APS News

October 2023 (Volume 32, Number 10)

As the Congressional Science Fellowship Turns 50, Former Fellows Reflect on Their Experience — and Where They Are Now

By Tawanda W. Johnson | September 14, 2023

Congressional Science Fellows - where are they now

Former APS congressional science fellows Elaine Ulrich, Reba Bandyopadhyay, and Anna Quider.

Well-informed federal policy relies on science, a fact that physicists — like those who shaped nuclear policy after World War II — have known for decades. Fifty years ago, APS helped found an initiative to involve more young scientists in policymaking: the Congressional Science Fellowship.

Fellows use their scientific knowledge to help members of Congress, few of whom have technical backgrounds, in the policymaking process. They complete a two-week orientation in Washington, DC, interview on Capitol Hill, and then choose a congressional office or committee to serve. They work with congressional leaders for a year, usually from September to August.

It’s not just Congress that benefits: The experience jumpstarts many fellows’ careers.

Elaine Ulrich, CSF class of 2008-09, is now a senior advisor for the Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response. “[I work] with many scientists and engineers, analysts, entrepreneurs and communities on a whole range of issues related to clean energy,” she says.

During her fellowship, Ulrich honed her skills in communicating her work to people who might not have scientific backgrounds, “making it accessible and helping people to understand the ‘why’ behind the innovation and analyses,” she says. And it was her fellowship that inspired her to pursue a career in public service.

For Reba Bandyopadhyay — a legislative and policy analyst at the National Science Foundation and deputy executive director of President Biden’s science and technology council — her 2014-15 fellowship helped her learn to write concisely, able to whittle down a big issue into one page. “For impactful writing in policy, the bottom line should be up front,” said Bandyopadhyay. “State the problem or goal, and then the proposed actions to address the problem or achieve the goal.”

The fellowship was also a boon for her professionally. “I was able to launch a new phase of my career, moving into senior positions in federal policy,” she says — moves she attributes in part to the policymaking knowledge she gained.

Anna Quider, founder and principal of The Quider Group, LLC, a strategic consulting and speaking business, says her 2011-12 fellowship helped her build resilience.

“I heard from constituents and organizations across the ideological and political spectrum,” she says. “Some people and organizations cheered the work I was doing, and some disparaged it. I had to learn to roll with their feedback and not take it personally.”

Another lesson Quider learned during her fellowship: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” she says. “I thought I’d learned that lesson from astrophysics research — we've all had that paper we endlessly tweak — but it has a whole new meaning when applied to policymaking.”

Like Ulrich and Bandyopadhyay, Quider’s fellowship solidified her interest in federal science policy. It also inspired her to get more involved in the physics community. “For example, I am this year’s chair-elect of the APS Forum on Physics and Society,” she says.

And the connections she made have endured. “The people I met through this fellowship have served as mentors and sponsors for me throughout my career,” she says.

Applications for the next class of fellows will be open from Sept. 1 to Dec. 1, 2023. To learn more, visit the APS Congressional Science Fellowship site.

Tawanda W. Johnson is the Senior Public Relations Manager at APS.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Taryn MacKinney

October 2023 (Volume 32, Number 10)

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Articles in this Issue
Scholarly Peer Review is an Age-Old Practice, But Publishing is Changing
The Surprising Physics of How Dogs and Cats Drink Water
This Month in Physics History
How Searching for the Higgs Prepared this Physicist to be an AI Leader in the Corporate World
The 40-Year-Old Gallery of Fluid Motion Goes Traveling
Physicists Fill in Wikipedia’s Gaps on Climate Science
It’s Tough to Teach Computation in Advanced Physics Labs — So Physicists Workshopped It
APS Announces Recipients of the Fall 2023 Prizes and Awards
Opinion: Climate Doomism Disregards the Science
As the Congressional Science Fellowship Turns 50, Former Fellows Reflect on Their Experience — and Where They Are Now
White House Sets Research Priorities for 2025, Emphasizing “Trustworthy” AI and US Competitiveness