PhD student travels to The Hill to advocate for science funding

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June 18, 2019

Manwill looking at experience
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Preston Manwill, a PhD student in Dr. Liva Rakotondraibe’s lab, traveled to Washington DC for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) Workshop. This prestigious, one-of-a-kind conference introduces undergraduate, professional and graduate students to science and technology policy, the federal budget and Congress, empowering them to be an advocate for basic research and makes connections between participants and members of Congress and their staff.

Ohio State had four student representatives at the conference to promote continued government support for academic research: Emma Wenckowski, an undergraduate student studying data analytics, Pallavi Oruganti, a veterinary medicine student, Emilio Mateo, a graduate student studying geography, and Manwill, whose academic focus surrounds medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy.

On the last day of the conference, Manwill and the Ohio State cohort ascended Capitol Hill to thank congressmen and congressional staff for their previous and continued support of science and the agencies that fund basic science research. The group met with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and his congressional staff, one of Senator Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) legislative staff and a staff member of Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The cohort invited Portman to the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, an Ohio State Office of Research center focused on maintaining research excellence and supporting public engagement in polar and climate studies at the university. Manwill also thanked the senator for sponsoring a bill that supports tropical rainforests – a climate that is vital to natural products drug discovery.

“There are many more life-saving medicines to be discovered and there remains an enthusiastic group of biologists and chemists eager to perform the basic natural products research necessary to discover them. It is essential that our legislators and general public recognize this important field of study and continue to support it through federal funding. The CASE workshop taught me that members of Congress are eager to hear from all their constituents, including scientists, and it falls on our shoulders to communicate our research to them and the public,” Manwill said.

After completing his PhD, Manwill plans to pursue postdoctoral research training, while also continuing to share his passion for the field of natural products and drug discovery.

“Before leaving for the workshop, Dr. Elizabeth Newton from The Battelle Center advised us to get out of our comfort zones and talk to everyone we saw while we were in DC. I took that message to heart and met some extremely impressive individuals, such as the president of The Weather Channel,” Manwill said. “I am incredibly grateful to have participated in this opportunity and feel that it will have a lasting impact on my career.”