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Jacobs' Challenge lets STPF alumni and others double their impact

Entrance to Alumni Lounge
The STPF program hosted the first-ever Alumni Lounge at the 2023 AAAS Annual Meeting.


The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships’ (STPF) 50th anniversary is a milestone that bears witness to all that the STPF community has accomplished together. But we haven’t excelled by resting on our laurels, and there’s still plenty to do to achieve the program’s full potential. Through 10 presidential administrations, thousands of transitions of civil and appointed political staff across all three branches of federal government, and evolving AAAS leadership and strategic approaches, STPF and its body of fellows and alumni have flourished and solidified their role in serving society. Scientists and engineers who have been through the program now number more than 4,000, and many alumni give back to the program that helped launch their careers in new directions.  

“Applying to the STPF program was a pivotal moment in my life,” said STPF Director Rashada Alexander, an alumna of the program herself. “It allowed me to use my scientific training and expertise to find solutions to critical questions of public health at the National Institutes of Health. I gained so much by being embedded at NIH, and I watched my fellow fellows also grow both professionally and personally. These are some of the reasons that I wanted to guide the future of the fellowship, to give back to the community that helped shape my life.”  

Giving back to the program can be as simple as participating in the Jacobs' Challenge Match. Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, have generously contributed $2 million to create an endowment for the STPF program. With matching support from many STPF network members, including Alexander, this funding will help ensure that AAAS can continue to meet the demand for scientific experts – particularly in the halls of Congress.  

Contributions to the matching challenge will not only help ensure that future scientists have the same opportunities given to STPF alumni, but will also aid the program make progress towards meeting diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. As AAAS works to address systemic racism in science, it also works to ensure that STPF fellowship classes reflect the full diversity of the nation.  

Supporting the STPF program and community has impacts that radiate throughout American society. Fellows contribute to policymaking in the halls of Congress, and help ensure that the nation’s laws are based in evidence. Just a few of the many policies STPF fellows have contributed to include: the CHIPS and Science Act, the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan, the Clean Water Act, and the 28th Annual U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Nearly half of all STPF fellows continue in government roles after their fellowship, and more than 80% continue to work in the science-policy interface.  

There are many ways that alumni do and can give back, including volunteering in activities such as fellow recruitment and selection or providing counsel via the STPF Fellowships Advisory Committee. In recognition of the continuing influence of the STPF community and in appreciation for her own time as a fellow, Julie Fischer (2000-01 Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow) and her husband Mark Lacy recently donated $85,000 dollars to the Jacob’s Challenge Match.  

Fischer, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, continues to work in the realm of science policy as a member of the board of directors of the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium and as Senior Technical Advisor for Global Health at CRDF Global.  

“The STPF community is so fortunate to have members like Julie and her husband, Mark,” said Alexander. “Their generosity will help us make the most of the Jacobs' Challenge Match and bolster the future of the STPF program.”  

“Of course, not every alum has the resources for such a generous donation,” said Alexander. “Any and all contributions help us meet our goal and help to build a supportive community where past fellows open doors for future fellows to follow in their footsteps.” 


Elyse DeFranco

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