Fellowship Workshop

On March 12, the Science Policy Group Professional Development Committee ran a Science Policy Fellowship Workshop with the Graduate College Office of External Fellowships. This workshop was primarily focused on the application process and an overview of the prestigious AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, with two former recipients of the fellowship presenting about their personal experiences during their time in the program. The event began with Dr. Karen Ruhleder from the Office of External Fellowships providing an introduction on some of the major science policy fellowships available, and then discussing the application process, deadlines, and some tips for writing personal statements tailored to science policy instead of scientific research. Then, former AAAS Fellow and current Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Dr. Gay Miller, gave a short presentation regarding her own personal experiences during the program. In particular, Dr. Miller was able to provide insight in to working with the USDA, as that was where she was appointed to work during her fellowship; she also provided insight in to the hurdles that you may face as a scientist first transitioning in to a role in science policy and government, as the pace and expectations are very different. Additionally, she touched on how she has adapted her teaching and career path because of her experiences as a fellow and gave high praise for the program, further encouraging those interested to apply. Following Dr. Miller’s presentation, Dr. Melissa Cragin discussed her experiences as a AAAS Fellow with a placement in the National Science Foundation Directorate for the Biological Sciences. Like Dr. Miller, Dr. Cragin had high praise for the fellowship program and was adamant that those interested should apply (and apply more than once if you are unsuccessful the first time). She also recommended that those are accepted for an interview ask plenty of questions of their potential employer in terms of the structure of the leadership in that particular office, opportunities for travel, and the number and types of projects that the fellow will be asked to work on, as those vary widely and can greatly impact the fellow’s experience. Finally, Dr. Cragin mentioned that some of the agencies hire on their fellows to stay after their term and you are able to network a great deal during the fellowship, so this can easily lead to a job opportunity.

Overall, the two presenters were very enthusiastic and motivating! They had only positive things to say about the fellowship experience, and encouraged anyone interested to reach out to them regarding specific questions. Additionally, they both were very interested in participating in future SPG events and were happy to be able to share their knowledge with us!

The Science Policy Group will be taking 12 students to Springfield on April 24th to meet with legislators to argue against HB 5134, a bill that would keep eight uneconomical coal plants in business by raising our electricity bills by $115/year. These coal plants, owned by Texas’ Dynegy Inc., emitted 32 million tons of carbon dioxide this year.

Attendees are expected to be available from 7:30am-6pm on April 24th, and should plan to bring money for breakfast and lunch. Business formal attire is also required (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9u3uGNuqIA).

Please note, due to limited seating, only members of the Science Policy Group can officially go on this trip as a part of SPG.

March Newsletter

View our newsletter online

How to Write your Representative

Want to make a positive impact on Congressional science policy, but unsure how? Come to our evening workshop and learn how to write a personalized letter to your Congressional Representative! The workshop will be led by J.C. Kibbey, Midwest Outreach and Policy Advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Food and drink will be provided. More information here.

Date: Wednesday, March 7th
Time: 4:00-5:50 pm
Location: English Building, Room 108


The March primary elections are just around the corner! Your vote is crucial for positively impacting science-based policy. Early voting begins March 13th, the Tuesday before Spring Break, at several locations, including Illini Union Room 213. Polling places will be open every day from March 13th through March 20th. Voter registration instructions, voter guide, and polling locations will be posted on our facebook event page here.

Fellowship Workshop

Interested in learning more about national science policy fellowships? Come join us and previous AAAS Science Policy Fellowship recipients Dr. Gay Miller and Dr. Melissa Cragin for a workshop providing first-hand insight in to one of the premier science policy fellowships! We will also provide an overview of some of the major science policy fellowships, application dates to know, and tips on how to strengthen your application over the summer. More information here.

Date: Monday, March 12th
Time: 3:30-5:00 pm
Location: ACES Library Monsanto Room

Join one of our committees!

All of our committees are recruiting new members! If you are interested in having an active role in planning SPG’s 2018 events, contact Suds Dwaraknath (dwarakn2@illinois.edu – Inform Committee), Libby Haywood (mayberr3@illinois.edu – Professional Development Committee), or Robby Goldman (rgoldma3@illinois.edu – Advocacy Committee) for more details!

Advice from Kacy Redd

Kacy Redd is the Assistant Vice President of STEM Education Policy at Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Here are some great resources that she has to share about how to make the jump from PhD programs into policy or other nontraditional careers:

  • This posting on ASBMB has good advice for scientists transitioning to policy.
  • This article is for scientists interested in community management.
  • Lou Woodley has lots of blog posts on this topic here and an interview here.
  • There are some case studies are here.

Feel free to reach out to Kacy with any questions at KRedd@aplu.org!

New legislation and the purpose of witness slips

Keep reading to see some policy in action that relates to graduate students!

Daniel Biss is introducing legislation tomorrow (SB2546) that would expand the definition of a graduate employee to include RA’s and not just TA’s This means RAs would be legally allowed to unionize. They are having a hearing about it tomorrow morning at 10:30 in Springfield. If you would like to show support for this bill, fill out a witness slip online using this link (representing yourself, not SPG please).

Witness slips show a person or group’s position on a particular bill. They are a vital piece of the legislative process because, before a bill is heard in committee, the chairperson will read who has submitted witness slips and whether they support or oppose the bill. This helps inform legislators as to where people stand, allowing informed decisions when voting. Witness slips are a great and relatively quick way to make your voice heard in state government.

See everyone that has submitted slips here.

Here is a link to the bill if you would like to read more about it (Ctrl-F “research”).


December Newsletter

SPG Welcomes the 2018 Executive Board

We are excited to welcome the 2018 Executive Board and thank the 2017 Executive Board for their year of service!

2018 Executive Board:

  • President – Kali Serrano (Chemistry)
  • Vice President – Alif Laila Tisha (Kinesiology)
  • Treasurer – Ryan Rooney (Chemistry)
  • Professional Development Committee Chair – Libby Haywood (Microbiology)
  • Inform Committee Chair – Austin Weigle (Chemistry)
  • Advocacy Committee Chair – Robby Goldman (Geology)
  • Advertising – Katie Chiang (Comparative Biosciences)
  • Partnerships Chair – Tony Griffin (Materials Science)
  • Webmaster – Christian Ocier and Corey Richards (Materials Science)
  • Faculty Advisor – Prof. Greg Girolami (Chemistry)

2017 Executive Board:

  • President – Suds Dwaraknath (Chemistry)
  • Vice President – Courtney Ford (Chemsitry)
  • Treasurer – Ryan Rooney (Chemistry)
  • Professional Development Committee Chair – Libby Haywood (Microbiology)
  • Inform Committee Chair – Noah Schorr (Chemistry)
  • Advocacy Committee Chair – David Stevens (Chemistry)
  • Advertising – Kevin Harnden (Chemistry)
  • Partnerships Chair – Zack Gordon (Chemistry)
  • Webmaster – Kali Miller (Chemistry)
  • Faculty Advisor – Prof. Greg Girolami (Chemistry)

Join one of our committees!

All of our committees are recruiting new members! If you are interested in having an active role in planning SPG’s 2018 events, contact Austin Weigle (aweigle2@illinois.edu – Inform Committee), Libby Haywood (mayberr3@illinois.edu – Professional Development Committee), or Robby Goldman (rgoldma3@illinois.edu – Advocacy Committee) for more details!

View our newsletter online: here

Science Policy Group Call-A-Representative-Day

Call your Representative on Wednesday, November 29!

Currently, Congress is assembling tax reform legislation that will impact you and your ability to study as a student. In the House of Representatives version, tuition waivers will be taxed as income. Universities typically provide tuition waivers to graduate students in exchange for teaching and conducting research. As tuition rates soar, this becomes an increasingly important part of compensation. Counting tuition waivers as income will increase the tax burden of graduate students by thousands of dollars a year, de-incentivizing American graduate education overnight. The new tax legislation would severely limit the number of students able to pursue graduate research which in turn will limit America’s international competitiveness.

But, it’s not too late to make a difference! The Senate is voting to pass its version of the bill Thursday, so let your senator know you oppose the proposed legislation. The Science Policy Group at the University of Illinois and the Graduate Employee Organization are asking you to join us and hundreds of other students in contacting legislators to implore them to vote against the current tax legislation. Calling your Senator takes just a couple of minutes but may change the vote in Washington.

If you would like to voice your opinion about the tax legislation to your senators, either call during lunch break or stop by our CARD info booth for more information.

View the University’s official stance on HR1 here

Prairie Rivers Network: Science Policy in Action

CLSL B102, Oct 31st at 12:00 pm

Dr. Carol Hays is Executive Director of Prairie Rivers Network, Illinois’ statewide advocate for clean water, healthy rivers and wildlife. PRN is the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation. Prairie Rivers Network works to protect rivers, wetlands and drinking water sources from threats due to industrial, sewage and agricultural pollution, dams, and aquatic invasive species. Based on sound science, PRN encourages land use practices that improve soil health, protect water quality, reduce flooding, and enhance biodiversity. Dr. Hays will discuss the challenges facing Illinois’ rivers and drinking water sources and the strategies PRN uses to address these challenges.

More details on or facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2032505960369732/