UMD Students Visit Congress to Raise Visibility for Science, Engineering and Technology

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Top: UMD Chapter Members Greg Hitz, Alex Kozen, and Ashley Lidie Meet with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) to discuss stability of science R&D funding.

Bottom: Group shot before meeting with Sen. Benjamin Cardin (MD)

Students from the University of Maryland's Chapter of the Electrochemical Society (ECS) participated in the Science, Engineering, and Technology Congressional Visits Day (SET-CVD) on March 12-13, 2013 in Washington, DC.  Ten student chapter members took part in the event, traveling to Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional staff members. They discussed the benefits of the innovation ecosystem created through a combination of federal and private scientific research programs and the importance of stable and predictable federal funding. The topic was a timely issue after the Sequester that just went into effect and the looming spending cuts that are expected in the federal budget. 

The UMD Chapter’s faculty advisor, Dr. Eric Wachsman, has stressed the importance of science and energy policy and its potential impact on UMD's location in the national capital region to keep legislators informed of the benefits of electrochemical energy technologies. He recently published “Role of solid oxide fuel cells in a balanced energy strategy” in the journal Energy & Environmental Science and gave a number of energy policy oriented talks in DC region.

Small groups of chapter members met with legislators from Maryland as well as their home states, meeting with the offices of Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).  Meetings were selected with members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the relevant Appropriations Committees to ensure the group’s message was heard by Congressional members who have direct input on policy. 

Executive Director of ECS Roque Calvo, Betsy Houston of Federation of Materials Sciences, Dean Darryll Pines of UMD’s Clark School of Engineering, and Bob Boege, organizer of SET-CVD, helped the students prepare for their meetings.  For all but one of the student participants, it was the first time that they had taken part in a Congressional visit. All of them left with a newfound appreciation of the accessibility and willingness of the legislators and their staff to meet with constituents and to hear their concerns.  Though brief, the meetings were a valuable opportunity for the UMD chapter members to offer assistance and information to Congressional staff as well as grow their own network in the policy world. 

"I know that though we don’t yet have the clout to make any big changes in the minds of the staffers we talked to, but we as a group left with a changed perspective that will inform our positions and actions throughout the rest of our long careers in science and engineering," said Colin Gore, President of the UMD Chapter. "I'm glad that we were able to have this experience early on in our careers so that we have many decades to improve our relationship with our Congressional representatives.  I look forward to spreading this message to my peers at UMD, in ECS, and in the other professional spheres I will engage in the future."

For more information on participating on Science, Engineering, Technology Congressional Visits Day, visit

Published March 31, 2013