BETHESDA, Md., March 14, 2011 -- Young researchers from universities across the United States will arrive at the U.S. House and Senate on Tuesday for talks with lawmakers and their staffs about how to keep the scientific research enterprise moving and how to fuel the pursuit for medical breakthroughs in a time of national economic uncertainty.
The undergraduate and graduate students participating in Hill Day, a twice-annual event sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, have a number of weighty issues they intend to address.
The 16 students will meet with, among others, the staffs of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and U.S. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's financial services and general government subcommittee. Meetings also have been scheduled with U.S. Reps. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., Rodney Alexander, R-La., Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
One of the participants, Brown University med student and doctoral candidate Angel S. Byrd, says she intends to one day study childhood obesity as a pediatric endocrinologist. While visiting Capitol Hill, Byrd says, she hopes to concretize lawmaker's faith in the "power of research and the long-term investment in its goals and vision."
"My main goal is to provide a real-life example of an aspiring physician scientist who has been afforded the opportunity to engage in scientific biomedical research. Because of the training I am receiving, I will continue to contribute to and advance the fields of science and medicine. Funding that has been provided by the National Institutes of Health has accelerated and progressed the research that is ongoing in our laboratory and has allowed for multidisciplinary collaboration," the Jackson, Miss., native explained.
Melanie Krook, a biochemistry and French major at Miami University in Ohio, has participated in undergraduate research for the past three years and says she wants to emphasize to lawmakers how life-changing such an experience can be. "I hope to share with others the passion that I have for research and the positive impact it has had on my decisions for my future. The opportunity to conduct undergraduate research is what made me realize that scientific research was the field that I wanted a career in," says Krook, who intends to pursue cancer therapeutics when she one day has her own laboratory.
Columbus, Miss., native William Pruett is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and a father of two. He says he intends to communicate how funding scientific research will help keep America competitive. "In a time of severe fiscal challenges at every level in our country, I think it's important that the people in power don't forget that the American scientist played a big part in putting the United States in a position of power in the world and still shoulders much of the responsibility for keeping us there," he says.
Meanwhile, Kelly Ruggles, a graduate student at Columbia University, emphasizes that investigators conducting basic biological research "know that in these austere economic times future funding is not a guarantee." She says she expects the Hill Day event will be educational for students and policymakers alike.
"I expect it will provide me with the knowledge and skills to continue policy work in the future and encourage my colleagues to do the same. It will give me the knowledge of the inner-workings of policy development, as well as a view of the commitment our senators and representatives have to funding scientific research in the long-term," the Wantagh, N.Y., native explains. "In the end, I believe that what I gain from this experience will not only exceed my expectations, but it will also give me insights, ideas, and skills that I did not even anticipate."
Rob Watkins of Bozeman, Mont., echoes those sentiments. "As a biomedical researcher and an end-user of government-allocated funds, I tend to underestimate the complexities of decision making behind federal spending. This opportunity will grant me a general understanding of the processes behind government budget discretion as it relates to which institutions are given funding and how the dollar amounts are established," the doctoral student at Montana State University says. Watkins is slated to meet with both of his U.S. senators.
Other 2011 Hill Day student participants will include:
The students will be accompanied by members of the public affairs committee of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which includes:
|Contact: Angela Hopp|
American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology