2021 Policy Agenda

“Picking Up STEAM”

to capitalize on the STEAM efforts at NSF/NIH 

Staff Members: Sophia Raia, Nicholas Ryan, and Lauryn Adams

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Art & science have been shown to be synergistic. The success of liberal and fine arts graduates in medical programs indicates that fine arts and music majors make well-rounded STEM professionals. However, these majors are often too time consuming to pursue in tandem with pre-STEM career tracts. This means the STEM field is either missing out on these talented individuals or inhibiting these students from continuing and perfecting their crafts in order to achieve their desired STEM career. To break down this stereotypical divide between these disciplines, we are proposing a R01 grant pilot program for studio art, music, and/or musical theater majors to pursue STEM PhDs. This pilot program will include a research component to provide further evidence behind fine art and music students excelling in STEM fields. Principal Investigators who receive the R01 grant will recruit fine arts/music students as PhD candidates where they will be able to get the prerequisite science courses required while pursuing their desired STEM career.


Science Policy for Undergraduate Development

Staff Members: Laurie Zabala, Emel Yavuzel, and Erin Saybolt

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There is a lack of undergraduate educational opportunities and resources on science policy and science policy career paths. Many students involved in science policy are PhD students or PhD graduates. If students are exposed to science policy earlier in their academic/professional careers, they may be more likely to pursue a career in science policy. Employing more scientists in government and policy will strengthen US science policy, provide alternate careers for scientists, and support the dialogue between science and the public. We propose an amendment to a current NSF undergraduate grant program to include science policy workshops for undergraduate students.



Space Health Security

Staff Members: Noah Duff and Grant Rosensteel

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A strategic goal of the U.S. space program is to “extend human presence deeper into space,”  with missions to Mars likely to range from 2-3 years. As humans spend more time in microgravity, so too do the microorganisms that accompany them. While this may seem nebulous on the surface, several recent studies have demonstrated that certain types of organisms reproduce and/or mutate faster in microgravity. As such, longer-duration missions allow more time for these organisms to mutate into something potentially dangerous, increasing the likelihood that astronauts may return to Earth harboring highly pathogenic microbes. This not only risks human health, but would also put the U.S. directly into conflict with the Outer Space Treaty and may have implications for the International Health Regulations, as well. To avoid this, we propose that the U.S. require that all US-based astronauts undergo diagnostic testing prior to returning to Earth. We anticipate incorporating this requirement into the current draft Space Frontier Act legislation, framing it as an opportunity for the U.S. to lead the world in setting norms for health security in space.  


Building BLOCKs

Building Bilingual Language Opportunities for Children and Kids 

Staff Members: Ivysara Tesfai and Gabriela Daszewska-Smith

Multilingualism is a socioeconomic benefit that many countries profit from. Switzerland’s multilingualism accounts for 10% of its GDP, while Great Britain loses around 3.5% of its GDP annually due to poor language skills, according to the World Economic Forum. Bilingual children’s programs will help American children develop second language skills early on. There are many advantages to multilingualism, including increased cognitive function, cultural competency, and socioeconomic status. These programs will be in both English and a chosen second language, leading to a multilingual future workforce while boosting entertainment industry jobs. 

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Momnibus Plus

The Doula Care Access and Reimbursement Act

Staff Members: Sabrina Movitz, Ryan Houser, and Alyssa Stucke

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Up until this point, U.S. maternal mortality rates, especially for Black Americans, have received substantial publicity without substantial action. One solution gaining traction is the potential for doulas, also known as midwives, to lower these rates and close the racial health equity gap. Doulas form a relationship with the pregnant person that ideally begins early in pregnancy and extends long after a baby is born, thus patching some of the “gaps” that exist within the fragmented American medical system. Studies have proven that doulas improve healthy birthing outcomes, lower rates of C-sections, and lower the delivery costs for both hospitals and pregnant people. Unfortunately, those that are most vulnerable to maternal mortality due to their low-income status are the people least able to access doula care, as it is not reimbursed federally through Medicaid. Our policy group advocates for nationwide reimbursement of doula care through Medicaid to save the lives of pregnant people while saving money for the medical system.