This Week in Science Policy: April 4.3 Edition

…and a STEM Career and Technical Education Bill
American Institute of Physics 

This past Tuesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy introduced a bill, Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act, to direct the National Science Foundation to issue more grants to STEM degrees, such as associates and certificates, and other educational opportunities, like internships and apprenticeships, to build up the STEM workforce. Not only would this benefit students who are in their early stages of the STEM careers, but it allows community colleges to offer students a meaningful way to build up their STEM credentials. Especially in regions where STEM jobs are in demand and can be supplied with these education grants. Finally, this bill could be beneficial in addressing the issues associated with transitioning students from degree programs to careers. With grants geared towards internships and apprenticeships, students can focus on gaining hands on experience that could build the necessary connections to obtain a job after graduation. The passage of this bill will be a good indicator of the shifting focus in Congress on pushing students into STEM careers.

Scientists Accidentally Create Mutant Enzyme that Eats Plastic
The Guardian

Scientists have accidentally discovered a mutant enzyme that offers a unique skill. Rather than breaking down molecules used in food production, scientists were able to create an enzyme that breaks down the plastic Polyethylene Terephthalate, a common plastic found in plastic bottles. With plastic ending up in the oceans, as was discussed in Plastic Waste: Where your Trash Travels, the problem of breaking down plastic has been presented with a unique opportunity to be applicable in waste cleanup. However, its important to remember that while these enzymes can break down plastic, its vital that we study what byproducts would be produced from this reaction. Understanding this could be beneficial in understanding whether this enzyme could be used in plastic recycling.

Senate Confirms Bridenstine as NASA Head
American Institute of Physics

This week, the Senate voted to confirm Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next NASA Administrator. The NASA Administrator role has been vacant since the previous Administrator, Charles F. Bolden Jr., left the office before President Trump was sworn into office. Since then, the agency has been under the control of acting Administrator, Robert Lightfoot Jr., who recently announced his departure from the space agency. The confirmation vote was split along partisan lines (50-49) and resulted in another bitter confirmation of one of President Trump’s nominees. Democrats were against Bridenstine’s confirmation due to his lack of experience in science, his views against climate change, and he is the first member of Congress to hold the position. Most Democrats are concerned that the space agency will become political in an era where other agencies, like the FBI, experienced a similar dilemma with partisan politics. With Bridenstine’s confirmation, NASA can now have a leader to prepare for the SLS mission’s coming up in 2019 and 2020.

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