OSA, MRS and SPIE Announce 2017-2018 Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows

5 June 2017

The Optical Society, Materials Research Society and SPIE Announce 2017-2018 Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows

WASHINGTON — The Optical Society (OSA), the Materials Research Society (MRS) and SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, are pleased to announce the selection of Tanya Das and Sarah Vorpahl as the 2017-2018 Congressional Fellows. Each Congressional Fellow will serve a 1-year term as special legislative assistants on the staffs of U.S. congressional offices or committees in Washington, D.C. Vorpahl will serve as the 2017-2018 OSA/MRS Congressional Fellow, while Das will serve as the 2017-2018 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow, which is co-sponsored by OSA and SPIE. The two fellows will begin their term in September 2017.

As part of their Fellowship, they will attend a comprehensive training and orientation facilitated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Following the orientation, Fellows will go through an interview and selection process with Senate offices, House of Representatives offices and/or Congressional committees on Capitol Hill, then select the office in which they will serve.

The Congressional Fellowship program aims to bring technical and scientific backgrounds and perspectives to the decision-making process in Congress, and provide scientists with insight into the inner workings of the federal government. Typically, fellows will have the opportunity to conduct legislative or oversight work, assist in congressional hearings and debates, prepare policy briefs and write speeches as part of their daily responsibilities.

Each year, following a formal application process, finalists are interviewed and Congressional Fellows are selected by a committee comprised of volunteer members from OSA, MRS and SPIE. For more information on the selection process and fellowship criteria; visit the OSA, MRS, or SPIE websites.

OSA/MRS Congressional Fellow:
Sarah Vorpahl  

Sarah Vorpahl will graduate with her Ph.D. from the University of Washington this summer, where she studies advanced energy materials in the lab of Professor David Ginger. Her research focuses on using novel electrical scanning probe microscopy to characterize the functional properties of next generation solar cell materials. Sarah was a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow as well as a fellow of the Clean Energy Institute at UW where she worked across Washington State to communicate renewable energy research to both policy makers and the public. Her doctoral work also includes a Ph.D. Concentration in Public Policy and Management from the Evans School at the University of Washington, exploring topics such as innovation and commercialization of new materials for energy. Before coming to Seattle, Sarah received a B.A. in Modern Literary Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz ('04) and a B.S. in Chemistry from Northeastern Illinois University ('11).

Outside of the lab, Sarah has been dedicated to increasing representation of women and minoritized students in STEM. In her first year of graduate school she founded the student group Women in Chemical Sciences at the University of Washington to educate and empower women in STEM fields. Sarah has also spent time working with the Washington State Department of Commerce, helping to translate the technical achievements of innovative clean energy policy to a broader audience. Sarah is excited to better understand how scientists can have a meaningful impact on policy as the MRS/OSA Science and Engineering Congressional Fellow.

Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow :
Tanya Das  

Tanya Das is a Ph.D. Candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) where she works in the lab of Professor Jon Schuller. Her research in the field of metamaterials explores new ways to manipulate light using nanoparticles by changing a property of light known as polarization. She received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. 

In addition to her research, Tanya explores issues in STEM education through her work in program evaluation. She has undertaken projects to evaluate the effectiveness of new teaching methods in undergraduate engineering courses at UCSB as well as the effectiveness of programs that aim to increase retention and graduation rates of STEM undergraduate students who come from minority and low income backgrounds. She was also part of the Workforce Development team for the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), where she helped to assess workforce needs in the photonics industry.

Additionally, Tanya is committed to serving her community through her volunteer work. She founded a poetry workshop for criminal teens at the local Santa Barbara juvenile probation center and volunteered at community science events including the annual Santa Barbara junior high science fair, Family Science Exploration nights, and Women in Photonics Week. She has held leadership roles in UCSB student organizations including the Photonics Society, the Beyond Academia conference organizing committee, and Graduate Students for Diversity in Science.
Tanya is very excited to serve as the 2017-2018 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellowship, and looks forward to working on policy issues related to STEM education, workforce development, and optics and photonics technologies. She hopes to use her experiences from the fellowship to pursue a career as a policy analyst, to help the federal legislative body make informed policy decisions.

About The Optical Society
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org.

About MRS
The Materials Research Society (MRS) is an international organization of almost 14,000 materials researchers from academia, industry and government, and a recognized leader in promoting the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research to improve the quality of life. MRS members are engaged and enthusiastic professionals hailing from physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering—the full spectrum of materials research. Headquartered in Warrendale, Pennsylvania (USA), MRS membership now spans over 90 countries, with more than 46 percent of members residing outside the United States. In addition to its communications and publications portfolio, MRS organizes high-quality scientific meetings, attracting over 12,000 attendees annually and facilitating interactions among a wide range of experts from the cutting edge of the global materials community. MRS is also a recognized leader in education outreach and advocacy for scientific research. More information about the Materials Research Society can be found on its website mrs.org.

About SPIE
SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2016, SPIE provided $4 million in support of education and outreach programs. spie.org.

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