Karthik talks moving on from a docorate into science policy and beyond
Karthik Yarlagadda will graduate with a Ph.D. in Anthropology this summer from University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, and is an active member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee as well as a recipient of the 2021 President’s Management Fellowship.
Karthik’s dissertation covered the influence of industrialization and social behavior on the fecal microbiomes of dogs and vampire bats. In particular, he focused on increasing the sample diversity of canine microbial studies, as well as working in non-traditional animal models that may shed insight on characteristics of the microbiome.
How did you become interested in science policy?
One criteria I always had for the work I wanted to do after my degree was to be able to utilize the knowledge and training I’ve acquired in an arena that is of public service. When I heard of, and read more about science policy, it struck me as an area where I could leverage both my academic knowledge, as well as the soft skills generated through a graduate program for public good - perhaps the exact blend I was looking for in a career opportunity. Long-term and recent events (climate change, the recent pandemic as a couple out of many examples) have only increased my interest and drive to work towards this field.
How did you find NSPN and what have you be up to in the organization?
I came across NSPN in searching for science policy-related opportunities (shoutout to @SciPolJobs on Twitter for making me feel like there were real jobs associated with what seemed a vague concept at the time). NSPN struck me as another great opportunity, to learn more about science policy, and engage with other early-career individuals with similar goals/interests.
I’ve had the opportunity to work as a reviewer on DICE grants at NSPN - a fund dedicated towards helping fund DEI-related initiatives put on by local chapters. It’s been really rewarding to see how funded projects have flourished and met their stated goals (or exceeded them), and I think it’s been a great reminder about what makes a successful DEI initiative (community engagement from the start, for example).
Congratulations on getting the President’s Management Fellowship! Can you share how you discovered that particular program?
I’m sure everyone who’s come to the end of their graduate career is familiar with the incessant pressure of completing a years-long scientific enterprise and searching for what comes next, which is about as vague and daunting as that statement. I had compiled a list of fellowships, internships, post-docs, job openings, etc., basically anything and everything I figured I qualified for, with the intent to apply for as much as I feasibly could (NSPN’s Slack circulates similar lists of opportunities, which I recommend for anyone interested in the space). The PMF wasn’t really a standout on that list - it was a single line among dozens of entries. I did spend some time working on a federal resume format, and was fortunate enough to pass the various rounds of screening to be admitted into the program. I’ve since accepted an offer to work at the Office of Fiscal Innovation and Technology in the Bureau of Fiscal Service as a PMF.
What do you enjoy doing outside of science policy?
I really enjoy reading fantasy, writing fiction, and playing video games. I’ve also enjoyed diversifying my cooking repertoire, especially when it comes to experimenting with mixing ingredients/styles between cuisines. J. Kenji López-Alt’s falafel recipe has been a recent favorite and easy to reproduce with great results. Finally, I am eagerly awaiting the time when I can go back to watching premieres of Marvel movies (or any movie at this point) in theaters.
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