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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.

Hear more about the program

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 with 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. 

Fellows' Research Presentations (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


Iman Adibnazari
Topic: "Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Emerging Market of Domestic Social Robots"
GPS Mentor: Liz Lyons

Orion McCarthy
Topic: "Climate change impact on coral reef communities in the Hawaiian Islands"
GPS Mentor: Kate Ricke

Taylor McKie
Topic: "Climate Change Impacts on Small-Scale Dynamics and Policy Implications for Marine Protected Areas"
GPS Mentor: Kate Ricke


Austin Barnes
Topic: "Political Economy of Sea Level Rise Coastal Impacts Exploration"
GPS Mentor: David Victor

Jennifer Chien
Topic: "Exploring Causal Recourse in a Strategic Environment"
GPS Mentors: John Ahlquist, Brian Libgober

Mia Rosenfeld
Topic: "Investigating policy implications of genomic data privacy laws in relation to bioethics and scientific accessibility"
GPS Mentor: Liz Lyons

Ross E. Turner
Topic: "Defining Directed Energy Systems for a Future in Space"
GPS Mentors: Robert L. Thomas, Tai Ming Cheung

Rachel Astete Vasquez
Topic: "The Waterless Flush: Enhanced Performance of a Wet Onsite Sanitation System for Unhoused and Underserved Communities"
GPS Mentor: Teevrat Garg

Vanessa ZoBell
Topic: "Identifying Standards for the Protection of Great Whales from Commercial Shipping Noise"
GPS Mentor: John Ahlquist


Paul Glick
Topic: "Pathways to Flight – The Impact of NASA’s Small Satellite and Technology Demonstration Missions on Long-term Technology Infusion"
GPS Mentors: Liz LyonsMichael Davidson

Mike Sierks
Topic: "
Assessing the Adequacy of Rule Curve-Based Reservoir Operations in Historically Snowmelt Driven Basins of California Under Future Climate"
GPS Mentor: Kate Ricke

Kara Voss
Topic: "The Role of Research Institutions in Community Resilience to Extreme Weather Events"
GPS Mentor: Kate Ricke


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

Jennifer Le, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: deep-sea ecosystems
GPS Mentors: Liz LyonsKate Ricke

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

Mike Sierks, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: hydroclimate of the American west
GPS Mentors: Kate Ricke, Jennifer Burney

Kara Voss, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Topic: the role of research institutions in community resilience to extreme weather events
GPS Mentors: Kate Ricke, Jennifer Burney


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 are closed

Featured Events

Climate Risk Management Under Conditions of Deep Uncertainty
June 2, 2023
This talk featuring Robert Lempert described the application of deep uncertainty methods to climate risk management, drawing on recent advances, applications, and the use of deep uncertainty approaches in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

Future Shaping and Future Proofing: Applying Evidence-Based Analysis
June 1, 2023
This talk featuring Robert Lempert described how approaches for decision-making under deep uncertainty, focused on enabling good decisions without good predictions, can help society shape the future more successfully, inclusively and democratically.

Natural Variability, Trends and the Future of Western U.S. Aridity and Forest Fires
March 17, 2023
On March 17, we welcomed David Battisti, who studies natural and forced variability in the climate system, to deliver the inaugural lecture in GPS's new Science & Policy speaker series. In this candid conversation, Battisti discussed his research on how the interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, land and sea ice lead to variability in climate on time scales from seasonal to decades, plus how climate change (including El Nino) affects food production.

Decarbonizing the U.S. Energy System: A Science Policy Fellows Event
Dec. 4, 2019
At UC San Diego, we are tackling the interrelated policy and technology challenges that must be addressed to get to zero global carbon emissions in a world where costs matter. What will it take, and how do we get there? Can the U.S. be a global leader, paving the way for other developed economies to follow? A panel of School of Global Policy and Strategy professors discussed the feasibility of the U.S. removing carbon from its energy system, as well as explored what strategies and organizational infrastructure needs to be in place.

  • Michael Davidson, Assistant Professor, GPS and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department
  • Gordon McCord, Associate Teaching Professor, GPS
  • David Victor, Professor and Center for Global Transformation Endowed Chair in Innovation and Public Policy, GPS
  • Moderated by Kate Ricke, Assistant Professor, GPS and Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Science and Politics: A GPS Science Policy Fellows Roundtable Event
Oct. 30, 2018
Should scientists try and influence policy? Should policymakers and elected officials be required to share their science platform during their campaigns? How can science really make the most impact on policy outcomes? Join us as we bring together scientists and policymakers to discuss these questions and more.


Fighting wildfires with web based imagery
Dec. 6, 2017
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.

  • 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

Read more Science Policy Fellows stories → GPS News