More than 50 researchers greeted Colorado lawmakers entering the Capitol building on Jan. 19, with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of research. Colorful posters highlighting the young scientists’ projects lined the rotunda’s walls, as the presenters’ lively voices bounced around the room’s large marble structures while they explained their work.
“This is such a great event,” said Hannah Hathaway, PhD, president of the University of Colorado Postdoctoral Association, as she stood amid the array of posters targeting a wide range of disciplines, from biomedical to atmospheric research. “Not only do we get to present our work in a unique way, but we also get to see other research going on in Colorado.”
Early-career scientists representing 11 state institutions of higher education, including the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, CU Denver and CU Boulder, attended the event, hosted by the CU Anschutz chapter of Project Bridge. Bruce Mandt, PhD, director of the CU Postdoctoral Office, and Jerry Johnson, the CU contract lobbyist for state relations, helped the group with the event.
“The goal of Project Bridge is to give scientists more tools to succeed by teaching them to communicate outside the world of academia,” said Erin Golden, PhD, president of the national student organization. “We accomplish this through holding trainings, inviting speakers to campus and engaging in a variety of advocacy events like the Capitol Investment.”
Golden launched the CU Anschutz chapter last year after coming from Johns Hopkins University, where Project Bridge was founded.
“It’s great to see everything come together,” Mandt said. “It is so important to showcase the broad range of scientific work from around the entire state of Colorado.”
Gov. Hickenlooper declared Jan. 19, 2018, “Early Career Scientist Day” to commemorate the event, aimed at showing lawmakers the importance of funding research. The event boasted 71 of 100 state legislators, who pledged their attendance as co-hosts.
While waiting for the legislators to arrive, researchers shared their short presentations with one another. The presentations and posters were designed to be informal and jargon-free.
“This type of presentation is unusual for scientists,” Mandt said. “Our presenters are getting excellent experience in explaining their work to a lay audience. This is a wonderful career-development opportunity.”
“If I have accomplished something today, it would be relaying how impactful this scientific exploration is,” said Christopher Covey, a fifth-year graduate student in CU Anschutz School of Medicine’s Department of Immunology & Microbiology. “We’ve all worked so hard to approach scientific problems from new angles. Maybe one day we will uncover something that was previously overlooked.”
Golden hopes Project Bridge will grow to include more events and that Capitol Investment will become an annual event.
“We’re so excited with the turnout,” said Golden. “We really feel like we are making a difference in Colorado’s scientific community, while giving our peers the tools they need to succeed.”
Guest contributor: Photo at top by Katie Weeman, CIRES/CU Boulder.