For Danielle Lohman, her passion for science policy began when she heard a Ph.D. chemist speak at a career conference about the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellowship at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
Lohman, recently a postdoctoral fellow in Dave Pagliarini’s lab at the Morgridge Institute for Research, was in her second year of graduate school in the University of Wisconsin–Madison Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) at the time.
“I just thought her life was really cool,” Lohman says. “When I saw her speak, it was the first time that I realized scientists could do things that weren’t strictly laboratory science.’”
AAAS is a multidisciplinary scientific society and research publisher based in the nation’s capital whose mission includes advancing science and promoting scientific research. AAAS fellowships give talented scientists the opportunity to work in a broad range of fields, from engineering to neuroscience to astronomy.
At Morgridge, Lohman has been working in the Pagliarini Lab, part of the Metabolism theme, investigating the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in human diseases.
But even with her success in the lab, Lohman knew science policy was a path she wanted to pursue. This year, her dream became a reality.
After a period of intensive interviewing with six different federal agencies in Washington, D.C., Lohman was one of 271 candidates selected for a prestigious AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. Lohman will be working in the Office of Biological Policy in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation — an area of the State Department that deals with issues like biological weapons and biosecurity.
Lohman will begin her one-year fellowship at the start of 2019. Ultimately, she hopes to contribute a data-driven approach to policy decisions while discovering new ways to solve problems.
“That’s something every scientist can bring to the table,” Lohman says, “and I would be proud to play my part.”
Previously a trainee with UW–Madison’s Biotechnology Training Program and a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow before continuing in the Pagliarini lab as a postdoc, Lohman hopes to pursue a career in science diplomacy, a path not traditionally taken by scientists.
“I’d like to be doing work that engages and leverages the global scientific community to tackle our toughest problems,” Lohman says.
Lohman, who believes the scientific community should play a larger role in policymaking, sees the AAAS fellowship as a unique opportunity for scientists to bring their research out of the lab and into the real-world — specifically, into U.S. policy.
“If scientists want to go into government, they can,” Lohman says. “But it’s not always obvious how to get your foot in the door, and this fellowship is one way to do it.”
While Lohman, a North Carolina native, admits she won’t miss the long winters (“I’m not going to lie, I’m not a fan of that”), she knows she will carry her time in Wisconsin and her experiences at the Morgridge Institute with her to Washington, D.C.
“Beyond the excellent scientific training, working here instilled me with an optimistic perspective on how scientists can contribute beyond the bench,” Lohman says. “I expect to lean on many of my experiences with the Morgridge Institute for Research, from the interdisciplinary collaborations to engaging with our community through the Wisconsin Idea.”
“I expect a few changes in my day-to-day, but at its core, this is just a different way of serving,” Lohman says. “I could not be more excited.”