Science in the Lives of Students: A Particle Physicist’s Endeavor

Ajinkya Kamat is a Ph.D. candidate at U.Va. specializing in Particle Physics who has just joined the OpenGrounds Science Straight Up project, a new initiative that OpenGrounds has adopted aiming to promote informal conversation and dialogue about exciting scientific ideas in Charlottesville. Kamat will be speaking at the OpenGrounds studio Nov. 2o at 5:30 pm about the role of particle physics (and other sciences) in the lives of all students– from babies to senior citizens.
For more info, check out our Science Straight Up site:
984230_339883556182889_3003048469284949072_n Last year, Mr. Kamat attended the SOtL (Science Outside of the Lab) two weeks conference, which has inspired him with ideas on science education and the role of science graduate students in the nation’s science (and STEM education) policy.
Research in many fields of fundamental sciences, like particle physics, doesn’t bear a fruit for years or decades. They cannot show a product, a technology, financial or health benefits as a result of their research. Hence, the importance of their research is not easily appreciated, beyond the appreciation as an amusing topic of pop science.  As scientists, who feel such an excitement and motivation to work in these research areas, we should take initiative in communicating about our research and its importance to public audiences. To keep advancing the science and technology research, it is essential that new students, researchers join the research community. It is possible only if we reach out to public audiences, the kids and share with them our excitement about science. We need to convey to them what it is in the “bigger picture” that motivates us to pursue our research.
Below is an excerpt from a detailed article Kamat published about his experience with the SOtL workshop:
                 PART I

Over past five years of graduate studies I have seen the research funding scenario in different fields sometimes getting worse and sometimes better. I have seen it in my own research field and have also heard similar experiences of my friends and peers working in other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields including health sciences. It often made me wonder about the policy making and budgeting process that funds science and technology research. I thought, why aren’t scientists more directly involved in shaping science policy? But I have noticed that not many scientists could really engage people outside their field of expertise in discussions about their research and importance of their research. This creates a communication gap not only between public, policy makers and scientists, but also between researchers in varied branches of STEM.

At least a broad outlook to the field of science policy is in order here – this field encompasses policies and policymaking processes that influence the conduct of STEM research and its applications; it also includes science outreach, advocacy and lobbying activities that affect and are affected by STEM related policies. In this article I hope to convey a more detailed picture of the field and different opportunities in it.

It was just a few months since I had seriously started thinking about the field of science policy, policymaking process and science communication. I had started following STEM policbubble-203x300y news; I would read and reflect about interplay between science policy, funding and advancement of STEM and, thus, of the society. I attended AAAS’s (American Association for Advancement of Science) “Communicating Science to Public” seminar and workshop that was organized at UVA in Spring 2014. Then through one of the newsletter emails at UVA, I came across a unique science policy immersion program “ Science Outside the Lab” (SOtL) organized by Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) at the Arizona State University. It was a two weeks program beginning in the last week of May, in Washington D.C. – where all the policymaking stuff happens. I noticed that this program is also listed in the list of science policy programs on the website of AAAS. I looked at it as a next step in comprehending the field of science policy, little I knew that I would also get to learn so much about such a wide spectrum of job opportunities available in science policy!

When I set foot on the campus of George Washington University, I decided to keep an open mind of a learner, ready to soak in all the knowledge one can in next two weeks. I got introduced to my SOtL classmates and I was happy to find out that all of them were also graduate students and experts from a very wide range of fields like biochemistry, decision making, informal STEM education, civil, chemical engineering, emerging
technology, sustainability, renewable energy technologies, etc. From my classmates I learned a great deal about issues, concerns (technical as well as at the policy level) in their fields of research, their shortterm, longterm potentials and ramifications – something I knew very little about. They were also very interested in knowing about particle physics, my research and its potentials, as (being a theoretical particle physicist) my area of research was quite different from theirs. I loved to share my knowledgeScience-policy-wordle with them and I also took it up as a challenge to engage researchers from entirely different areas of expertise in discussions about particle physics and what my notion of the role of the field was in advancement of science, technology and society. All these discussions soon started to build a big picture of the world of science, policy issues, which I think was a most suitable state of mind to get started at SOtL.


Mr. Kamat’s page:

To read the rest of his paper, see: