Published on Friday May 13, 2005
Ph.D. students Kristopher Behler (advisor: Yury Gogotsi) and Michael Birnkrant (advisor: Christopher Li) received a grant through the Material Advantage Student chapter to participate in Congressional Visit Days (CVD) in Washington, D.C., May 10th and 11th, 2005.
An annual event, CVD provides an opportunity for the scientific community to discuss science and funding opportunities with representatives and senators from each individual's voting district. The scientific community organizes these visits to petition members of Congress to increase the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget and to make research money non-discretionary, translating to more funding for scientific research.
This was the first year CVD included participation from students studying science and engineering. The trip was organized as part of Material Advantage, a collaborative partnership among the American Ceramic Society (ACerS), The Minerals Metals and Materials Society (TMS), and ASM International (ASM), giving students an affordable opportunity to become members of all three societies. Other participating groups included the Materials Research Society (MRS), the Optical Society of America (OSA), as well as members of industry.
The program began with an overview and training about how to interact with members of Congress to properly deliver the important scientific message at hand. This introduction prepared the group of scientists to talk with their representatives. The participants were organized into lobbying teams based on geographic region so that individuals could meet with members of Congress from their own geographic areas. Behler and Birnkrant's group met with Rep. Rush Holt (Dem. - NJ), Senator Jon Corzine (Dem. - NJ), Rep. Mike Ferguson (Dem. - NJ), and Senator Rick Santorum (Rep. - PA).
Representative Holt, a driving force behind the push for science funding in Washington, took time out of his busy schedule to meet with Behler and Birnkrant during the CVD program. Holt, who has a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, was particularly interested in talking to the group of scientists and engineers because of his own background as a former assistant director of the Plasma Physics Lab at Princeton University and his continuing interest in scientific research.
"The trip showed us a new side of D.C. and gave us an overview on policy making," said Behler. "Not only does it take good science to succeed in gaining funding for research, but also a strong economy, lobbying, and a talented staff."
Added Birnkrant, "Observing CEOs and high powered academicians from important scientific societies and academia interact with top level policy makers, many of whom hold degrees in science and engineering, was a fascinating learning experience for us students. Our experience with CVD showed us the important role scientists and engineers play in the political arena."
For more information on CVD, please visit link.