BETHESDA, Md., June 24, 2010 - The National Science Foundation this week awarded a more than $360,000, five-year grant to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to establish a rich, central, online resource for educators across the nation.
The initiative aims to improve undergraduate-level teaching of biochemistry and molecular biology by establishing foundational concepts and skills for the discipline and by developing appropriate tools to assess student understanding and ability.
This fall, hundreds of life scientists will meet in their respective regions to begin the first phase of the hub's development.
J. Ellis Bell, a professor of chemistry at the University of Richmond and chairman of ASBMB's Education and Professional Development Committee, is leading the initiative and says he hopes the centralized resource will both engage a diverse group of educators and minimize the development of isolated and redundant assessment tools.
"This virtual, collaborative environment will continually improve upon and evolve these tools to serve a variety of students, whether at small community colleges or large research institutions," he says. "Faculty members will initiate and participate in discussions and form regional networks to pursue projects of common interest."
The initiative's organizers aim to build a nationwide community that will promote student-centered teaching approaches and the training essential for the 21st-century work force and research community.
The website, which will be free and open to the public, will provide core concepts in the subject areas, assessment tools, and the latest research on effective pedagogical approaches. It also will serve as a forum where participants can discuss and compare education research projects.
Gregory A. Petsko, president of ASBMB, says the initiative underscores the society's longstanding commitment to improving science education at all levels.
"ASBMB has a well-developed interest and role in education research and practice, and it is superbly equipped to take on the development, launch and maintenance of this great central resource," Petsko says. "This project has the potential to benefit biochemistry and molecular biology education across the world - at the program, departmental, course and faculty levels."
Bell's collaborators include Cheryl Bailey, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Hal White, a professor at University of Delaware; Duane Sears, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Margaret Johnson, an associate professor at the University of Alabama; and Carla Mattos, an associate professor at North Carolina State University.
The grant for the online hub is funded by the NSF's Research Coordination Networks program.
About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information about ASBMB, visit www.asbmb.org.