Optica / MRS Congressional Fellowship

The application process for the 2022-2023 Optica/MRS Congressional Fellowship will open on 01 October 2021.  Please revisit this page for the updated application deadline and criteria at that time.

Optica and MRS offer a congressional fellowship program, providing members with an invaluable opportunity to learn about public policy. Fellows contribute to the effective use of optical and materials science knowledge in government and broaden awareness of the value of the interaction between scientists, engineers, and government to our memberships, the federal government and the public.

Program

The Fellow spends one year working as a special legislative assistant on the staff of a member of Congress or congressional committee. Activities may involve conducting legislative or oversight work, assisting in congressional hearings and debates, and preparing briefs and writing speeches. The fellow also attends an orientation program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on congressional and executive branch operations, which includes guidance in the congressional placement process and a year-long seminar series on science and public policy issues. The AAAS also administers many other aspects of the program for the Optica/MRS fellow, as well as other fellows sponsored by nearly two dozen scientific societies.

Criteria

A prospective fellow must have a record of success in research or scholarship in a field relevant to optical science and technology and/or materials, familiarity with the discipline and a working understanding of the scientific communities. The fellow must also demonstrate sensitivity toward policy issues and have a strong interest in applying scientific and technical knowledge to United States public policy issues. The fellow must be able to work quickly and communicate effectively to both scientific and non-scientific audiences on a wide variety of topics and work cooperatively with individuals having diverse viewpoints. An applicant is expected to be a member of Optica or MRS (or an applicant for membership) and have a Ph.D. by the start of the fellowship (01 September). U.S. citizenship is not required; however, applicants must be authorized to work in the United States. Specifically excluded as selection criteria are age, sex, creed, race, ethnic background and partisan political affiliation.

Applicants will be evaluated based on the following categories:

  • Scientific/technical background and professional accomplishments — weighted in consideration of the applicant's career stage.
  • Communication skills — to scientific and nonscientific audiences - including writing ability, community involvement, and outreach activities.
  • Demonstrated public policy interest — such as through participation in policy or advocacy activities; service to professional societies and/or the broader scientific community; and student government or other campus involvement (if applicable).
  • Fellowship skills and abilities — including (but not limited to) capacity to work quickly, flexibly and cooperatively; experience working with individuals with diverse viewpoints; ability to work in a public environment; and strong interpersonal skills.

Stipend

The 2021-2022 fellow will have a one-year appointment beginning 01 September 2021. The Fellowship stipend will be USD 78,750, plus additional funds for health insurance, travel and relocation expenses to the Washington, DC area.

Application


Candidates must submit the following materials:

  • A resume, no longer than two pages, providing information about educational background, professional employment, community and professional activities, public policy and legislative experience and committee and advisory group appointments. One additional page (for a total of up to three pages) should list professional publications and presentations. Resumes should be tailored to address the qualifications above.
  • statement of up to 1,000 words addressing the applicant's interest in the fellowship, career goals, contributions the applicant believes he or she can make as an Optica/MRS fellow to the legislative process, and what the applicant wants to learn from the experience.
  • Three signed letters of reference addressing the applicant's qualifications for the fellowship as described in the "Criteria" section above. Letters of reference should be directly submitted by the recommender and must be in PDF format, on official letterhead and include an electronic or scanned signature. Letters of reference should not be sent by the candidate themselves. However, the candidate is responsible for ensuring the letters are received by the application deadline.
Questions? Contact:
Brandy Dillingham
Government Relations Manager
Office: +1 202.416.1409
Email: bdillingham@optica.org
 

Directly below is a list of present and past fellows, along with their congressional office placements:

 

2021-2022
Ph.D. in Chemistry
Columbia University
 
2020-2021
Catherine Clark
Ph.D. in Materials Science

University of Minnesota

Sen. Richard Durbin
2019-2020

Daniel Broberg
Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering
University of California, Berkeley

Sen. Christopher Coons
2018-2019 Dylan Rittman
Ph.D. in Geological Sciences
Stanford University
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
2017-2018 Sarah Vorpahl
Ph.D. in Chemistry

University of Washington

Sen. Bernie Sanders
2016-2017

Felicia Lucci
Ph.D. in Chemistry
Tufts University

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp
2015-2016

Peter Winter
Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology
Colorado State University

Sen. Christopher Coons
2014-2015 James O'Dea

Ph.D. in Chemistry
University of California, Santa Barbara

Sen. Brian Schatz
2013-2014 Sydney Kaufman

Ph.D. in Chemical Physics
University of Colorado Boulder

Sen. Mark Begich
2012-2013

Mirvat Abdelhaq
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
University of Colorado, Boulder

Sen. Jeff Merkley
2011-2012

Laura Povlich
Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering
University of Michigan

Rep. Sandy Levin
2010-2011

Ashley White
Ph..D in Materials Science
Cambridge University

Senator Al Franken
2009-2010

Gavi Begtrup
Ph.D. in Physics
University of California, Berkeley

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
2008-2009

Amit Mistry
Ph.D. in Bioengineering
Rice University

Rep. Ed Markey
2007-2008

Alicia Jackson
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
2006-2007

Kevin Whittlesey
Ph.D. in Biological Sciences
Northwestern University

Rep. Doris Matsui
2005-2006

Benjamin Jay Gross
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
Columbia University

Rep. Rush Holt

2004-2005

Karin Ezbiansky Pavese
Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry
University of Pennsylvania

Sen. Joseph Lieberman

2003-2004

Colin McCormick
Ph.D. in Physics
University of California, Berkeley

Rep. Edward J. Markey

2002-2003

Jeffrey Haeni
Ph.D. in Materials Science
Pennsylvania State University

Rep. Rush Holt

2001-2002

Eric Werwa
Ph.D. in Electronic Materials
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rep. Mike Honda

2000-2001

Susan Ginsberg
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
University of Minnesota

Rep. Howard L. Berman

1999-2000

Arun Seraphin
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman

1998-1999

Merrilea Mayo
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford University

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman

1997-1998

Brian Holloway
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
University of Florida

Sen. John D. Rockefeller

1996-1997

Michal Freedhoff
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
University of Rochester

Rep. Edward J. Markey

1995-1996

Kelly Kirkpatrick
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Northwestern University

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman