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By Tawanda W. Johnson
Jennifer Dailey and Abigail Regitsky have been selected as the 2018-19 APS Congressional Fellows, and they are both thrilled to begin their new positions on Capitol Hill.
“I was extraordinarily excited to find out that I had been named a Fellow,” said Dailey, who earned her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Johns Hopkins University.
She added, “Ever since I found out that this position existed a few years ago, I’ve been actively pursuing relevant training and outreach opportunities to gain as much experience as possible in the field. The news also made me a bit nostalgic; it was seven years ago that I first acknowledged, ‘I’m a scientist, not just a science student,’ while presenting research at my first scientific meeting: the 2011 APS March Meeting.”
Regitsky, who received a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recalled a feeling of elation after receiving news of her selection.
“I was very excited and almost speechless when I found out I was going to be an APS Congressional Fellow. After hearing about the [fellowships] three years ago, I knew a fellowship would be the perfect opportunity to help introduce me to a career in science policy,” she said.
Sponsored by APS under the umbrella of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Fellowships, the aim of the Congressional Fellowships is 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 policy-making process. 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.
Fellowships are for one year, typically running September through August. Following a two-week orientation in Washington sponsored by the AAAS, incoming congressional fellows become acquainted with their new work environment. Following interviews on Capitol Hill, Fellows choose a congressional office—personal or committee staff—where they wish to serve.
Dailey and Regitsky both came highly recommended for the Congressional Fellow positions.
“I cannot think of a stronger candidate for the fellowship from our department. I believe that Jen [Dailey] epitomizes the traits that your Society holds important – she is a committed educator, an excellent scientist, and an excellent citizen of the world,” said Jonah Erlebacher, professor and chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Erlebacher added that Dailey has been a superb student. “I have had the pleasure of Jen in my classes and participated as a panel member in her thesis proposal defense, which she easily passed. Her presentation at this program milestone was notable—not only did she present an effective argument for why her work developing sensors ultimately for detecting pathogens such as MRSA [methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus] was feasible and innovative, but her presentation style was exceptionally good.”
Regitsky is the type of person who takes initiative, according to Niels Holten-Andersen, John Chipman Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.
“Abigail is an extremely talented materials scientist with a deep dedication to applying herself in efforts that ultimately will support a more sustainable life on this planet. Already during my first meeting with Abigail as part of our departmental recruitment, I was immediately impressed with her strong desire to pursue her own research ideas on bio-inspired engineering of materials for sustainable consumer product packaging.”
APS Vice President Phil Bucksbaum, who participated in the selection of the Congressional Fellows, said the finalists had outstanding qualifications.
“Not only did they have a solid achievement record in their graduate and early postgraduate careers, but they also had excellent backgrounds to prepare them for the world of government science policy,” he explained.
He added, “The final interview was rigorous. Our interview team consisted of APS leaders, experienced members of the APS Office of Government Affairs, and most importantly, some former Congressional Science Fellows. It was kind of like a moot court; The candidates presented policy papers to the committee members, who played the roles of staffers in a congressional office.”
Bucksbaum concluded, “The committee believes that each of the candidates who rose to the top in this process will be able to use their backgrounds as scientists to make a solid contribution to the work of the Congress.”
The author is the APS Press Secretary.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik