August 16, 2023

UCR scientists take quick trip to the state Capitol

In 16 hours Science to Policy members met Sen. Roth and other elected officials and rode something called the Yolobus

Author: Malinn Loeung
August 16, 2023

On July 6 at 6 a.m., nine UCR doctoral candidates across STEM disciplines and three staff organizers boarded a plane headed to Sacramento, hopped on a Yolobus from the airport to the state Capitol, met with legislators and executive branch officials, and arrived back in the Inland Empire at 10 p.m. 

The travelers were part of UCR’s Science to Policy, or S2P, which trains Ph.D. students to engage with the policy-making process, guided by the vision that sound science makes policy stronger. 

Within 16 hours, the group managed to meet with 15 different agencies and elected officials, which included Sen. Richard Roth, Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, and Randy Chinn of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

S2P also attended a happy hour mixer with alumni from both UCR and the California Council on Science and Technology who work in Sacramento. 

“Our students weren't merely greeted — they were celebrated with enthusiasm by legislators, staff, and state agencies alike,” said S2P director Susan Hackwood. “This reception underscores a growing momentum — the imperative of weaving deep scientific understanding into the very fabric of our policy landscape.”

When asked about memorable moments, the student travelers said:

“This is now my second time going up to Sacramento with UCR's S2P. Both times my favorite part has been meeting with staffers to discuss their work on developing evidence-based policy into law. While they are incredibly busy, they always make time to discuss our research and answer any questions we have about the legislative process.” - Sarah Bobardt, sixth-year, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics, S2P co-chair

“The Sacramento trip was an incredible opportunity to meet with junior and senior scientists working across senate and assembly committees and regulatory agencies working in valuable areas, related and unrelated to my own work. I’m continually impressed with how honest and candid both representatives and the supporting scientist-background consultants are with their work, and especially appreciative of their willingness to make the time to talk with us as openly as they did.” - Ryan Drover, fourth-year, chemical and environmental engineering, S2P cabinet

“Visiting Sacramento was an excellent opportunity to meet with some of the folks making important steps towards improving California. I was able to talk with legislators and staff from across the aisle and learn about the important legislation being worked on right now. My favorite part of the trip was speaking with folks from CalEPA and learning how policy is executed to safeguard environments and communities in the state.” - Elijah Hall, fifth-year, ecology

“The Sacramento trip was a very spectacular experience for me since I met policymakers in action. I had a chance to visit their offices and talk to their staffers about my ideas and listen to their perspectives face-to-face.” - Reza Monadi, sixth-year, physics

“Two exciting meetings were with Assemblymember Garcia who invited us on the house floor. We talked for over 30 minutes about our program, the importance of science in policy-making, and emerging policy issues that he is interested in. We were also invited to the California Research Bureau by the director, Tom Negrete, and had a fascinating conversation about how to translate science and break down complex subjects in a way that is relevant to policymakers.” - Jenna Roper, final-year, bioengineering, co-chair of S2P student cabinet

“Visiting Sacramento with S2P to meet with state legislators and staffers was an incredibly enriching experience. There is a huge need for more data-driven public policy, and seeing firsthand how interested policymakers are in the perspective of scientists for this goal was very encouraging. Additionally, learning more about the policy goals of Sacramento has given me a fresh perspective on my own field of research.” - Colin Todd, fourth-year, microbiology & plant pathology, S2P symposium committee chair 

Now that they are back on campus, members will continue planning the 2023-24 programming for S2P’s next cohort.

Science to Policy offers STEM Ph.D. candidates:

  • Certificate Course: 10-week crash course on public policy for STEM Ph.D. students
  • Policy Pitch Competitions: students give a five-minute shark tank-style presentation, proposing a creative policy solution to a local issue
  • Fellowships: graduates of the Certificate Course are placed in local offices to serve
  • Travel: bi-annual trips to the state capital to meet staffers and experience how policy is made 

Doug Brown, S2P associate director, said, “These types of trips enable our students to get a feel for what working in a policy-focused environment is really all about. We hope in the future to be able to include a visit to Washington D.C. for a similar experience.”

Upcoming opportunities:

  • Fill out an interest form for the winter 2023 Certificate Course
  • UCR is hosting the National Science Policy Symposium on April 12-14, 2023. This three-day symposium includes: professional development opportunities, science policy panels, expert speakers, interactive, skill-building workshops, networking, career fair, science policy poster session, science policy flash talks, and more.

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