Fostering Collaboration in Science and Technology Around the World: The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship Experience

Jan 09, 2019
Dominique Carter, a current AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, second from right

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) provide opportunities to scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about policymaking and contribute their knowledge and analytical skills in the policy realm. Fellows serve yearlong assignments in a selected area of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the federal government in Washington, D.C. Each year, STPF adds to a growing corps over 3,000 strong of policy-savvy leaders working across academia, government, nonprofits, and industry to serve the nation and citizens around the world. Fellows represent a broad range of backgrounds, disciplines, and career stages, from recent Ph.D. graduates to faculty to retired scientists and engineers.

We talked to Dominique Carter, a current AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.

1. What inspired you to apply for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship?

I am a recent PhD recipient from the Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. My dissertation research focused on determining how the human cytomegalovirus (CMV) changes the cellular protein environment early during infection. Knowing this helps us identify novel mechanisms for inhibiting infection.

I became interested in emerging medical technologies during my last year of graduate school. Following the completion of my graduate program, I worked as a Research Fellow for the Medical Affairs Division of a molecular diagnostics company focused on the early detection and prevention of cancer, and I loved it! I decided then that I would pursue a career that will allow me to combine my desire to improve the lives of others through scientific discovery and innovation with my interest in science policy. I pursued a career in science because of my commitment to improve the human condition, and I viewed the opportunity to engage in public policy as a chance to see that potential realized.

I decided to apply to the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship to learn about the inner workings of the policy-making process and to contribute my experience to the service of our country.

2. How has the fellowship experience influenced your current work?

As an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow hosted at the National Science Foundation (NSF), I work in the Office of International Science & Engineering (OISE), within the Office of the Director (OD). OISE integrates an agency-wide engagement strategy for international science cooperation, and I support this mission through a variety of activities.

The broader impacts of my fellowship are to: 1) foster international collaboration in science and technology (S&T); 2) increase my knowledge of science diplomacy, international science policy, global S&T trends, and STEM innovation and entrepreneurship; and 3) provide data, policy, and portfolio analyses for OISE programs. These goals enable me to contribute to OISE’s mission while assisting me in achieving my new short-term goal of becoming an international science diplomacy and innovation expert.

In my first year of the fellowship, I assisted with the development of a new program solicitation focused on supporting international research networks and facilitated interagency strategy meetings with NSF and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a new cooperative agreement for synergistic work in international collaboration. I also organized and moderated a plenary session for the 2018 AAAS Science Diplomacy conference where experts discussed opportunities for the role of diplomacy in fostering a new globally inclusive science ecosystem.

However, my primary project focuses on catalyzing global partnerships in science and innovation in Europe and Africa. I work to identify potential new areas of science collaboration and provide recommendations for countries that are ripe for international partnership by defining the science and technology landscape of these regions. The purpose of this assessment is to provide new information regarding the science capabilities and available infrastructure for emerging economies in Europe and Africa.

Prior to this fellowship, I had no experience in international affairs or foreign policy. This experience has exposed me to new professional opportunities in science diplomacy and international affairs. As a result, my career aspirations have broadened, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Dominique at a Science, Engineering, and Medicine forum

3. What tips would you give others applying to the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship?

I would advise anyone interested in the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship to contact former fellows to learn about their experiences and to ask questions. The application is a lengthy, 3-part process, and having key information for each stage is important. Speaking with former fellows was very helpful for me when I was going through the application process.

I would also recommend that applicants keep an open mind with regard to placements at federal agencies. For example, because of my background, I thought I would likely get placed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); however, I got placed at NSF, working in international science and engineering, and it has been a truly rewarding experience.

Dominique Carter, Ph.D. is currently an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dominique is involved in several innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives. Dominique was selected to be 1 of 50 Global Innovation Fellows by the US Department of State for the inaugural US-China Youth Forum on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Economic Opportunities in Shenzhen, China December 2017. Dominique is also serving as the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) 2018 Young Ambassador of Science for the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. In this role, she working to promote global partnership and innovation in microbial sciences. Dominique received her Ph.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin where she received cross-disciplinary training in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics and Bioengineering.

Interested in applying to this fellowship? Bookmark the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship to your ProFellow account. You may also want to read our interview with Britta Voss, another AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow.

© Victoria Johnson 2019, all rights reserved.