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Two inaugural science policy fellows will address important Idaho issues

The connection between scientists and policy makers in Idaho will be formalized with the naming of the first two fellows in the Idaho Science and Technology Policy Fellowship (ISTPF), a collaboration among Boise State University, University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

The fellows, Sarah Henricks and Veronika Vazhnik, will begin the ISTPF’s inaugural year in August.

Hendricks earned her doctorate degree in bioinformatics and computation biology at the University of Idaho, a master’s degree in ecology and systematic biology at San Francisco State University and bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and women’s and gender studies at DePaul University in Chicago. She is a postdoctoral bioinformatics researcher at the University of Idaho.

Vazhnik is the ISTP Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) fellow. Her fellowship portfolio will focus on energy and energy policy. Vazhnik holds a doctorate degree in biorenewable systems with a minor in operations research from Pennsylvania State University, and a bachelor’s degree in earth and environmental sciences from University College Freiburg at the Albert-Ludwigs University in Germany. She is a graduate fellow at Idaho National Laboratory, conducting bioenergy and landscape design decision-making research.

The ISTPF connects doctoral-level scientists and social scientists and engineers with at least three years post-master’s degree professional experience with state agencies to develop and implement solutions to some of Idaho’s most pressing challenges, including water, energy, environment, fire and health.

“The Idaho Science and Technology Policy Fellowship is one of about 20 science policy fellowship programs in the nation,” said U of I President Scott Green. “U of I is excited to partner with Boise State and ISU in this joint endeavor that will propel forward the connection between science and policy. The fellowship is a win-win. It offers ISTP fellows training in public policy and provides our decision makers with deep technical expertise on some of Idaho’s greatest challenges. One of the unique aspects of the ISTPF is the emphasis on keeping Idaho talent in Idaho. Each of these fellows is extraordinarily smart and talented and all have strong connections to our state.”

Paul Kline, deputy director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and ISTPF advisory board member, said benefits of having a professional with scientific and technical expertise in state agencies is critical.

“Having experts in science and engineering who can provide policymakers with thoughtful, high-quality information prepares them to make decisions that will have long-lasting benefits for our state,” he said.

The ISTPF is modeled on the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science and Technology Policy Fellowship (AAAS STPF) Program. The AAAS STPF Program was structured to be nonpartisan and involve no advocacy; rather, it was initiated to bring scientists and engineers into a policy context where their technical knowledge and networks could inform the federal government.

Led by U of I’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research, nearly $300,000 in funding has been raised to launch the ISTPF. Supporters include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, CAES and individual donors. CAES is a research, education and innovation consortium bringing together the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory and the four public research universities of Idaho and Wyoming that harnesses the power of collaboration to accelerate the development of energy solutions and train the next generation of energy leaders.