Rice University undergrad called ‘champion of science education’
It’s a huge honor to receive this
award. I’m thrilled to be coming to
D.C. to help remind Congress that
science funding and education must
not be politicized.
Zack Kopplin, science-education advocate, is the winner of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s 2014 Howard K. Schachman Public Service Award.
The award recognizes an individual who demonstrates dedication to public service in support of biomedical science as exemplified by the award’s namesake, who served as chairman of the ASBMB’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee from 1989 to 2000. The award, instituted in 2001, is given annually by the society’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee.
Jeremy Berg, president of the ASBMB and director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Personalized Medicine, said, “Zack has been a true champion of science education, which has become all the more important in these times where educational standards are being debated. Zack has tirelessly fought for the teaching of evolution in classrooms.”
As a high-school student, Kopplin, a native of Baton Rouge, La., was infuriated to learn that the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act had passed. The act allows supplemental teaching materials to be used to critique or objectively review scientific theories. Kopplin’s upbringing with a political influence (his father was the former chief of staff to Louisiana governors Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco and was recognized nationally as a political activist) taught him the power of using his voice to effect change. Thus, Kopplin used his voice to raise concerns about the act. “All the Louisiana Science Education Act does is create an unconstitutional loophole to sneak the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public school science classes,” he said.
After writing a research paper on the act for an English class, Kopplin launched a campaign to repeal the act. Though the law was not overturned, Kopplin did succeed in rallying students and scientists throughout the country, including 78 Nobel laureates, in his campaign.
Now 20 years old, Kopplin continues to speak out against the teaching of creationism, often appearing on such shows as HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” and MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Kopplin also wrote an open letter to President Obama, saying, “Denying and misteaching evidence-based science like evolution and climate science will confuse our students about the nature of science and stifle future American scientists and scientific innovation.”
Benjamin Corb, director of public affairs for the ASBMB, said, “Zack is an impressive young advocate for science. He exemplifies how his generation can begin a larger discussion on issues important to the teaching of science. We applaud Zack’s continuing efforts to protect the integrity of science education.”
Kopplin has received multiple awards for his efforts as a science-education advocate, including the Friends of Darwin Award and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in education. Kopplin received the Schachman Award at an ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee reception on April 1 in Washington, D.C.