September 2010

What’s New with the EPD?


Peter J. Kennelly, the new chairman of the Education and Professional Development Committee, gives an overview of the committee's goals and introduces three new committee members. 


Education---EPDWhere’s Ellis?

The first thing you may have noticed is that the author of this article is not Ellis Bell. Following a long and successful tenure as chairman of the Education and Professional Development Committee, Ellis stepped down. However, his energy and enthusiasm will continue to make an impact, as he has agreed to stay on as a regular member of the EPD.

So, Who Is the New Guy?

My name is Peter Kennelly, and I currently am head of the biochemistry department at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In addition to having several million dollars in extramurally funded research and approximately 30 doctoral students, our department is home to more than 500 undergraduate biochemistry majors. For the past 20 years, I have served as a career adviser for our students, using a one-hour elective course of my own design to address the challenges of effectively serving a large student body. Although I don’t have all the answers, my job as department head keeps me well aware of the many challenges American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology members face. I will do my best to serve you well.

What Is the EPD?

The EPD’s role is to devise ways in which ASBMB can aid students, postdoctoral trainees and young professionals as well as the people who mentor and educate them. A major partner in these efforts is theUndergraduate Affiliate Network.

The Challenges Ahead

As noted by ASBMB President Suzanne Pfeffer, the educational and employment landscape for science has undergone dramatic changes to which we must adapt. It is more important than ever that we find ways as a community to nurture the curiosity and enthusiasm of nascent scientists by supporting quality science education and participating in science outreach at the K-12 level. Professional preparation must incorporate new skills that reflect the growing importance of careers in the commercial/industrial sector and the burgeoning of interdisciplinary research.

One of our primary goals is to find ways to connect with the students who represent the future of our society. If future biochemists and molecular biologists are to see ASBMB as their professional society, we must reach them when they are forming their professional identity— in college or perhaps even earlier. To do so, we are working to make the EPD website an accessible and attractive resource for information on the full spectrum of biochemistry and molecular careers. EPD members are partnering with other educators to develop and disseminate resources to serve science teachers in the form of core concepts and skills, laboratory and classroom exercises and assessment tools. Extending ASBMB recognition to undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology is under consideration as a means for both fostering educational excellence and highlighting the relation between the ASBMB and a student’s college major.

All of this will take time, effort and careful consideration. However, rest assured that the ASBMB members who go the extra mile by serving on the EPD (and UAN) are talented and committed. This year, we welcome three new members who are starting their three-year terms on the EPD:


Jose M. Barral is an assistant professor in the departments of neuroscience and cell biology and biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.


Lisa Gentile is associate professor and chairwoman of the department of chemistry at the University of Richmond and a recipient of the ASBMB Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education. She has a strong track record in developing science research and outreach programs and is currently co-director of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute-funded undergraduate science research program.


Weiping Jiang is director at R&D Systems. He also is a member of the Journal of Biological Chemistry editorial board. Weiping’s addition is part of a long-term effort to communicate with and serve our members, current and potential, working in the commercial/industrial sector.


Joseph Provost is professor and chairman of the department of chemistry at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He currently is a councilor in the chemistry division of the Council on Undergraduate Research, a past member of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education editorial board and a past chairman of the ASBMB UAN. In addition to his experience and ability as an educator, Joseph’s familiarity with organizations that play a role in enhancing STEM education make him a valuable asset.


Peter J. Kennelly ( is a professor and head of the department of biochemistry at Virginia Tech.

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