ECE Fusion Researcher Sophia Rocco Educates Members of Congress

Fusion Day on the Hill is a science advocacy event aimed at educating Members of Congress about the state of fusion research throughout the country. 

Last month, Cornell partnered with the University of Rochester and New York University to visit the New York delegation. Cornell was represented by Sophia Rocco, Ph.D. student in the Laboratory of Plasma Studies.

“Professors, researchers, students and representatives from start-ups come together in Washington, D.C.,” Rocco explained, “to meet with policymakers and get them excited about the importance of fusion energy and how vital it will be to the energy security of the planet.”

Specifically, they asked for a $715 million increase to the budget of the Office of Fusion Energy Science (FES), a branch of the Department of Energy. While over the past three years that budget has been steadily increased, the current proposed national budget slashes the FES allocation by 30%.

“The best thing we can bring is our enthusiasm for our research and our excitement about fusion energy,” Rocco said.

Cornell’s Office of Federal Relations coordinated Rocco’s meetings with policymakers, including the offices of Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), Rep. Joe Morelle (D-NY-25), Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY-23), Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY-06), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“Everyone was very enthusiastic to speak with us,” Rocco said. “They had lots of questions about the research being done at each of the universities.” The hope was to get Members of Congress to sign a letter asking for the increased fusion budget.

Rocco came away from the day feeling very optimistic about both the impact the group made and the state of fusion energy research as it is today. Fusion energy start-ups have been attracting more investors in recent years, and along with the research being done, fusion is finally getting the kind of resources it needs to be successful.

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