Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton visits Cornell
On Friday May 12th, 2017, Cornell’s graduate-student-run group Advancing Science and Policy (ASAP) hosted a round table discussion and lab tours with New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who shared her experiences learning from and working with scientific community members to understand and communicate environmental issues such as hydrofracking to her constituents. The visit was part of ASAP’s "Take a Politician to Work Day" project, which invites staffers and policy makers to learn more about cutting-edge research being done on campus through customized lab tours and informal conversations with students on the future of science in public policy.
At the roundtable discussion Ms. Lifton described her path to office, from being a high school English teacher to becoming an environmental champion and anti-fracking advocate. She described her efforts to support campus climate, farming, and environmental initiatives and to translate these into larger community and state-level policies. These efforts included working extensively with the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions Group as well as individual professors at Cornell such as Robert Howarth to develop science-based policy for various environmental and energy problems. She also talked about a need to support sciences at the state level such as through continued support and growth of programs such as NYSTEM. As someone heavily invested in community and state programs to support science, education, and diversity initiatives, Ms. Lifton was excited to see so many women and minority scientists represented at Cornell and student-run programs like Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) and ASAP that are geared toward motivating scientists into community action through policy and advocacy.
In addition to the roundtable discussion, Ms. Lifton toured four labs, including Lawrence Bonassar’s Musculoskeletal Tissue Regeneration Lab (Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering), the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions Group (College of Agriculture & Life Science), Robert Howarth's ecosystem science, biogeochemistry, and Marcellus shale lab (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), and Lynden Archer’s metal-air batteries and carbon capturing lab.
ASAP is a graduate-student group dedicated to training STEM researchers and graduate students to share the value and significance of their work with policy makers. Members develop skills and professional networks through regular workshops, faculty chats, and invited speakers, learning to communicate with policy makers and the general public about the role of scientific input in advancing policy and society. The group supports writing initiatives, organizes trips to DC or Albany, meet with policy makers, and advocate for issues of interest. Meinig School associate professor Chris Schaffer, who has worked as a science policy advisor in the United States Congress, is a faculty advisor to the group, and ASAP’s “Take a Politician to Work Day” project is led by Meinig School Ph.D. student Leah Pagnozzi.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton represents the 125th Assembly District, which includes all of Tompkins County, the City of Cortland and the towns of Cortlandville, Virgil, Harford and Lapeer in Cortland County. First elected in 2002, Ms. Lifton is now in her seventh term.
Photographs by Suzanne Aceti Koehl and Azul Pinochet Barros