Wednesday, January 25, 2012

State of the Union on Science

As many of you know, President Obama gave the State of the Union address last night. I, of course, was listening for the word "science." He made some interesting statements and I would like to sum them up here.

First off, I'm very glad he mentioned it and not in the context of cutting the budget. The first thing that made me and hopefully the scientific community applaude was his commitment to funding basic scientific research. Basic research is almost always on the chopping block. It is often ridiculed like the "shrimp on a treadmill" incident. However, in the State of the Union Mr. Obama highlighted the great things that come from this type of research including better cancer treatments and bullet proof vests that keep cops safe. As a scientist, this makes me breath a bit of a sigh of relief, at least the big guy is behind us.

"Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched. New lightweight vests for cops and soldiers that can stop any bullet. Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future. Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries."

He then brought science back around to the issue of job creation. He pointed out a very important fact, that there are two times as many tech jobs as there are qualified people to fill them. This is a problem but there is a solution, train people to do those jobs. Luckily there are people out their doing just that. Mr. Obama mentioned several specific groups, but I instantly thought of one of our LaserFest partners, Op-Tech. Groups such as these train people to be laser (or other types of) technicians, filling innumerable empty jobs.

In general he highlighted science and science education and training in the context of job creation. Seeing as he is up for reelction it was no shock that he focused so much on creating jobs, but it was neat to have him show the direct link between science and scientific research and job creation. It is often difficult to see how atom smashing and understanding crystal structure can lead to new technology and a better economy. I am glad that a politician, particularly the one leading the country, very clearly stated this in such a clear way.

But I was sad there was no mention of "human-animal hybrids," "the value of every life" or "our creator." Darn, I guess a speech like that only happens once in a lifetime.


  1. Was the headline a play on words I didn't recognize? "Sate" of the Union?