Embracing a Sense of Community: ’23 Fellow Ope Oyewole on Path from PhD to Policy

August 16, 2023 | ,  

A graphic with the blog title and a prominent photo of the author.
Ope Oyewole, PhD, is a 2023 CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellow placed with the Climate and Sustainability Branch of the California Department of Insurance. From Nigeria and raised in Benin, Ope earned her PhD in Immunology, Pathology, and Infectious Diseases from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, studying how viruses interact with human cells to identify targets for therapy. She earned a MS in Biochemistry from the University of Tulsa and a BS in Biomedical Chemistry from Oral Roberts University.


Reflecting on my life’s journey so far, I realize there is a common thread throughout that has guided and supported me along the way—a sense of community.

I’ve been lucky to have and develop supportive communities around me at every stage of my academic and policy career. My close-knit friendships during college in Oklahoma, my always supportive lab mates during my Master’s program, and the many people I met and befriended both on- and off-campus over the course of my five plus year PhD program in Nebraska. Community has defined a lot of my journey to where I am today.

A group of friends standing outside on a deck posing for a photo with cloudy skies in the background.
Ope with friends from grad school in Omaha, Nebraska.

Moving to new places can make it hard to find this sense of community. A huge draw of even considering moving out to California for the CCST fellowship for me was the strong, built-in community of current Fellows, alumni, and the program team.


With the CCST fellowship, community was alive and well and available to me every step of the way.


From the start of my consideration of and application to the program, the Fellows I contacted were happy to tell me about their experiences and answer my numerous questions as a novice to the policy process. Jason John, PhD, a 2021 Fellow alum generously guided me through the interview process, showing me the ropes and teaching me what he’d learned. With the CCST fellowship, community was alive and well and available to me every step of the way.

Seven CCST fellows posing together for a photo inside the California State Capitol in front of the state flag on a black and white checkerboard floor.
Ope with members of her 2023 CCST S&T Policy Fellows cohort during a tour of the California State Capitol.

In fact, my current placement in the Climate and Sustainability Branch of the California Department of Insurance (CDI) is home to two former fellows who are doing amazing work to bring insurance into the climate change conversation in California. California has ambitious goals for reaching net-zero emissions by 2045 and especially since new technologies will be involved in a successful transition, insurance will play a role in protecting the state’s investments in these technologies.

Beyond technologies, we are also considering nature-based solutions that will contribute to mitigating climate change effects. While I didn’t know how this would work when I first joined the team, I have since learned from talking to various stakeholders that there is strong interest in these solutions.

The CDI’s main mission is to ensure that insurance is available and affordable for California consumers. The Climate and Sustainability Branch is now tasked with understanding how climate change will affect the insurance industry and applications for insurance in the adaptation to and mitigating climate change effects. One of the Branch’s projects is exploring community as a resilience mechanism for extreme heat mitigation.

I’ll forever be grateful for the opportunity to learn about policymaking – the crafting and implementation of policy – with my 2023 Fellows’ community and the broader alumni community. I look forward to paying it forward and engaging with the future cohorts that join our growing community!



About the CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship
The CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellows program places PhD-level scientists, engineers, and social scientists in the California State Legislature, State Agencies, and Offices of the Governor for a year of public policy, leadership training, and public service—training scientific thinkers to be policy-savvy, while helping equip California’s decision makers with science-savvy staff. Discover how our CCST S&T Policy Fellows make a difference in California’s policy arena and learn how to apply at CCST.us/CCST-Science-Fellows-Program.

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