September 2010

Making Undergraduate Science Education a Priority at ASBMB


In addition to promoting graduate and postdoctoral education, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has made it a priority to foster undergraduate science education in a number of ways. 


In addition to promoting graduate and postdoctoral education, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has made it a priority to foster undergraduate science education. For example, nearly 200 students present their research each year at the ASBMB annual meeting undergraduate poster competition, and specific programming for undergraduate students and faculty is becoming commonplace at all ASBMB-sponsored meetings.

Lakeforest College UAN students.


The ASBMB also established the Undergraduate Affiliate Network, a national organization comprised of university-based chapters dedicated to advancing undergraduate research, research-based undergraduate education and K-12 outreach. The result is an interconnected community of undergraduate students and faculty that can participate in developing new directions in education.

In the past few years, more than 50 UAN chapters have been established across the country. Individual chapters are divided into six geographical regions, each of which can organize at least one meeting per year in which undergraduate students and faculty members can present their research. The regional meetings also provide an opportunity to encourage students to present their work at the ASBMB annual meeting via a travel-awards program, which gives grants to four students at each meeting.

Educational Research

Via the UAN network, undergraduate faculty members are finding a cohort to discuss their pedagogical research and are building a network for collaborations that will impact biochemistry and molecular biology education. With this increased interest, education-themed special symposia have become a standard part of the UAN activities; the next one is scheduled for July 21 – 24, 2011 at the University of Richmond. This meeting aims to discuss various different pedagogies currently being used in active and student-centered approaches. Experienced and novice faculty members will share expertise and new ideas in sessions on POGIL, the scholarship of teaching and learning, incorporating service-learning and visualization. For more information, contact Ellis Bell at

Awards and Honors

Several awards are given to UAN chapters and members each year to help them travel to the ASBMB annual meeting, to participate in local science fairs, to organize regional meetings, to participate in summer research, to develop creative outreach activities in their communities and for other creative chapter activities. High school students and teachers have become part of these activities and have earned prestigious scholarships and research awards for their work as well. An undergraduate honor society, Chi Omega Lambda (ΧΩΛ), also has been established to recognize exceptional UAN juniors and seniors who are earning their degrees in molecular life sciences.

UAN students from College of the Holy Cross use Harry Potter as a teaching tool at their annual science outreach event.

Over the past two years, the UAN funded a pilot program to engage high school teachers and students in research. Four UAN faculty members were funded through this program: J. Ellis Bell, Joseph Provost, Todd Weaver and myself. Because of this program, we all have incorporated 7-12 research opportunities into our grant applications, and we are beginning to make an even broader impact on K-12 science education in our communities.


The UAN also publishes a newsletter six times a year. Enzymatic highlights the activities of various chapters and showcases faculty and student involvement and achievements around the country. It also routinely includes science outreach articles, undergraduate reviews of interesting web entries and a feature called “JBC in the Classroom,” in which contributors explain how they use Journal of Biological Chemistry articles as teaching tools. To submit articles for publication in Enzymatic, contact Marilee Benore at

As fall approaches, regional UAN directors will be gathering for a retreat during which many of the UAN initiatives and programs are created, revamped and improved. If you have ideas on how to increase undergraduate faculty and student participation within the society, please send them to me or Weiyi Zhao (

Neena Grover ( is an associate professor of biochemistry and chairwoman of chemistry and biochemistry at Colorado College.

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