Genetics & Public Policy Fellowship
The extent to which the discoveries from genetics and genomics research are translated into the improved health of the American people is greatly influenced by policy decisions guiding research and the integration of genetics and genomics tools in the clinical setting.
ASHG and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) co-sponsor the Genetics & Public Policy Fellowship to give genetics professionals an opportunity to contribute to the policy-making process. It is designed as a bridge for genetics professionals wishing to transition to a policy career.
This is a fellowship program designed for genetics professionals with an advanced degree who are early in their careers and interested in the development and implementation of genetics-related health and research policies at a national level.
The fellowship provides experiences working:
- in the National Institutes of Health within the Executive Branch
- with ASHG in the non-profit science advocacy sector
- in a staff position on Capitol Hill serving elected officials in the Legislative Branch
Duration of Fellowship: 16 months
Start Date: late August to September 1
Compensation Package: annual $76k stipend plus benefits
- Am I eligible based on my qualifications?
Candidates are expected to have an advanced degree in human genetics or a related scientific field. We will consider a candidate whose advanced degree is not in genetics per se if the individual has received training in genetics and has acquired an understanding of the science.
- I am not a U.S. citizen or resident. May I apply?
The fellowship is designed for individuals wishing to pursue a career in policy in the United States. One does not need to be a U.S. citizen to apply, but one must be able to work legally within the U.S. ASHG and NHGRI cannot sponsor visas to enable a citizen from another country to become a fellow.
- How do you define early career?
Ideally, candidates will have completed their graduate training but be early in the career development path. Most successful candidates are postdoctoral fellows or genetic counselors who have received their terminal degrees in the last few years. That said, applicants are not required to have received their terminal degree within any specific time frame.The fellowship is not designed for individuals who have already clearly established a career path, such as someone with an assistant professor position at a research institution.
- I will receive my advanced degree after the application period closes. If I apply, will I be considered?
We will consider applicants who do not have their advanced degree when they submit their application, but who anticipate receiving their degree before the end of May of the same year. However, we cannot consider applications from individuals who will not have their advanced degree by the end of May. This is because we select the fellow early in June and the applicant chosen needs to have the requisite qualifications when they are awarded the fellowship.If you wish to submit an application, and anticipate receiving your advanced degree between the closing date and the end of May, please contact us.
- What is the timeline for consideration of the applications after the application period closes in April? When I will hear?
In May, the selection panel reviews all the applications and identifies candidates to be interviewed by phone. From this pool, several candidates are then selected for a final face-to-face interview and the fellow is chosen in early June. All applicants can expect to be contacted about their application in May or June.
- Do you need recommendation letters from my references?
We do not require written letters of recommendation. When applying, you need only provide us with your references’ contact information. We will speak to your references by phone if you are selected for an in-person interview.
- What makes a competitive candidate?
Candidates must have appropriate training (see question 1). Competitive candidates express a keen interest in transitioning to a career in science or health policy, and can articulate why they need the fellowship to make this transition. Outstanding candidates will have sought policy-related experience.
- What kind of policy experience is desirable?
The selection committee is typically impressed by individuals who have pursued opportunities to become involved in policy or who have taken part in other activities outside of their primary responsibilities. Pursuing such activities demonstrates that the applicant has some sense of what policy work entails. Examples might include:
- Sitting on a policy committee at their institution
- Participating in an organization for early-career scientists
- Contributing to a science policy newsletter
- Writing for a local newspaper on policy issues
- Completing a short policy fellowship
- Volunteering at the local office of a member of Congress
- Participating in a day lobbying Congress in support of biomedical research.
- How does this fellowship compare with other science policy fellowships?
The fellowship is unique in its emphasis on science and health issues related specifically to genetics. It is also unusual because it has three rotations, allowing the fellow to work in and compare different policy environments – the Executive Branch, Congress, and a scientific non-profit organization. Whereas some fellowships are agnostic on the career goals of the fellows, the Genetics & Public Policy Fellowship is designed to enable an individual to transition to a career path in genetics, science, or health policy.
- How is it different from the Genetics Education & Engagement fellowship? Can I apply for both?
While both fellowships have three rotations and are sponsored by ASHG and NHGRI, the fellowship experience and goals are very different. The Genetics & Public Policy Fellowship is designed for individuals wishing to pursue a career in science and health policy, and the three rotations are designed for that goal, including a longer rotation in Congress. In contrast, the Genetics Education & Engagement Fellowship is for individuals pursuing a career with an education focus.Candidates are not prohibited from applying for both fellowships. However, any candidate choosing to apply for both is encouraged to articulate in their application materials why they are doing so, given that the goals of the two fellowships are different.
- How does the fellow choose their office on the Hill?
Finding a Hill office is a key goal of the fellow’s first rotation. Although the fellowship mentors guide the fellow and help facilitate them with this task, there are no fellowship restrictions on the selection of office. The fellow can go to the office of his or her choosing, so long as the chosen office has expressed an interest in the fellow.Fellows develop a list of potential offices of interest in September. They do their initial outreach to the Hill and interview with offices in October, and make their final selection in November. The Congressional rotation starts in January.
After the Fellowship
- Where do fellows go at the end of their fellowship?
Fellowship alumni are in diverse areas of science and health policy. For instance, since completing their fellowship, fellows have worked in the Administration (National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Office of Science and Technology Policy); patient advocacy groups (Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, American Heart Association); professional societies (American Association for Cancer Research, American Association for Dental Research); companies and industry groups (Affymetrix, Biotechnology Industry Organization), coalitions (Personalized Medicine Coalition, National Pharmaceutical Council), and in the U.S. Senate.
September – December
Policy and Program Analysis Branch, Office of the Director, at NHGRI: Participate on a variety of projects related to genomics policies and other activities such as the development of the federal budget.
January – April
Advocacy at ASHG: Work within the ASHG Policy and Advocacy department on Society advocacy initiatives and on policy issues related to genetics research, the use of genetics in the clinic, and the non-clinical applications of genetics in society.
May – December
Congressional office and/or Committee: Work within the office of a Member of Congress or a Congressional committee with jurisdiction over biomedical research, health, or science. Fellows determine their positions based on availability and their own interests, and participate fully in staff functions during this time.
The activities of the fellow will vary with each rotation. They will include research and analysis on a wide range of policy issues impacting biomedical research and its clinical application, and summarizing those analyses for different audiences. Writing tasks may include crafting new policy position statements, preparing testimony, summarizing legislation and drafting speeches. The fellow will participate in a variety of forums and will be expected to represent the involved organizations effectively in individual meetings and larger settings.
Candidates are expected to have an advanced degree in human genetics or related field. Ideally, candidates will have completed graduate training, but be early in the career development path. In addition to possessing a scientific knowledge base, the candidate must have a well-articulated interest in policy. Demonstrated skills in oral and written communications are essential. U.S. citizenship is not required, but candidates must be eligible to work in in the U.S. (i.e., the fellowship organizations will not sponsor visas).
Candidates are asked in the application materials to explain their motivation, areas of interest, and future plans. A committee of representatives from ASHG and NHGRI will review application materials in May and interview finalists in early June.
Previous Genetics & Public Policy Fellows maintain close ties and have moved on to a variety of positions in science policy and advocacy. Explore their current positions and reflections on their fellowships.
NHGRI regularly receives inquiries from geneticists and genomicists interested in pursuing science and health policy, but who are not eligible for the Genetics and Public Policy Fellowship. To assist such individuals, NHGRI has compiled a list of other policy-related fellowships and internships that may be of interest.
Derek Scholes, PhD
Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy
American Society of Human Genetics
Cristina Kapustij, MS
Chief, Policy and Program Analysis Branch
National Human Genome Research Institute