Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) biologist Lee Ligon has been awarded a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). With the support of the 2015-16 fellowship, Ligon will serve for one year at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington, D.C.
“I want to learn more about how the university enterprise fits into the broader picture, part of which is about how government and international policy works and how that realm functions,” said Ligon, an associate professor of biological sciences, and member of the Rensselaer Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. “This fellowship is an educational experience for me, but there is also a public service aspect. While my research in the lab and teaching at Rensselaer are important, the work I will do at USAID is on a larger canvas that can have international impact.”
Curt Breneman, dean of the School of Science, congratulated Ligon on the fellowship award.
“The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship is a highly prized, competitive position and we congratulate Lee for her achievement in earning this important distinction,” said Breneman. “Dr. Ligon is richly deserving of this honor based on her expertise and stature in the scientific community. She also brings important personal life experiences to the job. I am confident she will make a significant contribution to the work of USAID.”
While at USAID, Ligon will work on international human rights policy, specifically advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) inclusive development. The initiative is an extension of the agency’s history of advancing human rights by supporting and assisting marginalized and vulnerable populations, and promotes LGBTI-equality efforts through the integration of rights and empowerment in policies and programming.
“The opportunity to work at USAID on LGBTI issues was a perfect fit, as it is a topic that I have a long-standing interest in and that I feel very strongly about,” Ligon said.
As part of the Science & Technology Fellowship Program, Ligon will learn about governance and policy, and in turn offer her analytical skills and scientific thought process to policy makers.
Ligon said that she was motivated to apply for the fellowship in part by her experience in communicating the importance of science and basic science research to a general audience. For example, she has worked with the American Cancer Society – which funds her part of her research – speaking at society-sponsored “Relay for Life” and “Making Strides Against Cancer” events, and she also serves on the Public Information Committee of the American Society for Cell Biology.
Since 1973, the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship program has provided participants a unique public service professional development opportunity, building bridges between science and policy to serve society. Ligon will serve from September 1, 2015, through August 31, 2016.