Public Release: 

Young scientists to advocate for biomedical research funding on Capitol Hill

Students and researchers to engage lawmakers in discussions about roles of science, scientists in policymaking

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 10 -- Young scientists from colleges and universities across the United States will arrive on Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with senators and representatives about the value of biomedical research. Now in its seventh year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology's (ASBMB) Hill Day will give 20 young researchers the chance to participate in up to 90 meetings with lawmakers and congressional staff about the work they are doing.

Undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars participating in the program hail from academic institutions across America. They will collaborate with members of the ASBMB's Public Affairs Advisory Committee to highlight the critical role that federal investments in research play in supporting the nation's scientific enterprise and how those investments will lead to improvements in the quality of life and well-being of Americans during talks on the Hill.

'We are thrilled to be bringing such an enthusiastic team of scientists to be advocates on behalf of all of the biomedical research community,' said ASBMB Public Affairs Director Benjamin Corb. 'During these challenging fiscal times, scientists must engage in the policy debates that are shaping investments in research and must make the case for why such congressional support is needed. I hope Thursday's event begins a lifetime of advocating for the scientists we're bringing to the Capitol.'

The young researchers joining Corb's team will articulate these concerns to lawmakers and present their own research. Oregon State University graduate student Kelli Lytle has participated in advocacy at the state level and said she values frank, face-to-face conversations with legislators.

'It is no secret that funding in science has become more limited and more difficult to obtain,' said Lytle, who studies liver disease. 'Many industries and companies have a lobbying budget that trumps our wildest grant-funding dreams, but what we have is the power of conviction and the ability to demonstrate that the work we do is not only important but fundamental to the very health and well-being of our populous.'

Tyler Stanage, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is scheduled to meet with U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. Stanage said: 'The ability to generate enthusiasm for your research project in the general public (is) one of the many skills paramount to conducting scientific research in the 21st century.' By meeting with lawmakers during Hill Day, Stanage, who studies bacterial DNA repair, said he hopes to show the value of funding scientific research in the face of budget cuts at his university.

'I want to represent my institution and young scientists on Capitol Hill by combating some of the rhetoric surrounding the 'frivolous' nature of funding scientific research in the United States,' said Stanage. 'Investing tax dollars in both basic and translational research reaps significant benefits: economically, scholarly and medically.'

Jarod Rollins, a postdoctoral fellow researching the molecular genetics of aging at Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine, said he believes 'empirical evidence should be the cornerstone of every decision made in Congress' and that it is scientists' responsibility to provide insights to lawmakers. He views the ASBMB's Hill Day as an opportunity to open communications between researchers and policymakers and is scheduled to meet with U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine.

Melanie Alvarado attends the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she studies HIV. She plans to meet with U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Daniel Sullivan and U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska. She said her Hispanic heritage inspired her to explore voter turnout within the Anchorage community as well as the population's involvement in the scientific enterprise. She found participation to be low and hopes that her experience at Hill Day will help her garner more involvement in science.

'By communicating my work and progress to a new group, I will be able to take this experience back home to encourage young individuals within my community to engage in the science field,' said Alvarado.

The 2015 Hill Day student participants will include:

  • Tara Gonzalez of Howell, N.J., a graduate student at the University of Delaware
  • Jackie Thompson of Paola, Kan., a graduate student at the University of Kansas Medical Center
  • Melanie Alvarado of Anchorage, Alaska, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Torrey Truszkowski of Providence, R.I., a graduate student at Brown University
  • Kristeena Wright of Richmond, Va., a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate at Marshall University
  • Victoria Cavener, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University
  • Kimberly Sauls of Beaufort, S.C., a fifth-year Ph.D. student at the Medical University of South Carolina
  • Jeannette Osterloh of Orinda, Calif., a postdoctoral fellow at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco
  • Dakota Pouncey, an undergraduate student at Hendrix College in Arkansas
  • Taylor Fuselier, a graduate student at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans
  • Ryan Kelley of Tulsa, Okla., a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
  • Aminul Islam of Bethesda, Md., a postdoctoral fellow at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland
  • Chistopher Yarosh of Scranton, Pa., a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Joshua Mieher, a graduate student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Amy Hawkins of Sterling, Va., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City
  • Megan Sheridan of Lake St. Louis, Mo., a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Lynn Ulatowski of South Euclid, Ohio, a postdoctoral fellow at Case Western Reserve University

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Note to reporters: photos of participants will be available after the event upon request.

About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society's student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions. For more information about ASBMB, visit http://www.asbmb.org.

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