Scott Brown tours MIT, promotes science bill

Senator hopes to increase STEM funding, support research at undergraduate level

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Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) observes a demonstration by Materials Science and Engineering and Biology Engineering Professor Angela M. Belcher during a tour of the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at MIT.
Joanna Kao—The Tech

Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) toured the Koch Institute and Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) last Friday and thanked MIT for supporting his Innovate America Act proposal.

Senator Brown and Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minn.) Innovate America Act proposes to reduce stiff regulation on small businesses and focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance on Jan. 31.

According to Brown’s website, the act will “increase the competitiveness of small-and-medium-sized businesses by focusing on turning research and new technologies created at universities into products [and] promoting and rewarding schools that focus on science, technology, engineering and math.”

The proposal plans to incentivize universities by providing award funds through the STEM Awards Trust Fund for institutions that “dramatically increase” the number of students who graduate in STEM fields and sustain such an increase for more than five years. It will also ensure that at least 10 percent of federal funds available for undergraduate research will be used towards funding research done by first year undergraduates.

To boost small businesses in the innovative technology development sector, the proposal will make loans easier to obtain. The proposal also simplifies tax credits for those who contribute to research at universities.

President Susan J. Hockfield, Raymond S. Stata ’57, and Chris Anderson, president of the Mass. High Tech Council, who joined Brown on the ISN tours, thanked the Senator for supporting STEM education.

Hockfield praised Brown for his “sound policy” and said she was “eager to work with the Senator … to help advance the cause for economic growth.”

Brown said that his new proposals to boost Massachusetts jobs was “not a new initiative for me. It’s just that people listen now.”

He also emphasized being able to “make a difference” and praised MIT administrators and researchers for achievements in areas such as health care and environmentally-friendly products.

Stata thanked Brown for his commitment to science and technology and spoke on the connections between Brown’s Innovate America Act and MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service, a service to support the entrepreneurial activities of the MIT community.

Professors Yet-Ming Chiang ’80, Robert S. Langer SCD ’74, Paula T. Hammond ’84, and Angela M. Belcher demonstrated “technology unique to MIT and ISN” that could benefit from the new proposal. In line with Senator Brown’s plans to boost Bay State jobs, they emphasized the potential development of products based on their research and how these plans could create new jobs.

Materials Science and Engineering Professor Chiang showed his current work in nanotechnology and his newest project in battery technology. He jokingly said that he cares so much about making sure his students have a job after graduation that “we create companies to give students jobs.”