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Leaving bench research for a science policy career.

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2004 10:19 pm
by Chi-chi

I'm a 5th year graduate student and am considering my career options after graduating. While I enjoy performing basic science research I feel the need to pursue a science career that gives a more immediate contribution to the community. So here are my questions:

1) AAAS offers science policy fellowships and while I fully intend to apply for these fellowships I need a back up plan. Where else can I apply?

2)If the science policy fellowship didn't work out I was also thinking of being an HIV/AIDS educator in an African country. However, my research background is in DNA repair/Cancer biology. Where would I start to try to transition between these two fields?

3)Can a basic scientist contribute to the community with respect to public health (outside of teaching) without having an MD or MPH?

I appreciate any responses.

Thank you,
Chi-chi Nnakwe

Leaving bench research for a science policy career.

PostPosted: Mon Oct 25, 2004 1:30 pm
by Bill L.
Hi Chi-chi,

Here are the answers to your questions in order:

1. About health policy/public health fellowships:

There are a couple of options. Peter Fiske has an article called: Insider's Guide to Science Policy Fellowships for Scientists and Engineers, which covers the AAAS, White House Fellowship Program and the Presidential Management Fellowship program (PMI). It's at:

Additionally, there is the National Academy of Science has a number of options, including the the Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship Program and the:

There is also the NIH office of Policy & Fellowship, which lists a few options, that also focus on specific associations, like the Americal Society for Microbiology Congressional Fellowship at:

There are also specific fellowships that are university based, such as the Science, Technology and Public Policy Fellowship at Harvard:

Lastly, Science Nextwave has a nice feature index on Science Policymakers (and how people transitioned) at:

2+3. About Transitioning from the bench into Science/Health Policy:

The answer is yes, you can work in health policy, public health, international health, etc. without an MPH. But in all cases, you are going to need practical experience that will build your skill set and understanding of these issues.

For example, if you are interested in community health education, it would make sense to first to A) get experience working in some aspect of HIV/AIDS prevention wherever you are presently located or B)work with any community education organization (say cancer, etc.) to learn how to design and successfully community education outreach. After that, you can think about doing it internationally.

Lastly, to understand what skills are necessary, it would help to learn about employers and position titles. Public Health Jobs Worldwide is usually THE place for listings in this field. There is an online subscription and I've seen the hard copy in large bookstores, but to see sample listings, you can go to:

Also to get a sense of two very different organizations where you might want to work one day (so check out their employment pages!), try the Academy for Educational Development at and Abt Associates:

Good Luck!

Bill L. & Naledi S.