Baylor graduate student selected as Congressional Science Fellow

Baylor graduate student Zack Valdez (right) is participating as a fellow in the American AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF) for the 2018 year. Photo courtesy of Zack Valdez

By Micaela Freeman | Staff Writer

Baylor graduate student Zack Valdez is participating as a fellow in the American AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF) for the 2018 year.

The opportunity came to Valdez after applying to multiple programs within the American Association for the Advance of Science (AAAS) for the opportunity to advocate for science and its policy. The program offers its fellows the opportunity to learn first hand about the policy realm of science as well as contribute their knowledge in ways they didn’t towards their degree.

As a Policy Fellow of AAAS, Valdez will not only advocate for his specific research and science, but also will participate in the formation of policy within science. As a Fellow, responsibilities include serving a full year assignment in Washington D.C. and applying his or her professional and scientific knowledge in all branches of the federal government.

According to the AAAS website, “The goal is to connect science with policy and foster a network of science and engineering leaders who understand government and policymaking, and are prepared to develop and execute solutions to address societal challenges.”

The opportunities for Valdez are in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where he currently develops legislation and analyzes policy to develop sustainable energy promotion.

Valdez said the program is a new and exciting experience and is much different than his experiences in Waco. He said he felt prepared for this opportunity due to Baylor’s preparation.

“Baylor provided a solid community for academic work and keeping a social life. My advisors and teachers throughout the sciences have helped me catch on to Earth Systems as an undergrad engineer/physicist,” Valdez said.

Valdez has received mentoring from Dr. William C. Hockaday an associate professor of geosciences and Valdez’s academic graduate advisor. Hockaday said he is thrilled for Valdez and his accomplishments as a graduate student.

“We are proud of Zack and his accomplishments,” Hockaday said. “It’s an honor for Baylor University to have one of its talented young scientists working on Capitol Hill. After this yearlong fellowship, Zack will be part of a network of AAAS Policy Fellows. This should open doors for Zack to have an impactful career in science advocacy and policy.”

Valdez believes this opportunity will further his career and will allow him to make new goals. As a graduate student in the program, Valdez has learned that his career is expanding within the academic and social world.

“I think this opportunity [has provided] me with the network and opportunity to incorporate science outside of the academic realm and change the perception of what and how much a PhD is capable of outside of their dissertation research field,” said Valdez.

Valdez is eager to continue his fellowship this semester and looks forward to his future in science and policy.