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Tammy Barlow Murphy

Tammy Barlow Murphy
Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

2004-2005 Environmental Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

My year as an environmental fellow at the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water was one of the most exciting and challenging years of my life. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Why? It’s simple; I grew both professionally and personally during my fellowship year. And I loved it.

I came to Washington from a tenure track academic position in the economics department of an urban university, the University of Massachusetts-Boston. I had every intention of returning to that position after my fellowship year, and I did. However, I returned to Boston with a much richer set of experiences, as well as a much wider view of possible career paths, than I had prior to my fellowship year.

The AASS fellowship gave me the opportunity to use my knowledge and skills outside of an academic setting and to find out that I could not only enjoy, but thrive, in settings other than academia. While graduate school training and academic life emphasize depth, “a big picture” approach was much more useful in the regulatory environment at EPA. The need for the “big picture” forced me to stretch; I developed new skills and built upon existing ones. Not only did I need to understand and be able to explain technical issues, but I often needed to do so for decision makers with very different skills and backgrounds than myself, and in very little time. I think of it as learning how to answer the “So What?” question in 15 minutes or less.

I now have a much greater appreciation for how difficult the regulatory process is. During my fellowship year, the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water was responsible for three major drinking water regulations. While assisting with the economic analysis of these regulations, I was given the opportunity to observe and participate in the regulatory process closely. I particularly enjoyed the negotiations between EPA and the Office of Management and Budget. I am a better teacher, scholar, and citizen because of this opportunity.

As a AAAS Fellow, your circle of colleagues and friends expands. At EPA, I was an economist that worked side by side with engineers, microbiologists, geologists, and lawyers. The Washington environment and my “fellow AAAS Fellows” provided me with an incredible level of intellectual stimulation. In addition to valuable contacts, I gained a few close, intelligent, and passionate friends that I would not have encountered during a typical academic year at UMass-Boston.

If you are contemplating applying for a AAAS fellowship, do it. If you are awarded a AAAS fellowship, be willing and prepared to stretch. The trip to the finish line is exhilarating.