chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a
UV resonance Raman spectrometer in her research at Wesleyan. Mukerji
recently attended a conference in California, judging presentations on
Associate Professor Judges Biomedical Conference for
Encouraging underrepresented minority students
to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences was
the purpose of a recent conference in Anaheim, Calif. And the chair of
Wesleyan’s Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department was there to help
guide these students down that path.
Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and
biochemistry, was among 220 scientists around the country who attended the
2006 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS),
held Nov. 8-11.
The scientists volunteered their time and energy in judging the 1,048 poster
presentations and 72 oral presentations.
“The number of minority students in biomedical research is very small,”
Mukerji explains. “I and my colleagues are committed to improving diversity
in the sciences and this is a great opportunity to meet and interact with
minority students. We would like to have more under-represented students at
all levels in the sciences at Wesleyan and this is one way to interact with
minority students and potentially recruit them to come to Wesleyan
Now in its seventh year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for
biomedical and behavioral students. Over 2,500 people attended the 2006
conference including 1,633 students, 421 faculty and program directors and
418 exhibitors. ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute
of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for
By volunteering as a judge, Mukerji served in one of the most important
roles at the conference, explains Ronica Rodela, spokesperson for the ABRCMS.
“The judge's role in providing constructive feedback to student presenters
positively enhances the professional development and advancement of students
in their scientific research,” Rodela says.
These presentations were given by undergraduate, graduate,
post-baccalaureate students as well as postdoctoral scientists in nine
sub-disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The top 120
undergraduates received monetary awards of $250 for their outstanding
Mukerji says some of the research she judged was comparable to the research
being done by Wesleyan undergraduates. On the other hand, there is a wide
range of science presented at the conference, and some of the students are
coming from two-year institutions that don't have a lot of resources for
“The judging process is an interactive one in which I usually talk to the
students about their research project, their scientific interests and what
their future plans are,” Mukerji explains. “Many of them are very
enthusiastic about their projects and that makes the judging a lot of fun.
On the whole I find it to be a very rewarding experience.”
Mukerji is currently the chairperson of the Minority Affairs Committee for
the Biophysical Society. For their annual meeting in March, she has arranged
a panel discussion on "Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring of
Under-represented Students." Featured panelists will be representatives from
MentorNet and Venture Scholars. Both of these organizations are committed
to increasing diversity at all levels in the sciences.
For more information on the conference, visit www.abrcms.org. The 2007
ABRCMS is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection