Education

Characteristics of an ASBMB-accredited program

A panel of experts from academia and the private sector evaluates three program areas: curriculum, faculty and infrastructure. We recognize that many programs may not be able to incorporate all of the necessary characteristics exactly as described. Evaluators follow a detailed rubric to examine programs thoroughly from an objective perspective.

1. Curriculum

The ASBMB believes that students are best served when programs focus on the development of durable, translatable skills and fundamental knowledge rather than the rote accumulation of facts. Program effectiveness is enhanced when guided by a set of clearly stated educational objectives. One important contributor to the development of capable lifelong learners in BMB is the establishment of a strong grounding in its core concepts. This foundation should be nurtured through a continual, progressive emphasis on critical reasoning skills, experiential learning and the ability to communicate information and concepts in a clear, accurate and organized form using both the written and spoken word.

Since both our discipline and educational best practices are subject to continual change and innovation, the curriculum recommendations outlined below intentionally avoid providing a list of required courses. Such a prescriptive approach runs counter to ASBMB’s desire to focus on outcomes as well as our intention to provide educators free reign to apply their creativity and experience to the continual improvement of BMB pedagogy.

Core concepts and learning objectives

An ASBMB-recognized program should be able to relate each element of its BMB curriculum to one or more of these core concepts and their related learning objectives:

  1. Energy is required by and transformed in biological systems.
  2. Macromolecular structure determines function and regulation.
  3. Information storage and flow are dynamic and interactive.
  4. Discovery requires objective measurement, quantitative analysis and clear communication.

The curriculum should present these core concepts in a manner that illustrates the pervasive role that evolution and homeostasis play in shaping the form and function of all biological molecules and organisms as illustrated in our concept-driven teaching strategies.

Experiential learning

An ASBMB-recognized program requires participating students to engage in a cumulative total of 400 or more contact hours of direct, hands-on laboratory experience in STEM areas over the course of the degree program. We recommend that at least one of these experiences be research/inquiry-based. Under certain circumstances, experience such as undergraduate research, internship activities, independent and team projects, and in silico research can substitute for more traditional laboratory courses.

Safety

Regular, explicit attention should be devoted to the topic of laboratory safety, including the recognition of common laboratory hazards, responsible laboratory practices, and methods and equipment used for the prevention of, protection from, and response to incidents involving potential hazards.

Ethics

Regular, explicit attention should also be devoted to the principles of ethical conduct of research and scholarship, including plagiarism and appropriate citation, qualifications for authorship, appropriate application of image and data manipulation techniques and confidentiality.

Communication skills

Oral and written communication skills represent important elements in preparing students for long-term professional success. The required curriculum of an ASBMB-accredited program should afford students training in written and electronic communication practices, including:

  • Reading and consistently adhering to standard laboratory operating procedures.
  • Maintaining complete and accurate records, including laboratory notebooks.
  • Preparing clear and comprehensive laboratory reports.
  • Other potential activities include preparing research proposals or grant applications, writing intensive projects, and constructing or contributing to web pages or blogs.

An ASBMB-recognized program should also afford students opportunities to develop oral communications skills. Methods for achieving this may include but are not limited to:

  • Presenting posters and giving talks at meetings and conferences.
  • Giving oral reports and taking oral examinations.
  • Participating in team projects.
  • Joining and contributing to classroom discussions.

Teamwork skills

The increasingly interdisciplinary nature of science and engineering demands that BMB graduates be prepared to work in a diverse, team-oriented environment. An ASBMB-recognized program therefore should afford students the opportunity for training and participation in team activities.

Undergraduate research, cooperative experiences and internships

While every BMB major should be given the opportunity to participate in research or related activities in an active research laboratory or other professional setting, we recognize that the large number of students enrolled in many BMB programs can make this impractical.

Nonetheless, mechanisms by which students can further enrich their academic experience through direct participation as members of an active research group or other professional entity are deemed an essential feature of a recognized program.

If the necessary infrastructure to support undergraduate research is lacking within the host institution, it is expected that the program will provide and advertise ways to help students obtain experience through internships, co-ops or summer research programs at other institutions. Some examples of such institutions include quality assurance/quality control laboratories, analytical laboratories and production units.

2. Institution

An ASBMB-recognized program must be located within an institution of higher learning that has been accredited by the pertinent national or regional body. The college or university must articulate policies intended to foster an institutional culture that values diversity in all dimensions and must provide mechanisms for promoting a safe, supportive and welcoming learning environment for all students and faculty.

Classrooms, teaching laboratories and research spaces should be safe and equipped with the supplies and instrumentation needed to perform modern biochemical and molecular biological analyses and manipulations.

Courses should be offered on a regular schedule with sufficient frequency and seating capacity to prevent unnecessary delays in the timely completion of a degree. Access to information resources that provide breadth, depth and currency of scientific content — including, but not limited to, major peer-reviewed BMB journals — must be provided for faculty and students. Career advising resources should be available on campus.

The institution should afford BMB faculty regular opportunities to engage in professional development activities such as sabbatical leave, attending professional conferences and workshops, participating in research, publication in refereed research literature, and attending continuing education workshops and courses.

3. Faculty

The faculty of an ASBMB-recognized program must be sufficient in number as well as breadth, depth and diversity of experience and expertise to provide a well-rounded, fundamentally sound educational program for BMB students. BMB faculty should possess a Ph.D. or other advanced degree such as an M.D., M.D./Ph.D. or D. Phil. in biochemistry, molecular biology or a closely related discipline and should have a demonstrated track record of teaching and research in BMB.

The recommended threshold for a BMB program is three or more contributing faculty members. While these faculty members may not necessarily be assigned exclusively to the BMB program, each should play a clearly defined role in the instructional and advising missions of the program.