Graduate Students Travel to Washington to Advocate for Science

From Left: Lucius Couloute Jr., Adaeze Egwuatu , Louis Colaruotolo and Laura Hancock
From Left: Lucius Couloute Jr., Adaeze Egwuatu , Louis Colaruotolo and Laura Hancock

Graduate students Louis Colaruotolo, Lucius Couloute Jr., Adaeze Egwuatu and Laura Hancock attended the Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop March 24-27 in Washington D.C. Hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), this workshop introduced students to the federal policy-making process and strategies to effectively communicate research to policy makers. On the final day, participants from UMass Amherst and Boston University tested their skills in meetings with congressional staff from the offices of Sens. Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer and staff from the offices of Reps. Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, and Ayanna Pressley. 

Lucius Couloute, Jr., sociology, was inspired by the community. “We met so many people from various fields and the common denominator was that in order to do our work, work that has current and future implications for issues like public health, our environment and social inequalities, we need policies and funding that support our endeavors.”

In speaking with AAAS fellows working in Sen. Markey’s office, Louis Colaruotolo, food science, was surprised to learn how a Ph.D. in sciences influences the process of American government. “I now realize I can step out of a research role and leverage my abilities to critically analyze and interpret scientific research to inform and advise policy makers.”

For Adaeze Egwuatu, neuroscience and behavior, the CASE workshop instilled a sense of responsibility. “I learned that politicians and voters are counting on us to help them make informed decisions. If scientists don't engage, people will seek information elsewhere, increasing the risk of rampant misinformation and bad policies. Science is our beacon of hope in polarizing times and CASE really showed me that being an effective scientist includes a civic responsibility.”

Laura Hancock, organismic and evolutionary biology, is already looking forward. “One thing that was impressed upon us at CASE was that to be heard we need to build a coalition of people united for common goals.” Laura is thinking about ways that CASE alumni can inspire science policy initiatives for students at UMass.

Since its creation in 2014, 16 UMass graduate students have been selected through a competitive application process to participate in the CASE workshop.