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SICB 1998 Fall Newsletter

This Newsletter by Section

Public Affairs Committee Report

Dominique Dagit and Ted Grosholz,
Public Affairs Committee Co-Chairs

The Public Affairs Committee has been active making plans for the upcoming 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver. This year we will sponsor a media workshop, panel discussion and press reception.

Communicating Science to the Media
Learn how to effectively present your scientific findings to the general media by attending the SICB Public Affairs Committee special presentation, "Communicating Science to the Media," at the SICB Annual Meeting on Friday, January 8 from 3:30 to 5:00 pm. David Baron, science desk editor at National Public Radio (NPR), will facilitate this session. Find out why certain science stories get media coverage and why, as well as tips on how to get your research noticed.

Public Affairs Committee Panel Discussion
From Linnaeus to the Laptop: Systematics in the 21st Century

This year's panel discussion promises to be one of the Public Affairs Committee's very best. A diverse group of non-systematists are lined up to address issues of systematics and taxonomy and how it affects the science they're doing now, and in the future. This year's speakers include:

  • Alan de Queiroz - "Trees are not just Tools: Phylogeny as an Integral Part of What We're Trying to Explain"
  • Jessica Bolker - "Development Issues and Systematics"
  • Jeannine Caira - "Parasite Taxonomy and How it's Changed the Way We Look at Species"

The theme of systematics as a foundation for scientific discovery is brought forth as panelists will address a broad range of topics from embryological development to parasite taxonomy. To learn more about how systematics plays a role in the science of the 21st century come to the panel discussion on Friday, January 8 from 9:30 a.m. - Noon.

Press Reception
To help media representatives find the "hot topics" they're looking for at the Annual Meeting, we are hosting a press reception immediately before the late-breaking symposium. We encourage SICB officers and symposia organizers to attend the press reception to share information on their Annual Meeting sessions.

Science Communicators Award
On behalf of the Public Affairs Committee, Hans Laufer is heading a separate committee of science journalists and biologists to create a Science Communicators Award. The award will be presented to a science journalist for outstanding science reporting of integrative and comparative biology to the general public. Presentation of the first award is planned for the 2000 SICB Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

Information Alerts
Periodically our committee distributes information on legislative actions that affect biology via e-mail alerts. We hope you find these alerts helpful and encourage your feedback on these issues.

We look forward to seeing everyone at the media workshop and biodiversity panel discussion.

Educational Council Report

John Pilger, Educational Council Chair

The Educational Council is pleased to announce the completion of the revised Careers in Biology pamphlet. Long-time members of the Society will remember the Careers in Animal Biology brochure that was produced by ASZ in the 1970s and made available to students. Through the perseverance of president Alan Kohn, and the work of former Educational Council chair Sue Cook, member Nina Caris and others on the council, a new incarnation was brought forth early this summer. A printed copy is available to individuals and schools on request, but the document is also available on the SICB web site ( Officers of SICB divisions also contributed to this effort and we thank them for doing so. We encourage you to make this resource known within your institutions and to others that may be wondering what they can do with a biology degree.

In July I attended a meeting of the Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences (CELS). The topic was "Collaborations in Undergraduate Biology Education" (see the meeting summary report in this issue). Attending and participating were representatives of 25 biological societies. The experience left me with the positive feeling that other scientific societies are also engaged in improving undergraduate science education. The CELS meeting was designed to seek ways that scientific societies can work more effectively as a coalition to improve undergraduate science education. The way that your SICB Educational Council can participate in this effort will be a topic of discussion at our business meeting at the 1999 SICB Annual Meeting in Denver.

In Denver the Educational Council will sponsor a workshop dealing with science education and pedagogy. At this writing we have not finalized the agenda but we do plan to offer it the afternoon prior to the opening session of the SICB Annual Meeting on January 6. As you make your flight arrangements you may want to arrive early that day to attend the workshop. The featured speaker will be Gordon Uno, program director for the Division of Undergraduate Education at NSF. Watch for more details on the SICB web site (

As usual, the Educational Council business meetings are open to all members and we invite you to attend. Look for the date, time and location in the program information. We hope to see you at our meeting in Denver!

Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences Workshop

Louise Liao, Jay Labov and John Pilger

On July 8, 1998, John Pilger, SICB Educational Council chair, participated in the workshop, "Collaborations in Undergraduate Biology Education." Sponsored by the Coalition for Education in the Life Sciences (CELS) and supported with funds from the Exxon Education Foundation, the workshop brought together leaders of 25 professional societies to explore emerging issues in undergraduate education. CELS, a coalition of professional societies committed to undergraduate biology education in the United States, includes SICB as a supporting member.

Participants exchanged information about undergraduate activities supported by their professional societies, discussed the types of educational programs that are well suited to sponsorship by individual societies or clusters of societies, and identified potential coordinating roles for CELS. Following reports of successful educational workshops that have been held by SICB and other professional societies, representatives of several other professional societies expressed a keen interest in launching educational workshops at their own annual meetings to showcase instructional materials and effective teaching practices.

SICB is prominently showcased in a new CELS monograph, Professional Societies and the Faculty Scholar: Promoting Scholarship and Learning in the Life Sciences, which was unveiled at the workshop. The monograph celebrates the contributions of dozens of professional societies to undergraduate education. In particular, it highlights SICB scholarships for undergraduate students, the educational workshop at the 1998 SICB meeting, and the videotape, Cryptic Fauna of Marine Sand, co-produced by SICB and the Smithsonian Institution.

Susan Cook, SICB's past Educational Council chair, and Diane Nelson, also an SICB member, are profiled for their professional collaboration to improve undergraduate teaching. An essay, "Bridging Science and Science Education: One Scholar's Journey," contributed by Jay Labov, is also featured in the monograph. This new, 87-page monograph can be read at and downloaded from the CELS web site, The web site also posts information for ordering bound copies of the monograph.

The importance of the introductory biology courses in serving the vast majority of U.S. college students was emphasized. Participants encouraged CELS to showcase its "Issues-Based Framework for Bio 101" at the annual meetings of a variety of professional societies. A curricular framework that strives toward biological literacy, the "Issues-Based Framework for Bio 101" serves as a starting point for articulating critical components to which all students should be introduced.

Jay Labov, a member of the SICB Educational Council as well as the CELS Steering and Operating Committees, invites SICB members to not only review and modify the wording of the "Issues-Based Framework for Bio 101," but to also contribute curricular materials based on distinctive disciplines. The framework can be found on the CELS web site at and is contained within the CELS monograph, Professional Societies and the Faculty Scholar: Promoting Scholarship and Learning in the Life Sciences. Submissions should be directed to Dr. Louise W. Liao, CELS program director, email: CELS is considering a coordinating role for a traveling display of biological and curricular materials that can be exhibited by the educational councils of various professional societies at their annual meetings. The materials could be drawn from the expertise of many professional societies and give coherence to the diverse topics in biology.

Student/Postdoctoral Affairs
Committee Report

Brian Tsukimura, Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee Chair

1998 Annual Report
The mission of the Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee (SPDAC) is to organize events at the SICB Annual Meeting that foster the professional development of students and postdocs, and to communicate their needs to the Society. During the past year, I believe that we have further increased the concern and participation of the students and postdocs within the society.

"First-Timer" Orientation
Willy Bemis, SICB program officer, welcomed the "first timers" and gave a brief history of SICB. Program highlights and the importance of students and postdocs to the Society were stressed. Our "survival guide," which details the SPDAC events (including the career program, research scholarships, housing assistance, etc.), free food opportunities, and nearby cheap eateries was also introduced. Tips on getting the most of out of the meeting were discussed. We organized ourselves into breakout groups to identify the most important things to accomplish at this meeting. Two objectives were common amongst all groups: 1) getting the newest information, and 2) making connections. We also introduced the members of the SPDAC, and indicated that these individuals are willing to represent concerns to our committee, as well as to divisional officers. Seventy-six people attended this event.

This year's workshop topic was "Getting Started", which included discussions of the unexpected hurdles encountered in: finding Ph.D. programs; finding a postdoc; finding a job; and projecting an image to prospective employers. These topics were covered by 11 faculty, two postdocs and two graduate students, including Tim Bradley, Andy Cameron, Ken Dial, Bob Full, Mike Hadfield, Peter Hochachka, Gretchen Hoffmann, Kevin Kelley, Rosemary Knapp, Laurence Lamarcq, Don Levitan, Linda Mantel, Valerie Pierce, and students Marcelo Sanchez and Adam Summers. We again employed breakout sessions to increase the personal interaction of our faculty mentors with the students and postdocs. In some of the sessions, pairs of mentors teamed up to provide a point/counterpoint for a number of issues. The use of rotating breakout sessions was continued from last years meeting and appeared to be successful in developing a stronger mentor/mentee relationship. Many of the discussions were continued into the evening's party. One hundred and twenty people attended the workshop.

This event, attended by 250 people, provided a venue to introduce the members of the committee and to discuss the needs of the students and postdocs. We used this venue to introduce the members of the committee and to advertise the workshop. The mentors from the workshop were invited to attend and integrated themselves amongst the attendees to further continue discussions from the workshop. At this meeting, the students suggested that the schedule of the meeting's events be reorganized to allow for less conflict of many SICB events. Included in this was to move the Joint Divisional Social one night later to allow the participants to hear the Past-Presidential Address and to attend the SPDAC Workshop and SPDAC Party.

I wish to thank all the committee members and to recognize the members whose terms ended this past year. Thanks again for all your productive input and insights that has made our past year a success: Michelle Duval, Miriam Ashley-Ross and Adam Summers. In addition, I wish to welcome the new committee members: Clair Balint, Tamatha Barbeau, Dale Ritter and Shea Tuberty.

1999 SICB Annual Meeting
Student/Postdoctoral Events

"First Timer" Orientation
Wednesday, January 6, 5:30-6:15 p.m.

Thursday, January 7, 11:30 a.m.-12:50 p.m.

Friday, January 8, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Student/Postdoctoral Party
Friday, January 8, 9:00-11:00 p.m.

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