15 June 2021
Science Professional Societies Announce 2021-22 Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows
The Optical Society, Materials Research Society and SPIE select Congressional Fellows poised to learn and contribute to U.S. science policymaking
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 Brandon McMurtry and Rachel Starr as 2021-2022 Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows. Each will serve a one-year term in Washington, D.C., USA, as a special legislative assistant for a member of the U.S. Congress or as a staff member for a congressional committee.
Starr will serve as the 2021-2022 OSA/MRS Congressional Fellow, while McMurtry has been named the 2021-2022 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow, which is co-sponsored by OSA and SPIE. The two Fellows will begin their terms in September 2021.
Caption: Rachel Starr, 2021-2022 OSA/MRS Congressional Fellow
“I am absolutely thrilled and humbled to have been offered this opportunity to experience policymaking up close,” Starr said. “I hope to apply my background towards creating science-driven climate and energy policy, and I am so excited to learn from everyone on the Hill.”
"I am honored to have been selected as this year's Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow,” McMurtry said. “I am excited for the opportunity to apply my background in materials chemistry to a range of policy issues, including renewable energy and climate change while learning about the legislative process first-hand."
As part of their Fellowship, Starr and McMurtry will attend a science policy and communication training and orientation session facilitated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Upon training completion, the Fellows will interview with Senate, House of Representatives and congressional committee staff on Capitol Hill and then select which congressional office or committee they wish to serve for their fellowship year.
Fellows have the unique opportunity to utilize their technical and scientific backgrounds and perspectives to contribute to federal policymaking while also gaining the firsthand experience in the process. They participate in a multitude of policymaking functions including, conducting legislative or oversight work, assist in congressional hearings and debates, prepare policy briefs and write speeches.
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:
Rachel Starr will graduate with her PhD in Chemistry from Columbia University, USA this summer, with a focus on applied materials chemistry. She has worked on a range of projects, including making, characterizing, and optimizing materials for drug/DNA delivery and single-molecule electronics. She holds a BA in Chemistry from Barnard College, USA.
During graduate school, Rachel was fortunate to gain extracurricular experience working with Columbia Technology Ventures as a technology transfer fellow, with Rhapsody Venture Partners as a sourcing consultant, and with The Climate Map as a staff researcher. She was also involved with Sci4NY, where she first learned about the interface of science and policy by scientifically addressing issues faced by the leaders of New York City. Combining all of these perspectives, she is very excited to dive deeper into policy and better understand how scientists can be involved, particularly as it relates to climate and energy issues.
Caption: Brandon McMurtry, Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow
Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow:
Brandon McMurtry is a PhD candidate in Chemistry at Columbia University studying solution-phase crystal growth mechanisms in the lab of Professor Jonathan Owen. As a graduate student, his research has focused on improving the synthesis of colloidal semiconductor nanocrystals for use in solid-state lighting applications. Prior to graduate school, he received a BS in Chemistry from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in Honolulu, HI where he was born and raised.
Outside of his graduate work, Brandon volunteers with Science for New York (Sci4NY) where he works at the intersection of science and policy to aid lawmakers in New York City. He has written memos on innovative solutions to organics recycling, advised New York City Council candidates on access to STEM education and broadband internet, and researched effective strategies to upkeep the City’s green infrastructure. In addition, he is an ACS-AACT Science Coach and a Skype a Scientist program participant.
About the Materials Research Society
MRS is an organization of more than 11,500 materials researchers from academia, industry and government worldwide, and a recognized leader in promoting the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research and technology to improve the quality of life. MRS members are students and 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 80 countries, with 45 percent of members residing outside the United States.
MRS serves and engages members across generations to advance their careers and promote materials research and innovation. The Society produces high-quality meetings and publications, assuring that members of all career stages can present and publish their most important and timely work to an international and interdisciplinary audience. MRS continues to expand its professional development portfolio, as well as promote diversity and inclusion in the scientific workforce, with career services for researchers worldwide. The Society advocates for the importance of scientific research and innovation to policymakers and the community. And the MRS Awards program honors those whose work has already had a major impact in the field, as well as those whose work shows great promise for future leadership.
For more information about the Materials Research Society visit mrs.org and follow @Materials_MRS.
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 more than 258,000 constituents from 184 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2020, SPIE provided over $5 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. spie.org.
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.
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