2009-11 Diplomacy Fellow at the U.S. Department of State
“Coming from a scientific background it’s sometimes difficult to get in the government. The AAAS Fellowship has opened many doors.”
Born in El Salvador and raised in California, Cindy Quezada has a history of seeking opportunities to tackle difficult issues in developing countries. She began her undergraduate studies in international relations, but soon discovered her passion for science, which eventually culminated in a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biophysics.
Cindy’s combined interests and education were an excellent foundation for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships in the Diplomacy area. “Merging the two fields through this fellowship seemed the perfect opportunity for me to build bridges between the U.S. and other countries through science,” she said. Her assignment in the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State at the State Department focuses on scientific capacity building in developing countries across the globe.
She joined forces with other S&T Policy Fellows to work on the Water Centers of Excellence initiative as part of an interagency team that visited the Middle East and North Africa. They conducted a feasibility assessment and recommended creating a network of centers in nine countries in the region. “We learned firsthand about water concerns,” Cindy said. “And I carried out numerous site visits in Jordan, Egypt, and Libya to obtain feedback on the health needs of the region.”
She has supported President Obama’s “vision for a new beginning with the Muslim world” by strengthening policy through scientific capacity building. Cindy played a lead role in formulating the science and technology component in the Partners for a New Beginning Initiative, led by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In this initiative she is helping build public-private partnerships for science and technology in Muslim communities globally. “Outreach to the international Muslim community is a critical component of current U.S. foreign policy. The work I do is key to improving the image of the U.S. among Muslims.”
Cindy has continued to hone the negotiation and interpersonal skills necessary to bring together diverse groups in cooperative projects and has seen fruitful results. She was instrumental in developing a partnership between the U.S. and Brazil that will also strengthen health systems in other developing countries, such as Mozambique and El Salvador, by creating national public health institutes.
Her experience putting her science to work to combat global public health issues extends beyond efforts at the State Department. Previously, Cindy held a prestigious L’Oreal Women in Science Fellowship, through which she evaluated a high technology diagnostic test for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in Rwanda. She was also a Fulbright scholar at Oxford University.
Cindy is now entrenched in her second year as a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow and is enthusiastic about transitioning into a long-term career in science policy. “Coming from a scientific background it’s sometimes difficult to get in the government. The AAAS Fellowship has opened many doors.”