Being honored as a fellow of a scientific society is a big achievement for any researcher. Few, however, can say they were the first to be recognized by such an organization. Recently, San Francisco State University Professor and Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry Teaster Baird Jr. was named a fellow of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) — in the first class of fellows ever recognized by the society.
“I was shocked,” Baird said. “I really respect the people who nominated me and the organization, so it means a lot.”
A committee of scientists from ASBMB, one of the largest professional societies for the molecular life sciences, chose the initial class of fellows based on their service to the organization and contributions to the field. Baird has been with San Francisco State for close to 20 years and has a long history of involvement with ASBMB, serving as the regional director for the Southwest U.S. student chapters of the organization and working on a committee to make the society’s work more accessible to the public.
Faculty members in the SF State Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry say Baird has left his mark on the University, too, playing a key role in keeping students at the center of the department’s mission.
“Dr. Baird is a leader with unmeasurable integrity and passion for changing the status quo so all students can succeed. He is constantly pushing the boundaries of the way students are educated, and as a department chair he routinely challenges faculty to not become complacent or comfortable in their teaching or expectations of students.”
-Professor Baird's colleagues in their letter nominating him as fellow
Along with his commitment to education and service to the profession, Baird manages a research lab where he seeks to understand how the structure of proteins relates to how they work. The ultimate goal of the work is to engineer new proteins that could benefit human health.
As for the honor of becoming an ASBMB fellow, Baird says he wasn’t aiming for it at all. “It’s nice to be recognized for doing things that you love to do,” he said. “What I would say to everybody is just do what you love, and the recognition will come.”