Former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill postdoctoral researchers Calvin Arter and David Gorelick recently were named to the 50th cohort of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellows (STPF). The program, which began in 1973, places scientists with a Ph.D. or masters in engineering degree in one of the three branches of the federal government to provide scientific expertise in policymaking. The one-year fellowship hires individuals into federal service and provides professional development, networking and leadership opportunities.
Arter’s fellowship is with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Management Strategy and Solutions as a member of the Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) where he participates in the State Department’s efforts to reduce the country’s environmental footprint in diplomatic engagements. While Arter is headquartered in Washington, D.C., he works with overseas consulates and embassies as well as other countries on issues like climate adaptation and resilience, sustainability and air quality.
“As a scientist, I think about how to solve some of the most pressing environmental problems we face— from a purely theoretical level to a more directly translatable level,” Arter said. “My goal is to help bring about meaningful change by contributing to policies and strategies aimed at improving the air we breathe and the overall relationship we have with our planet. This is a great opportunity for me to help facilitate the direct translation of science into development of sound government policy, and to play an integral role in solving challenges regarding air quality, climate impacts and energy resources.”
Gorelick was placed with the Office of Canadian Affairs in the U.S. Department of State where he will be working primarily on negotiations between the U.S. and Canada on how to manage hydropower in watersheds that span the border.
“It is a fascinating opportunity,” he said. “This fellowship is in an area of water that I haven’t spent a lot of time on, but it is immediately valuable not only in an international context, but to all of the people that live on the shared lands, shared waters that the U.S. and Canada are managing. And because it involves hydropower, it has implications for people that live all across the United States and Canada. I am really interested in getting involved in this fellowship and this opportunity in particular because of that opportunity to help support decisions being made that are going to have real life impact.”
Gorelick, who begins his fellowship in January, said the move will be bittersweet. He started his undergraduate studies at Carolina in 2011 and has been here since. He recently completed his Ph.D. in 2021 and just finished up a postdoctoral position with the Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems, a joint center between the UNC Institute for the Environment and the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering in the Gillings School of Global Public Health. This past year, he served on the board of directors of the Town of Chapel Hill’s Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA).
“I have learned a lot about how municipalities have to handle their own water supplies and it was a complete 180-degree perspective change for me as a researcher who is thinking about OWASA and the Triangle utilities from the perspective of sitting behind a computer running computer models and then turning around and being in a decision-maker role. I’m interested to see how both of those experiences translate to what I’ll be tasked with now.”
Arter most recently served as a postdoctoral researcher with the UNC Institute for the Environment’s Center for Environmental Modeling for Policy Development (CEMPD) after completing his Ph.D. in environmental science in the Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2021. Arter’s dissertation was funded through research he performed at UNC IE’s CEMPD studying onroad and aircraft emissions and their impacts on air quality and health. This fellowship will further tune his career path, which has always been grounded in his passion to use scientific knowledge to bring about meaningful change.
“Through this Fellowship, I can provide support and expertise to an office focused on environmental objectives, while simultaneously learning more about how policies are enacted in the federal government,” Arter said. “I have chosen this path because I believe there is a fundamental need for more individuals with a strong scientific background to contribute to public policy issues.”
“I am excited to take this step away from academia,” Gorelick added. “A big selling point for the fellowship among all of us who are doing it is it’s a really nice bridge from finishing a Ph.D to other career paths. I get to spend a year and potentially longer getting to know people in the public sector in D.C. across all professional walks and find out where that leads me.”