NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Frank Flakes or Pallone Puffs - which has a better ring?
Cereal wasn't on the menu but it was on everyone's mind Friday afternoon when Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. was presented with a Wheaties box adorned with his smiling face.
The Science Coalition Champion of Science Award was given to him at a conference to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) - a cooperative between Rutgers, Princeton and a handful of corporations.
Pallone (D-6) was given the Breakfast of Champions for championing mathematics and science projects going back to 1988 when he was first elected to the House, from New Jersey's former Third District.
Many of the causes Pallone fights for, from the dangers of vaping to the need to ban asbestos, are steeped in science.
That's ironic, Pallone told a room of mathematicians and scientists at the Heldrich Hotel, because he is "a terrible scientist" and went to school at a time when taking science courses was not a requirement.
"But I still did," Pallone said. "My roommates said, 'You're terrible. You're going to get a D. You're going to flunk.' I didn't do well. If I was lucky, I was able to get a C. But I still thought it was important because a lot of times when I would take the standardized tests the SATs, for some unknown reason I always did better on the math section than the English section even though I was much more oriented toward English than science."
Since, Pallone's life has been inextricably linked to science. His wife, Sarah, comes from a long line of engineers and her father was a physicist. One of their children, Celeste, is working toward a science degree at Columbia.
"Now we have a scientist," Pallone joked. "She comes home and talks about geology and I don't even know what she is talking about, really."
Today, his duties as the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to energy, environment, health care, commerce, and telecommunications, takes up much of his time.
Pallone thanked those in attendance for their research and innovation and pointed out that math- and science-based issues can still garner bipartisan support in Washington. He cited the 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted in 2016 to authorize $6.3 billion in funding to streamline the research-to-market process.