Fall 2010 Message from John Blanchard (Past Chair)

January 13th, 2011 by pthomas2

As I conclude my two-year term as Chair of the Division of Biological Chemistry, I have reflected on the changes that have occurred in the Division. It has been a time of substantial change in the Division, all of which has been very positive. I have throughout my term been incredibly ably assisted by a large number of other members and officers, whom I will acknowledge below.

Probably the most visible change in the Division is the institution of a full program held at the Spring meeting of the ACS. While formerly the Division of Biological Chemistry only met once a year at the Fall meeting, it was suggested by Tadhg Begley (Texas A&M) that we could and should expand our programming, specifically to include more presentations by junior scientists and faculty. What began three years ago as an experiment has burgeoned into an incredibly vibrant and well-attended three day meeting, which next Spring will be expanded into a four day meeting with a full day symposium to honor the 50th anniversary of the journal Biochemistry. Tadhg deserves all of the credit for his foresight and early efforts as first Spring Program Chair. Since that time, the organization of both the Spring and Fall meetings have been the responsibility of the Program Chairs: Suzanne Walker (Harvard), Marty Bollinger (Penn State) and Dewey McCafferty (Duke). They all deserve an enormous amount of thanks for their hard work for the Division.

The second most visible change in the Division is the creation of four new Divisional awards, in addition to the long-standing Lilly, Pfizer and Repligen awards. The Murray Goodman award (sponsored by Biopolymers) is in its fourth year, the Gordon Hammes award (sponsored by Biochemistry) is in its third year, the ACS Chemical Biology award (sponsored by ACS Chemical Biology) is in its second year, and the Royal Chemical Society’s Molecular BioSystems award is in its first year. Some of the awardees of these various awards have been recently announced, and will continue to be posted on the Divisional web site. We are rolling out a brand new web site soon, due to the efforts of Scott Silverman (Illinois), Neil Kelleher and Paul Thomas (Northwestern).

Many of the changes in the Division have been less visible but extremely important. In the last two years, the Division has substantially increased its funding for national meetings of interest to the membership. This comes at a time when funding from private, non-governmental sources has been severely reduced. In response to requests from our members who were organizers of these meetings, including the Enzymes and Bioorganic Gordon Conferences, to name just two, the Division doubled its support for these annual, and other biannual, meetings.

At the same time, we have increased the number of travel awards to students and postdoctoral fellows who attend the National ACS meetings and present posters. Information about how to apply for these $500 travel awards can be found on the Division’s web site. We continue to administer the Knowles and Founders awards that are given annually to students or postdoctoral fellows who present the “best” poster at each of the Enzymes and Bioorganic Gordon Conference (Knowles awards) and the Enzyme Mechanisms Conference (Founders award), held every other year in January. Information about these meetings and these awards can be found on the Division’s web site.

Obviously this expansion of programming and funding costs money, and the Division’s finances are overseen by the Division Treasurer, Scott Silverman (Illinois). I cannot express strongly enough what a terrific job Scott has done for the Division and its finances. With input from other Divisional officers, Scott has completely revamped our investing strategy, with the net result that the Division’s finances are in better shape than ever. Scott has accomplished this by identifying superior investment opportunities, while maintaining a very conservative overall strategy. I think all of the membership should be extremely happy to have someone as competent as Scott overseeing these funds for another year as Treasurer.

Finally, I would be criminally remiss if I did not acknowledge the substantial efforts of the previous Secretary, Martha Oakley (Indiana), and the present Secretary, Nigel Richards (Florida). This is a key position within the Division’s administration, and far more important than that of the Chair. I want to sincerely thank these individuals, as well as the former Secretary, John Richards (Buffalo), who assisted in the several transitions that took place during my tenure as Chair.

So as I look back at the last two years, I feel a certain sense of satisfaction replacing a dread that I had when I began as Chair. One month after assuming the Chair in 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed, as did (it seemed at the time) most of the rest of financial system. The NIH, upon which many of our members depend for their livelihood, still doesn’t look very good from my perspective. But the Division of Biological Chemistry is strong and getting stronger. An incredible group of individuals appear on the Divisional ballot for elections that will be completed just before this newsletter is posted. We have expanded our programming, Divisional awards and financial support of meetings and travel awards. Our membership is growing, and the existing 7000 members have been extremely supportive of our efforts, both visible and invisible. I thank each and every one of you for your continuing relationship with the Division of Biological Chemistry.

Sincerely,

John Blanchard

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