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Pathobiologist to share expertise with policymakers

by David Bauman - June 23, 2008


Steven Geary, a professor of pathobiology who specializes in infectious diseases of animals, is one of eight tenured professors nationwide selected to be 2008-09 Jefferson Science Fellows at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C.

He will be the first microbiologist/vaccinologist to serve as a Jefferson Fellow.

The fellowship program brings specialized scientific knowledge to the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy.

Beginning in August, Geary will spend a year working full-time in either the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development, providing up-to-date expertise on issues that impact U.S. foreign policy decisions.

“I see this as an excellent opportunity to learn first hand how science and technology are used in our relationship with other nations,” says Geary, director of UConn’s Center of Excellence for Vaccine Research, “and the process whereby policy at the State Department is developed.”

Geary hopes to bring his expertise in microbial diseases that can devastate the food animal industry to help the Department of State formulate and implement foreign policy to prevent agro-terrorism.

He also will discuss science and technology with the general public, and may travel to U.S. embassies.

He says that with the ever-increasing risk that damaging infections could be introduced to the U.S. food animal economy, there is “an immediate need to improve our ability to detect, monitor, and prevent microbial diseases.”

After their year of service, the fellows agree to resume their academic careers and remain available to the Department of State as consultants for five years.

Steven Geary, professor of pathobiology, outside the Atwater Laboratory.
Steven Geary, professor of pathobiology, outside the Atwater Laboratory.
Photo by Peter Morenus

“Steve is an outstanding research leader with a very well known and deserved national reputation,” says Gregory Anderson, vice provost for research and graduate education.

“This is an opportunity for him to make a contribution to research policy at the national level, and achieve special recognition for UConn faculty that is both impressive and hard to get.”

Started by the U.S. Department of State in 2003, the Jefferson Science Fellows program gives the U.S. government a chance to benefit from the expertise of academic scientists in shaping America’s foreign policy.

Through participation in policy discussions, the fellows help increase understanding of science and engineering among policy officials, and advise policymakers on the wider international implications of emerging scientific issues.

In turn, they observe and participate in the daily workings of American diplomacy and statecraft, then take their experiences back to labs and classrooms.

The program is administered by the National Academies of Science and Engineering with support from the Carnegie and MacArthur Foundations.

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