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Alternative Science Careers: Science Policy/Public Affairs

Alternative Science Careers: Science Policy/Public Affairs

Hosted by: AIBS

Presented by: AIBS Public Policy Office

Event took place on Monday, December 21, 2009

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Duration: 90 Minutes


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Webinar Description

Undergraduate and graduate students, as well as early career professionals in science, often contact AIBS seeking information about alternate science careers. A growing number of individuals are interested in careers that allow them to apply their scientific skills to the resolution of societal problems. A common area of interest is science policy/government relations/public affairs.

Staffed by professionals trained in the biological sciences, the AIBS Public Policy Office works daily to communicate biology to decision-makers, the media, and the public. Thus, AIBS staff members are able to offer practical advice and recommendations to students considering a career at the interface of science and policy/public affairs.

This program will:

  • Provide information about employment options in science policy and public affairs;
  • Provide tips to help interested students and early career professionals develop the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the policy/public affairs sector; and
  • Help participants determine whether this career path is right for them.

This webinar includes a presentation by Dr. Robert Gropp, AIBS Director of Public Policy, and a panel discussion and Q&A session with individuals who have successfully transitioned from an academic background in science to a career in science policy/public affairs.


Biographical Sketches

Robert Gropp, Ph.D.
Director of Public Policy, AIBS

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Robert Gropp joined the Public Policy Office at the American Institute of Biological Sciences in 2003, and is now director of public policy. In this capacity, he directs staff, develops policy initiatives, and represents policy issues to lawmakers, federal officials, and the news media. Gropp writes regularly about science policy, and serves as editor of the Washington Watch column for the AIBS journal, BioScience, the AIBS Public Policy Report, and the NSC Alliance Washington Report. With Dr. Holly Menninger, Gropp coauthored the publication, Communicating Science: A Primer for Working with the Media. Additionally, he co-chairs two national science policy coalitions - the USGS Coalition and the Biological-Ecological Sciences Coalition - which advocate for increased funding for scientific research.

Prior to joining AIBS, Gropp was a Presidential Management Intern and a congressional science policy fellow. In these capacities, he has worked in policy offices for both executive branch and congressional offices. After leaving Capitol Hill, Gropp was briefly a visiting assistant professor of environmental science at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and provided policy technical assistance to state officials through a federally funded public health grant program.

Gropp earned his BA in biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and Ph.D. in botany from the University of Oklahoma.


Ms. Julie Palakovich Carr
Public Policy Associate, AIBS

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Julie Palakovich Carr works in the Public Policy Office of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, where she develops and implements policy initiatives, communicates science policy to the biological sciences community, and enables scientists to engage in public policy.

Prior to joining AIBS, she served as a legislative fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. Palakovich Carr advised the Senator on marine and science policy issues within Washington state, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Palakovich Carr has a Master's degree in Biology from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in Biology from Boston University.


Dr. Holly Menninger
Coordinator, New York Invasive Species Research Institute

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Dr. Holly Menninger coordinates the New York Invasive Species Research Institute (NYISRI), managing NYISRI's programs and activities and working closely with the NY Invasive Species Council, research scientists, state and federal agencies, and regional stakeholders. NYISRI promotes information-sharing among stakeholders and develops recommendations and implementation protocols for research, funding, and management, all in an effort to improve the scientific basis of invasive species management. Before coming to Cornell, Menninger was a senior public affairs associate with the American Institute of Biological Sciences, a nonprofit professional society in Washington, DC. She earned a B.S. in biology from Denison University and a Ph.D. in behavior, ecology, evolution and systematics from the University of Maryland.


Dr. Caroline Ridley
S&T Policy Fellow
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Dr. Caroline E. Ridley is a plant biologist trained in evolutionary genetics and evolutionary ecology. Her doctorate, awarded by the University of California Riverside (UCR) in 2008 and supported by an EPA STAR Fellowship, examined the genetic origins, interspecific hybridization and rapid local adaptation of California wild radish, a weed invasive on the West Coast of North America. During graduate school, she was active in campus governance, including as chair of the Chancellor's Registration Fee Advisory Committee where she oversaw an over $12 million budget. Also while at UCR, she joined the California Invasive Plant Council (Cal-IPC), a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to invasive species research and education; she gave seminars to state and local groups as well as visited state lawmakers in Sacramento to support creation of an inter-agency invasive species advisory committee (a campaign that achieved success just this year). In 2007, she earned an AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award and soon after applied for the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. Today, she is working as an AAAS Fellow to the Environmental Protection Agency's National Center for Environmental Assessment. Her projects include co-authoring a report to Congress on the environmental and resource conservation impacts of biofuel production and liaising with the National Invasive Species Council.

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