AAAS Diplomacy Fellow Alex Dehgan Wins State Department Honor
Alex Dehgan, a field biologist who risked his life in an effort to recruit former Iraqi weapons scientists into reconstruction efforts, has received the prestigious Superior Honor Award from the U.S. State Department.
The honor is given to groups or individuals in recognition of a special act or service or sustained extraordinary performance covering a period of one year or longer. In bestowing the honor, the State Department cited Dehgan's work in Iraq with former weapons scientists and his subsequent efforts to create the Iraqi Virtual Science Library, which will provide Iraqi scholars and students with access to thousands of journals and publications when it goes online this fall.
"This well-deserved award not only recognizes the outstanding service of Alex Dehgan," said AAAS Science and Policy Director Al Teich, "but it also highlights the vital role that science and technology can play in strengthening international development, peace, and securitya role to which many other AAAS Fellows throughout the government contribute every day."
The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships bring scientists into government service in a variety of agencies and in Congress. The fellowships are designed to establish and nurture critical links between federal decision-makers and scientific professionals to support public policy that benefits the well-being of the nation and the world. The program supports the AAAS objectives to improve public policymaking through the infusion of science, and to increase public understanding of science and technology.
Before applying to the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship Program, Dehgan had specialized studying the extinction susceptibility of lemurs in Madagascar. In September 2003, he was assigned as a AAAS Diplomacy Fellow to the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of Regional Affairs.
Beginning in early 2004, he spent five months in Iraq directing a U.S. program designed to tap into the talents of former Iraqi weapons scientists, recruiting them into reconstruction work and seeking to offset job offers they sometimes received from hostile forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. In those months, his life was often in danger. In an interview this week, he described surviving bomb attacks, getting caught in shoot-outs and receiving death threats.
"I don't regret it," he said, "so long as others can continue working on building science in Iraq, and so long as the Iraqi people have hope in their future."
Dehgan left the State Department in June, completing nearly two years in his extended AAAS fellowship. The award was issued on 12 July. He earlier received a letter of commendation from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Read an excerpt from this week's interview with Alex Dehgan here.
From the AAAS News archives:
"Rebuilding Science in Iraq, One Scientist at a Time"
An interview with Alex Dehgan (September 2004)
Edward W. Lempinen
16 August 2005