In the competitive world of research today, scientists have less time and fewer resources than ever. This leads to their choosing to attend highly focused disciplinary conferences where they share research, increase knowledge, build collaborations, etc., rather than the broadly focused meetings that appeal to science students and educators. But when conferences and meetings for beginning investigators go without access to active, innovative and trailblazing scientists, the whole future of science loses.
To address this shortcoming, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has joined forces with the Society to establish the ASM-NSF Leaders Inspiring Networks and Knowledge (LINK) program – an initiative to build strong “links” among research investigators, educators and trainees. The trainees include students, postbaccalaureates, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career scientists.
The LINK vision is that the U.S. science and technology training enterprise:
- Advances skills for interdisciplinary and global research to address 21st Century challenges
- Is representative of the racial and ethnic diversity of the U.S. population
With a vision of shoring up skills and diversifying the nation’s STEM workforce, the LINK goals are to:
- Promote teaching, training and learning in emerging areas of research and education
- Promote broadening participation and success of underrepresented groups in STEM education
The four-year LINK initiative will highlight NSF-sponsored research at two nationally renowned conferences – the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and the Annual ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE). These conferences are crossroads for training and developing future scientists and educators. As mentors engaged in interdisciplinary research or in research with global partners in the biosciences, NSF-funded and -eligible investigators will be supported by LINK to make structured-mentoring connections with ABRCMS and ASMCUE participants.
The LINK program offers multiple opportunities to its mentors (NSF investigators) and mentees (ABRCMS and ASMCUE participants). These opportunities include:
- Activities where prospective mentors and mentees (LINK teams) connect, share ideas and advance relationships initiated at ABRCMS and ASMCUE.
- Training Experiences to develop skills necessary for succeeding in science. Skill-building topics cover communications, teamwork and relationship building, project management, career planning, teaching and mentoring, and ethics.
- Mentorship Awards for LINK teams to strengthen collaborations in interdisciplinary research and education.
- A Community of Practice that advances interdisciplinary research and education. The community includes NSF investigators, early-career scientists, fellows, students and educators.
Leading and facilitating the LINK program are four NSF-funded investigators involved in mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, postbaccalaureate and postdoctoral fellows, and early-career faculty or undergraduate educators:
- Beronda Montgomery, Michigan State University
- Beth Lazazzera, University of California-Los Angeles
- Kathleen (KT) Scott, University of South Florida
- Daniel Wubah, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
ABRCMS and ASMCUE
ABRCMS is the largest gathering of undergraduate students with intentions of pursuing doctoral education and careers in science. Its primary audience includes approximately 1,800 undergraduates and postbaccalaureates and 300 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from underrepresented groups in STEM disciplines. In addition, approximately 600 faculty advisers and educators (many from minority-serving institutions) and 600 research scientists or graduate program recruiters attend. Of the more than 3,000 attendees at the conference in 2011, 54% were African Americans, 25% were Hispanic Americans, 18% were Caucasians, and 3% were Native Americans or Pacific Islanders.
ABRCMS covers topics relevant to the NSF mission, e.g., biochemistry, cell biology, chemistry, developmental biology and genetics, engineering, physics and math, microbiology, molecular and computational biology, and social and behavioral sciences. In addition, a strategic goal of the conference is to expose trainees to the evolving and interdisciplinary nature of STEM research. In 2010, New York Times reporter Brent Staples said that the entire country could learn a lesson from ABRCMS students.
ABRCMS was started in 2001 and takes place each November.
ASMCUE is one of the largest gatherings of undergraduate biologists worldwide, with more than 300 biologists attending annually to access sessions on teaching, learning and assessment, classroom and independent student research, student advising and mentoring, and graduate training and professional skills development. About half who attend are pre-tenured, and each year, nearly half of the attendees are coming for the first time. One-third of participants come from community colleges, one-third from primarily undergraduate colleges, and one-third from master’s and doctoral institutions. Nearly 70% of the participants teach introductory biology courses for both science and non-science majors. Forty-percent teach introductory microbiology, cell biology or genetics, and 25% teach advanced microbiology.
ASMCUE covers biology broadly, represents all institutions of higher learning, and is an important resource for new faculty members. Post-conference surveys indicate that ASMCUE participants seek practical tips to conduct research appropriate for undergraduate students, improve their teaching methods, engage in teaching as a scholarly endeavor, and identify with a community. About 80% of respondents cite ASMCUE as their primary source for professional development and place to learn and share the latest information in the biological sciences and education research. In 2010, the AAAS report Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education: A Call to Action cited ASMCUE as a “venue that advances the scholarship of teaching and learning in biology.”
ASMCUE was established in 1993 and is held in conjunction with the annual ASM General Meeting in May or June.
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