State lawmakers will receive assistance from scientists, engineers -- and taxpayers won't have to bear the cost
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Byron Kennedy is among science and engineering fellows appointed to advise the California Legislature in 2010-2011. (Donna King/California Council on Science and Technology)
SACRAMENTO — The Legislature will get a lot smarter in 2010, thanks to an influx of highly educated scientists and engineers who will be on loan from major universities across the nation.
Ten science and technology fellows have been placed as advisers with the Legislature for one-year terms, free of cost to the public.
In the first-of-its kind statewide program, the California Council on Science and Technology is teaming up with universities and several foundations to provide the services of Ph.D. scientists and engineers to committees and lawmakers.
The fellowships are intended to provide California policymakers with unbiased scientific and technical advice on issues before the Senate and Assembly, said Lora Lee Martin, the director of the fellowship program.
"At a time when the state faces so many difficulties, the idea is that they would be a nice resource to the state," she said. "It gives another set of hands and brains to work with staff to tackle complex issues."
Increasingly, state policies revolve around technology and science, including such topics as health care, bioethics, energy, and water resource management, Martin said. The fellows will help formulate and evaluate science and technology policy.
The fellows will receive $45,000 stipends from the California Council on Science and Technology. They went through a legislative "boot camp" in November, learning some of the Legislature's processes. They were assigned to their committees or offices in December and will begin in earnest once lawmakers return from the holiday break today.
The program is modeled on a federal initiative that feeds high-tech academics to congressional staff members and committees.
The fellows will be working with Assembly committees.
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, was an early supporter of 2009 legislation that created the fellowship program. He will work with fellow Byron Kennedy, a former public health medical officer at the California Department of Public Health, to bolster Swanson's work on public health initiatives with the Legislative Black Caucus and the Kaiser Family Foundation, said Larry Broussard, Swanson's chief of staff.
"Byron will help shape major issues relative to our healthy lifestyles initiative," Broussard said. "It's a perfect, natural fit to get a scientific fellow to help us put some substantive meat on the bones of our legislation."
The California Council on Science and Technology was established in 1988 by the Legislature to provide the Senate and Assembly with expert scientific advice.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Stephen Bechtel Fund/S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation; Kingfisher Foundation; The Heising-Simons Foundation; TOSA Foundation; and the Gen-Probe Fund are funding the $7 million worth of fellowships.
Reach Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101.
Scientists in the Legislature Maurice Pitesky, with the Energy, Utilities & Communications Committee. Masters of Preventative Veterinary Medicine and Ph.D., Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis; M.S. in agriculture, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; B.S. in biology, UCLA. Previously a veterinarian with a focus on epidemiology and biostatistics, with background in agricultural sustainability, food systems and the environment. Amber Laura Hartman, with the Environmental Quality Committee. Ph.D. in biology, The Johns Hopkins University; B.S. in biology, Davidson College. Recent graduate researcher at the Genome Center, UC Davis, where she also held teaching assistant and lecturer positions. Janice Tsai, with the Food and Agriculture Committee. Ph.D., engineering and public policy, Carnegie Mellon University; Master of Library and Information Science, Rutgers; B.A., mathematical methods in the social sciences, Northwestern University. Recent research in privacy and decision-making, and the effect of privacy concerns on the adoption of mobile-location sharing technologies. Katharine Moore, with the Natural Resources and Water Committee. Ph.D., atmospheric science, Colorado State University; M.S., environmental engineering, UC Berkeley; B.S., mechanical engineering, MIT. Previously a research assistant professor at the USC department of civil and environmental engineering. Amber Wright, with the Senate Office of Research. Ph.D., population biology, UC Davis; M.A., conservation biology, Columbia University; cum laude B.S., biological sciences, Cornell University. Recently a graduate student researcher at UC Davis and has held teaching assistant positions at UC Davis and Columbia University. Ryan McCarthy, with Assemblywoman Wilmer Amina Carter, D-Rialto. Ph.D., M.S., civil and environmental engineering, UC Davis; cum laude B.S., structural engineering, UC San Diego. Was a graduate researcher in the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program at UC Davis. Byron Kennedy, with Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland. M.D., Ph.D. in chronic disease epidemiology; M.P.H. in chronic disease epidemiology, Yale University; B.S., biological sciences, Sacramento State. Completed residency in preventive medicine and previously was a public health medical officer at the California Department of Public Health. Jessica Westbrook, the Natural Resources Committee. Ph.D., department of horticulture, Cornell University, with a minor in plant biology; B.S., plant biology, UC Davis. Was a graduate research assistant at Cornell University in the Department of Horticulture. Igor Lacan, with the Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee. Ph.D., urban ecology, M.S., aquatic ecology, B.S. ecology, UC Berkeley. Ecologist specializing in sustainable environmental management of urban areas. Daniel Ballon, with the Assembly Minority Leader/Republican Caucus. Ph.D., molecular and cell biology, UC Berkeley, B.A., molecular biology and biochemistry, Russian language and literature from Wesleyan University. Previously a senior policy fellow, technology studies, Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco.
Ten Fellows to serve as advisers at the Capitol.