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From AAAS Policy Fellowship to Academia

Melinda Gormley
Jun 10, 2016

Many AAAS S&T policy fellows will take faculty and administrative positions at academic institutions at some point after their fellowship. The Fellows over F_ _ty (FoF) and the Higher Education and Research Administration (HERA) affinity groups co-hosted a session on May 3, 2016 at AAAS to explore how the fellowship might inform and enrich fellows’ subsequent careers in an academic setting. This event provided an opportunity to get ideas and input from peers, forge collaborations for partnerships, and interact with a network of people who are considering similar paths.

Creating change on university campuses was a prominent theme. While this can be difficult, alumni fellows have both the ability and experience to affect such change. We had a lively brainstorming session about how to do so, and identified numerous actions we could take.

Some ways to affect change on campus:

  • Build teams and find allies to change campus conversations and faculty/staff behaviors.
  • Advocate for changes in university policies.
  • Join hiring and promotion committees.
  • Infuse the graduate curriculum with professional development.
  • Contribute to engaged scholarship on policy-relevant issues.
  • Share what we have learned about science policy.
  • Provide resources and methods that encourage active citizenship.

Fellows can be valuable resources at academic centers given our experiences working in the federal government and our exposure to professional development training in policy, leadership, and communication.

  • We can leverage the networks cultivated during the fellowship to bring visitors to campus, develop collaborations among campuses, and share course syllabi.
  • We can host lecture series, workshop series, or conferences.
  • We can integrate policy into traditional STEM courses, or teach courses specifically in science policy. For example, Chris Schaffer, 2012-2013 Congressional Fellow and associate professor of biomedical engineering, teaches a science policy course at Cornell University.
  • We can provide a broader context for our research to peers and students by speaking about science policy, help graduate students and faculty apply for federal funding, and insert science policy into our own and others’ courses by guest lecturing.
  • We can support a campus chapter of the National Science Policy Group. The National Science Policy Group ( connects science policy groups, composed of graduate students, post-docs, and young researchers who are passionate about science and engineering policy.

In addition, alumni fellows can speak to an array of career options with which our colleagues and students may not be familiar. Finally, we can continue our connection to the DC science policy ecosystem by serving on Federal Advisory Committees and review panels.

During the event, we identified several possible next steps for the group. Resource sharing, such as circulating syllabi, slides, and trading information about relevant experiences, was a popular theme. Also discussed was a potential future event in which a panel of alumni who have returned to academic positions would describe their trajectories, specifically how they have leveraged the fellowship and created change on university campuses. Additional potential topics for career panels are federal relations and university administration. Federal relations officials serve as liaisons between campuses and governmental agencies. University administration offers a range of options from director of graduate studies and department chair to the dean’s office and office of research and sponsored programs.  

We welcome additional topic ideas and suggestions for panelists!

The affinity  group event was organized by Jessica Rosenberg, Louise R. Howe, Barbara Natalizio, Reba Bandyopadhyay, and Melinda Gormley. 

Photo Credit: John Towner /



Melinda Gormley

Melinda Gormley is Research Development Officer of the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine. She has a PhD in history of science and her work has focused on the role of scientists in public policy and life sciences in 20th century America. She was a 2015-2016 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the Environmental Protection Agency working in the Office of the Science Advisor and contributing to the Scientific Integrity and Human Subjects Research programs. 



This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of AAAS, its Council, Board of Directors, officers, or members. AAAS is not responsible for the accuracy of this material. AAAS has made this material available as a public service, but this does not constitute endorsement by the association.

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