Joan R. Rothenberg

Are you looking for a way to enhance your portfolio of professional skills and experiences? Would you like to expand your contact list to include the legislators and regulators that influence federal funding or laws affecting your field of science? Would you benefit from a year spent meeting and working with leading scientists and engineers in the cutting edge areas of science? How about meeting the folks who work in the real West Wing?

If any or all of the above ideas appeal to you, then you should turn to page 96 and initiate your application for the 2001–02 IFT Congressional Science Fellowship (CSF).

The CSF provides an excellent experience in Washington, D.C., including a unique opportunity to become well integrated into the legislative and regulatory processes. In addition, Fellows have direct exposure to and involvement in the role of science (or lack of science) in federal policy making.

As other former IFT Congressional Science Fellows and I have described in these articles, the Fellowship is a positive career-enhancing—if not career-changing—experience. Coordinated through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the CSF program provides a comprehensive orientation to government and the political and policy-making process in Washington. After both the AAAS orientation and the additional orientation provided to IFT Congressional Science Fellows by the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions (CoFARM), even a novice to the workings of Washington can feel knowledgeable enough to begin work in a Congressional office. Past IFT Fellows have chosen such diverse appointments as working in the office of a Senator, a Congressman, a Senate Committee, and the Congressional Research Service.

In addition to the benefits of professional development, the CSF offers the opportunity to become more familiar with and involved in IFT. The Congressional Science Fellow is invited to the Executive Committee meetings, and the immediate past Fellow serves on the Science, Communications, and Government Relations Committee. This is a great way to learn more and become involved in the organization that serves us so well.

As science professionals, IFT members should be aware of the urgent need to have science involved in the process of policy making in Washington. Certainly, the new IFT Washington office has already taken action and will continue to be involved with this enterprise. However, the CSF provides a very real way for IFT members to contribute to the efforts to promote the underrepresented area of food science in the legislative and regulatory process. These efforts will be particularly important as the subjects of food safety, biotechnology, and human health continue to be the topics of interest in the next Administration and Congress.

Currently, IFT members in industry and academia may be enjoying the secure positions and professional advancement provided by the strong economy in the United States. Looking down the road to one’s next career move may not be top of mind in a busy and secure job environment. Few could disagree, however, that continued professional development would be viewed positively in any member’s resume. It has been my experience in managing a professional career over the past two decades that a diversity of work experiences and professional contacts has served me well. My year as the IFT Congressional Science Fellow has certainly enhanced these areas in a very interesting, profound, and enjoyable way.

The IFT Congressional Science Fellowship may be the renew and recharge experience that your career needs. It may fit well with the sabbatical or professional development programs available through your employer. Perhaps you are considering taking a different career path and would benefit from an educational environment in which to make that transition. I have found my Congressional Science Fellowship to be all of these things and many more.

I am grateful to IFT for allowing me to participate in this program, which has once again reminded me of the diverse rewards of a career in food science and membership in IFT. I encourage all IFT members to carefully consider this outstanding opportunity.

1999–2000 Congressional Science Fellow