Chemistry seniors earn ASBMB certification


One sees chemistry as a path to law school and the other, a journey to a doctorate degree in synthetic chemistry. Both are set to graduate Bloomsburg University this December as among the few chemistry graduates — less than 425 in the country — walking this year with American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) certification.

Kimberly Hollister and Alison Martin capped their spring semester by passing the ASBMB National Accreditation exam, enabling BU to exceed the national average by eight percent. Nearly 1,000 college students took the exam, some 417 (42 percent) achieved certification with 122 students (12.3 percent) achieving certification with distinction, as announced by ASBMB last month.

“I love the personalness you feel in our chemistry department,” said Hollister, who plans to pursue a doctorate in synthetic chemistry. “The professors are very invested in our success. They have not only helped me during my academic career but also prepared me for grad school and the workforce. I love that I get the opportunity to work in a research lab for multiple semesters. I’ve learned so much from the hands-on and personal nature of the department.”

Martin, who plans to attend law school and study intellectual property and patents, said BU’s small size is actually an asset, allowing students to develop a collaborative working relationship with professors in addition to mentorship.

“Each professor really wants what’s best for their students to succeed in and out of the classroom,” Martin said. “The chemistry program has taught me how to think critically. I learned memorizing is not enough. Being able to apply what you know to practical applications is extremely important in the real world.

All students who are part of an ASBMB accredited program are invited to take the certification exam. Students are permitted only a single attempt at the exam during their undergraduate career. The certification exam is designed to test students’ knowledge and understanding of the core competencies in biochemistry and molecular biology developed by the ASBMB and its members.

BU, the first State System school to garner ASBMB program accreditation, isone of six PA schools accredited by ASBMB to include Dusquesne, Penn State and Villanova.

“This highlights the ability of our program to prepare students to be successful on a national stage, especially considering who we compete against,” said Michael Borland, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “This credit does not fall solely on the biochemists; this is a victory for all the (department) faculty and their dedicated and unwavering commitment to undergraduate education. We spend countless hours in the classroom, lab, and office providing these students with the knowledge, tools and opportunities to become diligent, intelligent and competent scientists.”

According to Borland, the ASBMB accreditation and recent exam certification validates that a chemistry and biochemistry education from BU — with small class sizes and hands-on laboratory experiences with cutting-edge instrumentation — makes its undergraduates competitive nationally.

“We may be a small department in terms of graduates,” Borland said. “… but we are an impactful department that provides students the opportunity to evolve and blossom into the best version of themselves as leaders and scientists.”

Hollister agrees.

“Every professor I’ve talked to in the department has wanted to help me with my future goals,” Hollister said. “I started doing research a couple summers ago, which really solidified my idea of going to graduate school. I’ve been able to learn so much from my research advisor and mentor. It’s really cool they push us to explore opportunities to do research here but also research at other institutions. At a larger institution you wouldn’t receive the same quality of undergraduate research experience that you do at Bloomsburg University.”