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