ASCB has received a five-year renewal award totaling over $3 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Innovative Programs to Enhance Research Training (IPERT) initiative, which “supports creative and innovative research educational activities designed to complement and/or enhance the training of a workforce to meet the nation’s biomedical research needs” (https://bit.ly/2PdjaRL). Co-chair of ASCB’s Minorities Affairs Committee (MAC) Verónica Segarra, MAC members Jim Vigoreaux and MariaElena Zavala, and ASCB CEO Erika Shugart are the PIs on the grant. But Vigoreaux notes, “MAC members provided critical input and ideas for the proposal and will be intimately involved in the planned activities for the project. It is truly a communal effort.”

The award, “Improving Diversity and Career Transitions through Society Support,” has three aims designed to help underrepresented scientists through critical career transition stages: from graduate student to postdoc, from postdoc to junior faculty, and from junior to tenured faculty. The first aim is to initiate a change in institutional culture toward inclusion through an inclusiveness workshop for ASCB leadership, diversity and inclusion training for attendees at the ASCB|EMBO Meeting, and a new poster session and keynote speaker on the scholarship of diversity. The goal is to signal to the ASCB membership that diversity is relevant for all members.

The second aim is to support grad students, postdocs, and junior faculty at risk for lower-than-usual mentoring through multiyear programs that provide extensive mentoring and community, professional development, and bioinformatics training, and a practicum in which to practice the new skills in a supported environment.

The third aim is to take advantage of the ASCB|EMBO Meeting to offer activities that increase the rate of interaction among underrepresented and majority scientists, as well as deliver mentoring and training to emerging scientists. These activities include a travel awards program to bring underrepresented undergraduates, grad students, postdocs, and junior faculty to the meeting, professional development and multiple structured mentoring opportunities for these emerging scientists, a separate poster competition for networking and practice ahead of the general session, a major session to highlight spectacular research from an underrepresented scientist, and a major session to recognize the importance of mentoring and show an example of its impact.

All told, these activities are expected to impact more than 1,000 participants annually through a combination of activities that adapt best practices in academia to the needs and strengths of a scientific society, testing a multi-prong model for how a society can have a lasting impact on diversity.

Shugart observes, “The ASCB MAC has a long track record of consistent funding from the NIH. We are delighted that this new award will enable us to continue to provide programs that increase diversity and inclusivity in the Society and the cell biology community. The chance to develop new programs as well as enhance existing efforts is very exciting.”

Sydella Blatch

Diversity and Professional Development Program Manager at the American Society for Cell Biology.