The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ph.D. student to advise Congress

    Starting in September, UA student Elaine Ulrich will be in Washington D.C. to make sure Congress knows its science.

    Ulrich, an optical sciences doctoral student, was recently selected out of nationwide pool to be this year’s American Physical Society’s Congressional Student Fellow.

    She will advise members of Congress on scientific issues affecting public policy such as global warming, energy, defense technologies, AIDS, pollution and communications technologies.

    “”You’re basically there to translate the science and the technical stuff,”” Ulrich said. “”As a science policy adviser, you’re there to let them understand other people’s legislation, to write new legislation on stuff they’re interested in.””

    She joins about 50 fellows from various scientific societies who will be advising the governing body. She compared their roles to those of the “”real scientists,”” whom members of Congress consult while drafting legislation.

    “”Basically, we’re all out there working together,”” Ulrich said. “”So if I need to get expertise in a field outside of my own, hopefully I can talk to some of the other fellows and they might help, and vice versa.””

    Ulrich currently works as a researcher in plysics professor Srinivas Manne’s atomic force microscope lab in the physics department.

    She also spent a year as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council, from 2005 to 2006.

    Manne, an adviser and associate professor of physics, said he’d seen Ulrich’s interest in public policy grow for a couple of years.

    “”She was very happy to get this fellowship, and I was very happy to encourage her,”” he said.

    Physicists used to mainly go on to professional jobs and research, but more and more the individuals who make up Ph.D. programs go on to do different things, he said.

    “”I think the fellowship is a stepping stone for lots of things,”” Manne said. “”Maybe she’ll run for office someday; that’d be wonderful.

    “”Somebody who is scientifically trained and then goes out and does something more related to how the general public perceives science – it’s always a very powerful thing.””

    Ulrich said she believes “”it’s incredibly important”” for scientists to be involved with politics and the dissemination of knowledge to the public.

    “”Our government should have some voices that aren’t just lobbyists,”” she said. “”They should have people approaching scientific issues in a scientific way – from a logical standpoint.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search