January 2010

An Opportunity to Make a Difference


In a recent speech to the National Academy of Sciences, President Obama said, “So I want to persuade you to spend time in the classroom, talking— and showing— young people what it is that your work can mean and what it means to you. Encourage your university to participate in programs to allow students to get a degree in scientific fields and a teaching certificate at the same time. Think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, like science festivals, robotics competitions and fairs that encourage young people to create, build and invent— to be makers of things.”

The USA Science and Engineering Festival

The USA Science and Engineering Festival offers scientists a great opportunity to answer this clarion call. According to the organizers, “the festival promises to be the ultimate multicultural, multigenerational and multidisciplinary celebration of science in the United States.” It will take place between Oct. 10 and Oct. 24, culminating in a two-day expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. The expo will give more than 500 science and engineering organizations from all over the United States the opportunity to present hands-on, fun science activities to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

For more information

• To learn more about the USA Science & Engineering Festival, go to http://usasciencefestival.org.
• For more information on the ASBMB Science on the Mall Challenge, go to

Festival founder Larry Bock is encouraging the participation of universities, colleges, professional organizations and industry, and, as discussed in the November issue of ASBMB Today, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is committed to participating.

The festival organizers also are inviting scientists and engineers around the nation to host satellite events that can be tied in to the festival’s themes. In a time when the scientific community is increasingly being asked to justify the nation’s investment in research, and when there is much talk of the U.S. falling behind the world in science education, it behooves each of us to think creatively about how we can effectively educate the general public about science and its benefits and also encourage a diverse section of our K-12 population to get interested in science.

Take the “Science on the Mall Challenge”

ASBMB is also urging everyone to get involved with the festival through the “ASBMB Science on the Mall Challenge.” We are asking anyone interested in science, science education or science outreach to design a fun, interactive biochemistry- and/or molecular biology-themed activity to take to the festival.

Entries will be accepted through June 30 and can be submitted by posting them to the ASBMB Facebook fan page (http://bit.ly/4ynmfn) or e-mailing them to uancommittee@asbmb.org or wzhao@asbmb.org.

The submissions will be judged by the ASBMB Undergraduate Affiliate Network Committee, and the best entries will be taken to the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Top finalists who are undergraduates or high school students will receive travel stipends to come to Washington, D.C., to attend the expo.

Get Involved in Outreach

If each ASBMB member agreed to spend just two hours a month in meaningful outreach activities, we could have a major impact on science literacy and the pipeline of future scientists. 

So, the challenge to all ASBMB members is this: Find two hours a month and get involved in outreach activities. Over the next six to eight months, we will track member outreach activities and post updates on our Web site. Send an e-mail to wzhao@asbmb.org to tell us about your outreach activities.

J. Ellis Bell (jbell2@richmond.edu) is professor of chemistry and chair of the biochemistry and molecular biology program at the University of Richmond. He is also chairman of the ASBMB Education and Professional Development Committee.


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