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Meet Faith Bowman, leader of the AAAS Utah Local Science Engagement Network

Woman w/ messy bun, smiling w/ black blazer and black graphic Tee.
Faith Bowman LSEN by Faith Bowman.

When Faith Bowman was in seventh grade, she earned a silver medal from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society for a research project she did that showed budget friendly Purex laundry detergent cleaned better than Gain and Tide. To this day, her mother still uses Purex.  

The AAAS Member has been making scientific strides ever since. Not only is she a doctoral candidate in biochemistry at the University of Utah, but she is also in charge of the Utah Local Science Engagement Network (LSEN) 

AAAS established LSEN to mobilize scientists and engineers through local and state-based networks across the United States. Liaisons connect with their communities and help them use science and scientific evidence to make their lives better and help policymakers make more informed decisions.  

Under Bowman’s direction, the Utah LSEN will focus on environmental and sustainability issues within the state. Utah’s bustling ski resorts attract millions of tourists each year looking to ski and snowboard on the light and dry powder snow that helped make the state famous. That industry drives some of the environmental decisions that are made, what infrastructure is built and whether to sacrifice what’s good for the environment in the name of tourism, Bowman says.  

These issues trickle down into healthcare. If there’s poor air quality, that impacts the people living in those areas. If you’re living in the state’s higher areas, you’re breathing better air than those living in the lower parts of the state. 

“Especially how the wind moves, all of the bad air is eventually going to go to the west side of Salt Lake County … primarily inhabited by a lot of Latino populations, a lot of African American populations, like more workers,” Bowman says. “But that’s also where factories reside too, so we get pollution from the factories, and so all of that can also be accounted for in terms of healthcare. Maybe there’s higher rates of asthma here, or perhaps lower birth rates here because of that.” 

The first goal of Bowman’s LSEN is simple: getting it off the ground. She is doing that by establishing and building it as a community and putting together peer-reviewed Science and Technology Notes about particular issues that the LSEN would send to policy stakeholders, including state legislators and some  environmental groups doing their own advocacy.  

Right now, she’s creating ways for trainees to learn about science policy and communication, while giving them opportunities to learn skills. That involves her building bridges with environmental groups and centers at the university. She meets with these groups once a month and connects trainees to local advocacy work.  

When she’s not building her LSEN, Bowman spends her time at the university studying a protein called FOXN3, and how it may influence how we regulate our glucose. She has found that the protein controls liver glucose metabolism by regulating gluconeogenic substrate selection. In other words, the protein blocks the action of a highly metabolic gene, Myc, which is known to direct changes in other genes that control glucose uptake and utilization, as well as energy sources including ketones and amino acids.  

Bowman always wanted to do research on diabetes, because she grew up hearing about diabetes in Native American populations. They and Alaska Natives have a greater chance of having the disease than any other racial group, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kidney failure from diabetes among Native Americans was the highest of any race, according to the agency.  

“It felt like this was a natural way for me to give back to my community in a way by studying a disease that affects us, and it affects the greater population as well,” said Bowman, a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Nation.  

Born in Wisconsin, Bowman first fell in love with science at the Indian Community School. Winning the silver medal from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society for the detergent project encouraged her to go for the gold the following year.  

As an eighth grader, she scored gold with her project about soda, which earned her a spot at the national conference in Albuquerque.  

She stuck with science.  

At St. Thomas More High School, she chose the biomedical track. Later, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in genetics and also received certifications in American Indian studies and leadership. 

She has since served as president of the University of Utah’s Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, primarily putting on events centered on diversity, equity, inclusion, and representation in STEM. Now she’s working with the university’s Diversity and Science lecture series that focuses on science and communication. It aims to change the face of science by giving current and budding scientists a platform to tell their stories.  

Once Bowman completes her degree, she would like to get into the science policy space, perhaps by working at a nonprofit organization or one of the science societies. Bowman hopes to build communications with policy stakeholders in Utah, and showing the next generation that they can leverage science to make a real difference in their communities. Her work with the LSEN will help her get there.  

“To prepare the next generation of scientists — I include myself — is to give us those options to learn skills beyond the bench and beyond this straightforward pathway into academia,” she says. “If you want to be that connector, that builder, if you want to have this purpose-driven job or be a part of a purpose-driven network, this is a space to do so.”