College Hill gets a visit from Capitol Hill

Any biology-and-political-science double-concentrators hard at work in the depths of Sidney Frank Hall may have gotten a surprise treat Friday afternoon: none other than Rhode Island’s junior senator was in town and paying a visit to the building.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat elected in 2006, visited campus Friday afternoon to tour the building (better known to students as the LiSci) and meet with deans and researchers.

Included on the agenda:

  • A meeting with Dean of Medicine Edward Wing, Vice President for Research Clyde Briant, and director of Governmental Relations Tim Leshan
  • A discussion of climate change with Professor of Geological Sciences Jack Mustard and Professor of Biology Joanna Schmitt, who directs Brown’s Environmental Change Initiative

(Continued after the jump.)

Perhaps fortunately for the senator, Serio’s lab was not among the 10 cited for safety hazards over the summer, although she has been something of a poster child in the University’s recent lobbying push to secure more grant funding for its young science faculty.

The federal stimulus package that passed in the spring provided some temporary relief from the funding crunch, but because research grants are a major revenue stream for the University (they brought in nearly $120 million in fiscal 2009, according to the most recent URC report) securing access to more grants is always on the agenda of top administrators.

No doubt bringing more federal funding to Brown and Rhode Island was a major topic of discussion during Whitehouse’s meetings today; Serio was scheduled to tell Whitehouse about the challenges she faces in seeking grants.

Among those who met with Whitehouse, however, Schmitt may be most familiar to students. The evolutionary biologist and environmental scientist headlined this year’s Convocation as the keynote speaker.

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