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Baker Report: Why science matters

March 3, 2016

Super Science Tuesday logoPolitics basked in the spotlight Tuesday – Super Tuesday – as the seven candidates vying to occupy the Oval Office for the next four years gained some clarity of where their efforts stand.

Amid the stump speeches and the victory speeches, however, one message communicated Tuesday voiced not only genuine optimism for tomorrow but also illuminated the path to get there.

NIU, in partnership with The Science Coalition and three other universities, participated in the inaugural Super Science Tuesday initiative. Videos released this week were created at each campus, allowing students and faculty to explain to the presidential candidates why science matters.

Leaders of the Super Science Tuesday effort are working to reach not only the White House hopefuls but the voters who will choose our nation’s new leader in November.

Jerry Blazey, our interim vice president of Research and Innovation Partnerships and a physicist by training, articulates the movement quite succinctly: “Scientific research has never been more imperative than today. Modern science holds the key to solving some of the biggest energy, environment, health and security challenges facing our country and world.”

I am extraordinarily proud of what I saw and heard from NIU – talk of uncovering new antibiotics, of developing new therapies for cancer patients, of going to Mars, of inspiring students to careers of innovation and discovery – and urge everyone to watch and share these videos.

Our students comport themselves well.

Erin Garza, a Ph.D. candidate in microbiology, points out that “the research we’re doing here at Northern Illinois University could help find alternative fuel sources for the future.”

Sherine Elsawa

Click on the photo of NIU biology professor Sherine Elsawa to watch
her tell U.S. presidential candidates why science matters.

Jordan Brown, a sophomore majoring in engineering and manufacturing technology, says that science “improves the safety and performance of vehicles on the road.”

Sophomore biochemistry major Thimoro Chang offers an intriguing and gratifying answer: “Science attracts students from all over the world to America. I came here from Cambodia to pursue my education because of the world-class quality I can get, especially in the scientific field.”

My thanks and congratulations to Anna Quider, our director of federal relations, for her work in adding NIU’s voice to this important national conversation. Anna, who recently was elected secretary of The Science Coalition’s board of directors, truly understands the vital need to advocate for research and to secure the dollars that fund it.

Her beliefs are shared deeply on this campus.

As we march toward the November election, please know that NIU will continue to do its part in advancing science.

We will continue to provide opportunities for NIU undergraduates to conduct research alongside their professors. We will continue to aggressively promote STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – to capture the attention of young people and nurture their interest in those careers. We will begin – and continue – to make NIU engineering degrees available in Rockford, transforming lives and the manufacturing economy there.

Ultimately, though, as Thimoro Chang has wisely reminded us, this campaign is neither local nor national but global.

Science matters to our entire planet – and America’s embrace of that notion will position us to lead the world to a brighter future.


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