August 8, 2008

Vanderbilt trainees pursue careers in science policy

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Efrain Garcia, Ph.D., and Kristen Herring are headed to the nation’s capitol. (photo by Neil Brake)

Vanderbilt trainees pursue careers in science policy

Two Vanderbilt trainees have been awarded fellowships that will take them to Washington, D.C., this fall to explore careers in science policy.

Efrain Garcia, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Vanderbilt Institute for Imaging Science, will be joining the Department of Health and Human Services on a one-year renewable fellowship as part of the Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Garcia will work in the department's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, where he will help develop, purchase and stockpile vaccines and medications against potential chemical attacks.

Garcia received his doctorate in Pharmacology from Vanderbilt in 2006.

His interest in science policy blossomed at Vanderbilt, when he became involved in intercultural affairs. At Vanderbilt, he was a co-founder and vice-president of the Alliance for Cultural Diversity in Research, an organization created “in light of the significant shortage of underrepresented minorities in biomedical research,” he noted.

He has also helped organize an international conference on brain diseases, held in Zambia last year, and has participated in discussions with U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker to advocate for scientific research.

“Throughout graduate school, I have had a keen interest in science policy, and I believe this is the area I would like to pursue for my long-term career,” Garcia said.

Kristen Herring, a graduate student in Biochemistry, has accepted a fellowship in the Presidential Management Fellows Program, which she plans to begin after completing her doctoral degree in the fall.

The PMF program was established by Executive Order in 1977 to attract outstanding candidates from a variety of academic disciplines and career paths to Federal service and public policy.

During the two-year program, Herring will work in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency of the Department of Defense.

Working within the agency's Chemical and Biological Warfare Directorate, she will be responsible for reviewing DOD grants and making funding decisions.

Herring says she was interested in the program because it allowed her to combine her scientific background with her commitment to public service and gain management and leadership experience.

“I definitely foresee a career in science policy and the federal government,” Herring said. “To be at the forefront of the decision-making process as it relates to scientific research is very exciting.”

Both programs are prestigious and highly competitive, noted Kim Petrie, Ph.D., Director of Career Development and Outcomes Analysis in the Biomedical Research Education and Training Office.

“It's an honor for them — and for Vanderbilt — to have been selected. We're very proud of them both.”