Graduate students spend years conducting research that can be used to improve the quality of life and environment in California. On April 28, graduate students from across the ten UC campuses and President Janet Napolitano met at the state capitol to discuss the impact of their work with legislators. Berkeley doctoral students, Rachel Golden and Andre Carrel, joined Graduate Division Dean, Fiona Doyle, and Michelle Moskowitz, Director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations in the Office of Government and Community Relations at UC Berkeley, on the 6th annual Graduate Research Advocacy Day.
As a student in the Goldman School of Public Policy and the Energy and Resources Group, Golden focuses on policies that are needed to clean up the transportation sector. Carrel is a civil engineering Ph.D. candidate who analyzes the link between quality of service, rider satisfaction and retention on public transportation.
In Sacramento, Carrel and Golden shared their insights and lent their expertise about transportation legislation and policy to staff members from the Assembly and Senate. Janet Dawson, Chief Consultant on the Assembly Transportation Committee, noted the significance of the students visit.
“We need all of you to help us figure out how to solve the many complex transportation issues facing our state,” Dawson said.
“I’m looking forward to connecting with your Graduate School of Public Policy, so we can begin to engage with graduate students on a regular basis. It makes perfect sense,” she added.
Carrel agrees that graduate students should be used as a resource to help lawmakers improve infrastructures. “The UC system is a great resource they can leverage if they need subject-matter experts,” he says. As part of his school research, Carrel contributed to a large-scale transportation study in San Francisco, where he distributed a smartphone survey app to hundreds of participants. Carrel then used the data to learn about passengers’ travel patterns and how it related to their experiences on public transportation.
He merits the support and mentorship that he received at Berkeley for allowing him to tackle large projects that could be used to help improve the state’s transit system. The Graduate Research Advocacy Day granted him the opportunity to express the need for student researchers.
“UC Berkeley has an important role in developing and retaining a talented workforce in California, but it needs adequate funding to fulfill that role,” Carrel says.
Golden also credits her classes and instructors at Berkeley for providing her with insight about issues in California. She is currently developing solutions that could help reduce greenhouse emissions. Golden’s work focuses on the Central Valley, where there is an abundance of older vehicles and limited access to public transportation. She proposes that people retrofit old cars to be electric-powered, or that the state offer a low-income loan program so that drivers can purchase energy efficient cars.
Golden values the chance to collaborate with lawmakers and thinks that the Graduate Research Advocacy Day helps bridge the gap between research and implementation.
“It’s important for legislators to see graduate students in the different labs at Berkeley as a resource,” she says, “and for students to see how their research can have policy impacts.”
To learn more about the Graduate Research Advocacy Day, visit the University of California website.