council describing existing outreach and science communication programs and how ASBMB can have the biggest impact in outreach and science communication by coordinating with existing programs. As soon as possible, we hope to facilitate new grassroots science communication activities, including encouraging ASBMB members to talk to civic groups, to present lectures or start science cafés, to visit local schools to promote science careers, and to participate in established science fairs and in programs at their own institutions devoted to increasing the public’s awareness of science. In the future, the Public Outreach Task Force also will sponsor workshops on science communication at the annual ASBMB meeting.

If public outreach is your interest, watch for our new blog and website to be launched in the near future. We welcome the input and participation of all ASBMB members to make this program a success.


A new Mentorship Committee  

Fred Maxfield, Weill Cornell Medical College, chairman of the Mentorship Committee

The ASBMB Education and Professional Development Committee, led by Peter Kennelly, oversees a number of wonderful programs that support high-school and undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows who share an interest in biochemistry and molecular biology. Yet all of our members can benefit from professional development activities. To bolster the ongoing activities of the EPD, the Council proposes to establish a new Mentorship Committee with the mission of providing members of all ages with tools to enhance their own personal mentorship and professional development.

The goals of the proposed Mentorship Committee will be to develop and sustain a monthly column for ASBMB Today on topics of relevance to the professional development of ASBMB mentees of all ages. These would relate to professional skills, lab management, personnel issues, how to apply for a postdoc or job and so forth. The columns will be written by committee members and by other invited authors. The Mentorship Committee will develop ideas for mentorship and professional-development programs for each annual meeting and possibly also ideas for stand-alone courses that could be offered biannually for members. This year’s annual meeting will include a time-management and work–life balance workshop; the Mentorship Committee will plan similar events for future years. In addition, the Mentorship Committee will work hard to identify other programs that would benefit our members in terms of mentorship and professional development. Should ASBMB offer methods courses in advanced proteomics or single-molecule analysis? Would a workshop in high-content, high-throughput screening be of value? Fred Maxfield of Weill Cornell Medical College has agreed to chair the committee, and I look forward to watching it take flight.

Should these new programs prove successful, we will consider adding them as standing committees of the society via a change in the ASBMB bylaws. I wish all of you a new year full of many new discoveries–both of the scientific and personal variety. Happy new year to you!

Suzanne PfefferASBMB President Suzanne Pfeffer (Pfeffer@stanford.edu) is a biochemistry professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

found= true1622