Interest groups

Interest groups

Interest group sessions epitomize #DiscoverBMB’s maxim — by scientists and for scientists.

They bring together attendees with similar scientific and pedagogical concerns to share key findings, exchange ideas and establish rapport.

The connections made are so important to the success of #DiscoverBMB that the sessions are held on the very first day. To keep conversations going, interest groups also hold meetups in the exhibit hall on subsequent days.

Bile acids: Fantastic beasts or fantastic molecules?


Sayeepriyadarshini Anakk, University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign
Paul Dawson, Emory University

Over the past two decades, the field of bile acid receptor signaling has exploded. These developments, along with the enterohepatic recirculation of bile acids, will be the subject of this session.

This interest group session will cover recent discoveries, including how to manipulate bile acids for therapeutic purposes and the crosstalk of bile acids with the gut microbiota.

We will have four short talks followed by a panel discussion:

  1. Why are there so many different types of bile acids, and what is their functional significance?
  2. How do you identify and measure bile acids?
  3. What makes a bile acid receptor, and how much do they influence physiology?
  4. Bile acid–microbiota interactions

Attendees will interact one-on-one with the speakers, hear cutting-edge science and discuss strategies to alleviate some of the bottlenecks in the field.

Biochemistry and climate change


Karla Neugebauer, Yale University
Henry Jakubowski, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University

We are living in a critical time for climate action, so we must seize the opportunities within our field to address climate change. This interest group session will focus on the ethical obligation of the biochemistry community to become organized to address climate change and our climate future. The session will include both biochemistry research and education.

To fully engage the community, we need not just scientific research/development but also a sustained effort to incorporate climate change into all of our courses to educate and energize the generations that will be most affected. Our outreach should also extend to the community outside of academia as our backgrounds allow us to be a credible resource on this issue to those in our communities.

We will discuss research on biochemical adaptations to climate change, protein engineering to create renewable building materials, incorporation of climate change in biochemistry courses, and outreach to academic and outside communities as part of our ethic duties as scientists.

Through small and large group discussions, attendees will learn about academic and industrial research to address climate change, detailed ways to incorporate climate changes into academic courses, and ways to engage the academic and outside communities to encourage action on climate change. Further networking and collaboration will be fostered through a Biochemistry for Climate Change Action group.

Building research and mentoring networks for women at predominantly undergraduate institutions


Marilee Benore, University of Michigan–Dearborn
Jennifer Roecklein–Canfield, Simmons University

This interest group session will promote networking and opportunities for collaboration for women teaching at PUIs. A priority will be to establish the need for a formal mentoring program around this issue and to design/develop ASBMB-based models.

Topics will include:

  • Best practices for establishing sustainable research and collaborations
  • The importance of mentoring and support for tenure and promotion
  • Professional-development strategies
  • Paths to career success at a PUI

The session will include a faculty panel followed by networking and discussion in small mentor-led groups. Attendees will work in virtual roundtables with facilitators to share concerns, incorporate ideas, provide peer guidance on how to identify, select, and engage with appropriate mentors. Finally, each member will develop an action plan. Attendees will have access to an online resource to share best practices for mentoring and research collaboration both during and after the session.

We will share insights on when and where to publish, what to include, how to find and recommend reviewers and mechanisms to maximize recognition.

Emerging topics and techniques: focus on protein acetylation and oxidation


Lauren Ball, Medical University of South Carolina
Jerry Workman, Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Fangliang Zhang, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

The modification of proteins provides a mechanism for sensing and responding to intracellular and extracellular nutrient and metabolite status and the oxidative environment. The goal of this special interest group is to provide a forum to promote the interaction of scientists interested in protein modifications in relation to physiology, disease and environmental response. The focus of this year’s session will be on lysine acetylation and cysteine oxidation. Both of these modifications are known to respond to reactive metabolites, oxygen and other stimuli and can contribute to gene expression, signal transduction and stress response.

We will highlight recent advances in techniques for the detection and functional evaluation of protein modifications to raise awareness and foster application of these advancements in the general scientific community. We anticipate the session will bring together scientists with diverse expertise to inspire new scientific questions and synergies that otherwise may not spontaneously arise.

Empowering trainees: A roundtable with the IUBMB Trainee Initiative


√Člyse S. Fischer, The IUBMB Trainee Initiative and Monod Bio
Brianna Bibel, University of California, San Francisco, and the IUBMB Trainee Initiative

Learn about the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Trainee Initiative, a program that aims to bring together scientists around the world through initiatives and events covering educational, technical and professional development.

At this interest group session, we will foster international community-building among trainees and introduce them to our initiative, including events, resources, social networks and an online forum for trainees. A roundtable discussion will offer guidance and advice on key topics of interest to trainees. There will also be an opportunity for trainees to provide feedback on how the initiative can better support them.

This is an opportunity for trainees to meet, network and initiate lasting friendships.

Engineering enzymes and microorganisms to replace petroleum products with renewable biofuels and biomaterials


Robert B. Rose, North Carolina State University
Josh Michener, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

There is an urgent need to address global warming by replacing the petroleum-based economy with renewable biofuels and biomaterials. Bioengineering enzymes is not new, but the tools for sequence comparison and computational analysis, the expansion of the microbial database and the ability to metabolically engineer organisms have led to expanded applications towards renewable economy.

This interest group session will discuss strategies to engineer enzymes and microbes to replace petroleum products with renewable feedstocks and biomaterials. Topics will include designing enzymes and enzyme cycles to capture atmospheric CO2; lignin breakdown and valorization, synthesizing useful biomaterials from lignin derivatives and other waste carbon; and devising biomaterials. Techniques vary from structure-based design to screening or selection of random mutations to metabolic engineering. Approaches to adapt enzymes from thermophilic organism will be discussed.

Participants will learn about the variety of biochemical approaches being used to reduce atmospheric CO2, capture other waste carbon streams and replace fossil fuels. They will have a forum to share techniques and research goals and also discuss engaging the larger community in solutions to global warming.

Molecular engineering


Juan L. Mendoza, University of Chicago
Vince Luca, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute

This interest group session will give an in-depth and multilevel view of how the use of computational and protein engineering provides unique insights into important protein structure–function, including membrane proteins, antibodies/nanobodies, ligands and cell-surface receptors.

The research presented will be on computational and protein engineering approaches to better understand critical structure–function questions in systems essential to cellular function, cellular regulation, and human health and disease. Techniques and cutting-edge research discussed will include computational protein design, directed evolution, X-ray crystallography, cryo-EM, NMR, enzyme kinetics, enzymology and protein engineering.

Attendees will be exposed to a diverse panel of researchers and gain insights into how some scientists use combined structure and engineering approaches to elucidate key enzymatic processes of cells. The session also will feature a Q&A segment about research, diversity, inclusion and promotion.

Teaching Gen Z: Challenges and opportunities


Nancy Rice, University of South Alabama
Pamela Mertz, St. Mary's College of Maryland

This interest group session will increase collaboration and community among biochemistry and molecular biology educators at the undergraduate level. It will include educators with diverse scientific interests and cover common challenges and opportunities of working with undergraduate students and/or at primarily undergraduate institutions or programs.

The session will guide participants through four topics:

  1. BMB faculty: goals, development and opportunities (Who are we?)
  2. The Gen Z student (Who do we teach?)
  3. Common challenges in the modern classroom (Where do we struggle?)
  4. Success strategies for teaching and learning with Gen Z (How do we overcome?)

Attendees will leave with a new or renewed sense of belonging and community entrenched in shared experience, as well as new, practical ideas to address post-pandemic classroom challenges to promote student learning and success. We anticipate new partnerships/collaborations to result from these exchanges and that this community will continue to grow and interact after the meeting.