Connection by committee


Everyone hates committee meetings – the kind we all say could have been an email, the kind that interrupts your flow of writing or work in the lab, the kind where someone repeats something thing you said five minutes ago and everyone forgets you said it first, the kind that crashes and makes you late to pick up your kids from daycare.

But committees and committee meetings are what tied me to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for many years and influenced my career as a scientist, educator, and administrator.

I remember very well my first meeting with an ASBMB committee. The phone call asking me to serve on the Committee for Equal Opportunity for Women made me feel validated (and valued) as a new faculty member. I even remember what I wore to that meeting.

We met in the little house behind the old ASBMB headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, and I was in awe of the group around the table – appropriately, since many distinguished and future scientists company presidents were there. It was also the first time I met Barbara Gordon, the former Executive Director of the ASBMB, and established a bond and friendship that lasted.

Over the years, I have served on many ASBMB committees; some of them have developed initiatives that have changed the annual meeting and society as a whole – satellite meetings on education, networking sessions for women, undergraduate poster competitions, better integration of university programs. education and professional development in the mainstream, accreditation of undergraduate programs.

It was the wisdom of the committee, not that of an individual, that made good ideas happen.

During my service on these committees, I have met members whose research overlapped with mine and who guided me in research and publication, those whose suggestions led to major changes in my teaching and those who have become collaborators in education and pedagogy. I also learned to be a constructive committee member and eventually an effective committee chair.

Like any large organization, the ASBMB has many unaffiliated members. Members sample what they need or find interesting in the Society’s publications, meetings, and other offerings. But what I would call the “back office” of these offerings is a network of committees populated by members and supported by extraordinary staff, and there is always a need for members to find their place and their way of contributing within of this network.


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