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North Carolina’s newest STEM Policy Fellows are starting their year-long assignments in high-level state agencies. Now in its third year, the fellowship is an opportunity for recent graduate students to explore in-state, non-academic career options in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“For 2022, we have six NC STEM Policy Fellows working in three returning host offices as well as two new host offices,” says Susan White, North Carolina Sea Grant’s executive director. “We look forward to seeing the success of these new fellows as they work to tackle key science policy issues across the state.”
North Carolina Sea Grant administers this fellowship, thanks to a generous matching grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund as well as support from the host offices.
Anastasia Dulskiy is a master’s student in ecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studies the microbial ecology of temperate corals in the state. She is working with the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) and is also a finalist to serve as a national Knauss Fellow in 2023.
“The STEM Policy Fellowship represents an invaluable opportunity to learn first-hand how science informs policy at the state level,” Dulskiy says. “As a fellow with NCORR, I look forward to applying my skills as an ecologist to the field of environmental policy, helping to support more resilient coastal communities here in North Carolina.”
Maya Hoon recently graduated with her master’s in environmental sciences and engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, she worked closely with the NC Environmental Justice Network to develop a landscape analysis map that could serve as a supportive resource for environmental justice. She also completed a research fellowship jointly funded by North Carolina Sea Grant and NC Space Grant.
“I am looking forward to getting a better understanding of how policy and environmental health research intersect,” Hoon says. “Overall, I am incredibly grateful and excited that I will get to join the NCDOT team in tackling today’s complex and daunting climate change issues and ensure equitable changes for all N.C. communities.”
Rachel Johnson is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying chemistry. Her research explores antibiotic activity, specifically natural product antibiotics from bacteria, and resistance at the molecular level.
Johnson is excited for her placement at the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s State Energy Office: “I am looking forward to learning more about NC’s green energy initiatives and finding ways to assure equity in our state’s energy structure.”
Nitesh Kasera is a doctoral candidate in biological and agricultural engineering at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on the conversion of agricultural wastes, like pine bark chips, into high-performance adsorbents like biochar.
Kasera is looking forward to his assignment: “I am excited to join NC Biotechnology Center as an NC STEM Policy Fellow and look forward to learning about how public policies, scientific research, and industrial endeavors are coming together in developing North Carolina’s biotech economy.”
Aditya Keskar is a doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University studying civil, construction, and environmental engineering. There, he is the lead student researcher on the Department of Energy project, I-DREEM, which stands for Investigating short-term and long-term impacts of Demand Response on Energy Efficiency Measures.
“I am excited to work with the brilliant professionals at the State Energy Office,” says Keskar, part of an opportunity, he says, “to gain invaluable real-world state energy policy experience and apply the skills I have acquired through my PhD to tackle the pressing energy transition challenges of our time and contribute to the state of North Carolina.”
Joshua Reding is a doctoral candidate in physics and astronomy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Reding studies white dwarf stars in a variety of contexts, including those that result in failed supernovae. He is working with the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Office of Science, Technology and Innovation.
“I am thrilled for the opportunity to use the skills developed through my science outreach and education experience to make real-world impacts,” Reding says. “I look forward to supporting and promoting the great innovators of North Carolina as a STEM Policy Fellow.”
To prepare for their appointments, fellows participated in professional development sessions in science policy and communication, an opportunity developed in partnership with Sigma Xi, a scientific honor society based in Research Triangle Park.