Program Overview and Registration

CREST Teams

CREST modeling teams consist of two to ten undergraduate students (4-6 team members are ideal), as well as a faculty advisor. Teams should be large enough that if some students drop out, the program can still continue; but not so large that it is difficult to coordinate schedules or that some team members are disengaged. Although most program resources are open-access, teams must REGISTER to gain access some of the program materials (interactions with other teams, access to web conferences).

The goal of the CREST program is to engage early career undergraduates in a community of science. We encourage the participation of freshmen and sophomores, although past participants who are now juniors and seniors often continue participating, serving in a mentoring role. CREST faculty advisors also report that the program is great in quickly connecting transfer students in their institutions.

Most CREST teams are at schools with an ASBMB Student Chapter, and CREST team members belong to the student chapter (though not all chapter members must be on the CREST team). Although ASBMB Student Chapter membership is not a requirement of participating in CREST, there are benefits to membership, both in CREST and beyond, particularly if teams are planning on presenting their work at the Undergraduate Poster Session at the ASBMB annual meeting.

CREST Faculty Advisor

CREST Team faculty advisors are biochemistry, biology or chemistry faculty who are excited to dig deeply into the scientific literature to explore a current research topic with their team. The CREST program provides these faculty mentors an opportunity to model the process of science with their students in a non-classroom setting. Students greatly benefit from working colleagially with their advisor as they go beyond the textbook to discover the dynamic nature of science. Although a single faculty member can serve in this role, some institutions have opted for two faculty members to share this responsibility, both to share the workload and simply because it is a lot of fun to work together!

Recruiting Students for a CREST Team

Ways of recruiting students are as varied as the institutions they represent and reflect the personalities of the faculty members involved. Below are some ideas for recruitment:

  • recruit from an incoming freshman summer science program
  • announcement in introductory biology and chemistry courses
  • ask faculty colleagues to recommend engaged students who might benefit from participating
  • ask students directly (suggestion from a school where noone ever volunteers)
  • posters
  • promote at campus-wide 'clubs' day - this is especially valuable if you are also promoting a science club or ASBMB student chapter
  • incorporate project as part of existing course (as a project, an optional project, or an extra credit project)
  • create a special topics course focused on the CREST Project
  • email transfer students or students in science majors
  • display models of past projects (or include photos of models) in recruitment efforts
  • explore opportunities to collaborate with other departments - art (design aspects), computer science (coding) or English/communications (writing) - this is especially helpful if you are at a small school to draw on a larger pool of students, and it also models interdisciplinary interactions

Time Commitment and Workflow

ASBMB announces award winners in late summer. CREST faculty advisors from prior CREST projects are asked for input on selecting a researcher - and topic - from the list of award winners. The CREST topic for the year is announced on the CREST website by the end of August.

CREST teams register in the fall, typically by mid-September. In the fall, teams meet weekly for about an hour to discuss papers they have read (outside of meetings), pick a topic, identify a PDB file, and design a protein model that tells a molecular story. Some teams need a couple of extra meetings to finish their model design by the end of December.

Teams who wish to present their project at the ASBMB Undergraduate Poster Session need to submit an abstract by the early abstract submission date (mid-November or December; date varies each year). Note that in 2021 the annual ASBMB meeting will be held virtually due to Covid-19. Teams who wish to participate in the undergraduate poster session need to check the ASBMB website regarding changes to the program.

In the winter (January throughFebruary), teams focus on communicating their molecular story, either by creating a poster or a Jmol exploration. In the 2020-2021 CREST Project, final CREST Conversations with researchers will occur early in March.


The Center for BioMolecular Modeling (CBM) provides resources and support with regards to:

  1. Online Jmol training on how to design physical models of proteins to be built on 3D printers
  2. Background information on the research topic

A team may opt to utilize 3D printers at their institution to build their own protein models. The CBM provides support on how to transfer model designs from Jmol to a format understood by 3D printers. (See Building a Model for details.) For those teams who do not have access to 3D printers, the CBM can build a medium-sized protein at a program-subsidized cost of $250. Teams that meet certain criteria may also compete for a model award to get their model built for free.

The programculminates in a “CREST Conversation” where team members bring their model to an informal conversation with the scientists whose labs are involved in studying the research topic. The models facilitate conversations among researchers and students. Due to Covid-19, these conversations will occur via video conferencing and will be held in March. More details will be forthcoming.








Additional Resources


Questions about the CREST Program? Contact Margaret Franzen at franzen@msoe.edu. We look forward to hearing from you!



The CREST Project is funded by NSF-DUE 1022793 and NSF-DUE 1323414.

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