A University of Arizona optical sciences doctoral student who's committed to sharing science with the public has been selected the American Physical Society's 2008-2009 Congressional Science Fellow.
Elaine Ulrich is being awarded a $60,000 stipend, plus travel and moving expenses, to spend a year in Washington, D.C., advising Congress on technical and scientific issues. The American Physical Society selected her from 28 applicants nationwide. The society sponsors a Congressional Science Fellow each year as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Congressional Science Fellows program.
"I'll work with the Congressional branch to provide scientific expertise, and that's really important because government policymakers must deal with all kinds of technical issues," Ulrich said. "I'll focus not only on physics and optical sciences, but will be networking with other scientists so I can provide needed scientific expertise in other areas as well."
Since July 2007, Ulrich has been working part time in the UA Office of Technology Transfer, known as OTT, as the first Technology Transfer Scientific Fellow in Optics. As a member of the OTT staff, Ulrich works with professors and other researchers primarily in the colleges of Optical Sciences, Engineering and Science to develop the marketing possibilities for their inventions.
The work involves determining what the fundamental science of the inventions are, how inventions relate to existing technologies, and what companies might be suited to developing products or services from the inventions.
"As the first Technology Transfer Scientific Fellow in Optics, Elaine found a way to apply the scientific expertise she acquired in her doctoral program to the question of how markets develop for early stage inventions, and has been a tremendous help to OTT at the interface of those two realms," Steven ONeil, OTT special projects and outreach services officer, said. "I think she also had a good deal of fun in the process, which we always like to see, and is a very apt choice for the Congressional Fellowship."
Ulrich is finishing her dissertation in optical sciences as a researcher in physics professor Srinivas Manne's Atomic Force Microscopy Laboratory. The group uses atomic force microscopes to measure and map forces between molecules at nanometer-scale lengths.
"Elaine has always been interested in broader issues in science and public policy, and it's reflected in her work, her graduate student body government service and lots of science outreach, especially with girls in grade school," Manne said. "I've been happy to support that. I'm almost as happy as she is about her Congressional fellowship because, decades down the road, she could make a big difference on how science is perceived and how people relate to science."
Ulrich "has done amazing research in the lab as well," Manne added. "She's done an experiment which resulted in shifting my own research emphasis in the near future. We're writing papers on it."
A native of Fort Morgan, Colo., Ulrich said she discovered early in life that she liked science and doing science experiments. She earned her undergraduate degree in physics from Wellesley College in Massachusetts in 2001. As an undergraduate, she completed two summer internships with 1997 Nobel laureate and physicist William Phillips at the National Institute of Standards and Technology at Gaithersburg, Md.
Ulrich enrolled at UA in 2001.
"As a Ph.D. student in optical sciences at the UA, I've had real opportunities to develop communications and leadership skills," Ulrich said.
These include serving as president to the UA Graduate and Professional Student Council in 2006.
"I am so honored to be selected for this Congressional Fellowship," Ulrich said.
"My own personal issues include encouraging more young women to get involved in science and providing more money for science and technology education," she said.