Chemistry

  • Abrey Paris, class of 2015

Aubrey Paris

Major(s)

Chemistry and Biology

Minor(s)

French

Current Position

Science & Technology Policy Adviser
2019-2020 IEEE-USA Science & Technology Policy Fellow

Employer

U.S. Department of State

Graduate School & Degree

Ph.D. in the Chemistry Department from Princeton University

About

Life has been quite busy for me since graduating from Ursinus! With a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in hand, I started a Ph.D. program in the Chemistry Department at Princeton University in the fall of 2015. There, I joined the lab of Dr. Andrew Bocarsly to work on the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide. As someone with a passion for the practical applications of science, I was motivated by catalyst discovery and began developing intermetallic, alloy, and oxide catalysts with the ability to transform carbon dioxide into profitable chemicals. I never lost my Ursinus-induced interest in interdisciplinarity, though, so I joined the Princeton Energy and Climate Scholars (PECS) program during my first year of graduate study. PECS is comprised of about 20 graduate students from many departments across campus whose research involves climate or energy. One of my favorite things that I did during my tenure in PECS was to join an interdisciplinary research team studying the water security implications of new Chinese-financed, coal-fired power plant installations in Pakistan. Our results showed that power plant water demands, if operating at maximum capacity, will exceed local water supplies by the 2050s given current and future climate stressors.

I kept myself busy with other activities during my Ph.D. program, too. I maintained my part-time job with the Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP), which I started during my junior year at Ursinus. Aside from facilitating ISGP conferences in Toms River (NJ), Vancouver (BC), Santa Fe (NM), and Minneapolis (MN), thanks to a supportive Dr. Bocarsly, I also launched ISGP’s podcast just as my graduate school experience was getting started. For the past four years, I’ve managed and co-hosted the podcast, called ISGP’s “The Forum” (you should check it out here), which discusses all sorts of topics at the intersection of science and society using plenty of pop culture examples, analogies, and stories. The podcast has grown quite a bit in four years; we recently released our 100th episode, convened four virtual conferences using social media, developed materials for high school science classrooms, and hosted three summer interns.

So, where am I now? Following the publication of several journal articles, a book chapter, four conference talks, and a patent over four academic years, I graduated from Princeton with my Ph.D. in Chemistry and Materials Science in the spring of 2019! If it wasn’t obvious from my extracurricular endeavors, I never intended to go into academia post-Ph.D., instead preferring to take the less-traveled route into the science policy sphere. In spring of 2019, I was selected as IEEE-USA’s Science and Technology Policy Fellow for 2019-2020, which places me in the U.S. Department of State for the next year working in the field of science and technology diplomacy. My official title is Science and Technology Policy Adviser in the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (also known as E/STAS, for those who are familiar with the State Department’s “alphabet soup”). Within the STAS office, I’ll manage portfolios regarding emerging technologies in the biological sciences, as well as work on the office’s outreach and communication efforts. And after the fellowship, who knows? Maybe I’ll choose to stay in the federal government, or maybe I’ll be taking another road less traveled. Time will tell.