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Tips for applicants from the new STPF recruitment director

Recruitment Director Mehrab Sarwar in action at a conference.
Mehrab Sarwar in action recruiting prospective STPF fellows at a conference this year. | Kat Song/AAAS


For me, 2023 has already been a really exciting year. In January, I became recruitment director for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) program. With a poli sci degree – as opposed to a “hard” science one – the learning curve has been steep, but really rewarding. And while this gig keeps me in the recruitment space, the STPF world of Ph.D.’s and engineers with master’s degrees presents a wholly different set of realities than my previous job. There, I operated in the college access arena where I helped attract and enable underserved and underrepresented students to attend selective institutions.  

As recruitment director, one of my goals is to develop a deep understanding of target audiences that are not strongly represented in the fellowship. Coming from an immigrant family, I care deeply that the opportunities STPF offers are accessible to all who meet the qualifications. STPF is already a leader in this respect and I am thrilled to have the chance to augment its legacy.  

While I loved working with talented high school and college students, STPF opens up a new world for me. And it’s one of the best ways to engage with expert scientists and engineers and tell them all about an extraordinary opportunity to have an impact in the policy world. Having a way to help ensure that the nation’s policymakers have access to science minds is deeply motivational for me.  

As the program continues to expand its reach – from new host agencies and partnering organizations, to more fellows with a broad spectrum of backgrounds – I have been awed at the impact STPF fellows have been making over the past half century. STPF alum fellow Arati Prabhakar is making purposeful steps to improve America’s science, technology and innovation ecosystem while current fellow Courtney Hill at the Department of State learns the ropes of space cooperation between nations. The examples of fellow achievements go on for miles and miles.   

While this year’s application season is my first rodeo, I have enough experience gleaned from past jobs as well as from my months here at STPF to provide prospective applicants with just a few nuggets of wisdom:  

  1. Sign up to join the STPF mailing list here.  
  2. Talk to us on Twitter: I’m at STPF_Recruits and the program is at AAAS_STPF.  
  3. Review the eligibility criteria.  
  4. Read and listen to Sci on the Fly blogs and podcasts produced by STPF fellows and alumni all about science policy.  

Wondering what ever happened to my predecessor? Former recruitment director Jessica Soule decided to take on a new challenge to help establish and formalize the STPF alumni network. It’s a natural next step – and I sure am glad she’s still around to impart her well-earned expertise recruiting the nation’s best and brightest to serve in Washington.   


Mehrab Sarwar

Recruitment Director

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