Student Chapters

Biochem, with a side of advocacy

Elizabeth Stivison
June 01, 2019

Kelly McAleer, a rising senior at the College of New Jersey, has turned her longstanding passion for science and science advocacy into action. Last fall, she founded an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Chapter at TCNJ that supports both current and potential students as well as research in general.

Kelly McAleerKelly McAleer founded the ASBMB Student Chapter at the College of New Jersey with an eye to both advocacy and community outreach.COURTESY OF KELLY McALEER

In the summer of 2018, McAleer participated in the first session of the ASBMB’s Advocacy Training Program. Two months into the training, she realized that an ASBMB chapter at TCNJ could provide opportunities and resources for students to take action on political issues that affect research. In addition, she thought a chapter would fill a specific niche at TCNJ, since the college has biology and chemistry departments but no distinct biochemistry department. So, without missing a beat, McAleer organized a meeting in October to gauge interest, and the chapter was officially founded in December with McAleer as president.

McAleer launched the chapter with an eye to both advocacy and community outreach. “I think if we don’t advocate for science, there will be no science,” she said. “We need our government and our representatives to realize the importance of federal funding for science.”

To this end, the new ASBMB chapter held a Government 101 information session where students learned the basics of how government works, from how budgets are made to how a bill becomes a law.

“If people want to advocate at the federal level, they need to understand those bare basics,” McAleer said.

Chapter members also hosted a Donuts and Policy event where they talked about the current Congress. They have been brainstorming a trip to Washington, D.C., for a day on Capitol Hill (modeled on the ASBMB’s annual Hill Day) when the students would speak directly with their representatives about government support of science.

On the community outreach side of things, many chapter members volunteer at a nearby high school, acting as tutors and mentors in science classes. McAleer knows how important mentors and teachers can be to future scientists who otherwise wouldn’t know a science career is possible. She describes having no connection to any scientists when she was growing up, no family or friends who were scientists.

“My first real exposure to science came from the classroom,” she said. “I had a lot of really great teachers, and in high school I began to become serious about pursuing an education in science.”

All this planning, coordinating and organizing, in addition to her studies and playing violin in the college orchestra, doesn’t seem to tire McAleer out in the least. She finds it energizing to lead others and see her vision become a reality. Her time in college and her work with the ASBMB have expanded her idea of what is possible in her life, she said, and she has become interested in a wider range of biomedical careers. Becoming a physican–scientist, for example, is intriguing her now.

“It’s always been medicine,” she said of her goals. “It still is — but it’s not just that now.”

Elizabeth Stivison

Elizabeth Stivison is a postdoctoral researcher at Vanderbilt University studying inositol signaling.

Join the ASBMB Today mailing list

Sign up to get updates on articles, interviews and events.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

Corbett goes the extra mile to support young scientists
Award

Corbett goes the extra mile to support young scientists

May 26, 2020

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

Bumpus promoted; Regev to join Roche board; remembering Peter Lengyel
Member News

Bumpus promoted; Regev to join Roche board; remembering Peter Lengyel

May 25, 2020

Awards, promotions and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

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

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

May 21, 2020

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

UMass honors Lemire, McGaunn; Butler named research lecturer; remembering Jan Miernyk
Member News

UMass honors Lemire, McGaunn; Butler named research lecturer; remembering Jan Miernyk

May 18, 2020

Awards, promotions and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

A legacy of tyrosine
Feature

A legacy of tyrosine

May 11, 2020

For Tony Hunter, the Salk Institute biochemist who discovered tyrosine phosphorylation and winner of a 2018 Tang Prize, the world outside the lab is as important as the work inside it.

Professorship for Baserga; Bryant honored; remembering Ohnishi
Member News

Professorship for Baserga; Bryant honored; remembering Ohnishi

May 11, 2020

Awards, honors, promotions and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.