Students learn policy, advocate for science in nation’s capital

By Eric Sorensen, WSU science writer

Caruso,-left-and-GomezPULLMAN, Wash. – Two Washington State University students have been chosen to visit Washington, D.C., next month for “Making Our CASE,” a three-day program to learn about science policy and advocate for research support. Students will practice what they learn while visiting with members of Congress and staffers.

Workshop activities will include an introduction to U.S. science and technology policy, an introduction to the federal budget process, a look at the workings of Congress, and a perspective on the role of science and technology lobbyists and advocates. The Office of Research chose the students – senior Megan Caruso of West Linn, Ore., and doctoral student Erim Gomez of Coquille, Ore. – from a pool of 35 applicants and will pay for their registration, travel and lodging costs.

Caruso, a senior majoring in bioengineering with a minor in Spanish, was a research assistant in the lab of Wenji Dong. She acted as the director of speakers for the first TEDxWSU event, held last year, and through the Biomedical Engineering Society helped with the Kids Science and Engineering Day on campus.

“As an undergraduate research mentor, I communicate my enthusiasm to a different demographic but the idea is the same: encouraging involvement in science and engineering,” Caruso wrote in her application. “I strongly support undergraduate research as a method for gaining practical experience outside the classroom.”

Gomez, a fourth-year doctoral student in the School of the Environment, is studying ecological modeling, aquatic ecology and amphibian conservation. He serves on the board of the Society of Northwestern Vertebrate Biology and was the first WSU student awarded the Bullitt Environmental Leadership Fellowship. Last year, he received the WSU President’s Leadership Award.

“In a time when the public and lawmakers are denying climate change, it is critical to have scientists skilled in advocacy and knowledgeable about the policymaking process,” he wrote in his application. “I hope to become one of those scientists.”

Last year’s inaugural “Making our CASE” workshop drew 63 students from 32 universities and professional societies. The workshops are organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Institute of Physics, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Research!America and the University of Colorado-Boulder.