ASBMB Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education

White ‘is one of the most interesting, engaging
and genuine individuals to ever grace
a biochemistry classroom full of rapt students’

Harold B. White III

I thank the students and colleagues who nominated me for this award that recognizes my efforts to promote and use problem-based learning in undergraduate education. Receiving this award is humbling because there are so many other biochemistry and molecular biology educators worthy of the honor. Thus I see my recognition as symbolic of the efforts of all educators whose passion is rewarded by the enthusiasm of their students who accept intellectual challenges and glow when their efforts are rewarded with deeper understanding.


Harold B. White III, professor of biochemistry and director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Program at the University of Delaware, is the winner of this year’s American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Award for Exemplary Contributions to Education.
The annual award is granted to a scientist who excels in educational leadership, writing, educational research, mentoring or public engagement to teach the subjects of biochemistry and molecular biology effectively.
“Hal is a consummate teacher whose influence on his students goes well beyond the classroom. Indeed, many of his undergraduate students report that he has directly affected their career choices,” said Judith Voet of Swarthmore College and Donald Voet of the University of Pennsylvania in their nomination of White for the award.
White’s dedication to serving students is exemplified by his having been a program director with HHMI funding since 1998. He, with colleagues, has received numerous grants to implement the problem-based approach to learning. He is also a co-founder of the Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education at the university. There, professors from colleges and universities attend workshops that use problem-based learning to teach undergraduates how to solve complex problems that connect to real-world issues.
White also spends a significant amount of time in the classroom. Marilee Benore at the University of Michigan at Dearborn, a former graduate student in White’s lab, said, “Hal White is one of the most interesting, engaging and genuine individuals to ever grace a biochemistry classroom full of rapt students.”
Prior to devoting his career to multiple dimensions of undergraduate education, White conducted research on the structure, function and evolution of vitamin-binding proteins and was an early advocate of the so-called “RNA World” hypothesis, publishing more than 100 papers on these and other subjects. White has had nearly 80 undergraduate research students in his laboratory over the years. Kathleen Cornely at Providence College noted, “About one-fourth of the undergraduate students in Hal’s lab appear as co-authors on research papers resulting from the work of his group.”
White started out as a curious undergraduate majoring in biochemistry at the Pennsylvania State University, where he conducted undergraduate research and was elected to honor societies in chemistry, biology and mathematics. His research career began in earnest during his graduate studies in biochemistry at Brandeis University. He then took a postdoctoral research fellowship in chemistry at Harvard University with Konrad Bloch, a 1964 Nobel Prize winner and 44th president of the ASBMB. White has been at the University of Delaware since 1971.
White has received multiple awards for his efforts, including the University of Delaware College of Arts and Sciences 2005 award for outstanding teaching and its 2007 award for outstanding service, and the 2011 Howard Barrows Award for exceptional undergraduate teaching from McMaster University. He was named the 2013 CASE-Carnegie Delaware Professor of the Year and recently was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He will receive his award at the 2014 ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, where he will give a presentation. The presentation will take place at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 27, in Room 6A of the San Diego Convention Center.

 Shaila KotadiaShaila Kotadia ( is an ASBMB science policy fellow.