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Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellowship Program

The application deadline for both of Optica's 2024-2025 Congressional Fellowships has passed.   The application deadline for the Congressional Fellowships are typically the first Friday in January.

Optica and SPIE offer a congressional fellowship program providing members with an invaluable opportunity of public policy learning. Fellows gain a perspective that enhances their industrial, academic or government careers and the optics community's ability to more effectively communicate with the U.S. Congress. The fellowship is an ideal way to spend an academic sabbatical or leave of absence from a company.

A Unique Opportunity

The Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow works in the office of a U.S. senator or representative or with a congressional committee to get first-hand knowledge of congressional operations, contribute to the policymaking process and forge links among the engineering, scientific and public policy communities.


Fellowships are normally for one year, running September through August. The Guenther Fellow will join more than two dozen other scientists and engineers in early September for an intensive orientation program on the legislative and executive branches. This program is organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which also provides educational and collegial programs for the fellow throughout the year. Following interviews on the Hill, fellows choose a congressional office — personal or committee staff — where they wish to serve. Fellows are expected to handle varied assignments, both technical and nontechnical.

A stipend of USD 85,000 is provided by Optica and SPIE. The societies also provide an allowance for health insurance, travel and relocation expenses to the Washington, DC area. Final selection of the fellow will be made in early 2024 after personal interviews are conducted.


Fellows are evaluated on the basis of technical competence, responsible work experience, ability to serve in a public environment and evidence of service to Optica, SPIE and the profession. Prospecive fellows must have a Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral level degree by program orientation (01 September 2024); significant familiarity with optical engineering or science disciplines; a working understanding of the optical engineering and science communities; and demonstrated interest in the U.S. public policy process. Although prior experience in public policy is not necessary, a demonstrable interest in applying science and engineering to the solution of U.S. policy issues is required. Federal employees are not eligible. U.S. citizenship is not required; however, applicants must be authorized to work in the U.S. Applicants should have excellent interpersonal and communication skills and possess the flexibility to tackle a variety of work. Specifically excluded as selection criteria are age, sex, creed, race, ethnic background and partisan political affiliation.

Applicants will be evaluated based on the following categories:

  • Scientific/technical background and professional accomplishments — weighted in consideration of the applicant's career stage.
  • Communication skills — to scientific and nonscientific audiences, including writing ability, community involvement and outreach activities.
  • Demonstrated public policy interest — such as through participation in policy or advocacy activities; service to professional societies and/or the broader scientific community; and student government or other campus involvement (if applicable).
  • Fellowship skills and abilities — including (but not limited to): capacity to work quickly, flexibly and cooperatively; experience working with individuals with diverse viewpoints; ability to work in a public environment; and strong interpersonal skills.


Application materials must be submitted to the application portal ( by the application deadline. Candidates must submit the following materials:

  • A resume, no longer than two pages, providing information about educational background, professional employment, community and professional activities, public policy and legislative experience and committee and advisory group appointments. One additional page (for a total of up to three pages) should list professional publications and presentations. Resumes should be tailored to address the qualifications described above.
  • statement of up to 1,000 words addressing the applicant's interest in the fellowship, career goals, contributions the applicant believes he or she can make as an Optica/SPIE fellow to the legislative process and what the applicant wants to learn from the experience.
  • Three signed letters of reference addressing the applicant's qualifications for the fellowship as described in the "Criteria" section above. Letters of reference should be uploaded into the application portal directly by the recommender and must be in PDF format, on official letterhead and include an electronic or scanned signature.  Letters of reference should not be sent by the candidate themselves. However, the candidate is responsible for ensuring the letters are received by the application deadline.  If your recommender is having issues with uploading the letter into the application portal, please have your recommender email the letter directly to Brandy Dillingham at

NOTE: You may submit one set of application materials for both the Arthur H. Guenther and Optica/MRS Congressional Fellowships as long as you check the box in the application portal indicating the materials are being applied to both fellowships.

Questions? Contact:
Brandy Dillingham
Government Relations Manager
Office: +1 202.416.1409

Directly below is a list of present and past fellows, along with their congressional office placements:


PhD in Chemistry
Yale University
Sen. Christopher Coons
PhD in Physical Chemistry
Colorado State University
Rep. Paul Tonko
Brandon McMurtry
PhD in Chemistry
Columbia University
Sen. Christopher Coons
Michelle Solomon
PhD in Materials Science & Engineering

Stanford University

Sen. Edward Markey

Christina Willis
PhD in Optics
CREOL, University of Central Florida

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management

2018-2019 Benjamin Isaacoff
PhD in Applied Physics
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Sen. Gary Peters
2017-2018 Tanya Das
PhD in Electrical Engineering

University of California, Santa Barbara

Sen. Christopher Coons

Kenneth Kort
PhD in Chemistry
University at Buffalo

Rep. Louise Slaughter

Jennifer Brookes
PhD in Physical Chemistry
University of Washington

Rep. Louise Slaughter
2014-2015 Ariel Marshall
PhD in Physical Chemistry

Georgia Institute of Technology

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen

Carly Robinson
PhD in Atmospheric Chemistry
University of Colorado

Sen. Mark Udall

Chris Schaffer
PhD in Physics
Harvard University

Rep. Edward Markey

Anthony "T.J." Augustine
PhD in Chemistry
Stanford University

Sen. Dick Durbin

Marcius Extavour
Ph.D in Quantum Optics and Atomic Physics
University of Toronto

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Matthew McMahon
PhD in Experimental Psychology
University of California, San Diego

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

Robert Saunders
PhD in Physics
Duke University

Rep. Rush Holt

Audrey Ellerbee
PhD in Biomedical Engineering
Duke University

Sen. Carl Levin

Eleanore Edson
PhD in Neurobiology
Harvard University

Sen. Hillary Clinton

Jamie Link
PhD. in Biochemistry
Univ. of California San Diego

Sen. Joseph Lieberman

David Catarious
PhD in Biomedical Engineering
Duke University

Rep. Edward Markey

Elka Koehler
PhD in Optical Sciences
University of Arizona

Sen. Joseph Lieberman

Chris Beck
PhD in Physics
Tufts University

Rep. Loretta Sanchez

Kristen Kulinowski
PhD in Physical Chemistry
University of Rochester

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Apriel Hodari
PhD in Optical Physics
Hampton University

Rep. Cynthia McKinney

Barry Masters
PhD in Physical Chemistry
Weizmann Institute of Science

Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich
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