View this email in your browser

Director's Letter

By Shobita Parthasarathy

It’s been a busy but exciting year for STPP! In November, we hosted Chris Calabrese, Vice President for Policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, whose talk Show Your Face? The Pros and Cons of Facial Recognition Technology for our Civil Liberties discussed how facial recognition might impact privacy, civil liberties, and our everyday lives, and how policymakers should address it. STPP students gathered for a lunchtime discussion with Ford School alum Brian Wesolowski, also at the Center for Democracy and Technology, and participated in a memo-writing workshop organized by InSPIRE, the STPP-affiliated Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop. Ford School alum Layne Scherer of the National Academies presented on the recent report on Graduate STEM Education in the 21st Century, and also took the time to meet one on one with students.
Our upcoming events this semester are with Priti Krishtel of i-MAK on solving the drug pricing crisis by addressing patent policy, and Beza Merid, a postdoctoral fellow here at U-M affiliated with STPP, on anger and health activism in the fight to keep the Affordable Care Act.
STPP has also taken on a leadership role in the newly created Public Interest Technology University Network, made up of 21 colleges and universities across the country and supported by the New America and Ford Foundations. With David Guston (Arizona State University) I wrote an op-ed in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the need to train civically-minded technologists and technically savvy policymakers, as we do at STPP! And we’ve created a new research and policy engagement initiative, STPP’s Technology Assessment Clinic (TAC). The goal of the TAC is to anticipate the implications of emerging technologies and use these insights to develop better technology policies. It will develop a library of case studies analyzing the social, economic, ethical, and political dimensions of emerging technologies. This year the TAC team has been investigating the use of facial recognition technology in K-12 schools. Look for our first white paper next spring!

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

Science Outside the Lab: A Two-week Crash Course in Science Policy in the Federal Government

By Jason Albert, Pharmaceutical Sciences PhD Candidate and STPP Certificate StudentPhoto of the author Jason Albert with Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee

For some PhD candidates, the question “When are you defending?” can be asked innocently, but cause a fair amount of anxiety. As someone who began his graduate studies with the intention of working in pharmaceutical research and development, but who has been drawn more and more to science policy, the question “What do you want to do with that degree?” fell into the same category. While I have very much enjoyed my STPP coursework, I knew that I needed some firsthand exposure to the professional science policy world in order to get some clarity on this question. I had heard about a program called Science Outside the Lab from some STPP faculty members and decided that this past summer was the time to apply.  
Science Outside the Lab (SOtL) is a two-week program run by Arizona State University (ASU) and based out of their K St., Washington, D.C. campus. Most years, SOtL runs two programs: one for PhD students from around the country and one for students in ASU’s Masters in Science and Technology Policy Program. This year, though, these programs were merged. For two weeks, the 15 of us went around D.C. (and Bethesda) meeting with science policy professionals from an alphabet soup of agencies, institutes, and companies: NIH, STPI, IBM, NASA, OMB, OSTP, NAS, CRS, GAO, UCS, AAAS, WWF, UN, USAID, USDA, NOAA, CRDF, VA, PCORI, and more.
One thing that stood out to me throughout the workshop was the paradoxical size of the D.C. science policy apparatus; it is bigger than I could imagine, but still a small, small world. By this, I mean that there a many more ways to contribute to this growing field and many more people working in it that I had previously understood, but everyone seemed to know everyone. It is a tight-knit community and the importance of networking was reiterated by nearly everyone we met.
Personally, a certain class of agencies and institutes stood out to me. The Congressional Research Service (CRS), Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), Government Accountability Office (GAO), and National Academy of Sciences (NAS) each use scientific expertise to better inform government, (ideally) so that it can make better decisions with respect to policies. While I understand that basic research is the foundation upon which applied research and development is conducted, one aspect of scientific research with which I have struggled is the feeling that my day-to-day work is too far removed from affecting people’s lives These agencies apply scientific rigor and expertise in a way that can tangibly affect lives on a large scale, and that is exciting to me.
Coming out of SOtL, I don’t have an exact answer to the question of what I want to do, but I do have a much better idea, and STPP’s Career Development Grant helped make my experience possible.

Graduate Student Lobby Day in Lansing

by Lucca Henrion, Mechanical Engineering PhD Candidate and STPP Certificate Student

Photo of graduate students on the steps of the capital building in Lansing.

On May 8th, a coalition of 20 University of Michigan graduate students from Rackham Student Government, Graduate Rackham International, and Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy went to Lansing, the Michigan Capitol, to advocate on behalf of graduate students in Michigan. To prepare the three organizations compiled a series of one-pagers about issues that affect graduate students in Michigan: international student retention, campus sexual assault & mental health, impacts of graduate students in Michigan, and K-12 STEM education.

The group scheduled and attended 27 meetings with Michigan State Representatives and Senators working in relevant education, appropriations, and economic development committees. These meetings were successful in raising awareness about the over 65,000 graduate students in the state of Michigan, and put a face to many of the issues that affect graduate students. The ask in most meetings was to increase appropriations for State Universities and K-12 education as the Michigan legislature was focused on assembling the FY2020 budget.

Consensus Conference on Water Quality

by Nocona Sanders, Materials Science & Engineering PhD Candidate and STPP Certificate Student

Across Michigan and throughout Washtenaw County, issues related to water safety, access, and usage have become prominent topics of public discussion. Despite access to 4 out of 5 Great Lakes, the past few years have repeatedly demonstrated challenges in providing safe water to all current and future Michigan residents.Water droplet with the state of Michigan in it. These challenges have drawn the attention of policy makers and experts, but a critical component of the discussion on improving water security must be the values and perspectives of impacted community members.

In April, Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy (ESPA), an interdisciplinary group of graduate students and postdocs here at the University of Michigan, hosted the 2019 Washtenaw County Consensus Conference on Water Security. The goal of the event was to have Washtenaw County residents come together to learn about water security issues and provide their perspectives to policy makers.

Over the three-day event, our 12 community panelists reviewed technical information on a variety of water-related issues and compiled a list of questions. They then held a conversation with experts in fields ranging from public health to engineering and community activism, who answered their questions in a two-hour public forum. To wrap up, the community members attempted to come to a consensus on as many issues as possible. We then wrote a formal report for policymakers detailing the community recommendations on how to address the various water issues facing the county and Michigan at large.

The panelists identified four areas of interest which need to be addressed: Capacity, or the ability to get clean water to all members of the community in day-to-day life, in an emergency, and for years to come; Contaminants; Education; and Competing Interests. Most of the policy recommendations are values statements for policy makers to keep in mind as they discuss water security issues, but some are specific requests. Below are a few of the key findings of the citizen panel:
•    More transparency is needed in water quality data, and it should be more easily accessible.
•    Governments must improve water infrastructure to filter contaminants and prevent service disruptions.
•    The influence of corporations in water control must be reduced.
•    K-12 education should include a component on natural resources and the environment.

Through this process, we confirmed that community members can discuss scientific issues on a technical level if provided sufficient information and allowed to engage with experts on an equal footing. We also learned that community perspectives and local expertise are just as important as traditional academic analysis in tackling community-level issues. We would like to thank the Ford School for supporting our project financially and Prof. Joy Rohde for advising us as we planned the conference.

Program News and Notes

New Networking Resource for Students & Alumni

We recently launched a networking resource to help STPP students connect with alumni, and alumni to connect with each other. The directory includes a list of STPP alumni with their job titles, employers, and locations, organized by subfield, and we only make it available to current STPP students and alumni. Currently it only includes people who consented to be added to the directory when we sent out a message about it last fall. To be added to the directory, or to get access to it, send an email to

Alumni Advisory Board

We are very excited to be creating a new Alumni Advisory Board for the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program. The program now has over 100 alumni scattered all over the country and world, and the Alumni Board will provide guidance to STPP leadership on our educational programs, research initiatives, lecture series, public and policy engagement, alumni connections, and future directions for the program. Board members will also serve as “goodwill ambassadors” of the STPP program, making themselves available as a resource to staff, faculty, students, and alumni throughout the year. Thank you to everyone who applied! Members of the inaugural board are:
  • Chris Avery
  • Michelle Brechtelsbauer
  • Liz Dreyer
  • Joseph Labuz
  • Esha Mathew
  • Kevin Reed
  • Jackson Voss
  • Melvin Washington

Curriculum Updates

This month, Rackham approved our proposed changes to the STPP curriculum, reducing the STPP certificate requirements from 15 credits to 12 credits, effective immediately. These changes will apply to all students currently enrolled in the program, as well as al future students. This brings the program into alignment with other Rackham certificate programs, most of which are 9 or 12 credits.

PubPol 510 and PubPol 650 remain required core courses, and we will continue to require 6 credits of electives. PubPol 754 will count as an approved elective, but is no longer required.

We made these changes in part in response to feedback from students, prospective students, and alumni about the barriers to completing an STPP certificate. Requiring 15 credits made it difficult or impossible to complete the certificate for students who come to the program late in their academic careers, students in 2 year masters degree programs, students completing dual degrees, and students in PhD programs that promote students to candidacy after their first year, after which they can only take one course per semester.

Our hope is that these changes will expand access to the STPP graduate certificate to more students in the future, and to improve the experiences of students who are already in the program.

Keep In Touch with STPP

As always, we want to hear from you! We want to hear your professional and life updates. You can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn, or email us at

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

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.


This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
University of Michigan Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program · 735 S State St · 4204 Weill Hall · Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp