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APS Student Members Share Research with Staffers of Louisiana Senators

By Tawanda W. Johnson

While in New Orleans for their 2017 APS March Meeting poster session, APS student members were thrilled to discuss their research with staffers from the offices of Louisiana Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and John Kennedy (R-La.).

"I very much enjoyed the opportunity to educate the Senate staffers on Louisiana's relationship to agencies such as NSF [National Science Foundation] and DOE [Department of Energy], using my personal experiences," said Noah Rahman, a student at Tulane University whose research could impact the next generation of solar cells.

The students met with staffers Rachel Perez and Mary Schlesinger in Cassidy’s and Kennedy’s offices, respectively. For about an hour, the students provided an overview of their research and offered details on the potential impact of their work. Perez and Schlesinger asked about the unique scientific research facilities in Louisiana, including the synchrotron at Louisiana State University's Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices. The staffers also expressed interest in the applications of the students' research (one involved oil cleanup in the Gulf), and inquired about the students’ education experiences in physics.

Paul Abanador discusses research with Louisiana legislators
Photo: Tawanda W. Johnson

Paul Abanador discusses his research with Mary E. Schlesinger (second from left) and Rachel Perez (third from left) as Greg Mack listens.

"Our meeting with the Senate staffers provided a unique opportunity for graduate students from Louisiana’s universities, like me, to present our work and showcase how important our training and experiences are that we receive from our education," added Paul Abanador, a student at Louisiana State University. Abanador’s research could potentially allow scientists to probe and control chemical reactions in new ways.

"I really appreciated the opportunity APS gave me to meet and discuss my research with the Senate staffers. As a graduate student, it is essential to not only focus on the research, but also to see the bigger picture. After my discussion with the Senate staffers, I now have a more comprehensive understanding of the social and economic impact of our research," said Zhi Zheng, a research assistant at the Advanced Materials Research Institute at the University of New Orleans. Zheng’s research could help develop energy storage systems to mitigate the effects of climate change.

"A terrific way for congressional staff to recognize the value of science is to hear about it from an enthusiastic scientist who is doing research in their state or district," said Francis Slakey, interim director of the APS Office of Public Affairs (OPA).

Greg Mack, government relations specialist, said the APS OPA would like to arrange similar meetings between students and congressional staffers during future APS meetings.

"This meeting between the students and staffers during this March Meeting was a first of its kind for the APS OPA. We are happy with the outcome and look forward to having similar meetings in the future. It is crucial that both students and staffers discuss and understand the positive impact that research has on our society," he said.

APS members interested in meeting with their representatives in the U.S. Congress can contact Greg Mack at the APS Office of Public Affairs at mack@aps.org

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Rachel Gaal
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik