Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The path for one (potential) government policymaker

Kristen Kulinowski was nominated by President Obama to be one of the five board members of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board recently. She appeared before the Senate recently for a confirmation hearing (transcript at the bottom) and I thought her biographical information in her testimony was an interesting look into what it takes to become a government official:
While my portfolio in my current job has been broad, first and foremost, I am a chemist. I hold a BS in chemistry with Honors from Canisius College and MS and PhD degrees in chemistry from the University of Rochester. After earning my doctorate, I held faculty appointments at Cal Poly and Rice University before coming to Washington, D.C. in September 2001 as a Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellow. 
As Senator Markey mentioned, on 9/11 my fellowship cohort was in orientation when word came about the attacks on our Country. Later that day, I went to the Pentagon as a volunteer with the American Red Cross to serve emergency workers responding to the attack. 
This experience shaped my decision to accept a fellowship placement in then Congressman Markey’s office where I staffed the Bipartisan Task Force on Nonproliferation. My time on Mr. Markey’s staff gave me insight into the impact that a bipartisan policy process can have when people work together to achieve a common goal. 
After my fellowship, I returned to Rice University to join the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, where I served as Executive Director. My research focused on the environmental, health, and safety implications of engineered nanomaterials. This part of my background is particularly relevant to the activities of the Chemical Safety Board because it is where I earned my experience with worker health and safety.
It seems to me that, for a lot of chemists, these policy fellowships are the first step in getting involved in government policy careers.

You also may enjoy a comment during Dr. Kulinowski's confirmation hearing from one of the senators that was present (emphasis mine):
Dr. Kulinowski, thank you for your willingness to serve. At some point, I would love to visit with you about nanotechnology and how the periodic table does not work, those very small extremes, the potential there and the challenges. 
Again, thank you very much for being here.
I get Senator Boozman's point ("the physical properties of nanomaterials are unique or unusual"), but it came out a little funny.

1 comment:

  1. Best of luck to her. Given that even the CSB is hyper-politicized now, this could be a stressful gig.