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Live Chat: Ask a Fellow Anything!

The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF) program is the premier opportunity for outstanding scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about public policy while contributing valuable knowledge and analytical skills to address today’s most pressing societal challenges. For more than 45 years, STPF has been fostering a strong network of STEM leaders who understand policymaking and forge broader career paths.

Join us on October 17 at 3:00 p.m. ET to chat live with STPF fellows and ask your own questions. Find out Why You? Why Now? Why STPF? See past chats on the Live Chat series page.

Remaining Questions

We received so many questions during this live chat that we were unable to get to them all during the video. Here are our textual responses to those questions.

How does the turmoil of the current administration affect your day-to-day work, or future career prospect?

You can hear from STPF alumni Ankunda Kariisa and Peter Winter in their own words about how the political climate affects their experience during our “A Day in the Life” Live Chat this summer; their answers to this question start here.

I understand that there is an allowance for education and travel fund - how did you find opportunities to use this fund?

Fellows whose stipends are administered by AAAS receive a minimum travel/professional training allowance of $4,000. The funds may be used only for fellowship-related travel and for professional training (e.g., attending scientific conferences that pertain to the fellowship). All travel and training must be pre-approved by the host office and AAAS. Fellows who are hired and paid directly by host offices engage in travel and training as provided by their office/agency. More info can be found here.

In addition, AAAS offers fellows year-long professional development opportunities featuring leaders in science, public policy and other relevant fields. The PD program consists of a two-week orientation, monthly program series, special interest affinity group events and programs and a year-end summit.

I know applicants are not expected to have a policy background. When it came to writing the policy memo as part of your application, were there any books or other texts that you consulted for guidance?

This is a great question, and one that will be answered differently by every fellow you speak with. We encourage you to reach out to alumni and current fellows in your network to hear their perspective and resources they suggest!

Don’t limit yourself to current and alumni fellows when researching policy writing resources. As colleagues, friends, librarians, and others who are passionate about writing. 

This would be a question from fellows’ perspectives… maybe we could tweet the question and share a few fellows’ responses?

I would like to do the congressional fellowship maybe after the executive branch, but neither of my professional societies sponsor a fellow - do you think I could influence them to start to sponsor a fellow?

First, THANK YOU for taking the initiative to ask your societies to support congressional fellows! The Congressional Science & Engineering Fellows program thrives with the cooperation of many science societies that value providing the legislative branch with more expertise to inform policymaking. Only through the joint effort of science and engineering societies can we achieve the goals of providing Congress with sound scientific or engineering expertise, and giving the fellows a valuable public service experience that they can bring back to their academic or civic communities.

Science societies respond best to their own members. Make the request of the societies, and see if you can enlist other members to support your request. Even better would be to identify a board member who would support the request. (Often the hang-up is paying for a fellow, so convincing the board is the goal.) Let AAAS know about your efforts with your science societies so we can follow up with more information about the fellowship.

Look into other societies that sponsor fellows to see if your discipline may fit into their mission. For instance, AGU has a pretty broad base owing to its mission to explore Earth and space science, which can include most biologists. And of course, AAAS is a general science society—we welcome members from all disciplines!

How would you recommend applicants prepare for the interview process? How similar or dissimilar was the AAAS process from job interviews you've done for academic positions?

Hear from Vandana Janeja, 2017-18 Executive Branch Fellow at the NSF as she shares how she leveraged her academic experience and scientific expertise as a prospective fellowship candidate.

If you have time, this video provides other excellent insights into the application, interview, and memo writing process!


STAFF: Cynthia Bernardez



Julia Bradley-Cook
2015-2016 Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow sponsored by ASA/CSSA/SSSA
2016-2018 Executive Branch Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development

Julia is a climate advisor in USAID’s Africa Bureau where she provides technical support and program management for international development programs focused on climate smart agriculture, landscape-scale carbon management, climate information services, and low emissions development. As a Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow, Julia worked on energy and natural resource policy in the office of Senator Ron Wyden. In this capacity, Julia drafted legislation, letters to executive agencies, and vote recommendations. Afterwards, she transitioned to an executive branch fellowship at USAID, where she led the development and implementation of a learning activity investigating low-carbon energy opportunities in agriculture value chains and supported program design in Africa. Her previous work experience includes: Climate Central, Inc., the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia, and the Gobabeb Training and Research Center. Through her dissertation research at Dartmouth, Julia conducted research on biological feedbacks to climate change in Greenland’s tundra ecosystem.   


Emerald Nguyen
2016-17 Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow sponsored by American Sociological Association
2017-19 Executive Branch Fellow at National Institutes of Health

Emerald is a sociologist with expertise in health, family dynamics, and immigrant integration. She completed her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California-Davis where she studied the causes and consequences of complex living arrangements among immigrant and US-born families during and after the Great Recession. Currently, she is a fellow at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Aging (NIA), Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR) working on topics including health disparities, formal and informal caregiving, and Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. She also supports the activities of the Office of Research Resources, which manages NIA-funded studies including the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and others. Previously, Emerald was the 2016-2017 American Sociological Association Congressional Fellow working for Representative Mike Honda (CA-17) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) on healthcare and immigration policy issues.

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