Science Policy Fellows




Chris Rudnicki

Mechanical Engineering

Coachella Valley Mountain Conservancy





Ariana Firebaugh-Ornelas

Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology

63rd Assembly District, Office of Speaker Anthony Rendon




Thomas Dugger

Materials Science and Engineering

University of California

Office of the President (UCOP) office of research and innovation


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Jessica Bradford


Inland Empire Funders Alliance




Lilian Azer


Summer aging Policy Internship


I was part of the summer Aging Policy Internship with the Gerontological Society of America in Washington DC. As part of the internship I will be attending congressional hearings, researching and analyzing issues that impact older people, meeting with federal regulatory agencies and national coalitions, monitoring legislation and regulations, contributing to GSA’s Public Policy & Aging Report, developing policy sessions for the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting, drafting communications related to these issues impacting older people, and attending networking events with GSA staff. More information about GSA's policy internship, advocacy, and publications can be found here





Stephanie Piper

Botany and Plant Sciences

Oswit Land Trust AND CA Assembly: Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife

2021 - 2022

In the office of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, I worked with my mentor to design a project to understand community engagement in the Salton Sea. I interviewed local stakeholders about their work, priorities, and opinions on work by the state and scientific researchers. This project will produce a short policy report, as well as being one of my dissertation chapters. S2P allowed me to expand my dissertation work to study the intersection of science policy at the local and state level!

With Oswit Land Trust, I worked with other fellows to provide background research relevant to plans to restore Coachella Valley golf courses to desert botanical gardens and preserves. This included creating one pagers to address community concerns, researching past golf course restorations and natural landscape design, researching golfing trends, and outlining a draft restoration plan and timeline. As a botanist and Coachella Valley native, I am passionate about desert ecology and was able to improve my science communication skills during this fellowship.


William Ota

William Ota

Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology

Oswit Land Trust


William has spent the last two years working with the Oswit Land Trust to support the acquisition of old golf courses and transition them into desert preserves. This work has included engaging community members, developing restoration pathways, and assessing the biological resources that exist on the property. Information about the preserve can be found here



Gabriel Ortiz

Microbiology and Plant Pathology

Assemblyman Thurston Smith, 33rd District


“With the help of the UCR Science to Policy Program I was able to obtain a fellowship in the office of Assembly member Thurston “Smitty” Smith (33rd Assembly District) in Fall 2021. The goal of my fellowship was to analyze the environmental impacts of illegal Cannabis cultivation in San Bernardino County. This topic was new to me, as far as I knew the Cannabis industry was thriving in the state but as soon as I interviewed multiple persons in the community and got familiar with the current policies, I understood the real magnitude of this issue. After Proposition 64 passed in California illegal Cannabis cultivation was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. Recently, illegal grow sites in the state and especially in the county are becoming a serious problem for the community. Residents claim that illegal grows have increased violence and reduced security in the area while the environmental impact generated as a product of the proliferation of these sites is yet to be determined. Using ArcGIS Pro and collaborating with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the United States geological Survey (USGS) and data from PurpleAir I built a report comparing and analyzing data from four cities in the county and how the trends seen relate to possible environmental impacts that the illegal grows could be causing in the region. I’m hoping that the platform built can be used to further study the effects of illegal Cannabis in the county as well as to design better policies in the future. I really enjoyed my time in the office and I’m thankful for all the skills and connections I made. I hope to continue being part of the community that helps build a bridge between scientists and policy makers in the future”




Agnes Varghese

Developmental Psychology

Assemblywomen Eloise Gomez Reyes, 47th District


"Given that immersion in government can give us a deeper understanding of legislative processes, I sought to obtain a fellowship that would serve as a foundation to a future career in science policy. With the help of the UCR Science to Policy Program, I was able to establish a relationship with the Office of Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gomez Reyes, as the office's first District Science Fellow. There, I utilized my training in statistics/research methodology to provide data-driven insight on the issues relevant to the 47th Assembly District of San Bernardino, CA. For instance, I relayed my knowledge of data collection with human subjects from the academic realm into the political sphere to create a scientifically sound Current Issues Survey to distribute to the district’s constituents. I then compiled the results of the survey into a report that detailed what constituents stated to be their current greatest need, and how they are feeling about issues pertaining to COVID-19, racial inequities, the environment, public transportation, housing/homelessness, public safety, small businesses, childcare, healthcare, and education. The Assembly Majority Leader distributed the report and presented its findings at her State of the 47th Assembly District event. This experience has introduced me to methods of collaboration with policymakers in the integration of science and policy. I hope to see the data in this report at the foundation of future legislative decisions in California."



Danielle Delany


Congressman Mark Takano 41st District


I joined S2P after completing the certificate program in 2019. I learned so much from the certificate program and was inspired to pursue science policy as a career. I heard about the different types of science policy fellowships (e.g., CCST, AAAS) and was very interested in applying to them, so when the S2P Policy Fellowship opportunity arose I knew I had to apply. It was the perfect way for me to get more experience in science policy and do so while still completing my graduate program. I am finishing up my project now in Congressman Mark Takano’s office in CD-41. I examined the economic impact of COVID-19 in the district and focused on one sector in particular—early care and education. Specifically, I examined how early care and education had been impacted by COVID-19 and the shutdowns. I am currently preparing a webinar presentation to conclude my project. I learned how important it is to have a strong network of individuals in the policy world. At first, I had trouble getting responses from people in the industries I was looking into but because UCR Science to Policy had connected me with many individuals in the policy world, I was able to find the connections I needed and get guests for the webinar I am preparing.





Dr. Derreck Carter-House

Microbiology and Plant Pathology

Congressman Mark Takano 41st District


Being from the Midwest, there were a couple scientific theories that were controversial in my high school and even college (think evolution, old earth, climate change). In addition, serving in an outreach capacity with the community of Riverside, I have found an ever widening knowledge gap between what is happening in the lab and what the layperson knows. Keeping the public engaged and up to date on what they are funding is important for so many reasons, and should be a major responsibility of any good scientist. S2P has helped me to more effectively communicate my research and is preparing me for a career in science consultation in government.