July 2010

New President's First Message to Society

Herbert Tabor, editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Ralph Bradshaw and Al Burlingame, co-editors of Molecular and Cellular Proteomics and Ed Dennis and Joe Witztum, co-editors of the Journal of Lipid Research, are doing wonderful jobs of overseeing their publications. Indeed, all of the editors and editorial board members deserve our thanks for their dedicated service to the society and the scientific community overall. The Publications Committee, under Toni Antalis, has provided guidance to JBC, MCP and JLR and has helped to adjudicate ethical issues that arise from time to time. Thanks to the ASBMB council, starting this month, ASBMB members will be eligible for page charge and color figure discounts, and JBC no longer requires a fee to submit manuscripts. This, together with the excellent quality of the review process, should encourage our members to continue to support our society publications. ASBMB publishes these journals to serve you, our members. We have been leaders in the use of electronic publishing and will continue to excel in the electronic journal world. (Check out one of our most recent additions— the ability to rotate three-dimensional images with just the click of a mouse in our journal article PDFs.)

The 2010 program chairs and the ASBMB Meetings Committee (chaired by Joan Conaway) deserve hearty congratulations for assembling an incredibly successful annual meeting in Anaheim. And, during 2010, ASBMB will sponsor four small meetings, the majority of talks for which will come from submitted abstracts. This means that more students and postdoctoral fellows will have a chance to speak, and the sessions will not be dominated by the same names that always seem to appear on speaker lists that we all peruse in popular science journals. Thanks to Ali Shilatifard for overseeing the Small Meetings Subcommittee. And, finally, the Nominations Committee assembled an excellent slate of candidates to lead the society moving forward.

Just because the ASBMB is doing well doesn’t mean that we can’t do even better. One of my top goals for the next two years is to try to address the needs of our youngest members. Graduate student representatives polled from 50 different biochemistry departments all indicated strong enthusiasm about the possibility of ASBMB sponsoring local meetings for students and postdoctoral fellows. These meetings would offer an opportunity for participants to share their research in the form of short talks and posters and also would include panel discussions on topics including career options and how to apply for jobs, be it an academic, industrial or legal setting or a consulting or teaching position. We already have started to plan two regional pilot workshops— one at Rutgers University and one at Northwestern Medical School, with Raleigh-Durham and Seattle to follow soon after. I will keep you posted on our progress and would love to hear from you if you would like our help in creating and sponsoring a one-day ASBMB graduate student/postdoc event in your city.

We also hope to include more mentoring events during the annual meeting. I will return to the question of graduate training in a future column. We need to be thinking about whether our current curricula adequately train students to work on a genome-wide and/or systems-wide level— should we be teaching students to handle large data sets and make full use of statistics? Can they program in MATLAB? Are we helping them learn to identify the most important scientific questions rather than just how to carry out the next experiment? And, are we providing them with leadership skills that will carry over into the jobs they likely are to assume, including biotech, teaching, law and advocacy? ASBMB will try to facilitate discussion of these critical issues and ways to address them in the months to come.

So, why should you be an ASBMB member and support this society? ASBMB is devoted to promoting the discipline of biochemistry and molecular biology. This means using all of our resources to expand and improve scientific training and mentorship at all levels, to provide venues for our members to share their findings— whether in person, print or online— and to establish important contacts to facilitate scientific exchange and collaboration. Our society works hard to fight for research dollars for its members and to keep them informed about science policy matters that will affect them both as scientists and as citizens. ASBMB can help bring us together to make our science better and to keep it collegial in the true Merriam-Webster sense of that word, “…marked by camaraderie among colleagues.” So, thank you for your continued support, and please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think will make us even better.

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COMMENTS:

Thank you Dr. Pfeffer for putting the needs of our youngest members as a top goal of your presidency. They all need our care and support, but I would emphasize the need for mentoring and counseling young PIs at the start of their careers. High level of competition together with decreasing public funding of research in most countries means that many will fail. We must consider all career alternatives that would ensure that the scientific education of these young people will still serve the community. Getting toward the end of my scientific career, I have come to realize that a common mistake is intervening too late in careers in distress, in providing counseling and reviewing alternatives. ASBMB with all its talents should set up an adhoc committee to reflect on these issues. With best regards, Yves Marcel University of Ottawa Heart Institute

 

I congratulate you for promoting graduate student and postdoc events. The idea of creating and sponsoring an ASBMB gradute student/post-doc event is attractive. I would like to have more information about what it would take to do this in the DC area. Thank you, Pat Becerra

 

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