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The American Association of Immunologists

AAI Public Policy Fellows Program (PPFP)
2014-2015 Fellows

(To view past Fellows, click here.)

Matthew Billard, Ph.D.

Matthew Billard, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
I am thrilled to be chosen as a 2014-2015 AAI Public Policy Fellow. This program is a unique and rare opportunity for me to become familiar with the role of AAI, and the greater scientific community, in shaping biomedical research policy. I look forward to communicating with AAI to better understand how decisions regarding biomedical research are made by the legislative and executive branches of our government, how funding agencies function as intermediaries between the federal government and academic researchers, and how scientists can personally and collectively advocate for their research that affects our health as individuals and as a nation. I am honored to be involved as a Fellow and hope that my participation will help me to promote the longevity and vitality of our national research programs

C. Colin Brinkman, Ph.D.

C. Colin Brinkman, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine
I am thrilled to be joining the 2014-2015 class of AAI Public Policy Fellows! This is a unique opportunity for me to learn about AAI policy goals and how it pursues them, and to contribute to those efforts, all while developing relationships with other early career immunologists. It is imperative that we, as scientists, engage in the policy process to advocate for policies that not only benefit our professional interests, but those of the broader society. The stagnant state of, and continuing threats to, federal research funding underscore the need for scientists to become more actively involved in making and shaping public policy, and convincing those in government and the public at large of the benefits of supporting science education and scientific research. Being active in our professional societies, which are really our policy advocates, is one way to do this.

Ryan Cummings, Ph.D.

Ryan Cummings, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine
It is an honor to be selected as a 2014-2015 AAI Public Policy Fellow. As United States citizens, it is our responsibility not only to stay informed of the issues affecting both our community and the nation as a whole, but also to voluntarily participate in political affairs. I realize that before I can truly explore my passion for biomedical research, it is my responsibility and duty to first understand how to conduct myself in the political arena so that our profession will be intact for generations to come. By becoming a Public Policy Fellow, I will be taking the first step to ensure that, at the very least, I am in a better position to have a voice in determining how we, as scientists, can pursue our work. In addition, I think that this fellowship will help me better convey the importance of science to those who do not have scientific or clinical research backgrounds, which will further increase a positive awareness throughout the country.

Jonathan Deane, Ph.D.

Jonathan Deane, Ph.D., Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation
I am so excited and honored to be involved in the AAI Public Policy Fellows Program! As an immunologist with a passion for translating basic findings into novel treatments for diseases through drug discovery, I believe that academia and industry need to partner together to continue broad public support for funding research at all levels. Oftentimes we scientists can miss the "forest" of the big picture of why we do what we do when we focus on the "trees" of our expertise, and I think that AAI has done a great service by putting this fellows program together. Through it, I am convinced that I will grow in understanding how we as scientists can impact research on the individual level. My hope is that I can also share what I learn about public policy with my colleagues, and ultimately work to make a difference in the public perception of research and its importance for society as a whole.

Heather Kling, Ph.D.

Heather Kling, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
I am honored and thrilled to have been selected for the 2014-2015 AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. The importance of advocating to policy makers for the continued success of scientific research cannot be understated. Scientific progress and discovery will always require federal funding, and thus support from legislators; therefore, it is of utmost importance that we, as scientists, take responsibility for demonstrating the necessity of our work for the betterment of human health, continued scientific innovation, and the recruitment and retention of young scientists. As an AAI Public Policy Fellow, I hope to enhance my understanding of policy development, as well as gain expertise advocating to our representatives for support of scientific research. I also hope to promote awareness among career scientists of the necessity of involvement in policy making, as well as the need for postdoctoral trainees to advocate for their own interests. I look forward to this valuable opportunity to expand my professional network, sharpen my communication skills and advocate for increased political and public support of scientific research in this country.

Karen O'Connell Martins, Ph.D.

Karen O'Connell Martins, Ph.D., U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
I am excited to be participating in the AAI Public Policy Fellows program and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. Scientific research is a critical element of any society, and for research to be utilized in the most responsible and effective manner, it is important for scientists and policy makers to communicate. I look forward to gaining a better understanding of the priorities and concerns that policy makers have regarding advances in scientific technologies and philosophies, and I hope that I can serve as an effective representative of the research community.

Shaun O'Brien, Ph.D.

Shaun O'Brien, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
I am honored to participate in the AAI PPFP, as I have eagerly awaited the opportunity to apply when the program was first announced during my graduate studies three years ago. I believe this program is the perfect marriage of research scientists and public policy, especially as it provides the ideal avenue to continue one's professional scientific development and also engage the public and Congress about the importance of funding biomedical research. As I completed my Ph.D. in a new era of fiscal austerity on Capitol Hill, I witnessed how the funding decisions of non-scientists in Congress could have chilling effects on scientific progress and ultimately result in a "lost generation" of biomedical scientists who leave the field altogether. Thus, it is imperative for biomedical scientists to increase their advocacy efforts and demonstrate how investment in biomedical research during this economic climate is one of the smartest decisions that our legislators can make. This fellowship will help me continue to develop as a cancer immunologist and also provide me with the training to advocate for continued, sustained investment in the NIH.

Rebecca Pompano, Ph.D.

Rebecca Pompano, Ph.D., University of Chicago/University of Virginia
I am very excited to be participating in the AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. As I transition from a postdoctoral position to an assistant professorship this year, it is important to me that I integrate policy-shaping activities into my academic career. Considering the tenuous state of federal funding for science, it is critical that scientists step out of the lab and learn to communicate the potential and necessity of modern research. I am eager to be a part of a cadre of advocacy-minded scientists that will have the ability to effectively shape the discussion about publicly-funded research. I also hope to form direct connections with policy makers or their advisors; I would be happy to serve one day as an expert source on scientific issues related to my research. I thank AAI for providing me with an opportunity to take a guided step into the world of policy.

Sesquile Ramon, Ph.D.

Sesquile Ramon, Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School
It is with great pleasure that I accept the opportunity to be part of the 2014-2015 AAI Public Policy Fellows Program (PPFP). I firmly believe that sustained scientific progress is only possible in an environment of social and civic engagement. Consequently, it is of upmost importance to learn how to participate in the policymaking process while simultaneously growing as a scientist in order to best serve the public's well-being. I look forward to my participation in the PPFP and hope I can positively contribute to the national science public policy conversation.

Stefanie Sowinski, Ph.D.

Stefanie Sowinski, Ph.D., The Gladstone Institutes
I am truly excited to be selected for this year's AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. I believe I will gain a new understanding of science policymaking. Hopefully, this will allow me to function more effectively at the interface between funding organizations and the biomedical community, particularly the global health community. I am especially eager to learn more about the complex regulatory apparatus that governs the translation of basic science findings into the clinic, leading to better therapies for patients. I am also interested in learning how better to communicate scientific advances to policy makers and funders in a manner that influences their decisions. In summary, I am grateful to the AAI PPFP for this opportunity.


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