President's Message

This is your society

A message from the ASBMB’s new president
Ann Stock
Aug. 2, 2022

It is an honor and a privilege and, if I’m to be honest, also a bit daunting to assume the role of president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. I joined the society, then the American Society of Biological Chemists, as a graduate student in the 1980s. I have participated in several capacities through the years, never envisioning myself as president; yet here I am.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising. My scientific pedigree includes two ASBMB presidents. My graduate and postdoctoral advisors held the role: Daniel E. Koshland Jr. in 1973 and Gregory A. Petsko from 2008 to 2010. In addition to being exceptional scientists and fantastic mentors, both served or continue to serve the scientific community in numerous ways, and by example, they instilled the value of service in their trainees. A commitment to service is part of my scientific heritage.

I hope that contributing to the community is part of every scientist’s identity. Not only does it benefit the community, but it also can be personally rewarding to contribute beyond the boundaries of one’s own research. I suspect this is one of the many reasons you joined the ASBMB. Would you like to become more involved in society activities? If so, I’d like to help you explore how.

But before delving into future service, I want to reflect on the past. Barbara Gordon retired in early 2021 after almost 50 years with the society — 18 as executive director. Her enthusiasm and dedication to the ASBMB are well known to all who have had the pleasure of meeting her. Barbara was named an ASBMB fellow this year, becoming the first affiliate member to be so honored. We wish her well in her retirement.

And I want to express tremendous gratitude to Toni Antalis, our immediate past president, who shepherded the ASBMB through the two challenging years of pandemic. Despite the physical isolation and the tedium of seemingly endless Zoom meetings, the ASBMB has maintained remarkable momentum on recent initiatives. It’s reassuring that we can count on Toni’s continued guidance as we navigate ahead.

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of both basic and applied scientific research and the community of scientists who rapidly reoriented their work and collaborated effectively in response to emerging needs. The BMB discipline, with its mechanistic focus, was at the core of diagnostic and therapeutic advances. However, the pandemic also illustrated the need for increased understanding of science and the scientific process in both public and government sectors. Government funding of scientific research must be a priority. Appropriate training of the next generation of bioscientists for diverse careers will ensure a robust pipeline for the scientific workforce, and the pipeline needs to be broadened by promoting diversity, equity and inclusion.

A 2020 survey of ASBMB members indicated that, aside from funding, the professional issues of greatest concern were the public perception of science (including science literacy and how to communicate to the public); work–life balance; and diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in the scientific community.

The ASBMB has initiatives addressing all of these areas and provides ways for members to participate. However, members are not always aware of those initiatives or how to engage in them.

For example, the top concern of members was the public perception of science; 41% of respondents ranked it first.

However, 22% indicated elsewhere in the survey that they were unaware of ASBMB-supported science outreach activities or that they could participate in them; 29% indicated that they were unaware of advocacy activities such as our annual Capitol Hill Day and our Advocacy Training Program or that they could participate in them; and 29% indicated that they were unaware of the ASBMB’s Art of Science Communication course or that they could participate in it.

I, myself, have not always been knowledgeable about what the ASBMB does. For years, I paid my dues, published articles in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, attended an occasional annual meeting and flipped through the latest issue of ASBMB Today if time allowed. It wasn’t until I joined committees that I began to appreciate what the ASBMB is about.

I became a Council member in 2008 and have been continuously involved since that time as a member of the Education and Professional Development Committee, or EPD; the Finance Committee; and the Accreditation Steering Group. I’ve gotten to know the ASBMB. I’ve been integrated into an amazing network of people, and I’ve learned a lot that can be applied directly in my academic research career. My desire to teach initially motivated me to pursue a graduate degree, and participation in the EPD reconnected me with my interest in education. Through EPD activities, I’ve learned of challenges and best practices in education, knowledge that I apply routinely in my role teaching medical students, as coordinator of my center’s summer undergraduate research program, as co-director of a T32-funded graduate training program and as chair of our university’s academic planning committee. Certainly, I’ve given some time, but I’ve received far more in return.

In future messages, I plan to introduce you to the ASBMB committees through interviews with committee chairs. We’ll focus on some of the society’s many initiatives and provide a personal perspective from the scientists who steer ASBMB activities. I hope some of these topics will align with your passions. Perhaps you’ll want to become more engaged with the society by connecting with committee members or volunteering to serve on a committee yourself. In March, prior to the annual ASBMB election in June, we solicited nominations, including self-nominations, for open positions on committees. We are eager to broaden representation and welcome your participation.

So get involved and get in touch. The ASBMB is your society. Its impact is determined by what we do together.

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Ann Stock

Ann Stock is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at Rutgers and resident faculty member at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine. She became the ASBMB’s president in July 2022.

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