Science Policy Fellows Program

The Science Policy Fellows Program at GPS creates bridges within UC San Diego’s areas of excellence: engineering, medicine, marine and earth sciences, and policy, applied economics, and innovation.

Ph.D. candidates at UC San Diego, including at Jacobs School of Engineering, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and School of Medicine, are paired with a GPS faculty member who guides them out of their technical comfort zones—sans lab goggles, test tubes or thermometers—to explore the policy relevance and implications of their dissertation research.

With an emphasis on interdisciplinary training and closing the gap between physical and social sciences across campus, the Science Policy Fellows Program arms participants with an awareness of the practical applications of their specializations. Ultimately, fellows hone a multidisciplinary perspective to create well-informed responses addressing today’s global challenges.

Upcoming Events

There are no events scheduled at this time.

Program Description

For one to two years, selected fellows work closely with a faculty mentor from GPS who has expertise in a public policy sector relevant to their dissertation concentration. Each fellow receives a $1,000 stipend annually.

The program kicks off with an intake meeting, where selected fellows discuss their research goals their mentor(s) and the other fellows. After the initial meeting, fellows consult regularly with their mentors, attend policy-oriented events on campus and begin making contacts in the field.

There are three signature events associated with the program:

Science Policy Roundtable (Fall quarter)
Using research currently being conducted by GPS or other UC San Diego faculty, this roundtable explores the intersection of science and policy with real world situations.

Careers at the Nexus of Science and Policy (Winter quarter)
Bringing together top practitioners who work with both policy and science, this panel discussion explores career opportunities for students. 

Fellow’s Research Presentation (Spring quarter)
The public is invited to hear the fellows present on their findings.

In addition, fellows are invited to sit in on policy-related seminars, workshops and courses, suggested by their mentor.

Fellow-Mentor Pairings


Meredith Fish, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: atmospheric rivers
GPS Mentors: Kate Ricke, Jennifer Burney

Kaitlyn Lowder, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: Ocean acidification and lobster fisheries
GPS Mentors: Gordon McCord, Kate Ricke

Karcher Morris, Jacobs School of Engineering
Topic: 3-D printing of medical devices
GPS Mentors: Liz Lyons, Roger Bohn

Osinachi Ajoku, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Second year of fellowship; topic: Biomass burning in Sub-Saharan Africa
GPS Mentor: Jennifer Burney


Osinachi Ajoku, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: Biomass burning in Sub-Saharan Africa
GPS Mentor: Jennifer Burney

Mridu Sinha, Jacobs School of Engineering
Topic: Healthcare decision support tool adoption
GPS Mentor: Roger Bohn

Devesh Vashishtha, School of Medicine
Topic: Health implications of heat waves
GPS Mentor: Gordon McCord 


Gavin Cornwell, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Topic: boundary layer geo-engineering
GPS Mentor: John Ahlquist

Claudia Rafful, School of Medicine
Topic: Human rights implications of involuntary drug treatment
GPS Mentor: Emilie Hafner Burton

Naila Seale, Jacobs School of Engineering
Topic: regulation of disruptive healthcare therapies
GPS Mentors: Liz Lyons, Joshua Graff ZivinRoger Bohn

Lynn Waterhouse, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: Fisheries stock assessments
GPS Mentor: John Ahlquist 


Negin Nazarian, Jacobs School of Engineering
Topic: urban climate modeling
GPS Mentor: David Victor 

Hermes Taylor-Weiner, Jacobs School of Engineering
Topic: regenerative medicine regulation
GPS Mentor: Joshua Graff Zivin

Eligibility & Application

Candidates must be a Ph.D. student from UC San Diego’s STEM-related Ph.D. programs such as JSOE, SIO, SOM or the Divisions of Biological Sciences and Physical Sciences and must secure approval from their departmental advisor.

Applications for 2018–19 cycle are now open. Apply here.

Featured Events

Ten of the top 20 most destructive California wildfires, according to Cal Fire, have occurred in the last decade. Are wildfires on the rise? What’s being done to prevent wildfires? What can we do to protect ourselves? An interdisciplinary expert panel of UC San Diego researchers and county officials explored answers to these critical questions.

  • Ilkay Altintas, Chief Data Science Officer, San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego
  • Judd (Judson) Boomhower, Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, UC San Diego
  • Brian Fennessy, Fire Chief, City of San Diego
  • Frank Vernon, Researcher, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego
  • Moderated by Teevrat Garg, Assistant Professor, GPS, UC San Diego

“Water in the West: A Science Policy Roundtable”
Dec. 8, 2016
Presented by the School of Global Policy and Strategy’s Science Policy Fellows Program and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Science Policy Discussion Group, this roundtable explored the sources of California’s water supply, how it is used throughout the state and best practices for optimal regulation of its use. Panelist: 

  • Daniel Cayan, Director, California Applications Program and Research Meteorologist, Scripps Oceanography
  • Marty Ralph, Director, Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, Scripps Oceanography
  • Jennifer Burney, Assistant Professor, GPS
  • Sandra Kerl, Deputy General Manager, San Diego County Water Authority

Listen to Jennifer Burney and Marty Ralph featured Dec. 8, 2016 on KPBS, “San Diego Climate Scientists Strive To Better Impact Public Policy” (audio)

Read a recap of the event "Variability biggest bane of water in the West"

Watch the video

News and Media

Science Policy Fellows program nurtures effective interdisciplinary scholars
June 27, 2018 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News
In its fourth year, the program continues attracting top students in STEM disciplines to explore the policy relevance and implications of their dissertation research

Dec. 18, 2017 | By Rachel Hommel | GPS News
GPS’s Science Policy Fellows Program gathered experts to examine how harnessing the power of supercomputers and video imagery can help prevent natural disasters

Science Policy Fellows program trains ‘high-impact researchers’
June 28, 2017 | By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News
In its third year, GPS’s Science Policy Fellows program continues bridging disciplines at UC San Diego, delivers new research and even prototype tools

Variability biggest bane of water in the West
Dec. 14, 2016 | By By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News
GPS’s Science Policy Fellows Program gathered scientist and policy experts from across campus and San Diego to traverse the hard-hitting topic of California’s water supply

From the benchtop to the real world
By Sarah Pfledderer | GPS News
In its second year, GPS’s Science Policy Fellows Program continues emphasizing the policy impacts of scientific research

Medicine’s Wild West — Unlicensed Stem-Cell Clinics in the United States (PDF)
Sept. 10, 2015, by Hermes Taylor-Weiner, Ph.D., and Joshua Graff Zivin, Ph.D.
Taylor-Weiner, an inaugural Science Policy Fellow recipient, and his faculty mentor, GPS Professor Graff Zivin, co-author in The New England Journal of Medicine about their resulting research from the program regarding unlicensed stem-cell clinics in the U.S.

Blending science and policy
June 26, 2015, by Sarah Pfledderer | View photos
Hermes Taylor-Weiner perhaps explains the purpose of the Science Policy Fellows Program best. In brief, it allowed him to look at his research through a lens other than his lab goggles. “As a basic scientist, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture,” he said. “The Science Policy Fellows Program gave me the opportunity to see how the technologies I work with on the bench top are affecting people today.”

China’s ‘airpocalypse’ discussed at first Science Policy Fellows event
Dec. 11, 2014, by Anthony King | View photos
In a first-of-its-kind event for the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), professor Junjie Zhang, an expert in Chinese economics related to the environment, and Deborah Seligsohn, an environmental governance researcher, discussed the intersection of policy and science in regards to China’s ongoing pollution problem.

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