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Federal Policy: Made Better with STEM

By Joy Metcalf

Maynard Holliday works to promote innovation through DoD STEM labs. Click the photo to view a video about STEM careers at DoD. | DoD

Recent polls show many Americans disenchanted, even angry, with the way federal government seems to be working. Or not working. And it’s no news that other measurements of public trust in government are also on the downswing. 

Those who remain undeterred share certain traits with Science & Technology Policy Fellows. Fellows are educated about issues, cognizant of public opinion, and passionate about improving life—and many choose to remain in public service following their fellowship.

Maynard Holliday, 1995–96 Executive Branch Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development, began his career with a keen interest in robotics. As a fellow, he helped the State Department and the Department of Energy utilize robotics to aid in the stabilization of Chernobyl, the 1986 Ukrainian nuclear accident site. It became clear how technology development and policy are intertwined: for technology to be funded, it needs to solve an existing problem or one that’s likely to come.

Building on this experience, he continues to support research and development (R&D) efforts today. As the senior technical advisor to Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall, Holliday has helped establish the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), an office in Silicon Valley that matches new technologies with current Pentagon problem sets. “My goal is to help an industry that does not typically do business with DoD play a role in technology development to help the Pentagon maintain pace with innovation in the commercial sector,” said Holliday.

Marc Ostfield is responsible for the training and professional development of foreign affairs professionals. | FSI Audio Visual

Working on global health programming, Marc Ostfield, 2002–04 Executive Branch Fellow at the Department of State, found himself at mid-career with a desire to devote more of his life to policy. “Coming to the State Department shortly after the 2001 anthrax attacks enabled me to focus on bioterrorism and health security issues, to concentrate on the foreign policy implications of these issues, and to take my career in a fundamentally new direction.”

Now deputy director of the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, Ostfield stated, “The fellowship showed me how to bring a methodical (scientific) approach to the policymaking process—and simultaneously to recognize the limits of science in shaping policy.”


Anish Goel noted that his AAAS fellowship created the way for his new career path.

“My career wouldn’t have happened without the fellowship,” said Anish Goel, 2002-03 Congressional Fellow sponsored by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and 2003–05 Executive Branch Fellow at the State Department. As Goel completed his doctorate, he wanted to go beyond a traditional career path and wondered how he could make a difference in a post-9/11 world. He found the answer in a fellowship in which he helped negotiate science and technology agreements with South Asian countries.

“[My STPF fellowship] really lit my interest in diplomacy, foreign negotiations, and foreign security.” As professional staff member for the US Senate Arms Services Committee, Goel oversees R&D for the Department of Defense (DoD) as well as South Asia strategy and policy, including defense relationships with India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Christie Anne Canaria said her work on the I-Corps™ program was a highlight of her fellowship. | Pete Cousté, Story House Productions

Like Goel, Christie Anne Canaria, 2013–15 Executive Branch Fellow at the National Cancer Institute’s Small Business Innovation Research (NCI SBIR) Development Center, never thought she could have a career in government. “That’s one of the amazing gifts of the fellowship: exposure to opportunity.”

As NCI SBIR program manager, she helps spur innovation and foster small business and minority and disadvantaged companies’ participation in R&D. Most notably, Canaria helped establish I-Corps™ at the National Institutes of Health, an eight-week entrepreneurship training program that provides resources to start-up small business grantees.

STPF fellows can be found in virtually every federal agency working on an incredibly broad range of issues. Look out for stories about alumni making an impact in other industry sectors in future issues of Fellowship Focus.


Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

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