Zachary Landau | Asst. Editor Editor
Five thousand people gathered in front of the Cathedral of Learning April 22 for the Pittsburgh satellite March for Science. The event mirrored more than 500 marches across the country.
The purpose of these marches was, according to the March’s official site, to advocate for science during a time when it is “at risk.”
“The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity,” the March’s official site read. “We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”
Speakers at the Pittsburgh satellite march echoed this mission while tapping into the local history of science and innovation in the city.
Lance Davidson, an associate professor and Wellington C. Carl Faculty Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, referenced the landmark expedition of Lewis and Clark in his speech.
“Historically, Pittsburgh was the place for high tech,” Davidson said. “It was the place that Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to get outfitted with the latest in technology. They came to Pittsburgh … to get outfitted with an iron keelboat that would take them to the West.”
Both the national and Pittsburgh march also addressed politics, addressing issues such as funding and diversity in the STEM fields.
Davidson, for example, credits, “activists, progressives and forward-thinking politicians,” for creating the opportunities for him to be inspired by science.
“If I had lived 100 years ago, there would have been no chance for me to be a scientist,” Davidson said.
Kelauni Cook, co-director and co-instructor for Academy Pittsburgh Beta Builders, a free high school coding boot camp for Pittsburgh’s underrepresented youth, emphasized the social needs that science fields still face, including equal opportunity and access.
“This is not just a march for the recognition and the importance of science,” Cook said. “It has to be a march for the equity and access to science as well. It has to be a march for those little black kids in Homewood, and it has to be a march for those little refugee girls on the hilltop who are looking at the stars and wondering how they are going to build a rocket ship out of cardboard boxes.”
Others attended the Pittsburgh March for more personal reasons. Murrysville high school students Evan, Ana and Maddie marched because of the current trend in politics and society of rejecting science and research.
“The denial of scientific facts and the denial of research science has proven, we realized, is a problem [sic],” Evan said, “and we want to be a part of making a difference.”
The students are expecting to enter STEM programs next year at colleges and universities, and feel a personal connection to changes in the political climate surrounding science.
“Everything is based off of science,” Ana argued, “and disregarding it is ridiculous.”
Some marchers credit science for more than just their careers, but for their lives.
Retired nurse Susan Cox, for example, was 41 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and accredits her survival, and the continued health of her family, to science. She also said her time spent in the practice of medicine inspired her to participate in the march.
“Being a nurse, I participated in a lot of regulations and studies for patients in my work, and I helped do research for the surgeon I worked for. I’m here today because of my husband… He’s here because of science. He has congestive heart failure, and he has a defibrillator/pacemaker.”
Cox continued to work in the medical field fighting cancer as a nurse for breast surgeons and radiographers, as well as helped form the Y-ME hotline for women to talk to other breast cancer survivors.