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From Neuroscience Research to the Summit of the Americas

Fellowship Focus – January 2010


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Frances Colón
PhD, Neuroscience, Brandeis University
2006-08 AAAS Fellow at the State Department, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Office of Policy Coordination and Initiatives

I was never the type of graduate student who wanted to spend endless hours at the bench. While I love research, my attention always seemed to drift to political campaigns, community issues, or anger at policy directions I disagreed with.

I spent my spare time on these topics and it wasn’t long before my advisor suggested that I pursue a AAAS Science &Technology Policy Fellowship following my thesis defense. I was thrilled to finally find an option that would marry my proclivity for social settings with my passion for science and policy. It’s been more than a year since I concluded my AAAS Fellowship, and it was everything I imagined and more.

From negotiations in the Middle East to reform science curricula, to debating the evidence for the effects of climate change on the intensity of hurricanes with policymakers, I have seen science policy in action, and at times helped shaped it. In spring 2009, as I stood under the wing of Air Force One, about to begin my duty as control officer for President Obama’s Secretary of Energy at the Summit of the Americas, I could not believe how far I had come since I was matched with my fellowship host office and informed that I was invited to Washington, D.C.

I now serve full-time as science advisor for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department, where I recommend strategies to engage the Americas on environment, technology and health concerns. At a time in our history when the issues I am most passionate about are at the top of the agenda, the AAAS Fellowship positioned me at the center of the action. I love every minute of the work.

November 2014 update: Frances Colón is Acting Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State.

Disclaimer: The perspectives and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of AAAS, the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships, the U.S. Government, or the U.S. Department of State.

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