A challenge for advancing science for the public good is building connections between the investigators in the lab and the educators and students in the classroom. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) seeks to create the ASM-NSF Leaders Inspiring Networks and Knowledge (LINK) Program, a structured mentoring initiative that would build and sustain connections between NSF scientists and the student and early-career participants of two national STEM education conferences: the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and the Annual ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE). Under guidance from NSF investigators (mentors), the LINK program will increase the capabilities of conference participants (mentees) to compete successfully in emerging and interdisciplinary areas of the molecular, cellular, and microbial biosciences. The initiative objectives are to:

1. Increase understanding about NSF opportunities in emerging areas of the molecular, cellular, and microbial biosciences, 2. Develop mentee skills to compete successfully for resources and expertise in emerging and interdisciplinary areas of the molecular, cellular, and microbial biosciences, and 3. Develop a robust community of scientists actively engaged in mentoring, networking, and collaborating.

For objective 1, the program requires that NSF investigators attend ABRCMS and ASMCUE beginning in 2012 and continuing for four years. Each conference will offer the NSF a cost-effective venue to highlight its programs, research, and scientists. Each will also offer a means to connect with beginning investigators and other scientists from a diversity of backgrounds and levels.

For objective 2, LINK will address a gap in graduate and postdoctoral training that goes beyond scientific competency and is collectively referred to as career competency. Career competency skills include those necessary for communications, interpersonal relationships, teaching, mentoring, management, leadership, and ethics. The LINK program will provide mentees an environment to practice and strengthen these skills under the close guidance of NSF mentors. In a series of well-coordinated activities, mentors and mentees will connect, share ideas, and collaborate before, during, and after ABRCMS and ASMCUE.

For objective 3, the ASM proposes four coordinated, complementary activities: (i) orientation and reflection sessions at ABRCMS and ASMCUE, (ii) creation of a dedicated LINK registry and listserv, (iii) ongoing listserv homework and activities that keep mentors and mentees engaged and on task, and (iv) creation of LINK mentorship grants that will support up to 12 mentor-mentee pairs per year.

Intellectual Merit. The LINK program will address a challenge in connecting two NSF purposes: accelerating and enhancing scientific discovery and broadening the participation of students and educators in the emerging fields of bioscience research. Timely advancing of science for the public good requires many bridges to connect scientists to educators and students. The proposed program seeks to build such a bridge through ABRCMS and ASMCUE, two national STEM education conferences, and to provide the resulting community with support through specific, structured LINK activities.

Broader Impacts. In the program?s second year, it is anticipated that at least 250 ABRCMS and ASMCUE mentees will participate in LINK activities and 20% of this pool (50 participants) will submit their first grant within 24 months of attending the conferences. By 2016, the program will identify at least 750 mentees who are enrolled in LINK activities and exploring opportunities with NSF and ASM mentors. It is anticipated that about 150 mentees will submit grants to NSF or form research collaborations with a current NSF investigator before the program's conclusion. It is also anticipated that the LINK program?s structured-mentoring activities will highlight career competencies and best practices in mentoring. Finally, the initiative will serve as a role model for other life science professional societies to embrace structured mentoring programs for their members.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB)
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Edward Crane
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American Society for Microbiology
United States
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