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Mélanie Marcel wins Grinnell Prize

Marcel+poses+in+Saints+Rest%2C+where+she+interacted+with+students+and+townspeople.+
Marcel poses in Saints Rest, where she interacted with students and townspeople.

By Linnet Adams

adamslin@grinnell.edu

The College dedicated a week to honoring the work of the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize 2018 winner, Mélanie Marcel, a native of France who founded the organization SoScience. The goal of SoScience is to combine aspects of science and social justice to provide for the common good.

The prize annually awards $100,000 to someone who challenges systemic oppressions in society. When asked how she felt about winning the Grinnell Prize, Marcel expressed the important implications of linking higher education with her organization’s goals.

“This college is a great place to explore [the notion of responsibility],” Marcel said. “Grinnell College is an academic institution, and the prize is about social justice. For me, in my field, it is very important to have an academic institution recognizing that the way we conduct research is actually a question of social justice.”

Before starting SoScience, Marcel was employed as a researcher herself. Working at NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan as an engineer, Marcel had an epiphany about the impact she could have on society as a scientist. One day, she and her boss discussed the possibility of implanting a cell phone in someone’s brain through their cheek. This exchange inspired her to found SoScience in an attempt to make other scientists aware of the possible social impacts of their research.

To Marcel, the question SoScience strives to answer is, “How can we put this notion of responsibility of being very conscious of what we do as scientists in our professional day-to-day work, and the kind of impact it can have on society?”

Since its inception, SoScience has collaborated with over 800 researchers and led five “Future Of” conferences that allow scientists and social justice activists to create projects that help society as a whole. The company supports budding enterprises by providing guidance and resources to projects they believe in.

Her current goal for the organization is to “create the tools needed in order to solve the problem [SoScience is] talking about.” One particular program did just that when a group of scientists and innovators worked on developing a program and sent their research to other scientists and social justice organizations.

With the $100,000 she has won, Marcel hopes to add a Human Resources division to her SoScience staff. “I think I’m going to hire more people to be able to develop the company and spread the ideas and messages. It’s one of our challenges to get known so that more people want to work with us.”

To learn more about Mélanie Marcel and her SoScience organization, please visit SoScience’s website, follow @SoScienceTweet on Twitter and like SoScience on Facebook.

Marcel poses in Saints Rest, where she interacted with students and townspeople.
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