Thursday, May 23

UCLA community shares motivations for attending March for Science

(Harishwer Balasubramani/Illustrations director)

(Harishwer Balasubramani/Illustrations director)

Faculty, researchers and students from around Southern California will take to the streets of Los Angeles on Saturday to advocate for science and create better understanding between scientists and the general public.

Thousands of people, including many from UCLA, said they want to educate people about decreases in science funding and encourage greater involvement in the field.

Stephanie Pincetl, one of the speakers at Saturday’s march and director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, said she will talk about the work her center does on cities’ resource use and its impact on resource places of origin, such as the relation between Los Angeles’ water use and the source of the city’s water.

“We quantify energy, such as electricity, natural gas and water use, in order to be able to assess our capacity for conservation,” Pincetl said. “If we don’t quantify, then we can’t develop policies and programs that help reduce the environmental and social impact that goes with creating those resource flows (from source to outlet).”

She added she decided to participate in the march because she thinks it is important to express to the public the importance of scientific knowledge.

“Science is a method of being able to understand the world we live in in a way that can help us live in that world,” Pincetl said. “I think the important point is knowing things better, whether something is quantifiable, reproducible, for better understanding.”

Megha Sehgal, a postdoctoral scholar in neurobiology, said she hopes the march will educate people about how science impacts people’s lives. She added she thinks biology research is not the only scientific field relevant to the public.

“Science is not just looking for drugs and cures to diseases,” she said. “It’s also technology, the ability to use the phone, the internet. Our day-to-day lives are impacted by science.”

Sehgal added she thinks the current political environment has contributed to a trend of declining funding for science, especially because major organizations like the National Institutes of Health are publicly funded.

“Funding for the NIH has not increased in years,” she said. “(A) small percentage (of people who go into the sciences) have access to research jobs or faculty jobs. (The field of research) is losing people because there’s no outlet (for jobs).”

Sehgal added she hopes people will tell their representatives to allocate more tax dollars for research.

Students said they heard about the march from a variety of sources and are excited to attend.

Taylor Bushman, a third-year astrophysics student, said her professor told her about the march. She added she thinks the march advocates for science in a noticeable way.

Garrett Laird, a third-year neuroscience and art history student, said he is attending the march because he is concerned about climate change and wants to find like-minded people.

“I’m not going to this march to yell, but to be around people who have the same passions,” he said. “As UCLA students, I think it’s important to have a conversation about our academic futures.”

The undergraduate student government Academic Affairs commission and general representative 3 have organized buses to transport students from UCLA to downtown Los Angeles. Buses begin loading at 6:30 a.m. at Strathmore Drive and Gayley Avenue.

Contributing reports from Mary Manukyan and Sharon Zhen, Daily Bruin staff.

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