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MIT student blogger Anna H. '14

“Hello! I would like to schedule a meeting with Senator Markey.” by Anna H. '14

Exciting spring break plans

A little over a month ago, the American Astronomical Society posted the following announcement:

I originally became a AAS member in order to present my research at AAS conferences, and membership turns out to provide valuable access to new opportunities. In this case, I realized that the dates were during my spring break, said “heck yeah,” and applied.

On Valentine’s Day, I got a message saying that I’d been accepted, and within a week received a whole bunch of homework.

  1. Book your travel
  2. Get to know your group
  3. Schedule meetings with your senators and representatives

My group consists of myself, a PhD student from Georgia, and a solar astrophysicist at Harvard. The AAS has a whole website on how to contact and schedule meetings with representatives, so I read through that in order to get myself from Zero Knowledge to Some Knowledge. My fellow Massachusetts resident and I divided up the labor so that I’m in charge of scheduling meetings with Senator Ed Markey and Representative Michael Capuano, and she’s in charge of getting hold of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Katherine Clark.

Now, I’m normally very happy to pick up the phone and call whoever, but something about calling a Senator’s office and requesting a personal meeting with him (or one of his science/tech staffers) freaked me out. This afternoon, I drank a cappuccino and in a fit of (possibly caffeine-boosted) confidence resolved to finally make the call. It rang twice, and then,

Man: Senator Markey’s office, how may I help you?
Me: Um. [suddenly completely unable to speak English]
Me: Um, yes, hello. May I please speak with Senator Markey’s scheduler?
Man: …Who’s calling, please?
Me: Oh, yes, um, hello. [thinking: DARN, I already said that!] I’m Senator…I mean, no, sorry. I’m a constituent of Senator Markey’s, living in Cambridge. [thinking: did I really just almost say that I’m Senator Markey?] I’m going to be in Washington DC on Mach 26th to represent the American Astronomical Society as part of the Congressional Visits D-
Man: Okay, the scheduler is currently out of her office, but I’ll transfer you to her voicemail.
Me: Okay, thank you!
I left a message, and am in the middle of composing a follow-up e-mail. Phew. Definitely not a smooth start to my science research advocacy career, but sometimes the hardest part is just picking up the phone for the first time, and I’m already over that mental hurdle.