Developing Civic Scientist Leaders

Ongoing pressure to curb federal government spending, including funding for scientific research, and increasing criticism of scientifically sound research have created a pressing need to train the next generation of civic scientists — scientists and engineers who step beyond their campuses, laboratories and institutes and into the center of their communities to engage in active dialogue with their fellow citizens. The Developing Civic Scientist Leaders (DCSL) Program at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy will engage science and engineering graduate students through a Spring 2020 seminar course, where they will learn about the federal policymaking process and develop critical leadership skills to advance science as a public good.

Selected participants will attend a weekly one-hour seminar to improve their understanding of public policy and build the communication skills needed to engage policymakers and the general public in their area of expertise. Students will learn about the federal budget process and the relationship between science and policy, and develop written materials on a specific science policy topic. This year, we will focus on international science collaboration and U.S. competitiveness. The course will culminate in a trip to Washington, D.C., where the students will discuss their research and policy topic with policy leaders and staff members in the White House, congressional offices, federal agencies that support or regulate science, and nongovernmental organizations focused on science advocacy.


Application Requirements

  • 500-word essay describing the applicant’s motivation for participating in the program and what she or he hopes to learn.
  • Resume (include undergraduate degree, institution and GPA; graduate degree and current GPA, if applicable; and relevant activities). Maximum 2 pages.
  • Letter of recommendation.


Participant Selection

  • Must be a student enrolled in a Rice University graduate program (master’s or Ph.D.) at the Brown School of Engineering or the Weiss School of Natural Sciences.
  • Demonstrated interest in policy is strongly preferred, though previous policy-related experience is not
  • Participation is contingent on academic adviser/PI approval.



  • November 1 - Deadline for application and supporting materials.
  • December 1 - Selected applicants notified.
  • January 17-March 27, 2020 – Weekly science policy seminar on Fridays from 10-11 a.m.
  • March 14-22 - Washington, D.C., trip.


For questions or to submit an application, email Daniel Morali at  

Applications are due by Friday, November 1, at 5:00 pm


Program Advisors

  • Kirstin R.W. Matthews, Fellow and DCSL Program Director, Baker Institute
  • Melody T. Tan, DCSL Graduate Student Representative and Ph.D. candidate, Bioengineering
  • Joe Barnes, Fellow, Baker Institute
  • Daniel Cohen, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Kenny Evans, Scholar, Baker Institute
  • Neal Lane, Senior Fellow, Baker Institute
  • Carrie Masiello, Professor, Earth Sciences
  • Rafael Verduzco, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
  • Daniel S. Wagner, Associate Professor, BioSciences