Adam Navara centers advocacy and communication to promote sound science policymaking
Adam Navara is a Bioengineering PhD student at Rice University, a Texas Science Policy Fellow, and an active member of Rice Science Policy Network.
What is your research about?
I study bioink design for 3D printing constructs to help regenerate bone and cartilage tissue within the Department of Bioengineering here at Rice. Specifically I try to design these really soft, jelly-like polymers called hydrogels so that they can be 3D printed into small, detailed structures that will keep cells alive and induce them to grow into bone or cartilage. It mostly involves me hunched over a 3D printer, squinting at these little fibers, and shaking my head in frustration that they don’t look the same way they did yesterday.
What are you working on currently as a Texas Science Policy Fellow?
Due to COVID restrictions in the State Capitol, it was almost impossible to know what the legislative session would look like or to place us within government offices. It was thanks to the Herculean effort by our director, Melody Tan, that we even had a fellowship at all this year. We ended up collaborating with a wonderful organization based in Texas, the Immunization Partnership, which advocates for science-backed vaccination policies. We aided them in their lobbying efforts by preparing memos regarding proposed legislation and transcribing previous discussions at public hearings. One of the bills we supported, which required the Department of State Health Services to include racial data on immunization records during emergencies to ensure equitable vaccine access, was eventually signed into law. This work is culminating in myself and my co-fellows preparing a written report on the COVID vaccine rollout in Texas, the role data infrastructure played for better or for worse, and ways to improve it in the future, which we hope to publish with the Baker Institute at Rice.
Are there any other science policy projects you’re working on?
Our campus NSPN chapter, Rice Science Policy Network, was founded in Summer 2020 so I’m interested in seeing how we can continue to grow our chapter’s footprint and interact with our community. There are a few accomplishments from this past year we can be proud of: two of our members, Kathryn Brink and Shubham Tripathi, published an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle and we also collaborated with the Baker Institute to host a talk on climate policy, which was headed and moderated by Jordin Metz. In addition, I helped produce infographics regarding COVID to share Texas-specific information regarding the pandemic. Science policy ultimately plays a large role in Houston: it’s the energy capital of the nation, while also suffering from the effects of climate change due to its location on the Gulf Coast. It also has the world’s largest medical center and is the most diverse city in America. There’s a lot of potential for important science policy projects, so it’s just a matter of getting our feet under us and diving headfirst into it.
How did you become interested in science policy?
I’ve been interested in government and politics for a while, so I participated in a seminar focused on science policy with the Baker Institute in the spring of 2020. We learned about federal-level science policy and advocacy and prepared one-pagers that we used to lobby Congressional offices for increased federal funding of basic scientific research. Then COVID hit and all of a sudden science policy was front and center in our everyday lives. This served as a sort of accelerant to my interest because I realized that we have these incredible scientific advances, like the mRNA COVID vaccines, that don’t reach their full potential because of poor policies and poor communication. So, I became interested in working on this policy and communication half and advocating for sound science policies so that we can really squeeze every last drop of good out of our nation’s scientific efforts.
What do you like to do outside of research and science policy?
I’m a bit of a history dork as well so I listen to a lot of history audiobooks while I’m in lab, in between breaks of ABBA or Waka Flocka Flame. I also occasionally bake a loaf of bread or a batch of kolaches on the weekend and try to catch any of the Minnesota sports teams on TV.
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