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KNOXVILLE — Two University of Tennessee scientists will be in Washington, D.C., Wednesday asking Congress to support university-based scientific research.

Dr. Cynthia Peterson and Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, professors of life sciences at UT-Knoxville and two of their graduate students will spend the day with UT President J. Wade Gilley contacting lawmakers as part of a day-long lobbying effort sponsored by the Science Coalition.

Gilley is one of 10 presidents or chancellors of major research universities who will take part in a meeting at the White House Wednesday morning aimed at reversing declining trends in federal funding for engineering and the physical sciences. The National Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the White House meeting.

“It is hard to overestimate the value of government support for basic research in the physical sciences and engineering,” Gilley said. “The educational, social and economic ramifications of basic research are immense.”

The UT delegation will participate in a luncheon honoring Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., for his support of university-based research. The speaker will be Fred Smith, the chief executive of Memphis-based FDX Corp. and its subsidiary, Federal Express.

Frist and Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Pete Dominici, R-N.M., are sponsoring a scientific and technical forum after the luncheon.

The Science Coalition is an affiliation of more than 60 major research universities and scientific organizations that seek to foster federal support for university-based research.