This article was written by Jacqueline Jeon-Chapman. She is an undergraduate student who attended the MRSEC AAAS Policy event.
The Bioinspired Soft Materials MRSEC invited Dr. Šeila Selimovic, a Brandeis Physics Ph.D.’10, to campus on Wednesday, June 17th. In a room full of students, post-docs, staff, and faculty, Selimovic talked about her experiences working in science policy and gave practical advice to the audience about the career pathway. Her presentation was titled, “Science Policy: Science for Policy or Policy for Science?”
After working as a post-doc in labs at Harvard and MIT, Selimovic began her current fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C. Through this job, Selimovic has attended a UN conference, arranged meetings between diplomats and scientists, and taught a course for educating government workers about nuclear energy. She said her job involves being able to do extensive research in a given field because she provides government officials with the most recent and relevant statistics on scientific questions.
Recently, Selimovic was asked to study nuclear power plants in Poland because many countries rely on Russian nuclear power plants for electricity. These power plants give Russia influence over other countries, so Poland has been considering replacing these power plants with ones built in other countries. Selimovic did research to provide her managers with information for a meeting with Poland.
During her presentation, Selimovic talked about her initial frustrations that she felt that government officials often prioritized economics and politics over science. As she learned more about her job, she came to accept that science is not the only important factor in making decisions.
Selimovic also gave advice about how to find a job as an AAAS fellow. She said she thought that her strong publication record made her stand out as an applicant. Interestingly, she noted that not all of her publications were primary journal articles. Her publication list included many short reviews on recent scientific publications that concisely explained the significance of the work in simpler terms. To future policy fellows, she recommended writing and publishing often and seeking out opportunities to enhance science communication skills. Selimovic also recommended the website Cheeky Scientist Association for learning how to network, writing a resume, and gaining other career skills.
Overall, she said that working in science policy involves more teamwork than in academic research—one person plays a smaller role in a project.