A viable approach to increasing STEM starts with empathy
Research Funding and the Future of Scientific Invention
From his post at the head of the government research department ARPA-E, Majumdar thinks so. The group funds some of the most imaginative and ambitious scientists in the world. The centerpiece of Majumdar's talk was a presentation on "a few chapters in the ARPA-E story," a handful of scientists who are paving the way toward energy sustainability. These are futuristic thinkers, but Majumdar was eager to connect them to the past.
He framed their research in the context of a long history of American ingenuity, showing slides of such innovators as the Wright brothers and the inventor of the polio vaccine James Salk. He also framed it as part of a global competition. "The world is hungry for alternative solutions to energy. Make no mistake: there's a global race going on to seize this opportunity," he said.
The next and final speaker was Nobel Prize Laureate Peter Agre, the Johns Hopkins University scientist who took home the honor in 2003 for his discovery of aquaporins, a plumbing system in cells. His outlook on scientific opportunity was less positive than Majumdar's.
Agre dwelled on the sober financial realities of research science and the "prohibitive" cost of running a research university. "Our best and brightest young scientists can't get started," said Agre. When The Atlantic's Steve Clemons asked Agre for two or three things the federal government could do to advance science and technology, Agre offered only one: "A stable source of predictable funding."
It's a strange feeling, sitting in a room with a Nobel Laureate. But the bottom line is, Agre is just a person. In fact, behind all the technologies and innovations that will propel us toward what's to come are people -- innovators and inventors, thinkers, dreamers, boundary breakers. Investing in the future means investing in them.
- A love of all things innovation is what first drew Laura to Ashoka, where she works to identify and connect leading social entrepreneurs--innovators applying new solutions to some of the oldest and most entrenched societal problems. She also serves as managing editor of Ashoka's StartEmpathy, the forthcoming online home of a movement focusing on educational innovation. Before coming to Ashoka, Laura worked as Communications Director of a mobile health technology start up building products to bring primary care into the 21st century.
Learning about innovation from the DIY solutions of hobbled citizens