President's Message

With challenges come opportunities

Toni M. Antalis
By Toni M. Antalis
August 05, 2020

It is a special honor to begin my term as president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The ASBMB is very dear to me.

Antalis-Toni-445x623.jpg
Toni M. Antalis

I began my scientific career as an undergraduate obtaining summer research experience in a biochemistry lab and have been hooked ever since. My doctoral thesis research at Rice University focused on biophysical and kinetic analysis of electron transport in cytochrome oxidase, which led to a first-author paper in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Publishing that first paper in JBC and receiving those reprints with my name in print for the first time was truly exciting!

My research interests have evolved over the years into the study of proteases and protease-activated signaling pathways that affect tumor metastasis, inflammation and vascular biology. My lab studies several inflammatory mechanisms that promote blood clotting and the resolution of venous thrombosis as well as proteolytic signaling pathways used by ovarian cancers to facilitate tumor dissemination and spread.

I have continued my association with the society by serving on the Publications Committee and the Finance Committee and later as treasurer. This has allowed me to see the ASBMB grow and develop into a robust organization that strives to meet the needs of all of its members.

Thanks to the ASBMB scientific leadership, the excellent staff and the many dedicated committee volunteers, the society is in great shape. This is particularly important in the present COVID-19 environment and given the novel challenges we, as scientists, are facing. Universities have closed, and much research has been halted this year. We all cautiously are working out safe conditions for reopening and continuing laboratory research. A new paradigm is emerging at universities — virus testing systems are being put in place, and there are changes to the formal academic processes, which will undoubtedly have lasting effects. Many scientific and teaching activities are moving fully or partially online, with strict guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing.

This is unchartered territory. It has impacted our younger scientists significantly: graduate students aiming to complete their dissertations, postdoctoral fellows looking for jobs and junior faculty trying to build networks and collaborations. The ASBMB is committed to providing career-development resources for these groups, including its recently revamped online career center, the Art of Science Communication course and virtual presentation opportunities. (See asbmb.org/career-resources for those and more.)

There will be challenges in maintaining financial support for discovery research with increasingly competitive funds and uncertain economic conditions. The ASBMB serves as a defender of science and influencer of government policy on issues of concern to ASBMB members. The society responds rapidly to policy proposals and changes and stands firmly against attempts to politicize science and science funding. (See asbmb.org/advocacy for recent policy statements and to learn how to participate in advocacy efforts.)

Importantly, we must ensure social justice, fairness and civility for all and in all that we do.

Our immediate past president, Jerry Hart, did a tremendous job guiding the society through some major challenges over the past two years and deserves a special thanks. Importantly, he led the careful and consultative effort by the society to make all three ASBMB journals — JBC, Molecular & Cellular Proteomics, and the Journal of Lipid Research — fully open access in 2021. This means that the final versions of the high-quality articles will be immediately available to everyone around the world, thus reducing barriers to scientific knowledge and accelerating scientific discoveries. A long history of sound financial stewardship by the society has enabled this to happen in an affordable way for authors — society members and nonmembers alike.

We are truly indebted to Herbert Tabor, who served at the helm of JBC for 40 years and who strongly supported and helped to mold the community of biochemists and molecular biologists that we have today. JBC Editor-in-Chief Lila Gierasch, MCP Editor-in-Chief Al Burlingame and JLR co-Editors-in-Chief Nicholas Davidson and Kerry-Anne Rye are doing wonderful jobs of overseeing their publications with the support of excellent associate editors and editorial board members, all of whom deserve our thanks for their dedicated service to the society and the scientific community.

With challenges come opportunities. This is an exciting time to be a molecular and biological scientist. Advances in genomics, imaging, bioengineering, CRISPR technologies, cryogenic electron microscopy, vaccine development and computational learning are advancing our understanding of biological systems significantly.

The ASBMB is devoted to advancing the science of biochemistry and molecular biology and serving the needs of the scientific community. I encourage you to visit the ASBMB website (asbmb.org) to learn about all of the resources and wonderful activities that the society provides and the impact on our scientific community.

You too can join this effort and make a difference. Let us know what will make us even better. We welcome your thoughts.

Toni M. Antalis
Toni M. Antalis

Toni Antalis is a professor of physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where she is also the associate director for training and education for the Greenebaum Cancer Center and the director of the graduate program in molecular medicine. She began her term as the ASBMB’s president on July 1.

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