The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) is a leader in supporting career development opportunities for a wide variety of plant scientists at all different career stages and different institution types. One prominent group of members are those associated with Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), either as faculty or students at PUIs; graduate students or post-docs interested in a career at a PUI; or individuals with collaborations or other connections with PUI institutions. Evidence supporting prevalence of PUI-affiliated individuals in ASPB is given by the fact that 21% of research abstracts submitted for both the 2016 Plant Biology meeting in Austin and the 2017 meeting in Honolulu involved work that was wholly or partially conducted at a PUI institution.
Many professional challenges faced by members of PUI institutions are unique to these types of schools compared to, for example, major research universities. For that reason, individuals among the ASPB membership have organized specific programming geared towards PUI faculty and PUI-interested members, such as the PUI networking sessions and workshops that have been held during Plant Biology meetings for over 20 years. Since 2011, Leeann Thornton and Catharina Coenen have served as PUI representatives on ASPB’s Membership committee. There has been recent discussion among members of the PUI group about expanding PUI-associated activities and resources, with the hope of establishing a community, through ASPB, that supports and engages PUI-affiliated members on an ongoing basis.
A key part of this effort was to establish a new, PUI-focused section of ASPB – a decision that was taken by the ASPB Board of Directors earlier this month. The PUI section will provide a professional “home” for plant scientists interested in or associated with PUIs and will provide a structure through which PUI-focused activities would be initiated and coordinated. The section will support individuals at all career levels by providing a conduit for information regarding all aspects of a PUI career (i.e., preparing for and applying for a PUI faculty position, effectively implementing an undergraduate research program, developing teaching tools, navigating tenure & promotion, etc.). With the support of ASPB and its resources, the new PUI section will help address challenges in these institutions unique to plant biology, while also placing a strong emphasis on career development. These unique aspects most likely will attract new members to the Society.
The dedicated list of those who put in the extensive effort to get the PUI section approved includes (but is not limited to) Catharina Coenen, Jill Deikman, Derek Gingerich, Maryann Herman, Karen Hicks, Bryan Thines, Harry Klee, Robert Last, and Leeann Thornton. This group would like to thank the ASPB Council and Board of Directors for their support in approving the petition signed by 214 ASPB members to create this new section.
If you are a member of a PUI community, are interested in PUI’s, or simply wish to support ASPB’s outreach to this part of the plant biology community, please consider becoming a member of this new section. You can learn more about it and join online.