July 2010

Getting to Know Suzanne Pfeffer

As new ASBMB President, Suzanne Pfeffer will be working closely with Journal of Biological Chemistry Editor Herbert Tabor.

“When I travel on a train or plane I like to strike up a conversation with the person next to me, describe my work, and explain that their tax dollars paid for it,” she says. “It’s the kind of conversation all researchers should be doing when they can— the public doesn’t realize that they are supporting biomedical research. When they learn about it, they agree on its importance. We should all be thanking the public for their support.”

Pfeffer acknowledges that many scientists may be apprehensive, or uncertain, about how to be effective communicators, and already has hit the ground running in that regard. She’s begun developing templates to help guide ASBMB members in discussing their work in specific circumstances. These templates will be available in ASBMB Today and on the society’s website. Pfeffer also hopes to encourage more usage of new media, such as Wikipedia and YouTube, to get ASBMB’s message across.

It’s the kind of conversation Pfeffer had as a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley. Entering college, she didn’t know much about the molecular sciences, but she knew she wanted to know what made the human body work— or in the case of diseases, what made it not work.

“But then at college, someone explained to me that what I was interested in was biochemistry, and that set up my path for my future career,” she says.

At the same time, Pfeffer believes that established researchers need to open more lines of internal communication, namely with the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that represent our next wave of scientific leaders.

“Most of our members are probably in academia, and therefore are involved in the business of training graduate students,” she says. “But are we training them the right way?”

Science has changed dramatically over the past couple of decades, since Pfeffer first started conducting independent research. “Back then, researcher specialties were straightforward,” she says. “It used be ‘I worked on protein X, or pathway Y,’ for example. But, with all the information available today, and the rapid rate at which new data becomes available, we can’t do that anymore.”

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Very excellent introduction to a remarkable young lady scientist1 Kudos to all who were involved in this venture! Dr. Vadiraja V. Murthy


This is well written and useful to become acquainted with the philosophy of our new president. It never occurred to me to tell my neighbor on a plane ride that her/his tax money pays for my work. What a good idea! Liz Neufeld



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