Tuesday, 02 May 2017 09:12

Microbe Academy for Professional Development Supports Student Success

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Published in Teaching Microbiology

Written by Bethany Adamec

ASM’s Microbe Academy for Professional Development (MAPD) helps prepare microbiology students for success. Patricia Baynham, Ph.D., ASM Committee on Minority Education member and one of the facilitators of MAPD, recently shared some of the program’s key characteristics as well as ways that others can use MAPD as a model to foster student success at conferences and beyond. 

Over 7 years, MAPD (formerly known as the Undergraduate Research Institute) has evolved from a one-on-one presentation and communication coaching session to a full professional development program for undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, and graduate students presenting their work at ASM Microbe. The program still includes practice and coaching, and each student is allotted 10 minutes in which to present their research and receive feedback. MAPD also incorporates guidance from experts in leadership skills, conflict resolution, the financial aspects of science careers, work-life balance, mentoring, networking, and more. Facilitators share best practices on establishing connections and building strong professional relationships. They also discuss the roles of mentors and mentees, including small group conversations on how to build strong mentoring relationships. Students gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at the ASM Microbe meeting and in their careers. MAPD “builds future ASM leaders,” Baynham says. Formerly only open to ASM Student Fellows, as of this year the program is open to all students who are attending and presenting at Microbe.

Students also gain a cohort of peers from MAPD, which takes place immediately before the ASM Microbe meeting. “Microbe is such a prestigious meeting, but it’s also large. For an undergraduate, even a graduate student, it can seem intimidating,” Baynham notes. MAPD allows students to practice their presentations and receive feedback before presenting at the meeting (increasing their confidence) and to have a group of peers to attend Microbe sessions with.

MAPD is unique in that it is completely focused on students. The program content is enhanced every year and based on feedback from participants, so that they can attend more than once. In addition, networking with other students from throughout the U.S. and other countries provides attendees with a new, broader community of peers. “From talking to my colleagues, there’s just no society other than ASM that supports students in this way,” Baynham says. Professional societies could use MAPD’s content and structure as a model to improve student success in other STEM disciplines.

Participating in MAPD is rewarding for the facilitators too. “It’s really inspiring to see how much the students progress. They’re eager to take the next step, and they’re ready for more responsibility in their own careers,” Baynham says. “It’s a way of contributing to the future. Strengthening our students is a good way to keep our society and our discipline strong.”


The Microbe Academy for Professional Development (MAPD) will be held prior to ASM Microbe on May 31 – June 1, 2017 in New Orleans and is open to all undergraduate, postbaccalaureate, and graduate students presenting their work at the meeting. At MAPD, students will learn skills needed to transition to professional society meetings, make a successful presentation, meet and network with peers, and strengthen mentoring relationships with advisors. 


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. 


Amy L. Chang is the Education Director at ASM. She is using this space to communicate practical advice to develop courses, enhance one’s teaching, and motivate and retain students in the microbial sciences. She has 35 years of expertise in mentoring and advising students, fellows, advisers and faculty in the microbial sciences.