Monday, March 7, 2011

Government Fellowships & Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE)

Marc Apter, a Committee Member for the IEEE-USA Government Fellowships program, introduced the audience to the available fellowships on “The Hill” (Congress) and at the U.S. Department of State. Highlighted in his presentation, the key objectives of the program, which has had over 90 fellows since 1973, are:

  • Give IEEE Members first-hand experience with the legislative and foreign policymaking processes
  • Improve their understanding of how public policy impacts the science and technical professions
  • Provide much needed technical advice and information to Congress and State Department
  • Most importantly, to encourage interest and participation in public policymaking among the IEEE-USA membership

The main qualifications for the program are: IEEE membership, U.S. Citizenship, and a degree in an IEEE designated filed with professional experience varying by the degree level. PhD and Post-Docs applicants do not require professional work experience. For a State Department fellowship, candidates must additionally possess or be able to obtain a security clearance prior to the beginning of the fellowship. Along with a stipend and relocation allowance, Marc Apter encouraged everyone to get the word out among IEEE members about this great opportunity to impact science and technology policy. Applications are available at the IEEE-USA Government Fellowships website.

The current Chair for the Government Fellowships Committee, Sherry Gillespie, shared her experience as 2008 Congressional Fellow in the Office of Sen. Joe Lieberman. She emphasized that Fellows will learn about politics, policy, and procedure. Sherry also shared some advice about the placement process for Fellows. As Fellows search for a Congressional Office, a key issue is to remember that while they are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. Fellows should determine if they will enjoy working in that Office and to what science and technology issues they could contribute. Fellows can have a real impact on science and technology policy as Sherry’s work became a part of the National Defense Authorization Act 2009 (Sec. 254 Trusted Defense Systems).

Next, Nastassja Lewinski, a PhD candidate at Rice University, spoke about her experience in the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program. As an intern, she enjoyed meeting with several governmental agencies and worked on nanotechnology policy analyzing the toxic scale determinations that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes for nanomaterials. The WISE program inspired her to be involved more in government and policy. Her paper was published in the WISE Journal of Engineering & Public Policy.

Finally, I spoke about my experience in the WISE program where I studied patent reform from the small business perspective. I gave an overview of my paper as I talked about United States Patent and Trademark Office’s fees, the issues of patent examiners turnover rate, and damages for infringement cases. One of the highlights of my experience with WISE was meeting judicial clerks at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that hears all patent related cases . After finishing my graduate work at Stanford University, I plan on attending law school as I aspire to a similar career path where I can affect patent law in a direct way.

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