Newly Minted Ph.D. Lands Prestigious John A. Knauss Fellowship

Simona_Ceriani_Galapagos_tortoise_Aug_08Dr. Simona Ceriani, a recent Ph.D. graduate in Conservation Biology, has received the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This fellowship provides students with an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources as well as the national policy decisions affecting those resources, the opportunity to be matched up with and work alongside “hosts” in the legislative and executive branches of government in Washington D.C. for one year, on a paid basis.

“I was extremely happy and excited to be selected” said Dr. Ceriani. “This fellowship is a once in a lifetime professional opportunity. I’ve been interested [in the fellowship] for the last four years and debated when to apply for it. I decided to wait until the end of my Ph.D. training because I didn’t want to get ‘distracted’ from my research. This decision was risky, you can only apply for the fellowship while you’re a student, so this was my only opportunity to get it . . .”

As for why she applied for the John A. Knauss fellowship, Dr. Ceriani said “I applied . . . because I believe that too often good science is wasted because it is incomprehensible to the policy makers who need to understand it in order to make the appropriate decisions. If we are unable to translate scientific findings into something that the general public and policy makers understand and care about, science becomes ineffectual, regardless of how important the results are . . .”

Dr. Ceriani doesn’t know yet where she will be or what she will do in Washington D. C. In November, two-way interviews will be held between the fellows and the different offices which are seeking someone. Fellows will then rank their preferences and be matched to a position. For a list of what positions were open to the 2014 John A. Knauss fellows, click here.

From her fellowship, Dr. Ceriani hopes to gain a broader understanding of policy making and use it toward her profession. “I am proud to be a conservation scientist and I truly enjoy research, but I want to escape the ‘ivory tower’ where many scientists reside. [The fellowship will] provide me with an opportunity to become a better scientist by broadening my horizons outside of academia, gaining experience in the policy development arena and developing a more holistic approach to conservation problems.”

Dr. Ceriani states the fellowship will most likely not relate to her research with sea turtles. However, she thinks gaining experience in the policy development arena will make her a better conservation biologist and that her future contributions to protect marine biodiversity and sea turtles will have a greater impact.

About what Dr. Ceriani is most excited to see while residing in D.C., “I picture Washington D.C. as a vibrant, dynamic and energetic city that brings together many cultures and has a lot to offer. I look forward to experiencing the ‘energy,’ meeting new people, expanding my professional and personal horizons, and enjoying the culture.”

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