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Madison Rilling

"Since receiving the Pivoting Fellowship, I became Executive Director of Optonique, Québec’s Photonics Cluster (a province of Canada!). Optonique is a not-for-profit support organization that brings together and mobilizes all the players and stakeholders of Québec’s photonics sector to propel them in mutually beneficial directions. In supporting the growth of the photonics industry, I get to work as an intermediate between businesses, academia, and all levels of government. This involves business development, public policy & politics, marketing, scientific & economic diplomacy, and much more. I’ve had the opportunity to recruit amazing and passionate team members, and it’s a real privilege to work with them in fostering and growing Québec’s dynamic photonics community.

But that’s not all! Receiving this fellowship allowed me to put one of my passion projects into second (or even third) gear. With former colleagues of mine from the worlds of research and science policy, we are working to democratize science, or rather, the scientific method and scientific results. As an interdisciplinary group of early-career professionals, each with PhDs in completely different fields, we are developing methods and channels to better connect science and society, both within the public and private sectors.

In recent years, even more so since the pandemic, there is a rising trend to favor evidence-informed decision-making. Unfortunately, there can be a misconception of what that entails or how decisions should, well, be properly informed by evidence. From a scientist’s point of view, there are countless opportunities to extend the reach of science! The challenge, however, is the demand and uptake of “science as a service.” By collaborating with people with experience in areas such as policymaking, science advice and strategic consulting, we have been breaking this challenge down into opportunities and, more concretely, case studies."

Madison received the Pivoting Fellowship in 2021 for her commitment to bring science, industry, and government together to address critical challenges including climate change and healthcare through evidence-based policy and programs.

The Milton and Rosalind Chang Pivoting Fellowship provides US$50,000 of unrestricted funding to talented, early-career optical scientists and engineers who believe their expertise can improve society outside of the lab. We encourage those with vision and exceptional talent to apply and pursue a newfound passion. Learn more and how to apply at

Updated 7 September 2022

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