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Second-gen Fellows Follow in their Advisor’s Footsteps

If an advisee of a former fellow is a "2nd-generation" fellow, does that make an advisor who becomes a fellow after a grad student a 0-gen (or -1-gen) fellow? That was part of a discussion on the policy fellows' listserv recently, after alumna fellow Margaret E. Kosal wondered how many other alumni fellows' students had joined the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships.

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Kosal, a 2005-07 Executive Branch Fellow at the Department of Defense, sought out the fellowship after starting her own company that used bio-organic compounds to detect explosives, biological and chemical agents, partly because she wanted to understand why the federal government was funding some things and not others. "I gained a better understanding of the importance of broader programmatic factors" in the decision-making process,

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Image: Leadership Alliance

she said.

Today, in addition to advising her own doctoral students in international affairs, Kosal also advises Ph.D. students from across the Georgia Institute of Technology as director of the Sam Nunn Security Program. She has informed and helped students to apply for a policy fellowship but finds that she often doesn't need to bring it up because they've already heard of it.

Alumni often make the best ambassadors. And now that the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship program is in its 46th year, it's increasingly likely that a student's advisor or someone they know is among the well over 3,000 alumni fellows.

For neuroscientist Ling Wong, 2015-17 Executive Branch Fellow, it wasn't until she told her advisor that she was considering applying to the fellowships program that she learned he had participated in the program, also at the National Institutes of Health. Her advisor, Tony Simon was a 1999-2000 Executive Branch Fellow sponsored by the Society for Research in Child Development. "He didn't affect my decision to apply, but he reinforced it was a good fit," Wong said.

Wong's fellowship evolved into a permanent position within the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "As a neuroscientist interested in science policy, I think there's no better place to be," she said.

Wong is already helping draw in a parallel generation fellow: a graduate school friend is considering the program, and Wong has encouraged her to apply.

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Image: Kyle Rick

Ursula Rick had followed a similar path to Kosal's. "I became interested in science policy because of the way climate change started getting really politicized. I didn't understand why. I had to go looking for information on that and be pretty proactive about it." Rick served as a 2010-11 Congressional Science & Engineering Fellow sponsored by the American Geosciences Institute, an experience which she said changed her career trajectory.

"Ever since the fellowship, I've been straddling that science and policy line," Rick said. She is currently the managing director of Western Water Assessment in Boulder, Colorado, and frequently tells graduate students what a great experience it was. She also takes credit for influencing her advisor, Tad Pfeffer, an engineering professor at the University of Colorado who later became a Jefferson Fellow at the Department of State.

Pfeffer said Rick's experience reminded him of his interest in public service, so that when the opportunity for a Jefferson Fellowship came up, he was primed to apply. He also "frequently relied on Ursula for advice and insight about the D.C. perspective on science," and continues to do so.

Fall is the season for recruiting and applying for an STPF fellowship. Applications are due November 1 at https://fellowshipapp.aaas.org.

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Kathleen O'Neil