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Welcome to the Spring 2019 STPP newsletter! Read on for program updates, stories of students in the field, and a quick look at recent lectures and events. You will also be able to manage your subscription settings. As always, if you have a new job or new contact information, please let us know at 

STPP in the Field

The students featured below received the STPP Student Career Development Grant. The Career Development Grant provides supplemental support for students to attend STPP-related conferences and professional development opportunities that may otherwise be cost-prohibitive. For more information about the grants, and to apply, visit

Are We Ready? Science, Technology and the Future Latino Workforce

by Selene Ceja, MPP and STPP certificate student

I am not a scientist. I am a first-generation, low-income Latina from South Central Los Angeles, and a policymaker-in-training, who seeks to understand how the ever-accelerating changes in science and technology will affect the next generation of disadvantaged students like me. How will science and technology reduce, or reinforce, the systematic inequalities that persist in our country for communities of color? What is the role of policymakers in ensuring an equitable and prosperous future for the majority-minority country of tomorrow? 

Thanks to the support of the STPP program, I recently had an opportunity to explore these questions outside of the classroom, in a particularly meaningful real-world context. Through the program’s sponsorship, I was able to attend the first ever Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s (CHCI) Tech Summit. The day-long summit convened more than 230 guests, including members of Congress, Fortune 500 executives, tech experts, and emerging leaders for high-level discussions and networking. There, I learned about the implications of automation on employment; how tech education is bridging the digital divide; recent developments in cybersecurity policy; and—perhaps most closely aligned with my personal and professional mission—best practices in creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable tech workforce.

I came away with a call to action centered on the urgency of bridging the tech-skills gap that prevails in the Latino community, where artificial intelligence and automation will impact, and even eliminate, jobs that currently employ 60% of all U.S. Latino workers. According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos are the principal driver of U.S. demographic growth, accounting for half of national population growth since 2000. By 2045, more than half the US population will be people of color, with Latinos comprising more than 25% of this growth. Yet our education system and labor force are woefully unprepared for the sweeping changes being ushered in by developments in science and technology. If Latinos are not better equipped for the tech revolution already underway, our community, and our country, will be left behind.

Over the course of my day in the capital, I came to recognize that tech empowerment can lead to economic empowerment, and that policymakers like me and those in my cohort have a responsibility to ensure that Latinos, and other communities of color, are prepared for the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world.

As we enter a new year, I ask my classmates who are involved in public policy to reflect on the implications of science and technology in their particular fields of study. As we enter the 5th Industrial Revolution, how will the lives of the people we seek to serve be different? What will our future workforce look like? How will we educate the next generation? What are the next systematic hurdles that will compromise and perpetuate harm to marginalized communities? As policymakers-in-training, we must recognize the role of science and technology in shaping the social structures that define the public good for years to come.

Reflections on the MIT Energy Conference

by Akin Olumoroti, MPP and STPP certificate student

Thanks to the STPP career development grant, I was able to attend the student-led MIT Energy Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. Attending the conference was a very useful experience, since the focus of my studies at the Ford School is energy and international policy. The conference exposed me to new thoughts in the energy space, and I got the chance to interact with those at the cutting-edge of energy research and policy. From the beginning of the conference, I found it quite instructive that instead of starting out with talks about the promise of solar energy, the organizers chose to headline the event with presentations from fusion energy startups like GeneralFusion and SPARC. This departure from the norm signals the fact that there are more opportunities for achieving a low-carbon and zero-carbon future beyond solar and wind power.

The conference theme was “Tough Tech and the 2040 Grid,” and featured keynote speakers from industry, academia, and government. Talks ranged from “Energy Storage for a Decarbonized World” to “U.S. Offshore Wind – Exciting Present, Emerging Future” to “Autopia: Driverless Cars & Energy Use” to “Green New Deal: A Path to a Carbon Neutral Economy.”

Most presenters rued the lack of leadership on climate change at the national level but were buoyed by the activities we are seeing at the state level. States like Illinois, New Jersey and California continue to exceed their targets as they push toward a carbon neutral economy despite the reluctance at the federal level. My biggest take away from the conference was this – policy still lags technology in the energy sector and so there are ample opportunities for young policymakers like myself and my colleagues at the Ford School to really engage in crafting new policy ideas that would take us into the future.

Capitol Hill with the American Physiological Society

by Elizabeth A. Ronan, Molecular and Integrative  Physiology Ph.D. Candidate and STPP certificate student

Political lobbying is not an activity I would have initially thought to associate with a STEM career. Yet this past October I found myself, a doctoral candidate in Molecular and Integrative Physiology, sitting with a team of scientists across from lawmakers on Capitol Hill. We discussed current legislation with the potential to drastically impact the progress of scientific research. This demonstrated to me how critical effective science communication is, not just for engaging with the general public, but to ensure that legislation is created that promotes rather than hinders scientific advancement. 

How exactly does a scientist go about meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill? My opportunity was made possible thanks to U-M physiology professor Dan Michele, Ph.D., along with funding from the STPP professional development grant. This visit was organized by the American Physiological Society (APS), a nonprofit society devoted to advancing scientific education and research. Large societies like the APS typically have specialized subcommittees to advance particular interest areas, achieved in part by actively lobbying Congress. The purpose of our visit was to provide lawmakers with scientific insight into current legislation regarding research funding and regulation.
The APS ensured our adequate preparation by supplying us with summaries of the current legislation relevant to access and funding of biomedical research studies. Our group, comprised of nearly a dozen scientists from both academia and industry, came together from across the country. Upon arriving, we separated into small groups of 3 to 4 scientists in order to meet with legislators from our states. In this way, we met with lawmakers on behalf of the APS, but also as individual constituents. 
During the meetings, we emphasized our desire and willingness to be a resource for any questions or concerns regarding scientific research. We explained how crucial it is for scientists to have access to the appropriate research models in order to make progress and advance human health. I discussed my research using C. elegans – a tiny roundworm – to study how sensation influences behavior and genetic programs that affect health and aging. Selection of the appropriate model organism for a study is not a trivial process, and requires thoughtful consideration to determine the best approach. Legislation that limits autonomy for scientists to make these decisions will impede scientific progress and ultimately the advancement of medicine.
By answering questions that lawmakers had about scientific research practices, I gained a new appreciation for how influential effective science communication can be in shaping science policy. There is a significant knowledge gap in the public perception of how rigorously regulated scientific research is. We found the lawmakers to be very open to hearing a scientist’s perspective on research-related legislation, and it was readily apparent that scientists do not meet with them nearly as often as other advocacy groups. I encourage scientists and science policy advocates to engage with our legislators more. Professional societies offer an excellent starting point to seek out opportunities.

Program News and Notes

Public Interest Technology University Network Announced

Led by the STPP program, the University of Michigan has joined the Public Interest Technology University Network, a new partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Started by the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and New America, the network represents a powerful alignment across sectors as part of a new push to define and build the public interest technology sector.

As a founding member, U-M will train the next generation of technology and policy experts to design and deploy technologies that serve the public good. Read more about our participation in the network in the University Record

Parthasarathy publishes patent article in Nature

Shobita Parthasarathy, professor of public policy at the Ford School and co-founder of the STPP program, recently published a piece in Nature titled “Use the patent system to regulate gene editing.” Parthasarathy dissects the ethical issues behind the hotly-debated genome-modifying tool, CRISPR-Cas9, which is being developed and implemented without sufficient attention to formal governance structures. Parthasarathy’s solution? Regulation through the patent system. Read the full piece in Nature

Rohde contributes to National Academies report for the U.S. Intelligence Community

Joy Rohde, associate professor of public policy at the Ford School and interim director of the STPP program, contributed to a new National Academies report, A Decadal Survey of the Social and Behavioral Sciences: A Research Agenda for Advancing Intelligence Analysis. Rohde provided critical insight from history, STS, and critical data studies to inform the report's recommendations and 10-year research agenda. 

STPP Program admits 39 new students 

The STPP program admitted 39 new students in the 2018-2019 academic year, bringing our total number of enrolled students to 75. As in past years, the students come from both masters and Ph.D. programs in disciplines across the university, with a wide range of professional backgrounds and interests. 



Recent STPP Events 

The 2018-2019 academic year was a busy one for the STPP Lecture series, with several well-attended events on a wide range of topics including: algorithmic bias, digital public service, the Federal Communications Commission, science and technology policy during the Obama administration, and creativity in the age of post-human expression. 
Virginia Eubanks, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany SUNY, joined the Ford School community on December 6, 2018 to discuss her book Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor
Carrie Bishop, the Chief Digital Services Officer for the City and County of San Francisco and founder of FutureGov, a digital design agency for public services, gave a talk about bringing digital transformation to governments in the U.S. and the U.K. 
In an event co-sponsored with the Ford School Policy Talks series, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel led a conversation on network neutrality. She discussed her work as the only woman and only Democrat on the FCC, and her fight for internet freedom.
Thomas Kalil, Chief Innovation Officer at Schmidt Futures and former Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, gave a Policy Talk titled "US Science and Technology Policy: Past, Present and Future.”
In partnership with the University Library's Copyright Office, STPP hosted an interdisciplinary panel discussion on the legal, ethical, and artistic implications of creative works produced by algorithms, robots, animals, and even drones. 
Our mailing address is:
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan
735 South State Street | Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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