Penn State graduate students visit Capitol Hill, discuss science-based policy

Matt Black
May 06, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Members of the Penn State Science Policy Society recently visited Washington, D.C., where they met with officials from several congressional offices and nongovernmental organizations to discuss the promotion of science and evidence-based policy.

The annual “Congressional Hill Day” is one of many events held to further the Science Policy Society’s mission to “unravel the many layers at the intersection between science and policy, by focusing on self-education, legislator engagement and community outreach.”

Penn State graduate students from the departments of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, Entomology, Materials Science and Engineering, and Geosciences made the trip to Capitol Hill, where they met with staffers for U.S. Reps. Conor Lamb, Chris Van Hollen and Andy Harris.

During their meetings, students discussed their research and its relevancy to the congressmen’s districts to communicate the value of graduate students, their research, and science funding in general.

“While the representatives we met with often vote in support of research-based solutions and science funding, meeting with their staffers was a chance to put a face to the work they support and hear their side regarding budget priorities,” said Amanda Mainello, a graduate student in plant pathology.

Meetings also were held with the National Institutes of Health and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Union of Concerned Scientists. In a meeting with the latter, the group discussed ways for graduate students to get more involved in their efforts by writing policy memos or comments, writing to or meeting with members of Congress, applying for a policy fellowship, participating in workshops aimed at developing communication skills, or listening to a webinar to learn more about relevant social issues pertaining to science policy.

Many of these suggestions sparked ideas among the group about future opportunities that the Science Policy Society or other student organizations at Penn State may be able to host on campus.

“Our graduate student research puts us on the forefront of solving problems related to agriculture, medical sciences and climate change, but we often don’t see what happens after we’ve done the work,” Mainello said. “Last week, we took the opportunity to discuss the value of this work with those who influence policy.”

Jeremy Sutherland, a graduate student in the bioinformatics and genomics program in the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, said, “Congressional Hill Day was an incredibly insightful experience. It has left me feeling creative and energized about what is possible for Science Policy Society members in the coming year.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 06, 2019