2024-2025 Congressional Fellowships
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SPIE, Materials Research Society (MRS), and Optica (formerly OSA) offer Congressional Fellowships that are designed to provide a unique public policy learning experience, demonstrate the value of science-government interaction and bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to the decision-making process in the U.S. Congress. Fellows spend one year working in Washington, D.C., USA, as special legislative assistants on the staff of a member of Congress or congressional committee, beginning in September.
The Congressional Fellow spends one year (September through August) working as a special legislative assistant on the staff of a member of Congress or congressional committee. Activities may involve conducting legislative or oversight work, assisting in congressional hearings and debates, and preparing briefs and writing speeches. The fellow also attends an orientation program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on congressional and executive branch operations, which includes guidance in the congressional placement process and a year-long seminar series on science and public policy issues. The AAAS also administers many other aspects of the program for the Congressional Fellow, as well as other fellows sponsored by nearly two dozen scientific societies.
A stipend is provided by the sponsoring societies. The stipend level for the 2024-2025 Optica/MRS Congressional Fellowship will be $81,750. The stipend level for the 2024-2025 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellowship (cosponsored by Optica and SPIE) will be $85,000. The societies also provide an allowance for health insurance, travel and relocation expenses to the Washington, DC area. Final selection of the fellow will be made in early 2024 after personal interviews are conducted.
Fellows are evaluated on the basis of technical competence, responsible work experience, ability to serve in a public environment and evidence of service to the sponsoring societies and the profession.
A prospective fellow must have a record of success in research or scholarship in a field relevant to optical science and technology and/or materials, familiarity with the discipline and a working understanding of the scientific communities. The fellow must also demonstrate sensitivity toward policy issues and have a strong interest in applying scientific and technical knowledge to United States public policy issues. The fellow must be able to work quickly and communicate effectively to both scientific and non-scientific audiences on a wide variety of topics and work cooperatively with individuals having diverse viewpoints. An applicant is expected to be a member of one of the sponsoring societies (or an applicant for membership) and have a Ph.D. by the start of the fellowship (01 September 2024). U.S. citizenship is not required; however, applicants must be authorized to work in the United States. Specifically excluded as selection criteria are age, sex, creed, race, ethnic background and partisan political affiliation.
Applicants will be evaluated based on the following categories:
- Scientific/technical background and professional accomplishments — weighted in consideration of the applicant's career stage.
- Communication skills — to scientific and nonscientific audiences - including writing ability, community involvement, and outreach activities.
- Demonstrated public policy interest — such as through participation in policy or advocacy activities; service to professional societies and/or the broader scientific community; and student government or other campus involvement (if applicable).
- Fellowship skills and abilities — including (but not limited to) capacity to work quickly, flexibly and cooperatively; experience working with individuals with diverse viewpoints; ability to work in a public environment; and strong interpersonal skills.
While filling out the application, you will be asked whether you are submitting your application for the MRS/Optica Congressional Fellowship, the Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellowship (cosponsored by SPIE and Optica), or both. If you are applying to both fellowships, you only need to submit your application once as long as you select that you are applying for both.
Candidates must submit the following materials through this site:
- A resume, no longer than two pages, providing information about educational background, professional employment, community and professional activities, public policy and legislative experience and committee and advisory group appointments. One additional page (for a total of up to three pages) should list professional publications and presentations. Resumes should be tailored to address the qualifications described above.
- A statement of up to 1,000 words addressing the applicant's interest in the fellowship, career goals, contributions the applicant believes they can make as a congressional fellow to the legislative process and what the applicant wants to learn from the experience.
- Three signed letters of reference addressing the applicant's qualifications for the fellowship as described in the "Criteria" section above. Letters of reference should be uploaded by the recommender and must be in PDF format, on official letterhead and include an electronic or scanned signature. Letters of reference should not be sent by the candidate themselves. However, the candidate is responsible for ensuring the letters are received by the application deadline. NOTE: If your recommender is having issues with uploading the letter into the system, please have your recommender email the letter directly to Brandy Dillingham at email@example.com.
Government Relations Manager
Office: +1 202.416.1409
Learn more about the Congressional Fellowship program, by visiting the societies' websites:
Optica website: https://www.optica.org/congressionalfellowships