U.Va. Science and Technology Policy Interns to Present Research Aug. 3 in D.C.

July 26, 2012 — Ten University of Virginia engineering students spent the summer researching varied topics – including cybersecurity policy, alternatives for diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, GIS mapping for developing countries and policy alternatives for funding highway improvements in Virginia — as participants in the 12th annual Science and Technology Policy Internship Program.

The interns will present their findings Aug. 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the James Turner Research Symposium, held in the Association of Public & Land-grant Universities Building, 1307 New York Ave., N.W., in Washington, D.C. The symposium is free and open to the public.

The internship program, based in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, was founded in 2000 by then-dean Richard Miksad and James Turner, who had founded a similar program five years earlier at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The program addresses a need to educate policymakers in science and technology issues and to give U.Va. engineering students an opportunity to understand the policies that will drive the technology they ultimately create.

Michael Rodemeyer, director of the program, serves on the faculty of the Engineering School's Department of Engineering and Society and works with Turner to secure placements for students.

"The students who apply for this internship and who are chosen are smart, capable students," he said. "They are technically prepared to offer value in their placements and they do an excellent job. The internship is transformative for each intern."

Erin Boehmer, a 2011 policy intern who served in the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, agrees. A rising fourth-year student, she is a systems engineering major.

In her final report on her internship experience, she wrote, "Although I entered D.C. feeling lost in a crowd of intelligent, capable students, I exited with a set of valuable lessons that I will carry with me as I continue both as a student at U.Va. and as a professional. These lessons have made me understand how to grow as a person and distinguish myself as someone who is capable of leading intellectuals. I have a new understanding of the importance of knowing and being confident in who I am and what I can achieve."

According to Rodemeyer, each internship is unique and valuable. "These students are placed in real internships where they do real work, and the research they produce is always impressive," he said.

The program starts with a preparatory course in science and technology policy held at U.Va. in the spring, followed by the 10-week summer internship. Over the years, interns have enjoyed opportunities to meet and speak with dignitaries, including a U.S. Supreme Court justice, the president of the National Academy of Engineering, congressmen, the director of the National Science Foundation and an astronaut, among others.

The nearly 140 alumni have gone on to graduate school, won scholarships to continue their studies abroad or entered the professional world, establishing successful careers in engineering, law, medicine, consulting, finance and academia.

Supporters of the program have included Micron, QualComm, Lockheed Martin, Sun Microsystems, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Engineering School alumni R. Dudley White and Ralph L. Roberson, Greenwood Springs Foundation, several policy intern alumni and Geraldine Davis.

For information, visit the program website.

The interns and their placements and research topics:

Yue Bi (class of 2014), systems engineering: National Institutes of Health, Obesity Task Force.
"The efficacy of sodium reduction programs in non-U.S. countries"

Liz Dobrenz (class of 2014), biomedical engineering: Center for Science, Technology and Engineering, Government Accountability Office. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the challenge of nanotechnology"

Caroline Dunn (class of 2014), chemical engineering: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Science Division. "Alternatives for diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury patients"

Charles Eckman (class of 2014), computer engineering: Office of Sen. Mark Warner.
"Alternative policy approaches to implementing cyber security safeguards"

Cam Elward (class of 2014), biomedical engineering: National Academies of Science, Board of Life Sciences. "Alternative policies to govern dual-use research in light of the H5N1 controversy"

Fallon Farmer (class of 2014), systems engineering: National Science Foundation, Director's Office. "Evaluating the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps Program"

Josh Fass (class of 2014), biomedical engineering: Woodrow Wilson Center, Science and Technology Innovation Program. "Governance of synthetic biology"

Carolyn Pelnik (class of 2013), engineering science: French Embassy, Office for Cooperation with Civil Society Organizations. "Evaluating the GIS mapping systems in developing countries"

Alex Reber (class of 2013), systems engineering: Office of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell
"Policy alternatives for funding highway improvements in Virginia"

Lacey Williams (class of 2013) biomedical engineering: Association of Public & Land-grant Universities, Office of International Programs. "Higher education priorities for development in sub-Saharan Africa"

– by Josie Pipkin