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Rising to the Challenge

As researchers, we are accustomed to facing the challenges of dealing with uncertainty, slow progress, and frustration that research often brings. The pursuit of knowledge is the motivation to overcome these challenges. While these professional hurdles can be small or great, they are made tolerable by many supportive colleagues and students and by our shared passion to learn. This year, BCMB rose to many new challenges, some harder to face than others, with several highlighted in this issue.

The passing of Professor Elizabeth (Liz) Howell on April 9, 2019, after a 31-year career at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville was a difficult time. Liz was an accomplished scientist who had a passion for her research and for training the next generation of scientists. She was an engaged faculty member with an immutable positive attitude and was a role model for many, especially for women in science. A celebration of her life took place May 23, 2019, in Mossman with her students, both current and past, research staff, colleagues from across the campus, and friends and family in attendance. She will be greatly missed.

Engaging students from underrepresented groups in the research enterprise is dear to the heart of many in BCMB. After several years in the making, BCMB, under the leadership of Professor Dan Roberts, received a grant to train deaf and hard-of-hearing undergraduate students from around the country in research. We welcomed 11 students who spent 10 weeks working in BCMB laboratories. The experience challenged participating faculty to evaluate how to make our science and teaching inclusive to different learners. We have funding to build on this experience for the next two years.

BCMB faculty have been creative in developing new outreach activities to engage the greater Knoxville community in the research conducted on campus. Under the leadership of Associate Professor Tessa Burch-Smith and Research Associate Elena Ganusova, an Art of Science exhibit showcased drawings, photographs, and other media inspired by research and made by scientists from the Departments of Mathematics, Chemistry, Microbiology, and BCMB from September 6 to 27, 2019, in downtown Knoxville. If you missed it, do not worry, the exhibit will be back in two years.

In this fast-changing world, it is a challenge for those wanting to keep up with science and interested in participating in research to learn about us. BCMB is on social media with undergraduate and graduate students managing the accounts as social media ambassadors. They have been quite creative! I hope you check them out (Facebook: UTK Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology; Twitter: @utk_bcmb).

-Gladys Alexandre

Professor and Department Head