Written by Bethany Adamec
The ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) is unique in that the latest advances in teaching, assessment, research on learning, and mentoring are presented and discussed alongside cutting-edge science, allowing educators to bring both current education practices and science topics into their classrooms. At ASMCUE 2017, being held July 27-30 in Denver, CO, plenary speaker Sylvia Hurtado, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles will talk about her research into underrepresented minority (URM) students’ pathways into science. Another plenary presenter, Andrew Hessel of Autodesk, Inc., will provide an introduction to synthetic biology.
Hurtado is the Director of the Higher Education Research Institute, which houses the longest-running empirical study of higher education involving data collection on both students and faculty. Her work focuses on undergraduates and diversity in education, including student and institutional outcomes at diverse and broad-access institutions (such as two-year colleges). Support and guidance, a sense of belonging, and greater campus diversity make URM students more likely to stay enrolled, Hurtado and her colleagues found. According to their broad survey, students continue to experience negative cross-racial interactions like discrimination and harassment along multiple social identities (e.g., race, class, gender, age, sexual orientation) on campus—and they rarely report it to campus authorities. They also found that URM students experience less discrimination at more diverse institutions, and that student perceptions of institutional commitment to diversity are associated with fewer reports of discrimination and bias.
ASMCUE attendees will also learn about the cutting-edge, rapidly changing field of synthetic biology. In a talk titled Whole Genome Engineering: An Introduction, Hessel will provide an introduction to synthetic biology, which is genetic engineering enhanced with powerful computational design and manufacturing technologies. He’ll also talk about the engineering of small genomes like viruses and bacteria (and why this is useful), and touch on the engineering of large genomes, as well as other areas of future promise.
The work of Hurtado and others has shown that removing barriers to success is key in building a diverse and effective scientific workforce. Through his open source, community-based biopharma company Humane Genomics Inc., Hessel is developing a new business model for the drug industry that removes some of these barriers and increases participation and creativity.
We hope you’ll join us at ASMCUE this summer. For those in need, travel grants are available both from ASM and from outside sources. As Hessel says, “Conferences like ASMCUE are important because education is a continuous and collective exercise, and the pace of innovation is accelerating. We need to find more effective ways to share information about scientific advancements to students, other researchers, and the general public so they don’t get left behind.”
Bethany Adamec is a Science Education Specialist at ASM, where she communicates about ASM’s work in student and faculty professional development, supports the ASM Education Board, and works with colleagues to promote evidence-based education reform.