Jessica Tuchman Mathews
President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
AAAS Congressional Fellow, U.S House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs
PhD, Molecular Biology
Jessica Tuchman Mathews launched her career as a Congressional Fellow in the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs in 1973-74. She was in the first class of Fellows, and the first female in the program.
"This was a moment when Congress really was wrestling with, 'How do we get more advice, more help (on science-related issues)?' It was a wonderful, very fertile moment for us. This was the year of the first Arab oil embargo, so there were lots of issues that had a substantial scientific component," she recalls. "Almost nobody on the Hill had any scientific background." With a Ph.D. in molecular biology from California Institute of Technology, Mathews was considered an asset.
She thrived in the fast-paced world of public policy. That experience set her on an avenue of success. Mathews has served as director of the Office of Global Issues at the National Security Council, covering nuclear proliferation, conventional arms sales and human rights; and as deputy to the undersecretary of state for global affairs at the U.S. Department of State. She also had stints as director and senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations' Washington program, and founding vice president and director of research of the World Resources Institute, before taking up her leadership role at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Mathews has supported science communication and innovation in the media and industry as well. She was a member of the editorial board of the Washington Post, covering arms control, energy, environment, science, and technology. Since 2001 she has served as a director of SomaLogic, a leading biotech firm in the breakthrough field of proteomics.
"Scientists are trained to be able to quantify uncertainty," Mathews noted. "Since that's so much about what Congress has to do, it's an incredibly valuable set of skills."
Principal Assistant Director for Environment and Energy, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President (OSTP)
AAAS Congressional Fellow, Congressional Office of Technology Assessment
After receiving his PhD in physics from Harvard, Henry Kelly joined the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. "I was able to work both on highly technical issues and policy issues," he says. "That got me interested in the AAAS Congressional Science & Engineering Fellowship® program." His assignment at the newly formed Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), "was a major turning point for me, which opened up a whole new horizon."
"The experience of being able to work on technology policy with the Congress gave me a number of interesting and crucial learning experiences," Kelly says, including understanding how scientists could contribute to major policy and how scientific research impacts legislation. "That experience allowed me to understand the context into which any kind of technical advice had to fit."
He has applied that knowledge in both government and nonprofit positions. Following a stint at OTA as professional staff, Kelly served as the acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. He also was the assistant director for technology for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) for seven years in the Clinton White House. From there he took up the post of president of the Federation of American Scientists, leading analysis and advocacy on global security issues, energy policy, and education technology. Kelly is now back at OSTP as principal assistant director for environment and energy.
He cites the S&T Policy Fellowships' strategic significance: "The program has to be the single most important science policy intervention in my generation that has put more good people in crucial positions than any I know of."
William "Bill" Moomaw
Professor of International Environmental Policy, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
AAAS Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator Dale Bumpers
Bill Moomaw, founding director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University's Fletcher School (Graduate International Affairs), discovered as a young 1960s chemistry professor that through science, he could help find solutions to environmental concerns. "I was shocked that nobody knew how to even talk about these issues," he recalls. Out of curiosity, "I began showing up at government hearings and soon became a translator of the science into policy relevant terms."
His 1975-76 fellowship on the staff of freshman senator Dale Bumpers was a great match. With growing national concern over ozone depletion, "I was probably the only person on the entire congressional staff who had the technical background to address that issue and evaluate the science as it was coming in," he notes. Working with another Fellow, he helped craft legislation for Senator Bumpers that phased out all the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in spray cans in the US. "The fellowship was a great opportunity for me to utilize science to develop effective policy."
As a result of his fellowship experience, Moomaw shifted from the chemistry lab to environmental science policy. He was the first director of the Climate, Energy and Pollution program at the World Resources Institute, and has been a lead author on five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and on policy papers for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat. He has served on the Integrated Nitrogen Committee of the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board, and the Board of Directors of The Climate Group and Clean Air-Cool Planet,which he co-founded.
"I greatly value [the fellowship] experience. It was a real highlight for me and it profoundly affected my career, and my thinking and understanding of science and policy both as a scientist and a citizen."
E. William Colglazier
Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State
AAAS Congressional Fellow, Office of Representative George Brown
PhD, Theoretical Physics
William "Bill" Colglazier has enjoyed a distinguished career at the intersection of science and policy. He has served as the executive officer of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the National Research Council (NRC). In addition he was the NRC chief operating officer and executive director of the Office of International Affairs of the NAS and NRC, where he oversaw collaborative projects with scientific organizations in numerous countries. In July 2011, Colglazier was named as the fourth science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State.
Colglazier credits the opportunity to serve as a 1976-77 Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow® for Representative George Brown with aiding him in solidifying his goals. "Coming to work in Washington was an eye-opening experience," he says. His expertise in particle physics, which he gained from his PhD in the subject from California Institute of Technology, was especially appreciated, given the energy and nuclear concerns of the time.
Almost every issue had a very important science and technology component, he describes. "And certainly it's [still] true now…It was a very good time for being a young person with a scientific background coming to work on the Hill."
Now as an elected honorary Fellow of the AAAS and the American Physical Society, Colglazier helps oversee S&T Fellows in the State Department. Approximately 60 former Fellows are currently employed there, a mark of the success of the program, Colglazier notes.
"The human capacity to deal with science in the State Department has been tremendously increased," he says. "I think it was a stroke of genius that this program was created."
L. R. Quarles Professor of Systems and Information Engineering Founding Director, Center for Risk Management of Engineering Systems University of Virginia
AGU Congressional Fellow, Office of Science and Technology Policy
PhD, Systems Engineering
The role of science in policy is "essential," says Yacov Haimes, L. R. Quarles Professor of Systems and Information Engineering and the Founding Director of the Center for Risk Management of Engineering Systems at the University of Virginia (UVA). With an expertise in risk assessment, he has spent his entire career on a mission: helping others to understand the importance of harmonizing science and engineering and public policy through the theory and principals of systems engineering and risk analysis.
"I am a professor of systems engineering, interested in the interface between science, technology, and public policy," he affirms. "As a believer and a practitioner of the holistic Gestalt philosophy, the S&T Policy Fellowship was a natural choice."
Haimes utilized his 1977-78 sabbatical year to participate in the American Geophysical Union Congressional Science Fellowship®, where he served on the staff of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) of President Jimmy Carter, and on the House Science and Technology Committee. He was president of the Society for Risk Analysis in 1997-98. Over the years he has held several high offices as president and chair of boards of directors of professional and public service organizations.
On the faculty of Case Western Reserve University for 17 years, before joining UVA, he was the chair of the Systems Engineering Department, and director of the university-wide Center for Large-Scale Systems and Policy Analysis. Haimes has published more than 250 articles and technical papers. In addition, he has authored or co-authored six books, including "Risk Modeling, Assessment, and Management."
Haimes encourages more engineers and scientists to pursue the fellowship because it "broadens our perspectives, adds realism to our modeling and systems engineering, and brings us closer to both basic research and applied research, and problem solving."
Executive Director, MAC-CAE Program, Adjunct Professor of Physics, Morgan State University
OTA Congressional Fellow, Congressional Office of Technology Assessment
PhD, Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics
Arlene Maclin has dedicated her life to leveraging her physics and policy expertise to reshape her discipline and create new pipelines of passionate scientists. She was the youngest person ever nominated as a Fellow of the American Council on Education, through which she analyzed STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education initiatives in Russia, and partnered with U.S. Department of Education lawyers on civil rights cases pertaining to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
"I was interested in how I could impact my field more directly through science and technology policy," Maclin says.
As a Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow® in 1978-79, she served in the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) where she contributed to the first residential energy study in the United States. "It influenced my career greatly," she affirms. "I've had several professional appointments that I attribute directly to the fellowship".
One of those was as program director at the National Research Council, where Maclin worked with over 100 experts divided into five panels to help define the field of materials science and engineering in the late 1980s. "It was one of the leading studies of the National Academies that endorsed collaborative science and working across disciplinary boundaries."
Maclin's career has spanned assignments in government and academia. At the Central Intelligence Agency, she helped spearhead significant research increasing the efficiency of circuit transistors. At Norfolk State University, she launched the Intelligence Community-Center for Academic Excellence. It brought together scholars in Islamic Studies and leaders from the 16 intelligence agencies to develop strategies for a more educated STEM workforce with knowledge of Islam and Arabic Studies. Maclin recently inaugurated a similar program at her current institution, Morgan State University, with a focus on South Asian Studies.
"The fellowship opens entirely different avenues," she concludes. "Scientists can influence the way our elected officials look at things… We bring a whole new perspective in the policy arena."
James "Jim" Atkinson
Co-Founder, VP and CFO, Mikro Systems Inc.
ASA Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator Charles Mathias
Jim Atkinson is a successful engineer and entrepreneur and has been involved in four technology start-ups. He is currently chief financial officer and vice president of Mikro Systems, Inc., which designs and manufactures high precision components for industries as varied as homeland security, medical imaging, and energy. "I tend to get bored and change fields every five years or so," he quips.
His expertise and experience may be diverse, but one thing has been steadfast throughout Atkinson's career: the foundation in science policy that he gained in the Congressional Science & Engineering Fellowship®.
"It was the most adrenaline rich year I've ever had," he says. "It gave me a broad exposure and taught me to see the bigger picture. It influences my thinking still today."
As a Congressional Fellow, Atkinson helped author the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, a landmark piece of legislation that ensured federal laboratories find ways to transfer and commercialize their technology for the public good. The fellowship experience "restored my faith in our political system," he says. "One person can make a difference."
Atkinson found a calling in applying the principals of science policy to industrial and economic development issues at the state and local levels. "I found it really interesting to apply my technical background to practical problems," he notes. An expert in Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programs, he also has been involved with the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer.
In 2009 he was appointed by the Governor of Virginia to serve on the Board of Trustees of the state's Manufacturing Extension Partnership to help promote manufacturing and business growth. He also collaborates with local governments on workforce development programs. "Think globally, act locally," Atkinson says. "That's where you can have more immediate impact."
Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy School of Natural Resources and Environment and School of Public Health, University of Michigan
OTA Congressional Fellow, Office of Technology Assessment
PhD, Ecology and Evolution
Rosina Bierbaum was finishing her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology at SUNY Stony Brook when her advisor encouraged her to apply for the Congressional Science & Engineering Fellowships ® program. "I left the ivory tower, but what an epiphany awaited!" she recalls. "I realized that there was a crying need for translators and assessors of science." Her 1980-81 fellowship was in the Office of Technology Assessment, and was nothing short of a radically transformative experience.
As a result, she enthusiastically pursued a career in science policy at the highest levels in federal government and international relations. Most recently, in 2009, President Barack Obama named Bierbaum to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Prior to that, she was selected by the World Bank to co-direct its prestigious World Development Report 2010, which focuses on climate change and development. She also was acting director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in 2001, and preceding that, directed the first Environment Division at OSTP from 1995-2001.
Her experience extends into foreign relations and education. Bierbaum has led several U.S science delegations on behalf of the U.S Government, and was Dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan for 10 years. She serves as a board member for Federation of American Scientists, The Energy and Environment Study Institute, the Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation, and the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"The AAAS Fellowship literally changed my life," Bierbaum says. "In those 20 years of subsequently working for the Congress and then the White House, I learned that science is not the loudest voice, that 'civic' scientists must be ready to translate the relevance of technical information to whatever policy issue is urgent. And, one must insure scientists are at the table when decisions about budgets, treaties, policies and regulations are made."
P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale
Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, School of Education and Social Policy Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
SCRD Congressional Fellow, Office of Representative Paul Simon
PhD, Developmental Psychology
P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale is the first developmental psychologist to be tenured in a public policy school in the U.S., and an expert on the interface between research and social policy for children and families. A recently elected Fellow to the National Academy of Education, Chase-Lansdale has made it her mission to serve as a "broker between the worlds of policy and research."
"I've always been interested in social policy issues and how they affect children," she says. Her Congressional Fellowship in 1981-82 in the office of Representative Paul Simon was sponsored by the Society of Research in Child Development (SRCD). "It was absolutely life changing, and the best thing I could have done," she says.
Soon after its conclusion, Chase-Lansdale became the associate director of the Washington Liaison Office of the SCRD. She oversaw the organization's participation in the Congressional Science & Engineering Fellowship® program, co-founded a major publication, The Social Policy Report, co-conducted an annual series of two-week summer institutes on child development and social policy at leading universities, and launched a congressional seminar series.
"The bottom line is that the fellowship completely transformed how I saw the role of science in policy, and I became much more fluent in multidisciplinary perspectives," she declares. "It led me to develop a very broad landscape of research that could be informative for issues in practice and policy." As a professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University, Chase-Lansdale has overseen investigations into multigenerational families with young mothers, and she conducted a 10-year study of welfare reform and children, resulting in a ground-breaking 2003 paper for Science. Her current research focuses on two-generation education programs for low-income parents and their preschoolers.
"I would never have been able to conceptualize how to design and conduct my research programs if I hadn't been experienced in the policy world," Chase-Lansdale says. In fact, "This research would have been impossible without the S&T Policy Fellowship."
U.S. Representative, New Jersey, 12th Congressional District
APS Congressional Fellow, Office of Representative Robert Edgar
Rush D. Holt has served New Jersey's 12th Congressional District since 1999, and couldn't be more clear about how the S&T Policy Fellowship influenced him: "It was really life-changing...I wouldn't be in Congress now if it hadn't been for the Fellows Program," he says.
It's no surprise the physicist was attracted to politics: when he was in 7th grade he had his own subscriptions to The Washington Post and Scientific American. "I guess I was on both paths, straddling those two worlds from the early years," he jokes.
Holt pursued a doctorate in physics from New York University. He was on the faculty of Swarthmore College, when he applied for the fellowship. He served as a Congressional Fellow sponsored by the American Physical Society, in the office of Representative Robert Edgar. The experience crystallized his desire to lead at the junction of science and public policy.
Holt moved on to work as an arms control expert at the U.S. Department of State, and as assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, before running for elected office.
He notes the strategic role that the S&T Policy Fellowships program plays in our nation's capital and beyond. "There are a number of specific examples you can point to where Fellows have been responsible for key legislation, or pieces of legislation, that affect our lives for the better now," he says.
And the fellowships provide a double benefit, positively affecting not only those who participate, but also those who are indirectly touched. "[The Fellowship Program] serves to illuminate policy and legislative work, and to enrich the professions by bringing a political savvy back to the professions," Holt concludes. "That's really an unbeatable combination."
The featured S&T Policy Fellows have been selected from more than 2,800 alumni. The selection criteria include:
- Individuals who made significant contributions during their fellowship and continue to engage with policy in their careers
- Diversity of backgrounds, disciplines, fellowship assignments, and current employment sectors
- Exemplary dedication to applying science to serve society
- Creative, innovative, and collaborative problem solvers addressing challenges at local, state, national or international levels
- Uncommon ambassadors for the role of science and technology to support policy
We welcome nominations for fellows to represent the remaining classes to be profiled.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Policy; U.S. Department of Homeland Security
OTA Congressional Fellow, Congressional Office of Technology Assessment
Gerald Epstein works at the interface of science, technology, and security policy. Over his career he has addressed a broad range of issues including biological weapons threats, bridging the scientific research and national security communities, protecting critical infrastructures, chemical and biological weapons nonproliferation, missile defense, strategic arms control, the nuclear weapon stockpile stewardship program, and export controls.
"I always had interests that were broader than science and technology," notes Epstein. As he was finishing his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, he realized that for him "learning physics was a lot more fun than doing it." With the nuclear arms race in the news, he enthusiastically pursued a AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship®, with an eye towards contributing to this issue from a technical standpoint. His fellowship in the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) cemented his commitment to a policy career path.
"OTA was a unique institution and I could go on forever about how valuable the experience was for me," he says. "Being at OTA was a wonderful way to draw on my physics training and interests and apply them to broader public policy issues. It was precisely at that nexus."
Epstein's career has included diverse forays into science policy, including serving as the director of the AAAS Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy, and on the senior research staff at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Institute for Defense Analyses, where he had been assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. He also worked at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), serving for his last year in a joint appointment as assistant director of OSTP for National Security, and senior director for science and technology on the National Security Council staff.
The ability to comprehend and communicate with both scientific and policy stakeholders is a unique skill that fellows gain, he notes. "It's important to have multilingual ambassadors who are able to live in both worlds and help people who live in each one understand the other."
Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA), U.S. Department of Defense
OTA Congressional Fellow, Congressional Office of Technology Assessment
PhD, Applied Physics
Arati Prabhakar has spent her career investing in world-class engineers and scientists to create new technologies and businesses, through leadership roles in government, the private sector, and venture capital. She credits her S&T Policy Fellowship® for establishing the foundation for her future successes.
"I was trying to find a different path, and the Congressional Fellowship was really where it all started," she recalls. "It opened my eyes to what I was a capable of, and a set of views about how to make a difference in the world. It was a pivot off a known path and led to new vistas."
She joined the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) immediately following her year on the Hill. As a program manager, she initiated and oversaw programs in advanced semiconductor technology and flexible manufacturing, as well as demonstration projects to insert new semiconductor technologies into military systems. She helped create and direct DARPA's Microelectronics Technology Office, where she led a team that expanded into optoelectronics, infrared imaging, and nanoelectronics.
In 1993, President Clinton appointed Prabhakar director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where she led the 3,000-person organization in its work with companies across multiple industries. She later moved to Silicon Valley, where she served in senior management positions at Raychem and at Interval Research. From 2001 to 2011, she was a partner with U.S. Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm. In 2012, she rejoined DARPA as its director.
"My jobs have been about implementing technology or R&D programs," she clarifies. "All of that work is done in the context of policy, although it is different from creating policy." Much of Prabhakar's work in DARPA and NIST led to significant technological innovations which impact people every day, such as semiconductors used in cell phones or infrared night vision cameras developed for soldiers. "All of these technologies have the fingerprints of the capabilities we helped start, and that's something I feel great about."
For those contemplating the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships®, Prabhakar offers this advice: "If you are interested in having a wider view of the world than what you see from doing research, if you are interested in building the linkages that allow science and technology to have greater impact, then this is a great way to explore those dimensions."
"We're living in a world with such complexity, including the science and technology landscape, that it's more important than ever that we have people who are able to bridge from science and technology to the broader societal issues," Prabhakar emphasizes. "The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships® continue to be valuable to develop that ability."
President, The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health
BS/ASP Congressional Fellow, Offices of Representative Norman Y. Mineta and Senator John D. Rockefeller IV
A poster in Texas changed Maria Freire's life. The biophysicist was attending a scientific conference when she spied an advertisement for the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships® on a bulletin board. She had been a Research Assistant Professor in virology at the University of Tennessee, and with a new child and a husband also in academia, wanted to see "is there something else I can do with my talents?" she recalls. "So when I saw this flyer I thought, 'This could be something really exciting and interesting to do.'" Her hunch was correct!
Freire's two-year fellowship was split between the offices of Representative Norman Mineta, who was on the Science and Technology Committee, and freshman Senator Jay Rockefeller. Her projects ranged from clean water and superfund issues to underrepresented minorities in STEM and National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) budgets.
"It was a completely new and eye-opening experience for me," she says. "The fellowship provides a tool to wield influence and understand how to get things done." It directly led to her next opportunity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she founded and ran its Office of Technology Development. In fact, she notes that her most important contribution on the Hill was her work on the Federal Technology Transfer Act, which she did while at Maryland And, as a champion of working women, Freire was the first scientist to receive Glamour magazine's "Outstanding Working Woman of the Year."
Her subsequent career has been focused on streamlining technology transfer processes across organizations and the government. She was the director of the Office of Technology Transfer at the NIH, which is responsible for all patenting, marketing, licensing, and monitoring activities for inventions arising from the NIH and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She served as president and chief executive officer of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, an international public-private partnership focused on the development of new and better drugs and therapies for tuberculosis. Prior to her current position as president of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Freire was the president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, a leading champion of medical research.
"All of these experiences can be woven into a quilt that is finally making sense," she jokes. "I can't always say what I do is science policy, yet what I do becomes science policy."
Associate Vice President for Federal Relations, University of Chicago
APA Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator William Bradley
Trudy Vincent spent 26 years on Capitol Hill. Her S&T Policy Fellowship® in the office of Senator Bill Bradley opened her eyes to new possibilities for helping others with her scientific expertise. By the end of that first 12 months in Washington, Vincent was hooked on science policy.
She was first drawn to focus on policy while receiving her PhD in psychology and serving as a fellow at the Center on Child Development and Social Policy at Yale. "As a community psychologist, I was interested in how to have an impact on people's wellbeing, but doing it from a higher level of intervention" than simply serving as a clinician, Vincent explains. "I had always wanted to work in an area where I could help make people's lives better. When I could see some concrete evidence of ways in which I did that during the course of my fellowship, it was a very gratifying and empowering experience."
She remained on the Hill for 26 years and ended up working for three different senators – Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and most recently, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico – before joining the University of Chicago's D.C.-based office as the associate vice president of federal relations in 2013, where she continues to be actively engaged in science policy.
Her contributions have aided a range of communities. For example, Vincent helped craft policy that essentially "delinked" welfare from Medicaid, allowing poor, pregnant women to get medical coverage even if they were not on welfare. While working for Senator Mikulski, she and her team came to realize that much of the medical research that impacted women was being conducted with data from men and then extrapolated to women, "which wasn't necessarily valid," she explains. "So we stormed NIH and asked them what they were thinking and worked with them to set up an office of women's health, which still exists to this day
"The fellowship experience meant everything to me. It set me on a path that I didn't necessarily expect that I would go down… For 26 years it was a job that I absolutely loved and I felt like I was making a real difference."
Miriam "Mim" Nelson
Director, John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention, and Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University
AAAS Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Policymaking and implementation affect individuals and organizations across sectors and location. "Whether you are affecting policy on a national, local, or even organizational level, the skill sets are the same," says Miriam Nelson, director of the John Hancock Research Center on Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Obesity Prevention and associate professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
With a focus on large-scale obesity prevention, research dissemination and policy, especially for midlife and older women and children, Nelson and her team conduct community-based participatory research and develop policy programs in concert with organizations to meet constituents' needs. She is currently working on a national initiative called "Healthy Kids Out of School," which centers on preventing childhood obesity. In collaboration with organizations such as 4-H and the Boy and Girl Scouts, she is crafting principles that are being used to create policy relating to eating smart, exercising more, and communicating shared values with stakeholders.
It's a skill she gained from her AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship®. "That experience has influenced my past two and a half decades," confirms Nelson, who has been on several national policy boards, including the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Science Board of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, which she currently chairs.
Her experience in the office of Senator Patrick Lahey "was mind-blowing in terms of really understanding how policy is made, the influences of different stakeholders, and how to create change," she says. "The experience helped me be more impactful… It's incredibly interesting and helpful to understand how national policy is made, and more scientists should take advantage [of the fellowship]. It can only further the evidence-based work that's being done."Nelson is the author of numerous international best-selling books about women's health. Her Strong Women series has been translated in 14 languages, sold over one million copies, and even spurred the creation of a PBS show, which she hosted. "I think I have the best job ever," she says. "I work with an incredibly talented team of individuals, and a university that is focused on societal impact. Sometimes it takes time to see the actual results and impact of the work, but you do get to see it. It is very fulfilling to see your work integrated into schools and community programming."
Willie Pearson, Jr.
Professor of Sociology, School of History, Technology, and Society, Georgia Institute of Technology
OTA Congressional Fellow, Office of Technology Assessment
Willie Pearson Jr. inhabits parallel universes that he proactively ensures intersect. In one, he is a professor of sociology of science and technology at Georgia Institute of Technology. In the other, he studies human systems in an effort to impact important policy on a national and local level. He pursued science in the first place specifically so he could improve the human condition, he says. While his career has been mostly in academia, he has engaged on policy-related assignments with AAAS, the National Science Foundation, and the National Academies of Science, a commitment which was fueled by his participation in the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships®.
Pearson completed a postdoctoral appointment with the division of measurement and policy at the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and was on the faculty of Wake Forest University when he applied for the AAAS Fellowship program. It was at ETS "that I realized I wanted to develop more of a policy focus for my research," he recalls. His fellowship was through the now-defunct Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), and it served to reinforce his dedication to serving the public through research, mentorship, and policy development.
The fellowship allowed Pearson "to have a better understanding of the policy community and network with others who were interested in the same things I was." OTA was like a "think tank for Congress," he explained. It exposed Pearson to diverse issues and participants in policy craftsmanship. "I was very fortunate that the fellowship assignment allowed the chance to do a lot of cross agency work," he notes.
After the year on the Hill, he returned to academia and continued consulting for OTA. His interaction with other fellows led to lifelong collaborations with policy leaders and the networking through the years bolstered his own research. Pearson's fellowship cohort was especially close, he noted.
His research originally centered on increasing the number of underrepresented populations in STEM – including women, people of color, and people with disabilities. Over time, his interests expanded to international populations, as well as indigenous communities in the United Sates. His dissertation was the first comparative study of the impact of race on scientific careers, and directly led to early research on (what is now described as) "Broadening Participation" initiatives relying more stringently on research data.
Pearson partnered with then-Attorney General Janet Reno to analyze youth violence through rigorous statistical measures, something that had not been done to this extent before, the results of which informed policy decisions within local law enforcement organizations. "My whole dream was to produce knowledge that was useful and improves human conditions," he affirms. "Fortunately, I have been able to do that from a research perspective but it was my experience at AAAS that led me to have these networks…that were complementary to what I was doing as far as my research and trying to make a change."
Through Pearson's work on national committees and advisory boards, his civic engagement "has been sustained ever since I left the fellowship." He also has mentored younger scientists to successfully apply for S&T Policy Fellowships®. The fellowship "allowed me to be more successful in the academic community and policy community and also meant that I could touch, in a more meaningful way, the next generation who would become part of the network," he stated. "It has been a fundamental career complement."
Charles P. "Chuck" Blahous III
Public Trustee, Social Security and Medicare; Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center, George Mason University
APS Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator Alan K. Simpson
PhD, Computational Quantum Chemistry
Charles "Chuck" Blahous is a busy man. As one of only two public trustees on the national board for the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Medicare, his responsibility is to oversee the financial security and projections of the funds that drive the two systems and "vouch for their integrity and objectivity," he explains. Blahous was nominated for the post by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate, and serves along with three cabinet members and the SSA Commissioner, among others.
His expertise lies in retirement security, with an emphasis on social security and employer-provided defined benefit pensions, as well as federal fiscal policy, entitlements, demographic change, economic stimulus, financial market regulation, and health care reform. Blahous is also a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, where he analyzed the long-term budgetary consequences of the most recent healthcare legislation
Blahous previously served as the deputy director of President Bush's National Economic Council, as well as special assistant to the president for economic policy, and as the executive director of the bipartisan President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.
And it all started with his AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship® in the office of Senator Alan Simpson in 1989-90. Although Blahous quips that his career is one of "resolute spontaneity," he admits that the fellowship helped him chart a very specific and rewarding path. "It was a glorious experience and a turning point in my life," he says. "I quickly gravitated toward fiscal issues, which drew me deeper and deeper into social security."
He holds his science policy colleagues in great regard. "The fellows are fascinating people as well as scientific experts. We need as many people like that in Washington as possible. It is the great legacy of the program, and enriches the intellectual life in Washington immeasurably."
Science Policy Fellow, Union of Concerned Scientists
Executive Branch Fellow, U.S. Agency for International Development
As a Science Policy Fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), Francesca Grifo acts to mobilize scientists and citizens to defend the integrity of government science from political interference. She testifies before Congress and is widely quoted in the media, especially in her pursuit of protecting federal scientists "to be able to do their jobs better and more freely," she says.
"That's what we're about: trying to stop the muzzling of federal scientists and stop retaliation against scientists who speak out when science is manipulated or abused." Grifo's contributions to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, including securing language in the bill that specifically pertain to and protect scientists, is a federal legislation first.
Her botany training first led to an interest in international conservation education and a position as senior program officer for Central and Eastern Europe for the Biodiversity Support Program, a consortium of the World Resources Institute, the Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund. She then moved on to run the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups Program at the National Institutes of Health overseeing bioprospecting for useful molecules and benefits sharing with developing countries. Later she directed the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she was also one of the curators of the Hall of Biodiversity. At Columbia University, Grifo directed the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation graduate policy workshop and ran the Science Teachers Environmental Education Program prior to joining UCS in 2005.
There is never a dull moment in her current position, in part because it is so diverse. Grifo collaborates with experts from agencies as varied as the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. She affirms that her AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship® in the Office of Research at the U.S. Agency for International Development provided "a terrific platform upon which to build and excel" in her diverse career.
She offered the following advice to new fellows: "It's important to be the expert, but it's more important to be in 'sponge mode.' The fellowship years are an incredible opportunity to look around and explore. It may not be the core of a fellowship assignment that turns out to be the most important. It may be the extra things that you do, the people you meet, and the meetings you go to that help you determine your path."
Jonathan C. Pershing
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Policy and Technology, U.S. Department of Energy
Executive Branch Fellow, U.S. Department of State
As the theater adage goes, the world is Jonathan Pershing's stage. In his role as deputy assistant secretary for Climate Change Policy and Technology at the U.S. Department of Energy, he focuses on Clean Energy Ministerial, which seeks to accelerate global progress in areas such as appliance efficiency and electric vehicles through high-level dialogue and sustained technical work. Domestically, Pershing's team applies energy systems and economic analyses to inform clean energy policy.
He previously worked in international leadership roles at the World Resources Institute and the International Energy Agency in Paris, and as the lead climate negotiator during President Obama's first term. Pershing also spent nearly a decade at the State Department as a senior climate official. He is widely recognized for his work on international climate change architecture, including the design of a post-Kyoto Protocol climate change agreement.
Throughout his career, Pershing notes, "I have found enormous satisfaction in bringing together" different perspectives on science and technical issues with both domestic and international policy concerns. "My fellowship through AAAS provided the perfect amalgamation of those two sides of science and policy."
Pershing got his start at the State Department as a AAAS S&T Policy fellow® and highly recommends it. "For those interested in how to make policy, the fellowship is a remarkably good way to get in ... and not at the bottom," he notes. Fellows enter the policy arena in a way that "it is presumed that your scientific information and your understanding of analytical processes are relevant to, and can and should be constructively applied, to affect policy. That's a remarkable entry, and I am enormously and eternally grateful for it."
Sharon Hemond Hrynkow
President, Global Virus Network (GVN)
Executive Branch Fellow, U.S. Department of State
PhD, Developmental Neurobiology
Sharon Hrynkow, a developmental neurobiologist, was doing her postdoc in Norway, when she saw an ad for the fellowship program in the journal Science. "I knew the moment that I looked at that it was exactly what I wanted to do."
She received the only fellowship assignment in the State Department for her cohort year of 1992. Hrynkow had only one subject in mind that she wanted to focus on: AIDS. "I believed then as I believe now, AIDS is not only a health issue, it's a foreign policy issue," she stressed.
It took months of writing many persuasive papers, but eventually her colleagues gave her the latitude and resources to pursue it. "One of the things I learned through the fellowship was how to navigate through an enormous bureaucracy of highly-talented individuals, many of whom did not have a natural appreciation for why they should be talking about AIDS."
Her work led to the establishment of the State Department's first international strategy on HIV/AIDS, and helped create dialogues between U.S. ambassadors and foreign governments about the various dimensions of AIDS, including health, social, economic, military and national security. "It showed me that a single person with a whole lot of support can develop policy that makes a difference."
As a result of the experience, "I knew my contributions were not going to be made in the lab but in other arenas." Indeed, Hrynkow has served in high-level positions with the Fogarty International Center and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. She also served as counselor and senior scientist in the Secretary of State's Office of Science and Technology, and as senior advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science. Hrynkow has received many acknowledgments for her efforts, including the U.S. President's Merit Award for Senior Executives, and the King of Norway's Order of Merit.
Hrynkow now oversees the Global Virus Network, a coalition of medical virologists around the world dedicated to providing research, training, education and advocacy in preparation of a potential global pandemic threat. She also spends much of her time being "a voice for equality of women and girls in science.
"I try to broaden the agenda," says Hrynkow. "Science is not only about what happens at the bench. Science is also about all the other people in the enterprise who make the machine work."
Duncan T. Moore
Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship; Rudolf and Hilda Kingslake Professor of Optical Engineering; Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Professor of Business Administration; and Area Coordinator, Entrepreneurship, The Simon School of Business, The University of Rochester
APS Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator John D. Rockefeller
Duncan T. Moore, an optical engineer and former president of the Optical Society of America, recognizes that scientists and engineers who are armed with policy expertise can help ensure that the right resources are allocated towards advancing critical technology that impact the safety, security and well-being of a community. “We are trained to take very complex problems and break them down into a series of sub-problems that can be solved,” he shares. “Our ability to look at complex issues is great training for examining public policy concerns.”
Moore first became transfixed by technology policy when, as a faculty member at the University of Rochester, he was invited to help repair the optical systems of the Hubble Space Telescope. “I approached that strictly as a science problem,” he recounts. “I soon realized there were huge political issues associated with it, because of the pressure to get the prescription done quickly. So for the first time, I encountered an issue of science and engineering crossed with political science and public policy.” It was more than enough to intrigue him – as his academic sabbatical approached he received a AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship® under John D. Rockefeller.
The “life-changing” experience of the fellowship equipped him with a distinct ability to find novel solutions to problems that intersected seemingly disparate disciplines. “I’m very much a ‘lemonade out of lemons’ guy,” he jokes. Following his fellowship, Moore joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) as associate director for technology where he worked on numerous cutting-edge engineering policy issues such as the Clean Car Initiative, National Nanotechnology Initiative, and CrimeTech.
Moore’s unique policy perspective continues to inform various projects. He is currently president of the International Commission for Optics, a UNESCO chartered organization with 50+ member nations. He spearheaded an initiative to focus on entrepreneurship education for scientists and engineers in developing nations, and as such he and his team travel the world teaching courses about innovation, invention, and business. “I came to appreciate an individual can make an impact,” he says.
John S. Morgan
APS Congressional Fellow,
Office of Representative Dana Rohrabacher
PhD, Material Science and Engineering
John S. Morgan has spent much of his career building bridges between technical disciplines and public policy. When he was awarded the AAAS S&T Policy Congressional Fellowship®, he had already been serving in the Maryland State Legislature while working for the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. “The fellowship was extraordinarily important in my career,” he says. “It brought together science and public policy in ways I never had encountered before.”
He continued his mission of forging strategic connections in the Department of Justice (DOJ). As the director of the Office of Science and Technology in the National Institute of Justice (the DOJ’s research operations), Morgan received the Service to America medal, the highest honor given to federal employees, for his groundbreaking work in improving “all aspects of how DNA technology is used by state and local law enforcement”. The resulting initiative was a “radical improvement” in the way DNA evidence was used and processed in the analysis of criminal cases, he says.
Later, as the command science advisor to the US Army Special Operations Command, Morgan spearheaded significant technological contributions ranging from the development of advanced ground-based robotics systems to assist Special Forces in identifying explosive devices, to accelerating research in human factors psychology and engineering.
In 2013, Morgan launched his own company, CopTech, which provides training to police professionals in science and technology matters. “Police agencies typically can’t afford to hire scientists and engineers to manage the billions of dollars’ worth of technology they employ every year,” he explains. “I provide training and consulting to help them execute science and technology projects effectively,” which ultimately empowers law enforcement to build their own bridges. “It’s about identifying real world problems, examining how to engage public policy and deploying really cool technology to solve these problems.”
His advice to future fellows? It’s simple, he notes: “Being involved in public policy will make you a more ‘well-rounded’ person and probably a better scientist.”
Associate Director, World Food Center, UC Davis
Executive Branch Fellow, USAID
PhD, Molecular Biology
Josette Lewis has a deep understanding of the complex relationship between agriculture, biotechnology, food security, and policy. She spent 16 years at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Later, as the director of the Office of Agriculture, she helped establish the agency as a leader in supporting field tests for transgenic crops, such as bananas, cassavas, cowpeas, and certain vegetables, in developing nations. “This is an example of USAID making a difference on the ground,” she says. “I don’t think those crops would have been planted in trials were it not for our presence. We were able to give countries the opportunity to gain first-hand experience what these crops could mean in the context of their own agricultural and economic systems.”
Lewis also contributed to the launch of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. “It challenged my thinking to see the big picture,” she says. She helped set the strategic direction of the program and spearheaded its operational and outreach activities with U.S. and other governments’ leaders. “At its core is agriculture, which is a driver of income generation that can promote greater food security,” she notes.
After she left the federal government, Lewis worked for Arcadia Biosciences and in 2013, she was named associate director of the World Food Center at UC Davis. There she is examining issues relating to food systems and technology, agriculture, environment and sustainability, economic growth, and health and nutrition at local, national and global scales. She is excited about the opportunity to bring together her experience in forging cross-sector partnerships to enable programmatic success in international development and policy.
“I hope to leverage my ability to communicate research findings into policy and promote the transfer of technology and partnerships with industry to promote growth of the agriculture sector, here and internationally.”
President, University of New England
AAAS Congressional Fellow,
Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources
PhD, Speech Pathology
Danielle N. Ripich is president of the University of New England (UNE), the largest private university in the state of Maine. She is emphatic that her success in various university administrator roles over the past 15 years stems in large part from one source: her fellowship in the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions where she worked in the office of Edward Kennedy on higher education. “I gained a broad perspective of higher education in America,” she says of her time assisting his team with constituent issues ranging from defaults on college loans to research funding. And “it made me realize the importance of higher education in national policy.”
The fellowship program instilled in her a unique understanding of how to navigate the complex waters of government and the value of collaboration in making one’s voice heard. “I have been much more assertive in working with my different delegations throughout my career,” says Ripich. She has been able to advance her university’s mission by leaps and bounds. Since she took office in 2006, student enrollments have grown 70 percent and UNE campuses have expanded to include seven new buildings and three new colleges.
Her experience in Washington also helped to widen her perspective. “In policy issues, I tend to look beyond my own institution and seek opportunities that are going to be improvements or good policy for the state,” she says. “I have been much more impactful.” Ripich helped launch the Doctors for Maine’s Future Scholarship, which provides financial support for medical students who are committed to serving the state’s rural population. And with recent challenges associated with funding medical education, she partnered with her legislators to ensure the program’s stability in the future.
As for her advice to early career professionals considering the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship Program®, Ripich is to the point: “They can do nothing better with a year of their life than to do a fellowship. It’s a window into policy and government that you’ll never get in any other way.”
Account General Manager, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC)
AAAS Congressional Fellow,
Office of Representative Vernon Ehlers
When Sharon Hays learned she had been named a Science & Technology Policy Fellow®, “I jumped up and down on the bed,” she recalls with a laugh. “I knew that it would be a really important milestone in my life.” She couldn’t have been more right.
Her year in the Office of Congressman Ehlers soon turned into several more on Capitol Hill, where she served in staff positions for key science subcommittees, including the Basic Research Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. In 2002, she joined the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) under the second Bush Administration, first as chief of staff, and later as deputy director for science and associate director.
Hays’ time at OSTP included “one of the most transformative events in my entire career”: leading the U.S. Delegation to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Her responsibilities included managing the negotiations relating to what the report contained, assembling the team of experts, and serving as the media relations representative. The results included worldwide press surrounding a final report “that didn’t overblow the risks, but didn’t sugarcoat them either,” she notes. “It was an opportunity to influence something that was incredibly important.”
For her next challenge, Hays looked to industry. “I recognized how significant the business sector is in the U.S.,” she says. “It’s the economic driver that makes everything else possible.” And yet she noticed that policy was being made that could affect this “economic engine” by those who don’t necessarily have experience in the private sector. She recognized that this was a problem she could help solve.
Today, as an account general manager for CSC, a prominent government contractor, Hays oversees a vast portfolio of science and technology services for government clients including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s important to me to be part of something that is instrumental in ensuring our country stays strong and healthy and continues to move forward,” she stressed.
Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
IEEE Congressional Fellow, House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Telecommunications
PhD, Electrical Engineering
Jon M. Peha’s expertise lies at the confluence of engineering, technology and policy as it relates to information networks, such as the Internet, cellular and Wi-Fi. One of the issues for which he is known is communications for emergency response. “I became very interested in public safety communications as a direct result of the attacks on 9/11,” he says. “It was clear from the reports afterwards that quite a few people lost their lives, who really didn’t have to, because the communications systems used by emergency responders didn’t work the way they should.”
He jumped at the opportunity to tackle the complex problem, recognizing “this was an important research area and that the U.S. really needed to fundamentally change its approach, both technically and in a policy way, if we are going to meet the needs of emergency responders” far more effectively.
In 2008, Peha became chief technologist of the Federal Communications Commission, and later served the White House as assistant director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP). While working on the National Broadband Plan, he was one of the architects of a new national policy that adopted cutting-edge technology to ensure more efficient emergency communication. “Many different municipalities were taking their own technological approach and what we really needed was a nationwide strategy and a common technology,” he clarifies. The novel policy utilized wireless and internet-based tools to enable police, fire and EMT professionals to stay constantly connected with each other in an urgent situation, and even share pictures and video in real time with doctors and other emergency workers.
Peha returned to academia in 2011, and continues researching areas of technology and policy – including broadband issues, internet accessibility, and online copyright concerns. But he hasn’t forgotten what set him on this important path in the first place: the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship®. “Before the fellowship I was an engineering researcher who had this idea that I could use my technical knowledge to address policy issues, but I hadn’t quite figured out how to do that,” he says. “The experience made me much more prepared to advise governments and companies all over the world on the intersection of technical and policy issues, including developing nations.” Furthermore, “it very much changed my research agenda. I chose to work on issues where the technology really matters, but where policy also matters and you’re trying to help policy makers make intelligent and informed decisions.”
Associate Director, Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families (GCYF)
APA Congressional Fellow, Office of Senator Richard Durbin
JD & PhD, Psychology
Natacha Blain views her fellowship experience, under the mentorship of Senator Richard Durbin, as providing the necessary skills and fortitude to address significant societal challenges. Before the year had wrapped up, she was asked to serve in a staff position. “I was so excited I called my husband to discuss the opportunity,” she shares. “I then hung up and called him back two minutes later and said: ‘what do we have to talk about? When a United States senator asks you to join his staff, you say yes!’”
“I always knew that whatever I did would involve children, youth and families, particularly those who are disenfranchised,” says Blain adamantly. “I was interested in what I could do to make their lives better, to help strengthen their backbone.” She has spent her entire career contemplating how best to aid vulnerable populations, from working as a Supreme Court Fellow to directing the Children's Defense Fund’s (CDF) Cradle to Prison Pipeline® Campaign. In her most recent position with Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families (GCYF), she serves myriad stakeholders whose interests run the gamut from immigration, healthcare, and education, to LBGTQ concerns and racial disparity.
Blain’s goal is to ensure that policy is always supported by rigorous scientific research and data. “At CDF, we created state factsheets to give people a realistic picture of what the pipeline issues were in the state, including the number of children in the juvenile justice system and the achievement gap among different demographics,” she says. “We showed people how to go about making an impact.”
In fact, she helped fashion a visual tool, called the Pyramid of Action, which guides individuals to discover their own strengths and abilities in effecting positive change in their communities. Whether it is mentoring, making sure that someone is called to task if a child is expelled, or giving an internship to a young person, the Pyramid of Action “gets people thinking what is in their purview in order to bring about these changes,” she says. Every individual has the power to make a difference, she adds, which can significantly contribute to a community’s wellbeing, a point that was reinforced during her fellowship. “The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship Program® brought another element of effectuating and helping a lot more people on a bigger scale by bringing about the needed policy changes that were required in communities,” she says.
Senior Advisor, Office of the Assistant Director, Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, National Science Foundation
Executive Branch Fellow, NSF
Deborah Olster is known as a coach and a connector. In the decade+ since her S&T Policy Fellowship® at the National Science Foundation (NSF), she has mentored upwards of 10 fellows, many of whom credit her guidance with helping them triumph in science policy careers. As one of her protégés wrote, “Deb has proven to be invaluable asset to my growth as a researcher.”
After her fellowship, Olster joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, where she eventually rose to the position of deputy director, and acting director. She has been extremely successful as a “connector” of seemingly disparate disciplines. “What’s fun for me is learning about different areas of science, looking for connections across fields, and thinking of new ways of putting those together in research settings,” she says. “I never get bored!” For example, at the NIH, she infused biological science into behavioral and social science initiatives, contributed to NIH Roadmap activities, and helped launch interdisciplinary training grants.
Her projects ranged from improving animal models of human behavioral and social processes and investigating how school policy might influence obesity, to participating in a workgroup on the protection of human subjects in research, convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Now back at the NSF, Olster is looking forward to working with more early-career science policy leaders. “Having been a fellow myself, I really know where people are coming from,” she notes. “The fellowship program was a huge eye-opener for me about how science, if allowed, can permeate the entire government in many, many different ways. I don’t think I would have figured that out had it not been for the fellowship.”
President and Founder, Each, Inc.
Diplomacy Fellow, U.S. Department of State
PhD, Rural Development
Jean Geran’s passion is human rights. As a social scientist with expertise in economics, anthropology, and rural development, she spent her fellowship in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, at the Department of State focusing on Southeast Asia. One of her most memorable assignments was when she scrutinized reports of widespread sexual violence against ethnic minoritiy women in Burma. She helped bring enough international attention to the issue that “raised pressure on the Burmese regime to stop the practice, and caused the UN to push for an internal investigation concerning rape as a weapon of war,” she notes. During her fellowship, she also volunteered to be part of one of the first civilian humanitarian teams in Iraq to assist Iraqi civilians and report on human rights issues during the war.
Geran later worked for the National Security Council, where she helped organize the first meeting between President Bush and Afghani and Iraqi Women’s Ministers, and helped successfully negotiate a human rights agenda for an important US-Sino Summit, which ultimately led to the release of a prominent (female) Chinese political prisoner. “I was able to see that one can use diplomatic tools to achieve human rights objectives.”
When she re-joined the Department of State in the mid-2000s as a member of the policy planning staff, her responsibilities included human rights, trafficking in persons, child protection, refugee policy, and democratic governance. Geran soon realized her true calling was developing policy and technology tools to protect the most vulnerable population on the planet: children without families. These can include orphans, child soldiers, sex-trafficked youths, and minor refugees.
In 2012, Geran launched Each, Inc., a social enterprise dedicated to providing customized technology support to organizations and individuals who work with vulnerable children globally. “We are building a secure technology safety net for these children,” she says. She clarifies that in some ways the genesis of this idea was born during her AAAS Fellowship, where she learned “the real opportunities for making the world a better place lie in the symbiotic relationship between policy and science and technology.”
Director, Technology Policy and Geopolitical Affairs,
The Boeing Company
AIChE Congressional Fellow,
Office of Senator John D. Rockefeller
PhD, Chemical Engineering
As the director of technology policy and geopolitical affairs for The Boeing Company’s commercial airplanes division, Anish Goel’s mission is to analyze potential economic opportunities and ensure that “we are taking full advantage of opportunities in the market,” he explains. His science policy expertise plays a huge role in these endeavors, as Goel helps his company navigate the sometimes complicated arena of federally-sponsored aerospace research. “We advocate for sustained and efficient funding for projects that are complementary to our own research.” He also helps Boeing advocate for upgrades to strategic government-run facilities, such as NASA’s wind tunnel operations.
Goel’s negotiations for financial support, experimental facilities and investigative collaborations often involve other nations and their research infrastructure. He credits his success to extensive foreign policy experience, which he first gained when he was as a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow® in the Department of State, and later when he served as director (and then senior director) for South Asia at the National Security Council. He also subsequently served as the senior science and technology adviser for the South Asia Bureau at the Department of State.
Some of Goel’s proudest accomplishments include his use of science diplomacy in forging alliances between countries. When he helped negotiate science and technology arrangements between the U.S. and the governments of India and Pakistan, as well as a bilateral agreement between the two neighboring nations, he realized that “scientists are one of the few groups who are willing to set aside political goals and place the science ahead of any prejudices that may be prevalent.”
Ultimately, scientists and engineers who collaborate across borders can often engender stronger partnerships between their parent nations, he emphasized. “Science diplomacy is probably overlooked in broader diplomatic circles, but it is very powerful.”