Comments from an issue of ASBMB Today
Service is in our best self-interest, September 2012
I have to agree wholeheartedly with Tom Baldwin’s suggestions for not only increasing our commitment to community outreach but also that departments and university administrators take our efforts seriously. Frankly, I believe the former is much easier to achieve than the latter. As a friend of mine (a devoted member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the Undergraduate Affiliate Network and the Education and Professional Development Committee ) once put it, “With heavy teaching loads, the need to do research and apply for grants, as well as sit on numerous committees, where am I going to find the time?” One problem that exists in the academic circles is the definition of outreach, which is supposedly part of every faculty member’s obligation. All too often, outreach means serving on departmental and university committees rather than interaction with the nonuniversity community.
A very easy mechanism by which our departments and universities can increase their impact on their local communities is by the establishment and support of UAN chapters on their campuses. Baldwin was instrumental in the inclusion of our university’s Biochemistry Club in the UAN in the mid-2000s. Though it took a while for our UAN chapter to establish an identity and a mission, we have now developed three strong community outreach activities, two of which have been or will be highlighted in ASBMB Today. These activities consist of an undergraduate research conference, to which are invited high school students engaged in research on our campus; our Visiting Scholars Program, in which our UAN members visit local high schools to talk about their research and give advice on preparing for and surviving the college experience; and a multidisciplinary middle school summer science camp targeting schools with predominately Hispanic and Native American populations. Our UAN chapter is far from being unique in these endeavors; most chapters have similar strong outreach activities in which they are acting as excellent role models and ambassadors for ASBMB and science. The society as a whole is indeed very lucky to have these energetic and enthusiastic young people spreading the message in our communities, although all too often the membership of ASBMB is unaware of these activities. In fact, a brief glimpse at the UAN chapter map (http://www.asbmb.org/Page.aspx?id=2376) will reveal that there are only about 60 chapters for the entire nation, a rather paltry number considering the number of universities and colleges represented by our general membership. Therefore, if faculty members are seriously interested in making an impact on their local communities, establish and nurture a fledgling UAN chapter (contact Weiyi Zhao, firstname.lastname@example.org) and then let the undergraduates develop their own individualized outreach activities.
James T. Hazzard, University of Arizona