Sky Klonowski Fosters Underrepresented Voices as a DEI LUV Grant Officer

Sky (Jonathan) Klonowski is a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, the president of Allegheny Science Policy and Governance (ASPG), and a member of the NSPN DEI Committee.


What is your research about? 

I research the genetic etiology of structural heart defects that occur during development (congenital heart disease, CHD), which affects ~1% of all births and whose incidence is much higher in embryos that do not make it to term. I investigate CHD by employing both patient cell lines and genomics to pin-point the cellular processes that contribute to pathogenesis. 


What made you interested in science policy? How did you find NSPN? 

My path into science policy was the 2017 tax proposals to tax students stipends, however what got me interested in science policy was the opportunity to make an impact. Growing up in an immigrant family, I never knew or believed there were ways to make an impact; therefore, learning and practicing science policy was exciting. What brought me to NSPN was participating in the 2019 Science Policy Memo Writing Competition and winning second place. I then used the award from the competition to attend the 2019 NSPN conference, and whelp, now I’m here!


What Policy Projects and/ or Committees are you working on that you are really excited about right now? 

Within NSPN I am part of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Recently DEI finished our first round of the Diverse, Inclusive and Collaborative Expansion (DICE) Grant. This grant was aimed at getting our NSPN chapters to expand their networks and work with communities traditionally depleted in the Science Policy, Advocacy, Communication, and Diplomacy (Sci-PACD) space with the goal of creating impactful programming and initiatives that help push Sci-PACD into being a more inclusive space. To further foster ties between underrepresented people and SciPACD and empower people to build agency in the Sci_PACD space, we just opened NSPN’s first outward facing grant: Lifting Underrepresented Voices (LUV) - due March 15, 2021. This sister grant to DICE is open to non-NSPN Members as a way to create access to Sci-PACD from outside of NSPN’s regular bubble. For this grant, as opposed to DICE, we understood that potential applicants may not have the same expertise that NSPN has, so it was integral to provide as many avenues to success for applicants as possible. The keystone of this effort being a board of INDIVIDUALS from NSPN - with names, backgrounds and strengths - that people looking at LUV can connect to and receive assistance from even before applying. We really hope people will use this board not just as “question answers” but as collaborators, consultants, and community members. 


What do you enjoy doing outside of science policy? 

I enjoy experiencing the wonderful depth of life. On the physical front, I avidly road cycle and supplement that activity with some weight training. Further, I love the mountains, whether it be for day hiking, camping, backpacking, or snowboarding. On the sensory part, I have recently been developing my coffee making dexterity and taste, while continually dabbling in Italian wines. I also enjoy cooking but am not very good. Finally on the mental front, although I love philosophy and pondering upon the human condition, these days being a PhD student really drains me of my capacity for higher order thinking. 


Any thoughts, hopes, or advice to share? 

My hope for the future is that people will push themselves to exchange perspectives and learn from others, because each one of us can benefit from more worldviews/ knowledge that is not our own. My advice is to remind oneself that what happened yesterday doesn’t dictate what happens today, your state today will not be your state in the future, and that by focusing on the present you can craft your best future. Only by practice is mastery achieved. Really, it is my rendition of many East Asian religion’s wisdom of staying in the present. 

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Learn more about the DEI LUV Grants and Grant Officer Program here

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