Students Represent H-SC at ABRCMS

December 16, 2010
Basil A. Panton '11

While many students remained on campus to enjoy the inauguration of our 24th president, Dr. Chris Howard, and to celebrate yet another football victory over our arch-rival Randolph-Macon College, two students, Basil Panton '11 and Osric Forest '12, proudly represented Hampden-Sydney College at the 10th Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS).

ABRCMS LogoABRCMS is the largest professional conference that encourages under represented minority students to pursue advanced training in biomedical and behavioral sciences, including mathematics, and provides faculty mentors and advisors with resources to facilitate students' success. The conference is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Association for Microbiology. The New York Times says that America can "learn a lesson" from ABRCMS.

This year, the scientific meeting was held for four days between November 10th and 14th at the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina. The meeting allowed more than 2000 students from more than 35 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to showcase their research as poster or oral presentations. During a banquet at the end of ABRCMS, the student presenter earning the highest score in each of 10 disciplines receives a certificate of outstanding presentation. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of this nationally-recognized and prestigious meeting, each winner also secured $200 cash, a plaque, and membership with privileges in a professional scientific society. The number of winners this year surpassed 150 students.

Over the years, ABRCMS has garnered the attention of acclaimed media such as Dallas (TX) Fox News, Discovery Channel (Canada), and the San Diego Union Tribune (CA), among a multitude of other publication outlets.  Annually, ABRCMS also attracts distinguished speakers from all facets and levels of science. As a result, it was no surprise when Director of the National Institute of Health, Francis Collis, M.D., PhD, gave a keynote address on "Exceptional Opportunities for Biomedical Research." And the presence of the Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson, PhD, only lends credence to the importance of this conference.  Furthermore, the culmination of ABRCMS offered "An afternoon with Maya Angelou," world-renown poet, educator, and author.

Students not only listened to these speakers' speeches, question their ideas, and later interacted with them, but they also had the enviable opportunity to meet and talk one-to-one with more than 280 representatives from graduate programs at US colleges and universities as well as scientists from government agencies, foundations, and professional scientific societies. Students obtain valuable information about a plethora of summer research opportunities, graduate school applications and essay, resume or curriculum vitae content and structure, and funding sources. In addition, students are able to forge professional relationship with their colleagues and with leading scientists from various institutions. The conference impacts the lives of so many minority students who are excited about the progress of science, that post-ABRCMS one student reported to the New York Times that "it was heaven to be around people who were interested in the same thing."

ABRCMS can be life-changing for students and can change the rank of the U.S. in the scientific community. The U.S. was once the world's leader in science education, but has fallen behind other developed nations, graduating only 6 percent of young college students in the natural sciences and in engineering. To move beyond that statistics, ABRCMS is prime example of elevating interest in the sciences and equipping young students to tackle scientific problems of today and of the future.

The two H-SC students are eager to be a part of the next generation of scientific minds. They obtained travelling grants from the Office of the Dean of Faculty and the Honors Council to attend the conference. The two students strongly encourage H-SC minority students who undertake research in any scientific discipline to take advantage of this marvelous avenue of climbing to the pinnacle in science. ABRCMS helps in this endeavor as the leaders offer travel awards to qualified students.