Tibbetts will serve a one-year term in Washington, DC, as a special legislative assistant for a member of the US Congress or as a staff member for a congressional committee beginning in September. SPIE and Optica are co-sponsors of the fellowship.
“I am excited for the opportunity to learn from policymakers and the chance to apply my background in chemistry to a range of policy issues, including climate and energy topics,” said Tibbetts. “It is an incredible honor to be this year’s Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow.”
Tibbetts will graduate with her PhD from the Chemistry Department at Colorado State University (CSU) this summer. She uses ultrafast lasers to study questions in the fields of energy storage and renewable energy generation: as one example, she studies electrolyte solutions used in different applications including lithium or sodium-ion batteries. Specifically, she has investigated the roles different materials play in determining device lifetimes and efficiency.
Beyond the lab, Tibbetts is passionate about science policy and communication: she believes that scientists have an obligation to effectively communicate their research to the public and policymakers. During graduate school, Tibbetts was president of the CSU Science in Action group. She also led a team of graduate student leaders in policy-related activities and worked to build relationships between local policymakers and graduate students. She was also involved in other organizations focused on science communication and student advocacy. Tibbetts has been an organizer for the Rocky Mountain ComSciCon, she was a Leadership Fellow with the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, and is currently a student representative with the CSU Graduate Center for Inclusive Mentoring.
As part of her fellowship, Tibbetts will attend a comprehensive science policy and communication training and orientation session facilitated by the American Association of the Advancement for Science. Upon training completion, she will interview with Senate, House of Representatives, and congressional committee staff on Capitol Hill and then select which congressional office or committee she wishes to serve for her fellowship year.
The Congressional Fellowship's program mission is to bring technical and scientific backgrounds and perspectives to the decision-making process in Congress and provide scientists with insight into the inner workings of the federal government. Fellows have the opportunity to participate in a multitude of policymaking functions including, conducting legislative or oversight work, assisting in congressional hearings and debates, preparing policy briefs, and writing speeches.
Each year, following a formal application process, finalists are interviewed, and Congressional Fellows are selected by a committee comprised of volunteer members from Optica and SPIE. Complete information on the selection process and fellowship criteria can be found here.