The STPP experience involves more than just the classroom. You’ll attend lectures on topics ranging from biotechnology and public health to energy and sustainability by active players in the science and technology policy field. As an STPP student, you’ll also have a chance to meet the speakers for lunch and ask questions about their work and field.
You’ll be invited to STPP gatherings like movie nights. (With pizza, naturally!) You’ll have the opportunity to attend events including a yearly career luncheon where you can ask questions about pursuing your career goals with professors, postdocs, and senior students who have experience with the science and technology policy environment, and learn about internship and fellowship opportunities. You might also have the opportunity to participate in special policy engagement projects, depending on your interests and the opportunities available.
STPP will also give you the opportunity to meet people from across campus and work with people you wouldn’t normally collaborate with on projects. The program includes students from throughout the natural sciences and engineering, business, law, dentistry, public health, and public policy. Through these interdisciplinary relationships, you’ll have a chance to build upon your professional network. When you complete the STPP program, you’ll leave with not only a certificate, but with relationships with colleagues in a wide range of fields, preparing you to work in an increasingly interdisciplinary world.
Ben Isaacoff, Physics PhD Candidate
I decided to become a scientist because I felt that it was a career that enabled me to have a positive impact on the world. I have now dedicated years and years of my life to this aim, culminating in my pursuing a PhD in Applied Physics. Thus I did understand why some eyebrows were raised when I enrolled in the STPP program. To many of my colleagues who didn’t fully understand my motivations, studying policy seemed extraneous to my current career—or even worse, deleterious. But, to me, my scientific research and my engagement with policy are deeply interconnected.
While I do love doing science, I was eager to find a means of extending the scope of my impact and engagement beyond the laboratory, and explore forums that my research alone could not reach. Having scientists involved in the policymaking process is crucial. Much of what the government does utilizes scientific knowledge. Concomitantly, as the primary funder of science in the United States, what happens in government hugely influences the scientific enterprise. I see working in science policy as a means of having a direct, and far-reaching impact on the world. The STPP program is therefore not extraneous to my current career, it is essential.
Though I had some notion of the big picture, I had no knowledge of the details or practice of policymaking. The courses in the STPP program, especially PubPol 510 and 754 have certainly remedied that dearth of information and familiarity. Additionally, PubPol 650 has fundamentally changed I how understand the world. In this course, Professor Rohde (though I hear Professor Parthasarathy teaches a mean version of this course as well) provided a primer in how to understand the social context and implications of science and technology in our society. One particularly difficult lesson for our class, especially for the half that were scientists, is how all knowledge (even scientific knowledge) is socially contextual. Thus, especially when trying to accomplish something as multifaceted as developing policy, it is crucial to consider as much context as possible, and, because this is a democracy, to get as many viewpoints from stakeholders as possible—regardless of how straightforward or grounded in science an issue may seem.
Beyond this compelling coursework, one of the most important aspects of the STPP program has been the myriad activities and opportunities available through the program. Among these many amazing opportunities, one of the most memorable has been attending a AAAS workshop in DC, which culminated in lobbying in Congress with U of M’s government affairs office. This was enabled by the STPP program’s incredible support of, and engagement with, its students. We are constantly being offered exciting opportunities, being invited to stimulating talks, and the program is always eager and willing to try and help us seek out and succeed at new ventures.
I don’t yet know exactly what my future career will be. But I do know that regardless of what path I follow, I will always be involved in science policy striving the make the world a better place. And I am confident that I will be effective at this pursuit thanks to the education and training I’ve received here in the STPP program.
Rachel Wallace, Chemistry PhD Candidate
I am currently a PhD candidate in Chemistry, but I do not plan on following one of the usual career pathways of entering academia or industry. I knew within the first month of graduate school that neither of those options were for me, but it still took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. Shortly after my Candidacy Exam, my advisor and I were discussing how best to structure the rest of my PhD in order to best move me towards my career goals. He asked me about my interests, and I threw out a number of things including public health and STEM education, before casually mentioning science policy, specifically funding policy. My advisor suggested I check out the STPP program, and the rest, as we say, is history.
The public policy classes were challenging for me, but in a very different way than all my chemistry classes had been. I am not naturally inclined to speaking in class (read: it makes me very nervous), and before STPP that was okay because almost all of my chemistry classes were lecture-based. In my public policy courses, I struggled to get used to the discussion-based structure and to gain the confidence to contribute to the conversation. Early on, I also felt out of place and way out my depth with all the MPP students. I had very little exposure to social science or political science in undergrad, so I immediately felt all the MPP students were much more experienced both with this class format and with analyzing the arguments.
Now, 3.5 classes through the STPP program, I am feeling much more confident in my ability to handle the material and to contribute meaningfully to class discussion. I realized that while the class format felt unfamiliar, the analytical and critical thinking skills I had gained through my training in the physical sciences transferred perfectly to public policy. I have learned to assess complex policy problems and to write policy memos with concise and cohesive arguments. All of this is obviously invaluable in pursuing a career in science public policy.
Personal academic growth aside, the STPP program has been one of the best decisions I have made both as a scholar in general and for my professional development. The community is stimulating and supportive. I have been intellectually challenged and encouraged not just by my classes, but also through interactions with my peers, professors, and outside speakers and experts. It has been particularly eye-opening and personally challenging to come to understand that not everyone accepts facts and science in the same way that I do as a scientist. The multidisciplinary nature of the program has been critical in gaining an appreciation for the myriad viewpoints and nuances in science policy. STPP has truly been an invaluable launch pad into a career in science policy, and I believe the connections I have developed through this program will stay with me well past my time at Michigan.
Elizabeth Dreyer, Electrical Engineering PhD Candidate
As someone who doesn’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up, I was drawn to the STPP program early in my PhD. Although I am an engineer, I love working with people and communicating science. One of my great passions is doing public outreach about science, specifically optics and photonics. I figured that the STPP program would enable me to better communicate my love of science and technology to everyone, no matter their age. I was correct.
Throughout the STPP program, I have loved learning about the role science and technology plays in our society; how science influences society/public policy and how public policy/society influences science. It has made me a more thoughtful researcher and a more intentional citizen. I often apply what I learn in my STPP classes to how I interact with my elected officials and my academic colleagues, such as the importance of framing an issue.
The thing I have enjoyed the most is working with people from across the university in a collegial environment. After years of lecture-based classes with only engineers, it has been refreshing to spend class time discussing the readings (lots of them!) and exploring policy concepts. Despite having to look up words used by the anthropologists in the room, it is delightful debating.
Although I finished the credit requirements for the STPP program, I enjoy staying involved in the community by attending seminars and social events. I have made many good friends in this program. Now, as I finish my PhD, I plan on pursuing either a Science Policy fellowship or work in industry. No matter the case, the STPP program has made me a better advocate for science!