Biophysical Society Bulletin | January 2022
The Vitality of Subgroups Subgroup Saturday is the first introduction to the Biophysical Society (BPS) Annual Meeting that many of us experience. Importantly, these Subgroups represent our homes in BPS where we catch up on the latest results and meet up with friends and colleagues in our research area. But what ex- actly is the role of Subgroups, and how did they come to be? Subgroups are specialized groups focused on a technique or an area of research, and many Subgroups were established to bring emerging areas into the Society. Currently there are 18 Subgroups in BPS. Membership in one Subgroup is included with Society membership, but members can choose to join as many other Subgroups as they wish for only $10 per Sub- group. To foster curiosity and broader engagement, Emeritus and Student members may join as many Subgroups as they like for free. In addition to the lively research talks and the business meet- ing, many Subgroups present awards during their symposia to honor lifetime achievements or rising stars. Many Subgroups also host a dinner on Saturday evening for either their broad membership or for the symposium speakers. The Subgroups also identify volunteers to serve as judges for the Student Research Achievement Award (SRAA) competition, which recognizes top graduate students in their field. Since the pandemic, several Subgroups have engaged their member- ship throughout the year by organizing virtual seminars and journal clubs. It is easy to get involved in the leadership of the Subgroups, even if you are a more junior member. Every November to December, the current Subgroup leadership puts out calls for nominations for leadership positions. These new leaders help keep Subgroups vibrant. Consider nominating yourself or a colleague who you think will actively engage with the Subgroup membership and develop an exciting program. Subgroup leadership is also an excellent stepping stone to other avenues of Society engagement, such as committees and Council. How long have Subgroups been around? The BPS Office archives show that Subgroups met as early as 1971. The six Subgroups at that time included Photochemistry & Photobiol-
ogy, Membrane Structure, Bioenergetics, Muscle Contractility, Social Responsibility of Scientists, and Biology of Survival. Twenty years later, in 1991, there were only five Subgroups: Bioenergetics, Contractility, Membrane Biophysics, Molecular Biophysics, and Biology of Survival. Subgroup Saturday did not become a regular feature of the BPS Annual Meeting until 1999. By 2011, there were 11 Subgroups, and another seven have been added in the past decade. Subgroups have a strong history of exciting programs and outstanding speakers. With the growth in the number of Subgroups, changes were needed to better support their administration and logistics. In 2019, the then-15 Subgroups participated in a process to streamline their bylaws and elections as well as review and potentially update their names to better differentiate them- selves to members. In parallel, the structure of Subgroup Saturday was revisited to account for the growing number of Subgroups and limitations due to convention center space. We moved to a schedule that alternated morning and after- noon sessions for the four-hour Subgroup symposia (except for the Cryo-EM Subgroup symposium, which is held in the evening on Subgroup Saturday). In the past two years, we have added three additional Sub- groups for a total of 18, which has led to additional spatial and temporal logistical limitations with respect to staff support and convention center space. To address these issues, Council requested the formation of a Subgroup Task Force in June 2021 to examine the number of Subgroups and best practices, con- sider member feedback, and provide recommendations in sup- port of a vibrant Subgroup program. We would like to recognize the thoughtful discussions of the Task Force, which included Sarah Veatch , Uwe Schlattner , Michelle Digman , Jeremy Dittman , Kalina Hristova , and Erin Sheets , along with staff support from Stacey Wendelbo and Jennifer Pesanelli . At the Fall Council Meeting that was held in late October 2021, Council approved the following recommendations from the Subgroup Task Force: limit the total number of Subgroups to 18, annually evaluate Subgroups using a quantitative report card, provide a best practice guide to Subgroup chairs, support emerging research areas with an incubator program, and require new Subgroup applications to critically analyze the proposed topic’s relationship to existing Subgroups.
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