CCST Science Fellows in the Field: DC Connections

September 27, 2016 |  

With September’s arrival, schools are back in session, and so is the U.S. Congress. And with that, we have many updates with Washington DC connections to share from our CCST Science Fellows alumni! Let’s take a look at this roundup of Capitol-to-Capitol news.

We first want to extend our congratulations and farewells to Erin Arms ’16 and Estevan Santana ’15 for their selection to the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship.

As a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, Arms has joined the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). She will work as a Health Policy Analyst at the NIAID Office of Communications and Government Relations. Arms came to CCST with her PhD in Genetics from UC Davis, and she spent her Sacramento year working in the California State Senate Office of Research.

As a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow, Santana also has joined NIH at the Office of the Director, working in the Division for Biosafety, Biosecurity, and Emerging Technologies in the Office of Science Policy. Santana came to CCST with his PhD in Microbiology from The Ohio State University. He was placed in the Office of Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), and upon concluding his CCST year was brought on as a Legislative Assistant by the assemblywoman’s office.

Begun in 1973, the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship program trains PhD-level scientists for service in the Federal policy arena, and places approximately 300 fellows each year in all branches of the Federal government, from congressional offices to executive departments and agencies. The AAAS program served as a model for CCST when we created our state-level policy fellowship.

CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship alumni Erin Arms PhD, Estevan Santana PhD, Nicole Meyer-Morse PhD, and Laurie Harris PhD DVM.
CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship alumni Erin Arms PhD, Estevan Santana PhD, Nicole Meyer-Morse PhD, and Laurie Harris PhD DVM.

Several other CCST Science Fellows also have served as AAAS S&T Policy Fellows prior to or after their time in Sacramento.

Among them is Nicole Meyer-Morse, who was a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow with the U.S. Department of Defense focusing on chemical and biological defense issues, prior to becoming a CCST Science Fellow. For her CCST term, Meyer-Morse was placed with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), and she was hired by the office afterwards.

Earlier in 2016, Meyer-Morse was promoted within Cal OES as its Science and Technology AdvisorWith her new title, Meyer-Morse will be responsible for wide variety of issues as they relate to science and technology, to include bioterrorism preparedness and response; real-time biosurveillance capabilities; emergency management preparation and response to climate change; analysis and response to emerging infectious diseases (e.g. Ebola and Zika); and she will continue to use her basic research training to prepare and respond to the evolving list of threats that face California.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time as both a Science Fellow and now as a state employee working for Cal OES. I am challenged on a daily basis and am continually asked to support new efforts that are outside of my traditional area of expertise,” says Meyer-Morse, who received her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. “My Fellowship experience cemented my decision to serve as a state civil servant in California. I am thrilled to be able to use my science policy experience to continue helping make a difference.”

Meyer-Morse was the first CCST Science Fellow to be given an Executive Branch placement, in an cooperative pilot effort with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Alexis Erwin, PhD (Image courtesy of Alexis Erwin)
Alexis Erwin, PhD (Image courtesy of Alexis Erwin)

Another Sacramento-turned-DC policy fellow is Alexis Erwin ’14, who recently completed her AAAS fellowship at the U.S. Department of State under the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Africa as an Energy and Environmental Sustainability Advisor. Related to this capacity, she also served on the Public Affairs Committee for the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

Erwin, who earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University, has since been retained by USAID as Senior Environmental and Social Sustainability Advisor. Coordinating with the State Department and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Erwin will be responsible for identifying, analyzing, and proposing mitigation strategies for adverse impacts of complex international development projects — such as habitat loss associated with large dams — and for sharing findings with Congress and the public.

Earlier this summer, Erwin penned an essay — “Advice to Graduate Students on Becoming ‘Translational'” — for the Integration and Implementation Insights blog hosted by the NSF National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC). It’s a great summary of recommendations on how ecologists can leverage their expertise for broader impact through government policy, communications, or public engagement. Please share this post with graduate students you know who are interested in expanding their professional skills beyond academia.

And we’re not done with DC connections just yet! Congratulations and farewells are also in place for Laurie Harris ’15, who joined the Congressional Research Service (CRS) this May as a Science and Technology Policy Analyst. Harris is the second Science Fellow to be hired by CRS, after Stephen Francis ’12.

For her CCST year, Harris was placed with the California State Senate Environmental Quality Committee. She came to Sacramento with her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from Purdue University, and subsequently completed her PhD in Wildlife Epidemiology from UC Davis.

A few Washington DC alumni of the CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship gather for a festive meetup. From left: Mark Elsesser ’13, Neela Babu ’13, Laurie Harris ’15, Kyle Hiner ’13, and Stephen Francis ’12. (Image courtesy of Neela Babu)
A few Washington DC alumni of the CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship gather for a festive meetup. From left: Mark Elsesser ’13, Neela Babu ’13, Laurie Harris ’15, Kyle Hiner ’13, and Stephen Francis ’12. (Image courtesy of Neela Babu)

And we welcome back one CCST Science Fellow alumnus back to California. Peter Cowan ’11 is now a Conservation Analyst with the Save the Redwoods League.

Cowan was most recently a Visiting Fellow with the American Meteorological Society’s Policy Program in Washington DC. Like Harris, he also served in the California State Senate Environmental Quality Committee during his CCST year.

We could go on and on. Several other Science Fellows alumni are currently based in Washington DC, including Mark Elsesser ’13, who is now a Senior Policy Analyst for the American Physical Society (APS) — read his reflections on the CCST experience in his Fellows Profile blogpostNeela Babu ’13 is currently an Associate Consultant with the international engineering firm WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoffread her Fellows Profile blogpost here.

And of course, CCST Deputy Director Amber Mace herself once worked for the U.S. Senate, placed with the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee as a National Sea Grant Knauss Fellow in 2006. 

CCST is proud to see our Science Fellows alumni take their technical expertise and policy chops to the national level, and we’re excited to follow their careers in DC and beyond. Join us in wishing all of them success and good journey!

Follow updates from the CCST Science Fellows on Facebook at and on Twitter @CCSTFellows. Explore the CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship here.

Find the California Council on Science and Technology on Facebook at, on Twitter @CCSTorg, and on LinkedIn. Learn more about CCST at


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