FASEB comments on an RFI from NIGMS, highlighting the importance of core scientists in the modernization of biomedical graduate education and the growing role of core science in both graduate education and as a viable career path

In response to a Request for Information (RFI) from the National Institute on General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) regarding Strategies for Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education, FASEB submitted the following comments. The RFI presented six topics on which NIGMS sought input from stakeholders, with responses on each topic limited to 500 words. FASEB’s comments were submitted electronically via web form on August 5, 2016. The ABRF membership should note Topic #3, highlighting the importance of core scientists in the modernization of biomedical graduate education and the growing role of core science in both graduate education and as a viable career path.

Topic 1: Current strengths, weaknesses, and challenges in graduate biomedical education.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has focused on three challenges in graduate biomedical education in the United States (U.S.) deserving of attention and discussion. First, technology is evolving and new scientific knowledge is being acquired faster than at any time in the past. Although this has proven a boon for scientific discoveries, one consequence is a paucity of expert educators in areas in which today’s trainees should be receiving instruction. Many programs, for instance, don’t offer training in the utility and use of technologies and concepts in the statistics and big data elements like databases, bioinformatics, modeling, imaging, and many of the “-omics” (e.g., metabolomics, proteomics, and microbiomics) fields. As research becomes more interdisciplinary and relies more heavily on the generation and analysis of large amounts of data, it is increasingly important that trainees acquire strong working knowledge in one or more of these emerging fields in order to successfully write grants, form collaborations, and prepare manuscripts for publication.

Second, curricula across graduate programs can differ dramatically. Some variation can be attributed to programmatic focus, whether interdisciplinary or discipline-specific, but there are basic tenets of biomedical research—experimental design and use of statistics, to name but a few—that should be addressed regardless of program type. Expectations and assessments of predoctoral students also vary considerably; the formats and intensity of qualifying exams, dissertation research proposals, and defense of dissertations, as well as dissertation committee composition and involvement, differ almost on a program-by-program basis. Levels of trainee independence and career development opportunities represent other areas in which graduate training differ. Although FASEB understands the importance of providing individual programs latitude to tailor their requirements to fit their focus and students’ needs, establishing basic principles and guidelines for core competencies in biomedical graduate education would help ensure consistency and quality across the educational spectrum.

Third, economic and institutional realities present numerous challenges to producing the next generation of responsible, successful researchers. Increased competition for federal grant dollars and decreased funding for state institutions have forced advisors to spend more time writing grants and less time supervising their trainees. Also, the recent classification of postdocs as non-exempt from overtime rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and NIH’s declaration that no supplemental funds will be provided to help with salary adjustments, will further strain laboratory and institutional budgets and could negatively impact graduate students’ productivity and prospects. Increasing pressure to publish rapidly—seen as necessary both to secure funding and maintain job security—may create an environment in which the normal prominence given to quality control and training can be de- emphasized. The push by both funding agencies and institutions to limit students’ time in training, although well-intentioned, can conflict with overall quality of supervision and increased expectations regarding career exposure, ethics training, and the rigorous conduct of research.

Topic 2: Changes that could enhance graduate education to ensure that scientists of tomorrow have the skills, abilities, and knowledge they need to advance biomedical research as efficiently and effectively as possible.

FASEB recommends focusing efforts on two aspects of the graduate educational process to ensure the effectiveness of tomorrow’s biomedical researchers: 1) modernization of course content to better reflect scientific and technological advances, and 2) examination of instructional methods to improve student comprehension and retention of key concepts and skills that will foster success in the biomedical sciences and related careers.

Major advances in life sciences such as deciphering the microbiome or precision medicine are the products of both new technologies and collaborative efforts across multiple disciplines. Keeping abreast of the most significant current scientific and technological developments is essential in order to update curricula to insure that they impart critical knowledge and emphasize important skills. FASEB suggests that “new” skills and disciplines such as data management, computational biology/bioinformatics and modeling, team work and leadership, and science communication be included in modern curricula. Data management skills include knowing how and where to store and backup data to ensure current and future accessibility, an issue that is of increasing necessity with the proliferation of databases and new requirements by many journals and funding agencies that data be publicly available. The importance of thorough, up-to-date lab notebooks—whether electronic or paper—should also be (re)emphasized in any course or module on data management. Students today also need to know how computational biology can augment and improve their projects, as well as how to choose the best software/programs to accomplish their goals. Training accomplished, effective scientists should include instruction in team participation, collaboration, and competence-based leadership, as well as management skills that include time and personnel management, conflict resolution, and delegation of responsibilities. Finally, students need to understand that science communication goes beyond writing manuscripts and includes the ability to present and explain research to a wide variety of audiences: others in their field, scientists in different fields, granting organizations, public relations offices and the press, and the general public. Throughout their training, students should be provided instruction and given opportunities to develop and put their knowledge and skills in communication to practical use.

Just as course content needs to be retooled to better reflect changes in scientific knowledge, technological advances, and evolving methodologies, so too does the way in which that content is imparted to trainees. Research has shown that active learning techniques (e.g., flipped classrooms, interactive lectures, problem-based learning) can increase both understanding and retention. Moreover, these methods more closely mirror how scientific problems are addressed in the real world than the traditional lecture format does. Experiments employing alternative learning methods are under way in some biomedical graduate programs; it would be helpful if these programs published analyses of best practices and effectiveness—and better still if all such analyses were compiled in a central repository— so that others interested in pursuing these strategies would have access to such valuable resources.

Topic 3: The major barriers to achieving these changes and potential strategies to overcome those barriers.

An obvious barrier to modernizing course content is that graduate programs often lack the expert personnel and/or resources needed to train students in the most current technologies (e.g., CRISPR/Cas9) and fields (e.g., bioinformatics). Core laboratories and shared resources are, by their nature, at the forefront of technology and expertise, foster collaborative research environments essential for interdisciplinary science, and represent experiential learning opportunities for graduate programs. Core scientists are recognized leaders in various technologies and fields, and can be technological mentors for the next generation of scientists. As such, they are well-positioned to organize and produce educational resources such as online courses or modules that students and faculty could access in order to learn the basic principles of these new fundamentals of biomedical research. The development of educational resources that can be accessed through established repositories will greatly increase the speed with which new information can be disseminated as technologies evolve, and will facilitate the ability to ensure more uniform quality and consistency of education across institutions.

Such resources could be commissioned by a funding agency, either public (e.g., NIH or National Science Foundation) or private (e.g., Howard Hughes Medical Institute or Burroughs Wellcome Fund), and curated with assistance from an established online course purveyor, like Coursera. Additionally, students should be given protected time—class time, essentially, and ideally in a group setting—to take these courses, so that both students and advisors recognize their legitimacy and importance.

Changing from passive to active teaching methods presents a unique set of barriers. First and foremost: overcoming inertia. Although individual investigators may decide on their own to modify their teaching methods, effecting programmatic change requires time and forethought on a much larger scale, including, perhaps, bringing in outside consultants and even applying for grants to support the preparation of new teaching modalities. Another barrier is the seeming lack of importance some institutions place on teaching. Teaching is often considered a low priority for both new and established faculty, something that takes away from their time in the lab and/or writing grants, and gaining teaching experience is not a requirement for students in many biomedical graduate programs. This underscores the importance of recognizing and rewarding the efforts of educators who develop novel approaches and resources to enhance the transfer of skills and knowledge to trainees. Appropriate resources should be developed to support those individuals and their work. Failing to do so will jeopardize any and all expectations for change and enhancement of biomedical graduate education.

Topic 4: The key skills that graduate students should develop in order to become outstanding biomedical scientists, and the best approaches for developing those skills. These could include but not be limited to: a) essential skills applicable to all fields that ensure ability to design meaningful experiments and critically analyze data, b) ability to adapt new and emerging technologies or approaches and c) other skills such as team science.

Like many other professional societies, FASEB has worked to identify core competencies reflecting the skills and knowledge students should develop throughout their training. We believe that it is important not to limit career outcomes to “biomedical scientist,” because the reality today is that in the biomedical sciences, trainees will end up in a wide variety of professions. Thus, we have chosen to focus on what we believe to be the competencies necessary for success in any science-related career:

  • Discipline-specific knowledge—having detailed knowledge in a specific research area above and beyond a requisite broad knowledge of biological principles and processes
  • Professionalism—developing professional attitudes and behaviors related to the conduct of science
  • Communication skills—being able to communicate via written, oral, and visual media to audiences at all levels of scientific comprehension
  • Research and analytical skills—acquiring the wide variety of skills needed to analyze issues and situations, and propose and test rational solutions
  • Management and collaborative skills—developing the abilities to manage personnel, projects, and grants, to network successfully to achieve optimal collaborations, and to work in teams and assume leadership position
  • Lifelong learning and career development skills—understanding the importance of staying current in one’s field of research as well as knowing steps needed in order to advance and/or change one’s career.

Because the competencies described above follow closely with those identified by other groups, they could be used to establish evaluation criteria to set standards for program requirements and track trainee progress. This is an area FASEB will be exploring in the coming months.

It should be noted that “outstanding biomedical scientists” are, by definition, rigorous and responsible in their work. As instances of non-rigorous, irreproducible research have come under increasing scrutiny lately, it bears mentioning that training should lay the foundation for the conduct of high quality, reproducible research by tomorrow’s leaders. In its report Enhancing Research Reproducibility, published earlier this year, FASEB outlined the need for training to include instruction on and reinforce good practice of the following—all of which fall under the umbrella of at least one of the identified competencies—in order to optimize rigor and reproducibility in science:

  • Maintaining clear, detailed experimental records and laboratory notebooks
  • Using precise definitions and standard nomenclature for the field or experimental model
  • Critically reviewing experimental design, including variables, metrics, and data analysis methods
  • Applying appropriate statistical methods
  • Reporting findings completely and transparently.

Certainly these practices could be communicated through courses and coursework, but we feel that advisors and dissertation committees should play the biggest role in imparting them and ensuring their integration into students’ habits. For example, advisors should take note—through observation, in one- on-one meetings, and in lab meetings—of whether students demonstrate good experimental design, record keeping, and data analysis in their day-to-day work. Dissertation committees, meanwhile, need to pay closer attention to whether students show comprehension and inclusion of sound principles in their research proposals and in presentations at committee meetings.

Topic 5: Potential approaches to modernizing graduate education through the existing NIGMS institutional predoctoral training grants program to ensure that trainees have the skills and knowledge they need to be prepared to enter the workforce.

FASEB recommends that NIGMS continue to evaluate new opportunities to support the development of shared courses and other educational resources that address emerging areas of scientific knowledge, emerging technologies, and critical core competencies in the biomedical sciences, and ensure that trainees have open, efficient access to those courses/resources. Such resources could be accessed through various online repositories or course websites. Alternatively, NIGMS could provide opportunities for trainees and/or their mentors to travel to workshops and meetings that are focused on the dissemination of information pertaining to evolving areas of science, emerging technologies or the acquisition of transferable core competencies, such as communication, team-based science, leadership/management. We further recommend that NIGMS continue to support and promote the open exchange of best practices and resources across institutions, and provide opportunities to bring faculty together so that they can share those ideas and practices. Finally, FASEB cautions against being overly prescriptive in the implementation and application of these practices, keeping in mind the differences in expertise and resources at any given institution.

Topic 6: Anything else you feel is important for us to consider.

FASEB appreciates the opportunity to respond to the NIGMS Request for Information: Strategies for Modernizing Biomedical Graduate Education. The issues presented for discussion are of significant interest to FASEB and its member societies, and will have significant impacts on the success of the biomedical research enterprise going forward. In this regard, FASEB would like to continue to work with NIGMS through a bi-directional partnership to foster the continued exchange of ideas and information.

ABRF Announces September 13 Webinar: Advancing Clinical Metagenomics Via CLIA/CAP Accreditation

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Clinical metagenomics is still in its infancy, and maturation of the field requires an appropriate accreditation program to ensure quality testing and patient safety. Please join J. Russ Carmical, PhD, Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine & Sequencing Director, Alkek Center for Metagenomics & Microbiome Research and Nadim J. Ajami, PhD, Assistant Professor, Alkek Center for Metagenomics & Microbiome Research on September 13 at 1:00 pm ET for an overview of how one metagenomics lab — the Alkek Center for Metagenomics & Microbiome Research (CMMR) at Baylor College of Medicine — is pursuing CLIA/CAP accreditation.

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J. Russ Carmical PhD

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Nadim J. Ajami PhD

An integral component of the accreditation process is proficiency testing (PT), which utilizes pre-established criteria, or measurement standards, for inter-laboratory comparisons. To date, commercially available metagenomic PT offerings are not available, which puts the burden on individual laboratories to develop an alternative assessment. In order to address the need for PT in metagenomics, the CMMR utilized a combination of previously sequenced samples (e.g. “blinded generous donor samples”), synthetic DNA standards, and mock communities to evaluate microbial DNA extraction, library preparation, and sequencing. In addition to developing PT specific to metagenomic analyses, the CMMR developed a quality system with standard operation procedures (SOPs), competency testing, a laboratory information management system (LIMS), and asset management software in compliance with CLIA/CAP standards. This webinar is the second on metagenomics under the GenomeWeb/ABRF 2016 Webinar Series. The first webinar in the series is available on demand here.

Trifecta! Registration now open for three ABRF Chapters.

The Western Association of Core Directors (WACD), Midwest Association for Core Directors (MWACD) and Northeast Regional Life Sciences Core Directors (NERLSCD) officially announce registration for their meetings is now OPEN!

Each chapter has something to offer.  From Keynote lectures on Zika, to  sessions on developing strong scientific staff and learning about core facility interactions each conference has something to offer for everyone in scientific and administrative positions.  Seats are hot, topics are lively, and colleagues are friendly.  Register soon before prices go up!  See the details and conference agenda below.

We hope to see you at an ABRF chapter near you!


WACD

6th annual WACD Conference

Sustainable Core Facilities Through Science and Service

Sept 22- Sept 23, 2016
Alexandria Conference Center in Torrey Pines, Ca – near the UC San Diego campus

Register Now!
See the Conference Schedule


 

MWACDOctober 5-7, 2016

Kingsgate Marriott! in Cincinnati, OH

 2016 Meeting Information

Register Now


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Reflections on SEASR

Written by Robert Carnahan and David Blum

The fourth annual meeting of the Southeastern Association of Shared Resources (SEASR) was held at the Emory Conference Center in Atlanta June 22-24, 2016.  There was a total of 133 registrants including academic, government and industrial attendees.  The attendees represented a wide range of institutions across the Southeast including Emory University, Vanderbilt University, the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, the University of Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Morehouse School of Medicine and others.

The conference started out with tours of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Museum followed by the opening reception and bowling tournament at Wisteria Lanes in the Emory Conference Center with both being big hits among attendees.  On Thursday, June 23rd, the opening keynote focused on problem-solving strategies and it led directly into a 90 minute hands-on problem-solving workshop.  Both sessions were led by Joe Rando (Vanderbilt).   Friday, June 24th began with a double-header keynote with 2 sessions focused on crisis management using the Ebola epidemic as the theme. Aneesh Mehta, one of the attending physicians at Emory discussed how teamwork was used to manage the treatment of several US based infected individuals.  This session was followed by a joint session by Erika James, Dean of the Emory-Goizueta Business School and Inger Damon, Director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.  They presented on “Leading Under Pressure” which continued the Ebola theme and focused on leadership qualities.

The significant focus on lab management continued throughout each day of the meeting with breakouts sessions on topics such as managing staff in lean times, writing a business plan, “speaking business”, and a discussion of the role of Cores in  education, training and outreach.   Each day also included vendor-sponsored sessions with workshops by Swift Bioscience, Agilent and HTG Molecular, Pall-Forte-Bio and 3Scan.  The conference concluded with a workshop of Lean principles and included using LEAN principles in a hands-on activity to make paper airplanes as a group.  The initial survey results have been very positive and we look forward to seeing everybody next year in Tampa!

Meet FASEB’s New President, Hudson Freeze

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Hudson H. Freeze, PhD

On July 1, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) welcomed its new President, Hudson H. Freeze, PhD. Dr. Freeze is Professor of Glycobiology and Director of the Human Genetics Program at the Sanford-Burnham-Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla.

“I am honored to lead FASEB—the policy and advocacy voice of 125,000 scientists. Today, we have extraordinary opportunities to communicate with the most receptive Congress in 15 years. Our message has connected, we’ve turned a corner, but now it’s our responsibility to speak out even more strongly. We must advocate for research because we know it benefits all citizens in all districts,” Dr. Freeze said.

For the last 20 years, Freeze’s research has focused on the identification and understanding of Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation (CDGs), genetic errors in the way sugars attach to proteins and lipids. He contributed to the discovery of 18 of the more than 110 known CDGs. Dr. Freeze collaborates closely with physicians, families, and their support organizations and regularly consults on cases while still tracking the genetic basis of multiple patients with unknown glycosylation defects.

Beginning with his postdoctoral work, Freeze has earned nearly 40 years of continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As FASEB President, he will lead initiatives to advocate for increased funding for NIH and other federal agencies that fund scientific research.

“The most important thing is to get it [funding] for NIH, which is the crown jewel of federal agencies,” Dr. Freeze told San Diego’s KUSI. “We hear a lot of talk about ‘Let’s make America great again,’ but, in fact, in medical research, we are great. What we have to do is sustain that,” said Freeze.

Among his priorities during his year as FASEB president is increasing communication with FASEB member societies. “One thing is fundamental: FASEB represents scientists. From postdocs to Society leaders, I want us to have an open dialog—scientist to scientist—about how FASEB can better serve its members and the scientific community,” Freeze said.

Prior to his election as President, Dr. Freeze served as FASEB’s Vice President for Science Policy. He is a Past President of the Society for Glycobiology and its first representative to the FASEB Board of Directors. Dr. Freeze is also a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) and The American Society for Human Genetics.

In 2013, Dr. Freeze shared the Golden Goose Award  with microbiologist Thomas Brock, PhD, for identifying Thermus aquaticus (Taq), an “extremophile” bacteria capable of thriving in extreme heat. Freeze was an undergraduate research assistant in 1966 when he and Brock found Taq in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. By identifying an organism with DNA machinery that could survive near-boiling temperatures, their discovery opened the door to the development of polymerase chain reaction and other technologies that would revolutionize biomedical research.

This introduction to science led Dr. Freeze to advocate tirelessly on behalf of basic research. “New cures for devastating diseases and exciting advances in medicine are all rooted in federally funded basic research,” Dr. Freeze wrote in a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed after his Golden Goose win. “Today’s benefits came from yesterday’s investment. Tomorrow’s cures depend on today’s decisions.”

To help ensure that message gets national attention, he urges scientists to engage with public audiences as often as possible. To that end, Freeze worked with ASBMB to organize an exhibition of BioArt winning images in a brewery during the Experimental Biology meeting.

As President of FASEB, Freeze aims to ensure that policymakers hear the views of researchers and that researchers recognize those legislators who are champions for science. “Congressional leaders assured us that the $2billion increase for NIH funding in 2016 will not be a one hit wonder,” said Freeze. “Let’s help keep that pledge on track with continuing advocacy for greater investment in research. Go make a difference; we can make a difference,” he said.

FASEB is made up of 30 scientific member societies, representing over 125,000 researchers from around the world. ABRF is a member society of FASEB, and ABRF’s members receive the full benefits of FASEB membership.

Strengthening and Promoting the ABRF LMRG network at the FOM2016 meeting

By Erika (Tse-Luen) Wee, ABRF Light Microscopy Research Group (LMRG) Chair, McGill University

Recently, Erika (Tse-Luen) Wee, ABRF Light Microscopy Research Group (LMRG) Chair, traveled to a conference in Taipei, Taiwan.  There, she presented a poster on research efforts being made within her ABRF research group.  In turn, she found and generated interest in what it means to be an ABRF member.  Below is her story.

The Focus on Microscopy 2016 Conferencewas recently held in Taipei, Taiwan, and organized by Prof. G.J. (Fred) Brakenhoff from the University of Amsterdam, and Prof. Fu-Jen Kao from the National Yang-Ming University. This annual conference series was started in 1988 by Andres Kriete in Giessen, Germany, and has over the years welcomed a growing number of researchers, principal investigators, core facilities managers, and exhibitors from all over the world.

The theme of the meeting this year was brain imaging, as well as a special focus on correlated light and electron microscopy. Other topics included super-resolution, fluorescence probes, light sheet, image processing/analysis, new developments in confocal, non-linear optics and lasers, all of which are hot topics and in high demand in light microscopy core facilities today.

The focus of the FOM2016 meeting had strong relevance to current LMRG studies. Being the current LMRG Chair, I had a poster presentation on the current LMRG study (#3), as well as the previous two studies conducted by the LMRG from previous years. The poster presentation was very well received, and stimulated a lot of discussion about LMRG and most importantly, the ABRF.Untitled.1

These interactions provided a great opportunity to increase awareness of the ABRF and to demonstrate how the Association provides a forum for networking and sharing. I was very surprised to see many Canadians and Australians attending the conference alongside the more common European attendants and microscopy vendors from Asia and Europe. It was a very nice opportunity to network with microscopists from around the world, and to promote membership with the ABRF in an effort to bridge the gap between Asia, Europe and the US communities. Several individuals at the conference, including participants from Singapore, Italy, Japan, and Germany expressed their interests in participating in the LMRG study and joining the ABRF, and we very much look forward to future discussions.

One of the main highlights was the invitation talk “Challenges and Tradeoffs in Modern Fluorescence Imaging Methods” from Eric Betzig, the Nobel Prize Winner in 2014. This is one of the best presentations I have attended recently; it was truly insightful and educational. The main focus of his talk was to compare the strengths and weaknesses of different microscopy modalities as applied to different biological problems and how to avoid artifacts caused by labeling, fixation, specimen motion, and image processing. This presentation content echoed perfectly with the LMRG mission: “To promote scientific exchange between researchers, define & improve relative testing standards that will assist core managers and users in the maintaining their microscopes for optimal operation”.

UntitledIn the end, I am very thrilled to see that FOM2016 had taken place in my home town of Taipei, Taiwan, and very honored to be able to represent ABRF here. Taipei is one of the political, economic, and cultural hubs of Asia. As a global city, it has great dynamics, diversity, and insightfulness in regards to culture, politics, high-end technologies, and impressive research programs. And of course, the food was amazing!

This trip would not have been possible without the generous support of ABRF and McGill University.  I would like to thank ABRF Executive Board members Peter Lopez and Frances Weis-Garcia for their amazing assistance and support of LMRG, and I also would like to thank Claire Brown and Rich Cole for their mentorship and guidance.

ABRF Announces August 4 Webinar: A Hypothesis-Driven Lean Management Tool for Core Labs

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Jay W. Fox, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Cancer Biology, University of Virginia School of Medicine

Sean Jackson, Chief Information Officer, University of Virginia School of Medicine & Physicians Group

This online seminar will provide an overview of A3 problem solving, a lean management tool that can be used to improve efficiencies in life science core labs. 

Developing a culture of continuous improvement in the core lab involves winning the hearts and minds of researchers and administrators and aligning their efforts around delivering value to the customer as quickly, cost-effectively, and flawlessly as possible. Along the way, performance gaps present themselves. The A3 lean approach — so-called because it limits all documentation to a single piece of 11 x 17 inch, or A3, paper — offers a consistent and effective means by which to address these gaps.

Using a hypothesis-driven approach, the A3 tool guides inquiry into the root cause of performance gaps, and the identification of proposed countermeasures and targets to improve. It also serves as a means by which to monitor progress toward goals and share results with others so that all may benefit from what has been learned.

Please join Jay W. Fox, Professor of Microbiology, Immunology & Cancer Biology, University of Virginia School of Medicine and Sean Jackson, Chief Information Officer, University of Virginia School of Medicine & Physicians Group on August 4 at 11:00 am EDT for this webinar, during which they will describe how the A3 tool works, and how your organization can benefit from its adoption and use.

 

ABRF Announces Next Webinar: The Emergence of Gene Editing

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This online seminar, part of the GenomeWeb/ABRF 2016 Webinar Series, will cover the history of gene editing methods like TALENs and CRISPR/Cas and provide an overview of various gene editing technologies.

Please join Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., of Christiana Care Health System’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute and Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy of the University of Nebraska Medical Center July 19 at 1:00 pm EDT US for their discussion on some of the origins of gene editing and how the field emerged from a series of basic science observations to the dynamic fast-paced field dominating research journals today.

Kmiec and Gurumurthy will also discuss some of the factors that can influence the frequency and efficacy with which gene editing takes place, including cell cycle progression, and the introduction of specific double-strand breaks at specified sites relative to the target.

The second part of the webinar will focus on latest developments in genome editing technologies: specifically, different genome editing technologies will be compared with a special emphasis on the CRISPR/Cas system.

For more information and to register, please click HERE.

Educating Johannesburg on the Benefits of Core Facilities in Research.

 

This post was adapted from a Florida State University Press Release.

Dr. Claudius Mundoma, from Florida State University, Institute of Molecular Biophysics, and an ABRF Member, was awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to travel to South Africa to work with University of Johannesburg and Profs. Charles Mbohwa and Willie Oldewage on “Sharing Research Equipment – Towards a Sustainable Model of Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research”.  This fellowship allows for Mundoma to work with researchers in Africa and educate them with his intimate knowledge on how core facilities in particular can benefit interdisciplinary research and collaboration.  Especially with limited resources and funding for research available.

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Dr. Mundoma teaching to students in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Our recognition that scientific research resources are not only the heart of discovery and productivity but also the catalyst to innovation underpins this effort. Equipment sharing is a common practice but there is need for an understanding of the benefits and barriers to greater equipment sharing as a response to reduced capital funding. To maintain economic competitiveness, it is critical to sustain gains in scientific investments made over the past decade through efficient use of available resources.  It is with this focus that Dr. Claudius Mundoma is collaborating with the University of Johannesburg to come up with a comprehensive strategy to managing the research assets at University of Johannesburg that will focus on efficiency as a very first step towards innovation.

The need is addressed in three ways:

(1) By equipment-sharing and better scientific resource management principles we strengthen Africa’s collaboration networks. By creating a searchable equipment portal and a sharing management system, the university can be able to stretch scarce research funds to serve a wider research community. The sharing portal brings visibility to research capabilities across the university and enhances efficiency by optimizing redundancies and increasing equipment access. It is also important to note that not all equipment is shareable.

P1010735(1) 2) Centralization has advantages of economies of scale, which allows the university to better manage the full life cycle cost of its equipment, i.e., from acquisition to retirement or re-purposing.

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Learning the ‘ropes’ on equipment.

(3) Providing management training options for the equipment managers through adoption of best practices and joining professional organizations. Equipment managers should be able to cross-train on various instruments and increase their value to the university community thus extending training to graduate students and faculty in their departments.

The University of Johannesburg project is one of 57 projects that will pair African Diaspora scholars with higher education institutions in Africa to collaborate on curriculum co-development, research, graduate teaching, training and mentoring activities.  Dr. Claudius Mundoma is one of 59 African Diaspora scholars who have been awarded fellowships to travel to Africa beginning in May 2016 to conduct a wide range of projects across disciplines, from agroforestry to e-learning modules for nursing, and from ethnomusicology to military mental health. The program has now selected and approved a total of 169 Fellows since its inception in 2013.

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Enjoying an afternoon high tea in the break room.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship program facilitates engagement between scholars born in Africa who are now based in the United States or Canada and scholars in Africa on mutually beneficial academic activities.  The Advisory Council selected forty-one African universities to host the Fellows, based on collaborative project proposals submitted by faculty members and administrators at the African universities, to meet specific needs at their universities. This innovative program is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with United State International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi, through Dr. Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, who chairs the Advisory Council, and is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

 

MAD SSCi 2016: The Corpse in the Conservatory

-Written by Roxann Ashworth, MAD SSCi Secretary, JHU

The fourth annual MAD SSCi conference was held at the beautiful William Pitt Union on the urban campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh welcomed 95 delegates, representing BioNano, Biorepository, Flow Cytometry, Imaging and Molecular Technology facilities.  Core directors, administrators, managers and staff were able to interact and form or renew fruitful relationships that will lead to future collaboration.  We were very happy to be joined by the ABRF Executive Director Susan DeCourcey.

“Wonderful opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues working in Core Facilities.  I enjoyed the Quality Assurance Workshop which generated good discussions.  The presentations on Biorepositories were informative and created topics for us to discuss in our Core.”  –Lori Kelly, U. Pitt, New Core Director, First Time Attendee

Accreditation: CMU Field Robotics Center

Accreditation: CMU Field Robotics Center

Attendees from universities and institutions around the Mid-Atlantic, and as far away as Texas and Tennessee, kicked off the conference with a reception at the Phipps Conservatory and a talk from Dr. Alan Waggoner of Carnegie Mellon University.  Dr. Waggoner described the development of a roving biosensor and fluorescent dyes that may one day be deployed to look for life on Mars.  Earthbound testing took place in the hostile, but striking Atacama Desert, Chile.

Romero – thankfully not a scratch and sniff picture!

Romero – thankfully not a scratch and sniff picture!

 

The highlight of the evening was the once in a lifetime opportunity to see (and smell) the blossoming of the Corpse Flower known as “Romero.”  When we walked in that evening, we all thought it was pretty cool, and maybe noticed a slight aroma.  When we walked out at the end of the evening past the now fully open flower, we all understood how the plant got its name!

Thursday and Friday brought presentations on topics ranging from A(dministration) to Z(ika).

A Dynamic David Dilts Acceditation: Kunjie Hua, UNC

A Dynamic David Dilts Acceditation: Kunjie Hua, UNC

 

 

 

David Dilts of OHSU provided an entertaining and thought provoking talk on how to define the value that our core facilities provide to our investigators and the universities we serve.  Our closing talk was a fascinating look at the possible mechanisms and explanations for why the Zika virus, which has been around since 1947, has suddenly become a devastating disease now that it has reached South America.  Between these keynotes, delegates had the opportunity to attend vendor workshops on a variety of topics, go to concurrent sessions on topics as diverse as Biorepositories, Genome Editing, Light Sheet Microscopy and Project management, and to pick each other’s brains for solutions to common problems in the “What’s your Core?” round table discussion.

 

Gene Editing Session Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Gene Editing Session
Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Lans Taylor gave an interesting overview of how the University of Pittsburgh is integrating systems biology and 3D cultured organs on a chip to develop methods for cheaper and more efficient drug discovery. Rebecca Davies placed the provision of QA training and infrastructure at the center of assuring accurate and repeatable data.  She argued for the development of best practices within the research community.  Describing the collaborative, centralized approach she has championed at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Davies gave our attendees much to discuss regarding the role of core facilities in assuring reproducibility.

“The conference felt personal due to the size and background and those that attended…[The] other managers…were insightful with how to handle instrument usage, advertisements, etc. Overall a good conference to attend, especially being new to managing a facility.”  — Greg Donohoe, Ph.D., BioNano Research Facilities Manager, Shared Research Facilities, West Virginia University

Corey Lipchick Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Corey Lipchick
Accreditation: Roxann Ashworth, JHU

Corey Lipchik from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, Allegheny Health Network won the poster travel award for: FFPE Tissue and the HTG Oncology Biomarker Panel: a Low-Input, Extraction-Free Gene Expression Pilot Study.  He will receive $500 to attend either the national meeting or next year’s MAD SSCi meeting.  Michael Chua of the UNC Michael Hooker Microscopy Core Facility won a free ABRF membership kindly donated by ABRF Ambassadors.

“[The MAD SSCi conference is] small enough and regional to make the networking particularly fruitful.”— Paul Wood, University of Pittsburgh

Next year MAD SSCi 2017 will be held in Morgantown, WV hosted by West Virginia University.  We have many ideas for content, and plan to develop more staff focused technical and networking sessions that will compliment the excellent administrative and management focus of recent years.  Watch our website to see what we are up to!  Our new President, Trina Wafle, has some exciting new ideas and will continue our tradition of wonderful entertainment and fabulous science!