#SoCaltech: Christopher Barnes


"This summer, I went to D.C. as part of a retreat organized by The Coalition for the Life Sciences. They brought my cohort of Hanna Gray Fellows to meet with Congress members to discuss science and advocate for diversity. I met with staffers from Kamala Harris's office and Scott Peters's office, both California reps. I was surprised to learn that several of the staffers were actually former scientists. We also met briefly with Judy Chu, and I invited her to visit Caltech when she's in town.

It was fun to see behind the scenes in the halls of Congress and to see how hard these staffers have to work. Even though we didn't have a meeting scheduled with her, several of us went up to visit Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office to talk with her staffers. She wasn't there because she was actually in a committee meeting talking about HIV drug prices. Here I am working on HIV research, and she's in a committee talking about HIV. It was pretty cool.

I couldn't see myself being on the Hill every single day, but the trip gave me an idea to do these kinds of visits in our local communities. It would be a great way to advocate for educational science programs at the K–12 level."

Christopher Barnes is a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Pamela Björkman and a 2017 Hanna Gray Fellow. He recently co-authored two papers on how to construct a preliminary HIV vaccine.

#SoCaltech is an occasional series celebrating the diverse individuals who give Caltech its spirit of excellence, ambition, and ingenuity. Know someone we should profile? Send nominations to magazine@caltech.edu.