2020: The year in review

Triumph amid upheaval and unease

President’s Message

Dear colleagues,

I don’t need to tell you that 2020 was a difficult year. You know that all too well. The COVID-19 pandemic has filled us with worry, dread and, at times, despair. We’ve lost a lot. We’re still coming to terms with the human toll. We’re still staring in the face of uncertainty.

But we’ve also witnessed and experienced extraordinary achievements. Scientists, though battered a bit by politicians and shaken by public skepticism, have teamed up, buckled down and soldiered on in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Members of the ASBMB community specifically have worked in intensive care units and emergency departments, pivoted their research, dropped everything to help ramp up testing and get supplies to those who needed them, devised new ways to effectively mentor trainees, and acted rapidly to make the online teaching of biochemistry and molecular biology more effective.

Importantly, we’ve been there for one another.

The ASBMB, as an organization, also has undergone significant changes — and there’s more to come in 2021. Our journals are now gold open access. We have new elected leaders. Our executive director is retiring after almost five decades of service. We have a new website and career center. And our meetings are now virtual. We’ve pulled out all the stops to share science far and wide and keep the community connected even from afar.

Three ASBMB members won Nobel Prizes! Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier won the chemistry prize for their CRISPR studies, and Charles Rice won the medicine or physiology prize for his work on the hepatitis C virus.

Below are highlights of these and other successes and endeavors. I invite you to take a few minutes to scroll through them and reflect on just how much we can achieve together.

Best wishes in 2021.

Sincerely,

Toni Antalis

Toni Antalis
President, ASBMB

Leadership changes

The ASBMB welcomed 1,641 new members this year and elected new leaders. Also, the society’s longtime executive director announced her retirement.

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Leadership on the cutting edge

Toni Antalis, the ASBMB’s new president, talks about reopening her lab after COVID-19 closures, how she’s repurposing anthrax toxins to fight cancer and the most interesting book she has read lately.

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2020 ASBMB election results

Learn about the new members of the Council, Nominating Committee and Publications Committee.

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ASBMB's executive director to retire

Barbara A. Gordon has served the society in various roles since 1972.

In memoriam

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Herbert Tabor 1918 – 2020

F. Peter Guengerich remembers the contributions of the longtime editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry who died in August.

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Michael J. O. Wakelam (1955 – 2020)

Colleagues remember a noted British biochemist, institute director and associate editor of the Journal of Lipid Research, who pioneered studies into elusive signaling lipids in health and disease.

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Jerry B. Lingrel (1935 – 2020)

Friends and colleagues remember a longtime Journal of Biological Chemistry associate editor, professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and pioneer in the field of molecular...

Member survey results

Almost 3,000 people participated in this year’s membership survey. Highlights follow.

85% of respondents said they planned to renew their membership in 202164% said the COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for them to do their work41% expressed concerns about the public’s perceptions of science

New fellows program

We launched an honorific program to recognize members who have made outstanding contributions to the field through their research, teaching and mentoring, or other forms of service.

“The ASBMB fellows will be expected to embody the society’s core values and serve as role models by performing excellent research, taking teaching and mentoring to new levels, advancing diversity in the field and giving back to the community by participating in society programs or publications.”
— Barbara Gordon, ASBMB executive director
Learn more

New industry advisory group

ASBMB members who work in industry are developing programs for academic scientists contemplating R&D — and for industrial researchers who want to give back. Edward Eisenstein, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Maryland and chair of the ASBMB Membership Committee, is leading a new advisory group. Learn more about their plans.

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Giving labs the tools to be successful

Whether he’s studying genetic changes in astronauts or fine-tuning a forensic DNA test, Douglas Storts is always working to solve puzzles as the head of research in nucleic acids at Promega.

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“Besides getting sweat on me at times, I have enjoyed the experience”

You have to know a lot about exercise physiology to make a good workout-recovery drink. PepsiCo’s Shyretha Brown uses biochemistry to understand the body’s responses.

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It all comes down to where we place our bets

Mark Harpel works in a research unit at GlaxoSmithKline that helps choose the most promising targets for new drug development.

Journals now open access

In May, we announced our three peer-reviewed journals were going fully open access in 2021.

“The ASBMB exists to meet the needs and respond to the demands of its members, and our members, in line with the broader scientific community, have called for immediate and free public access to research published in ASBMB journals in order to reduce barriers to scientific knowledge and accelerate discoveries,” the society’s leaders wrote.

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ASBMB journals are going open access

ASBMB President Gerald Hart writes about the society's decision to make its journals open access in January.

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Opening ASBMB publications freely to all

The editors of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Journal of Lipid Research and Molecular & Cellular Proteomics co-wrote this editorial about the decision to go OA.

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Frequently asked questions

How much will publishing in ASBMB journals cost? Why did ASBMB partner with Elsevier? And more.

Undergraduate education during a pandemic

When it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to drastically change the way colleges and universities teach biochemistry, a dedicated group of ASBMB members put together a set of resources for the community to use. See the materials.

Education stats and stories

The ASBMB accreditation program, certification exam program and Student Chapters program continued to grow.

15 programs accredited (new and renewals) for a total of 93 accredited programs to date926 certification exams administered, scored by 65 ASBMB education fellows14 new student chapters in 2019-2020, for a total of 128 chapters

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Undergrad chapter members honored

The ASBMB has inducted 57 exceptional students into its honor society, Chi Omega Lambda, and awarded the Outstanding Chapter award to the Northeastern University Student Chapter.

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Cupcakes and bra pong — raising awareness through outreach

Students at Marymount Manhattan College raised breast cancer awareness on their campus with an event funded by an ASBMB Student Chapter Outreach Grant.

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Premed from day 1 — researcher from day 3

In his senior year, Koushik Muralidharan was elected ASBMB Student Chapter president at Monmouth University.

New leadership awards

The ASBMB Leadership Awards recognize individuals with a strong commitment to advancing the careers of women in biochemistry and molecular biology along with demonstrated excellence in research, discovery and/or service.

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Jura is inspired by her grandmother, a ‘true pioneer’

This ASBMB award winner is an associate professor at UCSF who aims to understand how cells communicate with each other and the environment.

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Corbett goes the extra mile to support young scientists

The ASBMB honors an Emory University professor and trailblazer who is passionate about increasing diversity and inclusion in science.

Learn more

The awards were instituted in 2020 and are given annually by the ASBMB Women in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Committee. See the criteria and how to nominate.

Diversity and inclusion developments

The ASBMB will receive almost $1.27 million over five years from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to serve as one of three inaugural host organizations for the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers, or MOSAIC, program. The society is developing a program that will support postdoctoral fellows and new investigators from diverse backgrounds embarking on careers at research-intensive institutions. Learn about the ASBMB MOSAIC program.

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'We will not be silent'

Members of the ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee release a statement about police killings of Black people and institutionalized racism.

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A history-making administration — 'that believes in science’

ASBMB Minority Affairs Committee responds to the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala Harris, expressing hope that they'll help restore Americans' trust in science and lead with compassion.

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Being Black in the ivory tower

Kayunta Johnson–Winters writes about her journey through the criminal justice system and academia.

Contribute to the Sewer scholarship fund

The Marion B. Sewer Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates offers financial support to students who will one way or another diversify the scientific workforce. Each year, the society awards five $2,000 awards to outstanding undergraduates. Beginning in 2021, we would like to double the number of Sewer undergraduate scholarship awards we offer.

Learn more Donate Apply

Help us endow our diversity award

The Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award honors an outstanding scientist who has shown a strong commitment to the encouragement of underrepresented minorities in the scientific enterprise. It carries a prize of $3,000. Your tax-deductible gift will help us make our award sustainable into perpetuity.

Learn more Donate

Advocacy

The pandemic shelved our annual visit by members to Capitol Hill and our summer advocacy campaign. But the public affairs team kept busy responding to policy proposals and changes, developments at the National Institutes of Health, and court cases.

25 position statements6 webinars12 podcasts

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Foreign influences on research integrity

A small number of scientists have committed serious violations. See our reporting and statements on this topic.

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Tracking progress

Tracking the NIH’s progress towards implementing policies to change culture and end sexual harassment.

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What the election results mean for science

Biden has promised “disciplined, trustworthy leadership grounded in science”; runoffs will determine the balance of power in Congress.

Science communication looms large

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored just how important it is to communicate scientific concepts and public health recommendations clearly and compellingly. Using the right words and tone can literally save lives. The ASBMB’s online course “The Art of Science Communication” teaches participants how to present science to nonexpert audiences. This year, the course was more popular than ever.

127 students took the online course18 took the blended course44 facilitators volunteered

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Science communication in action: COVID-19 edition

Our science writers selected 10 examples of solid scicomm about the novel coronavirus.

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Meet Luke O’Neill

The immunologist at Trinity College Dublin shares his thoughts on inflammation research, science communication and the novel coronavirus.

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Virtual event

Shaping the Narrative: Effective science communication in the COVID-19 era

A panel discussion about how scientists can use their credibility and critical thinking to cut through the noise and guide the national COVID-19 dialogue.

The future of ASBMB meetings is virtual

With in-person gatherings off-limits, the society has moved its events, both large and small, online — with great success.

15,000 people attended virtual events160 scientists presented their work43% of speakers were female

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The future of ASBMB meetings is virtual

The ASBMB moves toward hosting an entirely virtual annual meeting in 2021 and an independent annual meeting in 2023.

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On-demand events

An archive of recorded sessions including scientific presentations and discussions on topics related to career development, education, funding and advocacy.

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Propose an event

From webinars, to networking get-togethers, to multi-day conferences, the ASBMB will help you to bring your event to fruition.