The Triple Helix combines science and society

Several UC Davis students are working to set up a new student organization on campus which would be a chapter of an international organization called The Triple Helix.

The Triple Helix was formed in 2004 at Cornell University. According to the organization’s mission statement, the purpose of The Triple Helix is to educate the public about the dynamic relationship between the fields of science, society, business, ethics and law.

Two UC Davis students have been taking the lead in getting the chapter established. Jeff Chen, a senior environmental toxicology major and Andy Iskandar, a sophomore biochemistry major who is pursuing a double minor in economics and writing, hosted an informational meeting last Thursday about the effort to set up the new student organization on campus.

“It was great,” Chen said. “We got around 35 people or so. A lot of people were enthusiastic after the meeting, so we’re off to a good start.”

“There is great interdisciplinary interest in the community, as exemplified by the many double majors and people with mixed minors,” Iskandar added.

The new chapter would create opportunities for UC Davis students to get together to share their experiences.

“You’ve probably been in a situation where you had a really interesting thought after reading something or just being struck by a eureka moment,” Iskandar said. “Of course, you want to talk about it. Maybe it’s about philosophy or a really interesting find in science or perhaps about recent political events.”

The Triple Helix journal, The Science in Society in Review, is published by each chapter and contains articles written by members that are specially selected to appear in all chapters’ editions. Each chapter’s specific edition also contains additional articles written by members of that specific chapter.

Gary Sue Goodman, the assistant director for Writing Across the Curriculum for the UC Davis University Writing Program, is helping to set up the new chapter on campus.

“It’s deliberately set up as an interdisciplinary journal, to look at developments in science and technology from a social, economic and humanistic perspective,” Goodman said.

Jennifer Ong, a recent graduate of UC San Diego, is the chief executive officer of The Triple Helix International.

“The definition of science itself is expanding,” Ong said. “We, as citizen scientists, must recognize that the ‘hard sciences’ — such as biology, chemistry, physics or engineering–need to be placed into a practical context that cannot be separated from the social sciences.”

The Triple Helix website explains that the organization’s name refers to the molecular structure of the protein collagen. Collagen is a connective tissue that maintains the structural integrity of organs and between organ systems.

According to their website, “This interconnecting characteristic of collagen is analogous to the interdisciplinary focus of our organization, as we work to bridge scientific development with its greater role in science policy and society.”

Albert Young, who is a junior communication major at UC Davis, attended last week’s planning meeting for the proposed UC Davis chapter.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Young said, “but it definitely exceeded my expectations of being a lot better than just another club.”

According to Chen, the first event after the chapter becomes established could be held as early as this coming Fall quarter.

BRIAN RILEY can be reached at science@theaggie.org.