March for Science: Students highlight importance of science in society

Science advocates and enthusiasts gathered in Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles Saturday to bring awareness to the importance of science in different aspects of society, calling for evidence-based policy-making and encouraging young people to engage with science.

Design by Karan Nevatia | Daily Trojan

This year’s March for Science Los Angeles did not include an actual march. Rather, it was a rally in Pershing Square with various speakers. Ralliers held signs with slogans like “You can’t comb over climate change,” “The oceans are rising and so are we” and “Science is not fake news.”

The rally also featured an exposition with booths on display for attendees. The booths featured different science experts, booths with physics games for children and voter registration drives for the upcoming midterm elections.

Speakers focused on different aspects of science in the community, including the role of science in policy-making, science as a tool to reduce gun violence and the idea that “we are all scientists.” Carlos Gutierrez, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Cal State Los Angeles, said science brings people to ask questions, and allows them to regain their voices.

“I march for science because science belongs to all of us, not only to professional scientists,” Gutierrez said. “If you can ask a question, imagine possible answers and let evidence guide you to the most likely solution, you are a scientist.”

USC Keck School of Medicine professor Mona Patel, who practices as a physician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, spoke about the importance of science to inform policy.

In December, President Donald Trump’s administration banned the Center for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words in their reports, including “diversity,” “transgender,” “evidence-based” and “fetus.” Patel spoke of the need to use these words in official reports.

“These are core words that we use in science every single day […] that can affect grant-making and research and further initiatives to really promote and continue science,” Patel said. “We shouldn’t be making policy without evidence and data.”

One of the speakers, Yadira Valadez, serves as the ambassador for TechnoloCHICAS, a company that empowers Latinas to work in the technology field. At the event, Valadez spoke about the need for intersectionality and inclusivity of young people in science.

“This is a call to action to leaders across all fields to recognize the power of our youth,” Valadez said. “Technology should be compassionate and our youth have the ability to be catalysts of the change we all here presently are demanding.”

A large portion of the event was focused on engaging the younger generation of attendees. Booths demonstrating what “fake science” looks like as well as games demonstrating the basic laws of physics are just a few examples of how the rally catered to children and young people.

A group of students from Diamond Bar High School worked a booth with games to encourage children to learn about physics through fun activities. Rajvir Dua, a high school senior who plans to attend USC in the fall, believes it is important for children to interact with science.

“When most people think of science, especially physics, there’s a lot of stigma that it’s for universities or professors or some really complicated rocket scientist,” Dua said. “The simple principles are applicable in everyday life and it’s very simple for little kids to understand.”

Many children were present with signs of their own. Anahita Sanati, an art teacher and yoga instructor, brought her 7-year-old daughter Olivia to experience the rally.

“It brings my child here and she can tell other children,” Sanati said. “It opens awareness and more minds and maybe through our experiences, we can inspire others to think before they vote.”

Sanati said it is important for people to vote with consideration of science-based evidence. She brought her daughter to show her that there are like-minded people who will stand up for what they believe is right. Olivia Sanati said she likes science and is inspired by her grandfather, who worked as a chemical engineer.

“It’s fun mixing stuff up and making a mess,” she said. “I might actually be a chemical engineer when I grow up.”