published July 24, 2013

Reflection on Science and Human Rights Coalition Meeting

Katherine Picchione, Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Katherine Picchione, a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), represented WPI and NCSCE at the recent Science and Human Rights Coalition meeting at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Originally from Albany, NY, Ms. Picchione is a rising sophomore at WPI, double majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Society, Technology, and Policy.


Two months ago, I received an email from my academic advisor at WPI asking if I was interested in attending the Science and Human Rights Coalition at the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a 'student delegate' for SENCER and the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement. (NCSCE is a member of the Coalition Council, one of 35 such institutions in the core membership.) With very little insight as to what that meant, I eagerly agreed. Now, after two days immersed in the intersection of the social and natural sciences in Washington D.C., the heart of political activity, I realize I have become part of a community with a laser beam focus on promoting a paradigm where science is inseparable from basic human rights.

Needless to say, participating in the Coalition has been an eye opening-experience. Throughout the plenary lectures and breakout meetings, I gained a deep, critical understanding of complex issues that relate science and human rights: ensuring access to new technologies in both local and remote parts of the world, spreading knowledge through open-sourced science literature while protecting publishers, preserving intellectual property rights, and securing other basic rights for all people through science and scientific applications. I also had the remarkable opportunity to, as a student, be exposed to the vibrating level of thought, energy, efficiency, and motivation found within an organization that is working diligently to make the world a better place. I was able to connect with professionals and other students who share interests and passions, yet bring unique experiences to build upon.

One incredible part of being a student delegate to the Coalition through SENCER and NCSCE is that I will continue to be involved over the coming year (and remaining three years of college as well). I joined the Education and Information Resources working group, which aims to provide reading material on, communicate to the public about, and reform school curricula to include an aspect of human rights in science classes. At the January Coalition meeting, the working groups will meet again, and I look forward to taking part in the progress. After spending meaningful time with Dean Karen Oates and David Burns, I also anticipate working closely with SENCER and WPI to spread awareness on campus and in science and engineering classes.

Overall, I consider my experience at the Science and Human Rights Coalition to be enlightening, uplifting, and invaluable. In the coming months, I expect to further engage in this active and progressive community.