PhD student Laura Valente tells of her recent experience in Washington DC
Jetting off to Washington. D.C. for a Crash Course in Science Policy and Advocacy
What better place to learn about science policy than in Washington D.C.? And who better to learn from than the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)? I had the very unique opportunity to attend a workshop on science advocacy, policy, and engagement held by the AAAS called Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE). Not only was the workshop extremely effective in disseminating knowledge on careers in government and science communication, but it all culminated with feet-in-the-water experience on Capitol Hill. I met three other graduate students from Duke that I had not previously known, as well as a graduate student from NC State. We strategized for 5 meetings with the offices of North Carolina representatives and Congressmen. It was eye-opening to interact with graduate and undergraduate students from universities across the country and in vastly diverse fields. It was excellent practice in conveying my own research, which is focused mostly on immunology currently, to students in physics, math, psychology, and more!
While I was pursuing my BS in Biology at Gettysburg College, I thought I had two options moving forward: medical school or graduate school to become a researcher, whether that be academic or in industry. Because student loans are terrifying, and because a Ph.D. offers more flexibility, here I am in my second year in the Department of Pathology at Duke. I’ve landed in a phenomenal lab with a PI that not only is never-endingly enthusiastic about our research, but also incredibly supportive of my current attempts to figure out what to do with my life after my time at Duke (hence, the CASE workshop). And here at Duke, my eyes were blown open to this whole host of fields and careers out there for scientists that I never dreamed of. Even more exciting was finding these never-before heard of careers (to me) that resonated with me at a much deeper level than I had felt before. Who knew that I could work in policy, business, or law while also geeking out about science?! For those of you who already knew this and are rolling their eyes, bear with me! As a talkative person, these career explorations that marry building work relationships, problem solving and analytical thinking, with a fascination of biomedical research really gets me excited. I was very grateful to Duke, my PI Tony Filiano, and the AAAS for the opportunity to grow as a human scientist.
Follow this link (scientistthehuman.com) to listen to Laura being interviewed in the recent podcast by Laura’s colleague Sim Singh.