Inaugural SciPol Scholars Reflect on their Bootcamp Experience

Following the end of the first ever SciPol Scholars Bootcamp we had a chance to ask some questions to members of the first cohort about their experience. We hope that by hearing about why they applied, what benefits they had from this experience, and what they will do with what they learned will help you decide if you want to apply for the SciPolScholars Bootcamp in the future. We feel so lucky that Lisbet Finseth, Paige Greenwood, Bernat Navarro Serer, and Luz Cumba-Garcia all shared their thoughts with us and you!


Why did you apply for the SciPol Scholars Bootcamp and did you hear about the class or residency first?

Luz: I applied for the SciPol Scholars Bootcamp to learn more about science policy, improve my communication and leadership skills, and continue to build my network by interacting with fellow scientists. It appeared like a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the role of science in policy making and to be empowered with new ways to be an advocate for research. I heard about the class through Twitter. 

Bernat: I applied for the SciPol Scholars Bootcamp because I had previously attended an introductory class on science policy, and I wanted to build upon my previous knowledge to actually improve and gain new skills in science policy and science communication. I heard about both at the same time through twitter, and the ability to actually apply what I had learned in the 5-week course in a science policy remote fellowship was another one of the main reasons I wanted to apply for the bootcamp!

Lisbet: Often, individuals need to graduate and then enter a fellowship/ position in science policy. I was interested in receiving hands-on experience within science policy while in graduate school as a “test” of whether I wanted to pursue it as a career. I heard of the residence program and thought it a perfect opportunity to do just that. 

Paige: Since joining NSPN a year ago, I have gained incredible experiences and a network that has helped me learn more about science policy as a potential career following the completion of my PhD. When I learned about the SciPol Scholars Bootcamp, I knew that this would be the perfect chance to continue building a foundation in science policy by learning to be a more effective science advocate and communicator through the accelerated course work. The opportunity to apply the knowledge I gained from the SciPol Scholars Bootcamp to a potential residency was a bonus to this awesome experience. 


What were the benefits of completing the Bootcamp that you felt were unique to the program? 

Lisbet: The Bootcamp was concise and easily accessible. In addition, there were multiple opportunities to gain feedback on any topic or assignment. Lastly, the Bootcamp incorporated personalized career paths. We went through all the avenues of a science policy career and discussed what types of careers would fit each of us individually. Since science policy is such a wide field, being able to identify particular aspects of positions that resonate with your personality type and career goals was very useful. 

Bernat: I really liked how the course was structured and each class focused on a skill that we need in order to be successful in science policy such as conciseness, eloquence, etc.! Not only the course, but the class structure I also thought was unique, with about half of it dedicated to actual class material while the other part was a class exercise. Doing those in breakout rooms also allowed us to get to know each other and created a network in which I would be more than comfortable asking for help and advice on any science policy related issue! 

Luz: The benefits were building a network of mutually supportive scientific leaders who are motivated and prepared to engage with decision makers. Also, to learn how to write a policy memo and a policy project proposal. The uniqueness of this program was the opportunity to participate in a paid internship with a partner organization. I have never seen or had this opportunity before! It allows you to employ all the knowledge obtained prior to and during the Bootcamp. I am so looking forward to the internship! 

Paige: Each class with the Boot camp was named after a skill we were intended to learn during that lesson. I felt this was extremely helpful as I have become more concise, savvy, empowered, eloquent, and learned finesse when conveying my platform as a science advocate. In addition the application of said skills to a potential residency was also a unique extension of the Bootcamp that I have not seen in any other program. 


Were you able to build a network with other scientists through this class and do you think you will stay connected with them? 

Paige: Everyone, from the SciPol Scholars coordinators to the inaugural cohort were incredible and insightful. Each person had their own unique abilities that they brought to the table and were willing to teach and uplift one another. I am so excited to see what the future holds for those who completed this amazing Bootcamp. 

Bernat: Yes! I mentioned it previously about how the class structure really allowed for this network to be built. I previously had met some of the participants and this experience really brought us together. I also made many other new connections that I hope to keep fostering along my science policy career!

Lisbet: I think to the extent that an online platform would allow, we created connections with each other. 

Luz: I was able to build a network with other scientists, I would say a symbiotic relationship, inspiring them as well as gaining a better understanding of how I can make a societal and global impact. I will definitely stay connected with them; we are all connected through social media now! I was already friends with some of the fellows and I am sure this experience will strengthen our relationships. 


Are you excited to pursue other opportunities like this in the future? 

Luz: I am super excited to pursue similar opportunities! I know a similar program but in the science diplomacy area is in progress. I am an NSPN fan and supporter of all their initiatives! For me it is amazing that programs like this are organized by fellow students, it blows my mind! All my admiration to you. 

Lisbet: Yes!

Bernat: Absolutely! I really enjoyed this process and it encouraged me to keep building and improving my skills so I can pursue other opportunities after graduate school!

Paige: I am very excited to continue learning more about science policy and advocacy after the completion of the Bootcamp. I feel empowered to continue advocating for education reform using scientific evidence and feel more prepared after completing the Bootcamp. 


What do you think of the process of applying to be a SciPol Scholar? 

Paige: The process of applying to be a SciPol Scholar was definitely nerve wracking for me as I was worried I didn’t have the experiences to be accepted to this program. After beginning the application, I started to realize that my time as a member of NSPN and as a graduate student had prepared me to take the steps to apply and that I had developed the foundation of skill sets as more exciting as I awaited the outcomes. I am grateful that I didn’t let my imposter syndrome inhibit me from applying to this program. 

Lisbet: The process to apply as a Scholar was a great opportunity to re-organize and re-orient CVs and resumes to focus on science policy activities and translational skills. Normally, anything science policy is an “additional” section, but I was able to utilize the application process to create a science policy-centric CV. 

Luz: The process of applying was straightforward, short, and to the point. I found it challenging limiting my answers to 200-250 words, but it was a good conciseness exercise! 

Bernat: It thought it was a clear and fair process. I also really liked the ability that we had to highlight what we would bring to this first cohort, not just in terms of experiences, but also regarding our identity. I am proud of the very diverse cohort, not just in terms of experiences, but also regarding our identity. I am proud of the very diverse cohort of people that were part of the SciPol Scholars. You made us feel like stars!


Anything you want to tell others who are thinking of applying to be a part of the next SciPol Scholars Bootcamp cohort? 

Bernat: Take advantage of this amazing program! This is a great way to get started in science policy and the ability to not just learn about science policy but… do science policy! I am thankful for the learning value, experiences and network I take from this! 

Paige: Put yourself out there and apply for this program! If you are interested in science policy, the SciPol Scholars Bootcamp is a phenomenal experiences for early career scientists to become immersed in science policy through networking and training to potentially apply to a residency. The Bootcamp is life-changing and will prepare you for your career in science policy and advocacy. 

Lisbet: Apply! This is a great opportunity to identify areas in science policy that fit you! 

Luz: YOU SHOULD APPLY TO THIS PROGRAM! It is awesome! Great mentorship, community, and even a paid internship. You can’t ask for more!

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Learn more about the Next SciPol Scholars Bootcamp and Residency Program here. Applications for the next cohort are due February 8th. 

This Q&A Interview was conducted by William Ota, SciPol Scholars Coordinator. 

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