MA State House Fellowship
Every summer, selected students join the Massachusetts State House in the office of a legislator or committee focused on policies that require input from a diverse set of scientific fields. This fellowship is an exciting opportunity for highly motivated Ph. D. students to gain professional experience and have a long-term impact by informing state-level policy.
On a day-to-day basis, fellows report to a senior staff member within the host office, such as the Chief of Staff, Policy Director, or Legislator. Fellows also meet every other week with two SCI advisors: Daniel Pomeroy, the Executive Director of SCI and a policy practitioner. These meetings provide focused mentoring that is geared toward scientists and responsive to fellows’ career goals. Through activities such as journal reflections, fellows and advisors address structured questions and surface key aspects of the experience. The Massachusetts State House also hosts seminars throughout the summer term, which fellows are invited to attend but are optional.
Fellows’ assignments vary based on the needs of the host office, but include tasks such as:
- Researching science and technology-related policy areas relevant to the committee or legislator’s interests
- Identifying the political dimensions of policies (e.g., who are its supporters and opponents?)
- Drafting reports, memos, and testimony for legislative hearings
- Interacting with constituents, advocates, and community groups
- Attending formal legislative activities such as hearings or House and Senate Sessions
Schedule and Compensation
The fellowship is half-time, for 20 hours a week through 10 weeks during the summer. Fellows receive an hourly compensation their commitment. The expected dates of the fellowship are June 1 until Mid-August. Weekly schedules are determined based on the needs of the host office and the fellow. In 2020 and 2021 the program was offered remotely.
We are no longer accepting applications for the 2021 Summer Fellowship. Please check again next year.
The Fellowship is currently offered to STEM Ph.D. students within Harvard interested in science and technology policy. This includes —but is not limited to— candidates with the following background:
- Natural sciences, including life sciences and physical sciences
- Medicine and public health
- Engineering, including biological engineering
- Mathematics and applied mathematics
Questions and concerns
Please address any questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Massachusetts State House Fellowship offers graduate STEM students a hands-on experience in science policy, exposing selected fellows to career opportunities outside academia.
Four fellows took part in the SCI Science and Technology Policy Fellowship at the Massachusetts State House in Summer 2020. Another two did so in 2019. They worked in the office of legislators focused on science-related policies, including ocean acidification, public health equity, and the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 and healthcare legislation
Kayla Davis is a Ph.D. candidate in Biological and Biomedical Sciences with a long-lived interest in public policy, STEM education, and human rights. She worked in Rep. Higgins’ office where she provided technical expertise on COVID-19 legislation, including research and advice to inform the $1 billion supplemental budget bill for the pandemic. Her tasks included the development of internal reports, assistance in formal sessions, and support with peer offices and constituents.
As a State House fellow, Kayla provided research on different science-based issues, such as healthcare legislation and public health policies, in coordination with other staff and fellow office interns.
Kayla’s interest in policy began in high school, where she created a student group around human rights issues. Davis is the co-founder of the Oklahoma Science Project, a platform that provides free STEM education resources and basic programming courses to inspire future computational scientists. She also served as co-president of the Harvard GSAS Science Policy student group and as an Editorial Board member of Harvard’s Science in the News outreach group while in graduate school.
Kayla Davis received her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Oklahoma State University in 2014 and joined Dr. Thomas Schwarz’s lab at Harvard University in 2016.
COVID-19 and public health policies
Jasmin Joseph-Chazan is a Ph.D. student in the Immunology Graduate Program at Harvard Medical School. She worked in Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis’s office on public health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, where she researched the implications of the pandemic on health insurance infrastructure and financing with the goal of identifying places legislation can be amended to better protect the public from emerging diseases. Jasmin used her scientific skills to distill technical data into internal documents that supported the office’s legislative priorities.
She also helped Rep. Lewis’ office in other science-related projects, including communications and advice on vaccination, sexual health equity, and immigrant rights. Her duties included meeting with constituents and advocacy groups, attending hearings and legislative sessions, and providing support to the team in other daily needs.
As a passionate science advocate from a young age, Jasmin joined the SCI State House fellowship to better understand the legislative process and to help strengthen the connections between policymakers and science and technology professionals.
Jasmin earned her BS in Biological Engineering from MIT in 2018 and joined the Immunology Graduate Program at Harvard Medical School in 2019 as a Herchel Smith Fellow.
COVID-19 testing and state response
Colette Matysiak supported Senator Brownsberger’s office in understanding the role of SARS-CoV-2 testing to control the COVID-19 epidemic in Massachusetts. As a Ph.D. candidate in virology, Colette provided the office with research in areas such as testing modalities, testing capacity, logistics, distribution, and equity. She aggregated technical data and distilled complex information into policy recommendations.
Her work included tracking changes in the COVID-19 pandemic and the state response, and providing up to date information to the senate office and constituents. Colette also sat in hearings and legislative sessions related to the pandemic response and provided technical expertise as needed.
As a virologist, Colette started following the COVID-19 pandemic in its first stages in late 2019 and applied for SCI’s State House fellowship to learn how evidence-based research and scientists can inform and influence state policy in this critical context.
Colette earned her BS in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology in 2011 from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her MPH in Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases from Yale in 2016. She then joined the Virology Ph.D. Program at Harvard Medical School where she studies viral respiratory tract infections and vaccinations in the lab of Dr. Ulrich von Andrian.
Impacts of Ocean Acidification
Slater Sharp supported Rep. Fernandes’ office in the bicameral Ocean Acidification Commission, dedicated to evaluating and mitigating climate-related impacts on sea chemistry and their effects on sea life and economic sustainability.
As a Ph.D. candidate in Neurobiology, Slater leveraged his academic expertise to prepare talking points and internal reports of complex topics, including an initial draft of the commission report. He worked in contact with other members of the commission, as well as industry and science professionals. Slater was in charge of organizing working group meetings with multiple stakeholders and provided reference materials for the working sessions.
Slater saw SCI’s Summer Science and Technology Policy Fellowship as an opportunity to help bridge the gap between government and science professionals and a chance to get himself familiar with the particulars of local governance.
Sharp received his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Cornell College in 2015 and joined Dr. Sandeep R. Datta’s lab at Harvard Medical School in 2017, where he studies the neurobiology of olfaction.
Carl Sciortino, MPA
State House Fellowship External Advisor / Vice President of Government and Community Relations, Fenway Health
Carl Sciortino is the Executive Vice President of External Relations at Fenway Health, a community health center with a mission focused on the LGBTQIA+ community. He oversees government and community partnerships, advocacy, philanthropy, and communications.
From 2014 to 2018 he served as Executive Director of AIDS Action Committee, New England’s oldest and largest AIDS service organization. As AIDS Action’s first Executive Director to be a person living with HIV himself, Carl led the creation of the statewide Getting to Zero Coalition, and continues to serve as its co-chair. Carl was a State Representative in the Massachusetts Legislature from 2005 to 2014, where he was a leading HIV and LGBT advocate in the House.
As an external advisor for the State House Fellowship, Sciortino leverages his expertise in government, advocacy and public health to provide fellows with guidance and resources to navigate their experience.
Carl received his Masters in Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and his Bachelor of Science from Tufts University.
Implications of climate change
Meghan Blumstein is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Organismal and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, where she studies carbon allocation strategies of black cottonwoods to learn the response of forests to climate change. She was lucky enough to find a fellowship working in the office of Massachusetts Senator Julian Cyr to help propose and advance legislation on Ocean Acidification and Solar Panels. The fellowship took place in Summer 2019, a 9-week appointment that she recalls as “truly enjoyable” and “challenging in a positive way”.
Meghan helped Senator Cyr’s office by offering first-hand scientific advice and gathering qualified insights on scientific research and science policy. Senator Cyr’s office benefited from Meghan’s academic expertise, which is directly related to many environmental and scientific issues affecting Massachusetts today, such as invasive pests and disease, climate change, ecosystem services, alternative energies and biofuels, and genomic technologies. At the same time, she gained valuable experience in the real-world consequences of her research.
Meghan says she enjoyed developing talking points and attending public hearings, although the part she liked the most was thinking and working on her environmental-related projects. She applied for the competitive State Policy fellowship offered by the Scientific Citizenship Initiative “to get a better sense of how policy is made and changed” and how the political system “actually functions in a day-to-day way”. She says the experience at the State House gave her “a much clearer idea of how scientists and research interact with the legislative process” and she now has “a much clearer picture of how best to move forward in this arena”.
Porter Ladley is a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard, where he works on antibiotic resistance. He is also interested in the opioid crisis, a phenomenon he confronted first-hand working as an Emergency Medical Technician.
He was awarded a Massachusetts State Policy fellowship in Summer 2019, assisting State Rep. Jon Santiago in gathering information about public-health related policies. The fellowship, offered by the Scientific Citizenship Initiative, allowed the representative’s office to gain insight into academic research while moving legislation forward on Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM). Porter equally benefited from a first-hand experience in science policy. “The aspect I most enjoyed over the summer was diving into a project topic that I previously knew nothing about and needing to get up to speed on the topic quickly,” says the fellow.
He underscores that his time as a State Policy fellow was “very helpful” to get “a better idea of the teamwork needed to make good policy decisions.” The experience helped him to learn about “the accessibility of the entire institution.” “The public can simply walk into the statehouse and talk to legislators or their staff,” he remarks. Porter says his interest in pursuing some science-policy related career has increased after his experience at the State House. He seems himself “working in the office of a legislator again.”
Hosting a fellow
Legislative offices at the MA State House Office interested in hosting a fellow in 2022 can reach out to email@example.com
Want to learn more?
See how the 2020 fellows spent their summer.