John Daniels

2007-09 Energy, Environment, Agriculture & Natural Resources (EEANR) Fellow; National Science Foundation, Directorate for Engineering, Division of Engineering Education and Centers

John Daniels had a great job. As a tenured associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, he was well established in his career. But like many who apply for a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship, John sought to expand his experience outside academia. “I wanted a broader connection and understanding of where my scientific field fit into the greater picture,” says John. He also wanted to use his engineering expertise to serve his country. One day he came across the AAAS Fellowship website and recalled that his mentor, Hilary Inyang, had been a AAAS Fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency. “Dr. Inyang remembered his experience as a pivotal moment in his career,” says John. “I knew this was something I wanted to apply for.” John opted for a placement in the Division of Engineering Education and Centers at the National Science Foundation (NSF). “I wanted to work on broad issues, so I pursued NSF,” he says. “And the mission of the division resonated with me.”

John was involved with a number of high profile assignments, including co-authoring the announcement for the Innovations in Engineering Education, Curriculum, and Infrastructure program. “We are working to improve how students learn and to increase the number of students in engineering education.” Being based in Arlington, Virginia, was also a good fit for his wife and two young children. “Living in the DC area is culturally and intellectually invigorating,” he says. Before returning to his academic post in August 2010, John will spend one more year at NSF as a program director under the Visiting Scientist Program. He believes that the fellowship experience will meaningfully influence his academic work at UNC. “I will be a more informed faculty member and in a better position to mentor students. I am also positioned now to pursue work I would otherwise not have been able to do, such as responding to issues that are multidisciplinary,” he says. “This experience is relevant to anyone at any stage.”