Advocating for science

Danny Miller, PhD

Last fall, Danny Miller, an MD-PhD student in Scott Hawley’s lab, participated in “Hill Day” as part of the semi-annual trek to Capitol Hill sponsored by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Public Affairs Advisory Committee. Hill Day is an opportunity for a select group of young postdocs and students to deliver a pro-science message to congressional representatives and their staff members. 

A thoughtful and unassuming young researcher, Miller is a passionate and strong advocate for science and science education. So it is no surprise that he jumped at the chance to talk directly with representatives drafting and voting on legislation that impacts the future of science in our country.

As part of the ASBMB brigade of young scientists marching up the hill, Miller carried with him a message for his Midwest representatives. “Don’t cut science funding is what it boiled down to,” says Miller. Miller’s approach with his representatives was one of education itself. “I tried to explain to them the value of biomedical research and well-funded research programs on human health.”

While Miller was cordially welcomed by all representatives and staff—even a few well-versed in research and science—he found some of his interactions a bit discouraging. “Most of our elected officials have little or no background in science,” Miller shares, “and they have no fundamental understanding of how a scientific research program works.” 

A chance interaction on the flight home from Capitol Hill provided Miller yet another opportunity to educate a fellow citizen on the value of scientific research. When the conversation veered to Miller’s profession and his trip’s purpose, his fellow passenger complained that she just didn’t understand why government funds should be used for things like fruit fly research. 

Miller spent time explaining the fundamental genetic similarities between humans and fruit flies and how what we learn from flies often can be applied to human health. His efforts were rewarded when the woman thanked him and said, “No one ever explained that before. Now I understand it.” In the end, Miller scored at least one small victory advocating for science.