The American Physical Society selected the 1998-99 Congressional Fellow at its annual spring meeting in Columbus, OH in April. Antonia Herzog, currently a consultant with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), will serve one year as a special legislative assistant in a congressional office of her choice, following an intensive, ten-day orientation period and interview process.
Herzog received a BA in physics from Vassar College in 1987 and a BE in general engineering from Dartmouth College the following year. After completing her MS in applied physics at Columbia University in 1989, where she studied the stresses and strains in doped silicon membranes using Raman spectroscopy, she went on to earn a PhD in physics from the University of California, San Diego. There she studied the transport properties of disordered metallic and superconducting one-dimensional wires. Herzog also gained industrial experience through a summer internship at Xerox Corporation in Webster, New York, in 1988, working in the Business Products & Supplies/Material Technology and Control Group.
Before joining the AAAS, Herzog explored other research options, working as a postdoctoral research associate at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, studying the organization of neuronal circuits for visual information processing. Specifically, she used intracellular electrophysiological recordings in brain slices to elucidate the functional connectivity of cortical neurons in the visual cortex. "There is an expanding interaction between biology and physics, especially in the computational modeling of neurobiological systems," she said, adding that while the two fields are very different, "The techniques that I used in my neurobiology lab were related to experimental techniques that I used in my physics lab."
While positive, the experience convinced her that her true interests lay elsewhere, and in 1997 she moved to Washington, DC, to pursue a career in science policy. At AAAS, she has been exploring various issues related to the ethical, legal and policy implications of science and technology. Past community service includes working with the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club to preserve the remaining coastal wetlands in San Diego County through lobbying efforts and public education. "It made me realize that this is a very complex process and you need to know what you're doing if you want to get anything accomplished," she said of the experience. She also participated in Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit group that provides housing for low-income families at reduced costs.
Applying for the APS Congressional Fellowship was a logical next step for Herzog's budding career in science policy. "I felt that to really understand how things are accomplished, you have to know how Congress works," she said, "I felt this would be an incredible first-hand experience that would make me more effective in the future regarding whatever issues concerned me." While she has yet to decide where she will spend her fellowship year, Herzog is leaning towards working on the personal staff of a member of Congress: "Congress is all about the home state and constituency concerns and if you don't understand that, you've missed the boat." She is specifically interested in working on issues regarding energy use and conservation, global climate change, and other environmental concerns, and ultimately sees herself working for a nonprofit science policy organization.
The APS Congressional Fellowship program is intended to provide a public service by making available individuals with scientific knowledge and skills to members of Congress, few of whom have a technical background. In turn, the program enables scientists to broaden their experience through direct involvement with the legislative and political processes. "Fellows gain a perspective which, ideally, will enhance not only their own careers but also the physics community's ability to more effectively communicate with its representatives in Congress," said APS Associate Executive Officer Barrett Ripin.