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Optica / MRS Congressional Fellowship

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 MRS offer a congressional fellowship program, providing members with an invaluable opportunity to learn about public policy. Fellows contribute to the effective use of optical and materials science knowledge in government and broaden awareness of the value of the interaction between scientists, engineers, and government to our memberships, the federal government and the public.


The Fellow spends one year working as a special legislative assistant on the staff of a member of Congress or congressional committee. Activities may involve conducting legislative or oversight work, assisting in congressional hearings and debates, and preparing briefs and writing speeches. The fellow also attends an orientation program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on congressional and executive branch operations, which includes guidance in the congressional placement process and a year-long seminar series on science and public policy issues. The AAAS also administers many other aspects of the program for the Optica/MRS fellow, as well as other fellows sponsored by nearly two dozen scientific societies.


A prospective fellow must have a record of success in research or scholarship in a field relevant to optical science and technology and/or materials, familiarity with the discipline and a working understanding of the scientific communities. The fellow must also demonstrate sensitivity toward policy issues and have a strong interest in applying scientific and technical knowledge to United States public policy issues. The fellow must be able to work quickly and communicate effectively to both scientific and non-scientific audiences on a wide variety of topics and work cooperatively with individuals having diverse viewpoints. An applicant is expected to be a member of Optica or MRS (or an applicant for membership) and have a Ph.D. by the start of the fellowship (01 September 2024). U.S. citizenship is not required; however, applicants must be authorized to work in the United States. 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.


The 2024-2025 fellow will have a one-year appointment beginning 01 September 2024. The Fellowship stipend will be USD 81,750, plus additional funds for health insurance, travel and relocation expenses to the Washington, DC area.


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 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/MRS 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 upload into the application portal 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:


Ph.D. in Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Rep. Derek Kilmer
Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
Stanford University
Sen. Tina Smith
Rachel Starr
Ph.D. in Chemistry
Columbia University
Sen. John Hickenlooper
Catherine Clark
Ph.D. in Materials Science

University of Minnesota

Sen. Richard Durbin

Daniel Broberg
Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering
University of California, Berkeley

Sen. Christopher Coons
2018-2019 Dylan Rittman
Ph.D. in Geological Sciences
Stanford University
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
2017-2018 Sarah Vorpahl
Ph.D. in Chemistry

University of Washington

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Felicia Lucci
Ph.D. in Chemistry
Tufts University

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Peter Winter
Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology
Colorado State University

Sen. Christopher Coons
2014-2015 James O'Dea

Ph.D. in Chemistry
University of California, Santa Barbara

Sen. Brian Schatz
2013-2014 Sydney Kaufman

Ph.D. in Chemical Physics
University of Colorado Boulder

Sen. Mark Begich

Mirvat Abdelhaq
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
University of Colorado, Boulder

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Laura Povlich
Ph.D. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering
University of Michigan

Rep. Sandy Levin

Ashley White
Ph.D. in Materials Science
Cambridge University

Senator Al Franken

Gavi Begtrup
Ph.D. in Physics
University of California, Berkeley

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Amit Mistry
Ph.D. in Bioengineering
Rice University

Rep. Ed Markey

Alicia Jackson
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Kevin Whittlesey
Ph.D. in Biological Sciences
Northwestern University

Rep. Doris Matsui

Benjamin Jay Gross
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
Columbia University

Rep. Rush Holt


Karin Ezbiansky Pavese
Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry
University of Pennsylvania

Sen. Joseph Lieberman


Colin McCormick
Ph.D. in Physics
University of California, Berkeley

Rep. Edward J. Markey


Jeffrey Haeni
Ph.D. in Materials Science
Pennsylvania State University

Rep. Rush Holt


Eric Werwa
Ph.D. in Electronic Materials
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rep. Mike Honda


Susan Ginsberg
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
University of Minnesota

Rep. Howard L. Berman


Arun Seraphin
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman


Merrilea Mayo
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Stanford University

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman


Brian Holloway
Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering
University of Florida

Sen. John D. Rockefeller


Michal Freedhoff
Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
University of Rochester

Rep. Edward J. Markey


Kelly Kirkpatrick
Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering
Northwestern University

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman

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