Newswise — ROCKVILLE, Md., April 5, 2017 – Young scientists from colleges and universities across the United States will arrive on Capitol Hill on Thursday to talk with senators and representatives about the value of biomedical research.

Now in its seventh year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Hill Day will give 19 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. Alongside members of the ASBMB’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee, the participants will emphasize the critical role that federal investments in research play in supporting the nation’s scientific enterprise and how those investments lead to improvements in the quality of life and well-being of Americans.

The annual event coincides this year with calls from President Donald J. Trump to significantly reduce the budgets of science-funding agencies. The ASBMB has come out in opposition to the proposed funding cuts.

“We are thrilled to be bringing such an enthusiastic team of scientists to be advocates on behalf of all of the life science research community,” said ASBMB Public Affairs Director Benjamin Corb. “Recent budget proposals from the White House have signaled heavy blows to research funding. Our hope is that, through this experience, we will not only foster the spark of advocacy in these young scientists but inspire them to take what they have learned back to their institutions and encourage their fellow researchers to advocate for the importance of sustained investments in research.”

One young researcher from the University of Washington, Gilbert Martinez, already has participated in advocacy at the state level. “While in graduate school, I become heavily engaged in the political process,” he said. “I worked with school board members, city council members, and even met with local U.S. Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren as well as a host of other state senators and assembly members.”

Martinez continued: “As an active campus organizer, I became a member of the national College Democrats of America, where I was a chair of the Hispanic Caucus for a year.”

Martinez will meet on Thursday with U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, all Democrats from Washington state.

Folagbayi Arowolo, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is scheduled to meet with U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., and Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., as well as U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc.  “After the recent election, I have been mobilized to engage with elected officials because I believe that we are in a critical period where science policy deserves a significant amount of attention from community leaders, policymakers and nonscientists,” Arowolo said.  

Elizabeth Minten, a postdoctoral fellow researching the molecular genetics of the breast cancer at Emory University, said she believes that “it's more important than ever for scientists to get involved and advocate for science, as well as try to bridge the gap between scientists and the general public.” She is scheduled to meet with U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, both Republicans from Georgia, and with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga.

Ashley Widmer attends the University of Alaska Anchorage, where she conducts research on the immune system. She plans to meet with U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Daniel Sullivan and U.S. Rep. Don Young, all Republicans representing Alaska.

“Here at my university, there aren't many opportunities for undergraduates to become deeply involved in biomedical research due to lack of funding — an issue that must come up in many places,” she said. “I look forward to the opportunity to promote undergraduate research as a way to increase the rate of students interested to go on and pursue careers in research or attend graduate school.”

The 2017 Hill Day student participants will include:

  • Christopher Abdullah, a graduate student at Oregon Health and Science University
  • Celeste Amadei, a graduate student at the University Of Miami Miller School Of Medicine
  • Kendall Antle, an undergraduate student at Grandview University
  • Folagbayi Arowolo, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Alexandra Erwin, a graduate student at The University of Kansas
  • Celine Hartman, a graduate student at Saint Louis University
  • Ryan Kelly, an undergraduate student at James Madison University
  • Gilbert Martinez, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington
  • Allison McCaque, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
  • Tiffany Miles, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
  • Elizabeth Minten, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University
  • Clarrisa Navarro, an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire
  • Anthony Otero, a graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh
  • Benjamin Roberts, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  • Katherine Sharp, a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma
  • Jeray Thelwell, a graduate student at Brown University
  • Kaushlendra Tripathi, a postdoctoral fellow at Mitchell Cancer Institute
  • Laura White, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Anschultz Medical Campus
  • Ashley Widmer, an undergraduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage

The students will be accompanied by members of the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee, which includes: 

  • Wesley Sundquist of the University of Utah
  • Robert Matthews of the University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Matthew Gentry of the University of Kentucky
  • Katherine Friedman of Vanderbelt University
  • Susan Forsburg of the University of Southern California
  • Michael Schaller of West Virginia University
  • Tricia Serio of the University of Arizona
  • Rick Page of Miami University
  • Dorothy Shippen of Texas A&M University
  • Jonathan Sachs of the University of Minnesota
  • Stephen Buxser of Nerac
  • Terri Kinzy of Rutgers University

*** NOTE TO REPORTERS: Photos of participants will be available after the event upon request. ***