The Power to Change Science
Donna J. Nelson
Chemical and Engineering News featured an article last week about the retirement of Rep. Vern Ehlers. A former physics professor, Ehlers has championed science policy and education in the House of Representatives for years.
Ehlers became involved with Donna J. Nelson, one of the interviewees for CHF’s Women in Chemistry Oral History Project, through his involvement with the Congressional Science and Technology Committee. In her interview, Nelson recounted meeting with Ehlers and discussing her National Level Surveys detailing the dearth of women and minority professors in the sciences:
“After you have a few conversations with those people…I mean, they are really knowledgeable. It made me feel so much more secure knowing that people like that are in charge of our country. I mean, he is just great. I realized that he knew so much more than I did about this, even though I was sitting here in this department. And when I was talking to him about these surveys, I was trying to figure out what to do. And I don’t know if he read my mind or not, but he said, ‘Donna.’ He said, ‘You have the power to change science.’ He said, ‘You have the power to do this, to change science now, and for the rest of time. You have this in your power.’”
Ehlers had an enormous impact on Nelson’s decision to publicize her surveys. In turn those surveys have impacted people all over the country. The survey results were picked up by news services nationwide, but Nelson explained in her oral history that she had not been able to anticipate the impact she and her survey work would have. Read more about them in her oral history.