My 10-year plan never included completing my PhD and running for elected office at the same time, but I’ve never been averse to a challenge.
I’ve always been a scientist: in fifth grade my best friend and I swabbed our school lunch tables to see what bacteria grew there. Our teacher, principal and any other adult who came to the science fair that year were horrified. And I will always be a scientist: my decade of formal training entrenched strong neural connections of scientific thinking and an appreciation for large data sets. But lately, I’ve come to believe that being a scientist is about more than experiments and data. Being a scientist means speaking truth in public and empowering leaders to make scientifically informed decisions.
While working toward my doctorate in pharmacology at the University of Washington, I found communities striving to make a better world. These communities helped me to dive deep into both policy and justice. I helped to found Seattle 500 Women Scientists, where we are building trusted scientific voices to reach the public and breaking down barriers for those traditionally marginalized in STEM fields, because access to science is a social justice issue. I co-founded the Washington Science Policy Network to facilitate conversations between communities and scientists about evidence-based policy across our state. At UW, I’m an organizer and executive board member with UAW 4121, a union of over 5,500 academic student employees and postdocs, to fight for better pay, access to health care and stronger protections against harassment. Each of these groups taught me that we are stronger together and to face challenges straight on.
I bring all these identities to the table: scientist, labor organizer and activist for womxn in STEM, as I enter the race for City Council in Seattle’s Fourth District.
I’m running for City Council because I believe our biggest challenges—climate change, economic inequality, housing shortages and homelessness, addiction and substance abuse, womxn’s rights—need scientifically informed policies to make sustainable, lasting change. I believe that putting data and research into practice can propel and foster a more progressive, equitable city and country for all.
We are in a time of unprecedented scientific and technological innovation, and we need leaders that are capable of stewarding policies to reflect this. 2018 saw a wave of scientists gain electoral victories at the state and federal level, giving us a voice in conversations we have been left out of for too long. In order to address our most critical challenges, we need scientifically minded leaders at all levels of decision making, including local government. Letting political whims determine the policies that shape our lives for generations hasn’t worked; in fact, it’s left too many people out in the proverbial cold (even as temperatures steadily rise).
We’re building our vision for Seattle based on principles I’ve learned in my scientific training: by observing our city, identifying problems and priorities, collecting data from experts and constituents, and developing policy ideas that we’ll vet based on rigorous assessment.
As a woman in STEM, I’m often told that I’m courageous, unique, or “so smart” for choosing this career and “more girls should know they can do it too!” Those messages ignore the reality that many womxn who pursue STEM fields leave due to harassment and bullying. I was almost one of them. However, with the support of a network of scientists and allies, I have found my voice. I know the courage it takes to speak out against institutions and policies that weren’t made for us or by us, and to advocate for the most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities, the communities whose voices, needs and solutions continue to go ignored.
As a labor organizer for UAW 4121 at the University of Washington; a woman and feminist in STEM; and a leader in promoting scientifically informed policymaking, I am building a grassroots movement that calls for evidence-based policies that center on human rights. I am running for Seattle City Council because all Seattleites deserve leadership that listens to their needs, looks at the evidence and creates actionable change. It’s time Seattle brings a scientist to the table. I am that scientist.
Seattle is truly a city of innovation and technology, but those innovations are still operating for the few, not the many, and I plan to work to change that. Our governor is planning to run for the presidency on a climate-change platform, which demonstrates the urgency many of us feel to take action on climate. But Seattleites need local solutions too. Our city needs to confront homelessness and substance addiction by giving voice to those affected by these problems and by working toward evidence-based solutions.
I know interventions that save lives, like safe consumption sites, have not been implemented because of racist policies and fear despite overwhelming evidence of their effectiveness. I’ll prioritize expanding childcare in the workplace, because studies show that making childcare accessible and affordable can reduce inequality. Our city has begun providing low-barrier supportive housing because it is known to improve outcomes for chronically homeless people, and I will work to expand upon this data-driven solution.
We’re just getting started collecting data and learning what’s best for our district and our city, and, like any scientist at the start of a big new project, I simply cannot wait to jump in.