This year’s Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists spent time on Capitol Hill during Finals Week in Washington, D.C., meeting with government officials and Regeneron executives who work at the intersection of STEM and government. “After a week of learning from scientists and researchers, it was interesting to learn about another perspective of science at the Regeneron Congressional Panel,” shared finalist Ariella Blackman. “I hadn’t considered the impact government has on science, but now I know about the importance of collaboration between scientists and policymakers to achieve mutual goals.”
Laura Peter, former Director of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Lyndon Mitnaul, Senior Director, Regeneron Genetics Center; Greg Downing, former Executive Director for Innovation at Health and Human Services and John Neal, former Congressional Staffer, specializing in space policy, held round- table conversations with finalists focused on topics including diversity in patent holders, diversity in genomic sequencing, science policy, space exploration and more.
Laura advised finalists on the importance of the innovation ecosphere saying, “Diversity is so essential. Bringing together everyone available who can contribute to innovation, especially women and people from underrepresented communities, can lead to further progress and keep our country in the lead globally.”
She went on to emphasize the importance of protecting one’s intellectual property through patents, working with people who can push STEM forward through innovation, while communicating that work to the public.
Lyndon stressed the need to bring more diversity to genetics research, saying “Diversity in genetics is very important for what we do in science, from discovery to development. Science spans across a lot of different disciplines.”
When asked how scientists can increase trust in genetics research from underrepresented groups, Lyndon encouraged finalists to provide resources and show the value of participation to groups who may be skeptical and allow those groups to feel empowered to make their own educated decisions.
Greg discussed how science policy can help society with the finalists. “You are the voice of how science can benefit society, so when you’re in the halls of Congress, remember you are part of that future,” he shared. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. It is important for you to stake out the work that you’re doing as part of the future, and by bringing entrepreneurship inside government, you can change the ideas and space in which you work.”
He encouraged the finalists to recognize their mentors and keep in touch with them, and to pay it forward for the next generation of scientists.
In addition to speaking on the importance of cybersecurity within the government, John touched on why space exploration is necessary for the advancement of STEM. “Going to space is high-risk, but the point of space exploration is to explore, research and do things that we can’t do on Earth,” he said. “Healthcare product testing being done on the International Space Station will help scientists on Earth further STEM advancement.”
John is optimistic that advancements in space exploration will enable astronauts to return to the moon, bring space tourism closer to reality, and possibly even facilitate human missions to Mars during the lifetime of the finalists.
Finalist Michelle Hua shared how eye opening the panel was, “There are diverse paths one can take in STEM, from technology policy to genetics. I loved hearing about the paths the panelists took and what discoveries and advancements they made along their journey.”
“The Regeneron Congressional panel was a lot of fun!” said finalist Ethan Zhou. “Getting to talk to esteemed scientists who do policy work in D.C. is a rare opportunity, and I learned so much through our conversations.”
Learn more about the 2023 Regeneron Science Talent Search finalists at the Society’s Virtual Public Exhibition of Projects. If you missed the Awards Ceremony, head to the Society’s YouTube page to watch the top winners be announced.