MSUToday
Published: Feb. 27, 2019

MSU biochemistry graduate students advocate for science on Capitol Hill

Contact(s): Val Osowski College of Natural Science office: (517) 432-4561 osowskiv@msu.edu

Four graduate students from Michigan State University’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) in the College of Natural Science met with staff at the offices of Sen. Peters, Sen. Stabenow, Rep. Slotkin and four other representatives to advocate for science funding. The Feb. 5-7 event was sponsored by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB).

“Advocacy for science funding is a fundamental part of professional training in biochemistry” noted BMB professor and graduate director David Arnosti. “Some students will be interested in future careers in the intersection between policy and research, while others will remember the role federal programs play in science as they develop their careers in research, teaching, and the private sector as publically engaged scientists.”

Ben Corb, ASBMB’s director of public affairs, personally accompanied the MSU group on its meetings. The students, Robert Fidis, Kayla Johnson, Brandon Rohnke and Aiko Turmo, had the opportunity to personally describe the fundamental research supported by federal funding, while Corb introduced them to the intricacies of the budgetary process that underwrites their work.

“When I first learned of the Capitol Hill trip, I thought to myself: ‘If I don't go now, I may never get the opportunity again,’” said Robert Fidis.

Fidis, who is interested science policy, took the trip as a learning experience that allowed him to recognize that the staff understood the great importance of science funding.

Kayla Johnson noted that the students got the opportunity to see and learn about the day-to-day operations in the offices of members of Congress, how lobbying works and how regular constituents are able to involved in legislative practices.

“The most valuable part of this experience for me was learning more about how those of us choosing scientific careers outside of public policy can still be engaged in ensuring that our representatives support scientific funding and science-based policies,” said Johnson.

Both members of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, Brandon Rohnke and Aiko Turmo highlighted not only their interest in science, but the acknowledgement for the faculty and staff who helped put the Capitol Hill trip together.

“It was a great opportunity to experience an environment other than academia and meet new people with different backgrounds who were passionate about science,” said Turmo. “I appreciate Dr. Arnosti for giving us this unique opportunity. Also, I am grateful to Ben Corb from ASBMB for showing us around the Capitol Hill and coaching us on how to communicate our exciting science to our legislators.”