Does Political Science Belong in STEM?

The other day, someone asked me “Are you in Political Science?” I answered this interaction by laughing. Me? A Biotechnology student being mistaken for a Political Science student? Should I feel complimented or insulted?

I’ve always been the person that agrees with the statement I hate politics or had a prejudice that science is more impactful than the arts. My mind has completely changed this year from being the Commissioner of External Affairs at the AMS and a Steering Committee member at OUSA, as it exposed me to the importance of Political Science in the STEM field, and how change is driven through politics.

I am someone who used to know absolutely nothing about politics. My brain is constantly full of facts such as the structures of all the amino acids, and less of what a Member of the Provincial Parliament does. My course load has always consisted of courses such as Biochemistry or Computing and less of English and Political Science, which very much perpetuates the biases that these subjects are less important. Programs such as arts and science always create these divides, instead of uniting the subjects that ultimately go hand in hand.

I’m someone who has always had a lot of interests. I love dancing, photography, and theatre, but most of all my passions are heavily involved within the STEM field. My goal for the last 6 years has been getting into the medical field, and more specifically gynecology. I want to create an impact, destigmatize women’s health, and ensure that people don’t go through the same experiences I have in the healthcare field. This goal was driven by my love and interest in the STEM field. However, I’ve realized that the way to achieve this goal does not have to be done directly, but can also be done indirectly.

If you are in STEM, I would encourage you to look at your current line of study or career prospects and see how much of it is impacted by the political field. People in research - who do you think is providing you with grants and signing off on them to further your research fields? Healthcare workers, we are currently seeing a decline in the number of nurses and doctors - who do you think makes the decisions that impact this? Environmentalists - who are the decision-makers when it comes to signing off and providing funding for efforts against climate change? These are just a few examples but ultimately, the impacts of politics and government are indirectly correlated to every field in STEM.

I’ve had the amazing opportunity to participate in lobby weeks both provincially and federally, through OUSA and UCRU, where I was able to see firsthand what these policymakers do on a daily basis. The theatrics of Question Period interested me as they were discussing topics such as the impacts of COVID-19 or different terminologies such as epigenetics, which I only heard in my STEM classes. This shows how connected the fields are, as these decision-makers are influencing change that ultimately impacts our fields. After going through Question Period, I was then able to meet with MPs and MPPs to lobby for various issues that heavily impact post-secondary students. I learned so much about the processes that drive change and how it isn’t very simple. We all have been subject to complaining about the pace of change and how we often don’t see things happen overnight. Lobbying and change efforts are huge processes that can take years before seeing any real results. Everything is a process that it needs to follow for change to occur. For example, in polymerase chain reactions (PCR), you can’t just automatically denature the DNA and extend it - you need to make sure the DNA cools down and anneals beforehand, otherwise the process doesn’t work.

Another opportunity I was given was to co-write an OUSA policy paper with my peers Josh, Jessica, and Ann. In STEM, the most I write is through lab reports or by answering factual-based questions. I haven’t written an actual paper since high school, but this exposed me to more aspects of the policy field. The only PCR I knew of was polymerase chain reactions, not principles, concerns, and recommendations. Through this policy writing journey, I learned all the actual work it takes to write these such as brainstorming, focus groups, and approvals, among other tasks, and I will never overlook the work that goes into any policy paper ever again.

Without being in OUSA, I also would never have met the most incredible people on the Steering Committee, but also my friends. Jessica, Elizabeth, Kayla, Stephanie, Callum, Josh, Ana, Andy, Anthony, and Armaan, I have learned so much from all of you as student leaders. Your passions shine in everything that you do, and I know that all of you are going to make incredible impacts on the world. You made a huge impact on me, and I will always be your certified woman in STEM <3

So, was the person who asked me “Are you in Political Science?” after I was discussing some political knowledge with them complimenting me or insulting me? If you asked me when I started this role, I probably would have been insulted. Now? I would say it is a huge compliment as it showcases how far I’ve come when gaining knowledge about the political field and finding new ways to advocate for the STEM field.   

My fellow people in STEM, why is the phrase I hate politics so modernized? I encourage you to seek out this knowledge and know how incredibly important you are to the political field. The more we dissociate ourselves from the political field, the less our voices will be heard by the people who ultimately make the decisions that drive the change at the government level.

My people in political science, I encourage you to keep yourself informed on issues that are prevalent in the STEM field. You are the future decision-makers representing all these voices. I encourage you to also branch out of your comfort zones and realize that you are representing a very diverse set of people. Decision-makers may not realize the value of having a diverse set of people at the table until those people are actually there. Our government system allows us to use our voice no matter our political opinion, so make yourself heard and show the value of your voice for who you represent and advocate for. Remember, it is very admirable to seek out these roles but ensure that the parties you are representing are being done so properly. Respect goes both ways, so together let’s tackle the barriers between arts and science.

Being a person in STEM doesn’t mean that you are limited to careers such as doctors, engineers, or computer professionals. You can showcase a large impact at the government level to ensure that the STEM field is constantly being advocated for by people with lived experiences.

Let’s put the “Political Science” in “S”TEM!