2008-09 Congressional Fellow sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Often timing is everything. For AAAS Science &Technology Policy Fellow Ali Nouri, their fellowship began as climate issues rose to the top of the political agenda.
Ali Nouri, who has a PhD in molecular biology from Princeton University, accepted a placement as a AAAS STPF Congressional Fellow in the Office of Senator James Webb (D-VA), and the timing couldn’t have been better. Shortly after arriving, Ali was asked to take the lead on climate and energy issues in his office. “I got lucky,” he explains. “And I had to learn quickly. It is amazing how much you learn by doing.”
Ali prepared Senator Webb for hearings by providing information he needed on topics he wanted to know more about, including carbon dioxide sequestration and biofuels. “The fellowship is an amazing program,” he says. “It puts you in the heart of the action.”
Ali knew from an early age that he wanted to do international policy work. Originally from Iran, Ali moved with his family to Oregon when he was 11 years old. Political turmoil shaped his childhood and the way he saw the world. “Politics changed the lives of my family and the people we knew,” he says. “I had more and more desire to do work beyond the microscope.” He applied for the congressional fellowship because of the breadth of issues he’d be working on. “I wanted a birds-eye view and to work with a broad range of issues.
“I found a lot of respect for science and scientific consensus in my office. But having scientific ‘truth’ is only one component. You need to have other interest groups come together with scientists and build coalitions with industry, experts and citizens,” Ali says. “Scientists can have powerful voices, but there are other voices. If they are not colliding, it makes creating policy easier.”
Following his fellowship year, Ali accepted a position as a legislative assistant in Senator Webb’s office, to further hone his policy skills. “The pace on the Hill has been really surprising. It is exactly the opposite of academia where you spend years learning about topics—here you have just hours or even minutes.”