• MIT Washington Office Director Bill Bonvillian

    MIT Washington Office Director Bill Bonvillian

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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Student science policy initiative focuses on leadership, public service

MIT Washington Office Director Bill Bonvillian


The second annual MIT Science Policy Bootcamp--an outgrowth of a student-led initiative to get scientists, engineers and public policy-makers to talk to one another--will be held April 13-16. This class for undergraduates and graduate students, funded by the Office of the Dean for Student Life, will feature a panel discussion with congressional staffers.

At an event last spring for women graduate students, MIT graduate student Alicia Jackson spoke with MIT President Susan Hockfield about the need for young scientists to be involved in science policy at a national level. Their conversation led to the first-ever MIT Science Policy Bootcamp, an intensive five-day seminar for 25 MIT graduate students taught by MIT Washington Office Director Bill Bonvillian.

Bonvillian worked in the U.S. Senate for more than 15 years before coming to MIT. "Federal support for science and technology is not on autopilot," he said. "If this support is to continue and grow, the next generation of scientists and engineers will need to learn how to work in the public policy arena. MIT historically has provided leadership in this area, and this course is an attempt by President Hockfield to start to grow that effort."

The Science Policy Initiative has two thrusts: to educate participants on the science and innovation infrastructure, which includes the organizational framework between U.S. science agencies, the DARPA model and the drivers behind science and technology innovation systems theory; plus proactive training in Congressional advocacy. With support from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the MIT Public Service Center, MIT students attended Congressional Visits Day (CVD) in March. CVD is an annual event where scientists and engineers convene on Capitol Hill to discuss policy issues and participate in the legislative process. Twenty additional MIT students plan to travel to Washington May 1-2 for a second round of congressional visits.

Looking ahead, the group is collaborating with the leadership in public service speaker series sponsored by the dean of student life. Bringing notable persons to campus will allow students in the MIT community to actively engage with leaders in the public and government service arena, preparing students to be better citizens and public servants, Bonvillian said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 11, 2007 (download PDF).


Topics: National relations and service, Special events and guest speakers

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