Article Index
Become a COVES Fellow
Information Sessions
Important Dates
COVES Fellowship Experience
COVES Fellowship Forum
Past Fellows' Experiences
All Pages

Become a COVES Fellow

Have you thought you could make a difference by applying the knowledge you’ve gained as a scientist or engineer to the pressing challenges facing society? The Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Fellowship program will give you firsthand exposure to how policy is made at the state level, helping you determine if this is a good choice for you.

COVES Application 

There are standard components of the application (resume/CV and personal statement) in addition to the fellowship-specific portions (science policy in VA one-pager and diversity statement). The science policy piece should consist of content similar to a one-page policy memo addressing a science-based topic, though it can take any format (memo, essay, etc.).   This document should detail a science policy issue in Virginia that is written for a non-technical audience. The National Science Policy Network and American Sociological Association have good examples of one-page policy memos. The diversity statement should detail how your identity influences your interests in science policy.

If comfortable doing so, you may also list your status as part of the application to be considered for externally-funded positions. Externally-funded fellows will be from HBCUs and/or historically-excluded communities. Available positions depend on participating sponsors.

COVES Fellows Application

Due dates and university specific information can be found below:

If you have further questions about the application process, please contact us directly via email ([email protected]).

Information Sessions

Each year, the COVES working group hosts at least two information sessions for the fellowship. These sessions are for interested applicants to learn about the program and to engage in Q&A with former COVES Fellows. If you missed an information session, you can view a recording here.

Important Dates

  • February - March 15, 2023: Application deadlines (varies by university)
  • March 31, 2023: COVES Fellows announced
  • April - May 2023: Host office matching
  • May 22 - 23, 2023: Orientation and science policy bootcamp in Richmond, VA
  • May 24, 2023: Fellows begin working in host office
  • August 11, 2023: Last day of fellowship
  • August 30, 2023: Fellow Convocation

COVES Fellowship Experience

  • As a COVES Fellow, you will:
    • Work together with public policy leaders as you use your expertise to develop solutions to pressing challenges facing Virginia.
    • Receive training, professional development, and mentorship from some of Virginia’s top scientists, engineers, and policy professionals.
    • Receive a summer stipend of $9,000 and access to professional development funds.

COVES Fellowship Forum

At the end of the Fellowship, a convocation event is held to showcase the hard work and successes of the Fellows. This event is attended by university partners, host offices, and experts across Virginia. Click here to see the 2021 Forum.

Past Fellows’ Experiences

Amit Seal Ami, Host Office: Joint Commission on Technology and Science Using my insight and expertise as a Security Researcher, I analyzed existing policies related to the Internet of Things, NextGen TVs, Accessibility Tools for Higher Education (HB1246), and relevant Security and Privacy research to understand how these policies can be enhanced for the greater public interest. Specifically, I analyzed the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA), which is expected to be in effect from January 2023, while considering the context of similar consumer privacy-focused acts, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) 2018, General Data Protection Regular (GDPR/Europe) 2016 and several House Bills (e.g., HB 714ER, HB2793 - 2019, HB 2307).  Based on these, I made two specific recommendations to strengthen the Internet of Things/Smart Homes consumers' privacy based on the existing state-of-the-art research. Additionally, I analyzed Next Generation Televisions to create a comprehensive report that discusses the pros and cons for stakeholders, such as viewers, broadcasters, advertisers, and emergency issue/disaster handling entities. By drawing comparisons with Over-the-Top streaming services, I identified privacy concerns related to next-generation televisions. Moreover, I created two Primers for the JCOTS to help them understand key concepts related to IoT and Ransomware, which will, hopefully, be helpful for creating public interest focused policies in the future. Throughout the COVES fellowship, I learned about the processes related to policy making. Furthermore, this helped me grow skills related to policy advising, negotiations, communications, and analyzing different perspectives associated with policies.


Jennifer Bertollo, Host Office: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia In this role, I assisted with analyzing qualitative information for their Student Support Services review, which aimed to better understand the landscape of student support services in Virginia and to provide pointed recommendations and solutions to meet student support needs. This included reading various papers, news articles, and webpages about college student needs and unique solutions to addressing these needs at university and college campuses across the state and nation. I also had the opportunity to attend several “listening groups” with Student Support Services faculty and staff at various colleges and universities across the Commonwealth. The resulting recommendations focused on four key areas: (1) College and Life Preparedness, (2) Basic Needs (e.g., food and housing insecurity), (3) Sense of Belonging, and (4) Mental Health and Well-being. At the end of my fellowship, I had the opportunity to create two documents outlining my recommendations for policy makers and higher education institutions, respectively, to consider in order to better support the needs and wellbeing of Virginia’s higher education student population. As a COVES fellow, I also had the opportunity to attend a state council meeting in Richmond, VA and to present my findings and experience to SCHEV’s staff at the end of the summer, which were great opportunities to see the “behind-the-scenes” of state-level policy. Throughout the summer, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to attend the weekly seminars hosted for all COVES fellows on science policy approaches and future fellowship opportunities.


Denise Daniels, Host Office: Office of the Secretary of Education For the 2022 COVES Policy Fellowship, I had the pleasure of working with the Office of the Secretary of Education under the guidance of Secretary Aimee Guidera, Deputy Secretary Sarah Spota, and Deputy Secretary McKenzie Snow. This entire fellowship has been nothing short of incredible. I had first-hand experience of how the Virginia State Government functions and the crucial role the Secretariat of Education plays in the state's governance. I was exposed to the drafting of legislation, the passing of legislation, and policy communication. Additionally, I had the opportunity to attend Brown Bags with several secretaries from the governor's cabinet and have meetings with Governor Glen Youngkin, First Lady Suzanne S. Youngkin, and Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earl-Sears. I also attended many meetings for commissions, boards, and advisory bodies and various events. Among these were, to mention a few, the General Assembly, the signing of the state budget for Virginia, the VA 250 commission meeting, Virginia’s STEM advisory board meeting, and the HBCU Diversity in Tech Summit. Despite having a background in computer science, I worked on several projects and tasks throughout the fellowship on various interesting subjects. These tasks and projects included memos, one-papers, briefing materials, summaries of budget amendments, and more. While working as a COVES policy fellow for the Secretariat of Education, my primary research focus was laboratory schools and Virginia's computer science education. Additionally, I worked on compiling data on Virginia's higher education institutions' interest in laboratory schools. This entailed creating a lab school interest map highlighting higher education institutions interested in establishing lab schools. The map was presented to Virginia's Board of Education and in other related meetings. I further created documentation on potential laboratory schools based on communication with all higher education institutions, which included possible locations, the cohort the lab school will serve, the lab school's focus, and likely partnerships between interested businesses and higher education institutions in Virginia. I started this fellowship with limited knowledge of state government, policy, or science policy. Now, I am confident discussing these topics. I have gained great connections with state government officials and other individuals throughout this fellowship, for which I am incredibly grateful. Overall, this fellowship experience was priceless. A special thank you to the Secretariat of Education.


Frankie Edwards, Host Office: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Division of the Clinical and Quality Management During the 2022 COVES Fellowship, I worked with the Division of Clinical and Quality Management in the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). Currently, DBHDS is transforming mental health and substance use crisis services in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to this transformation, people experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis were taken to the emergency department, hospitalized, or jailed. A high functioning crisis system aims to treat people in their environment, and includes crisis call centers, mobile crisis response teams, and crisis stabilization centers. This transformation requires coordination among law enforcement, behavioral healthcare providers, insurance providers, policymakers, and the citizens of the Commonwealth.Throughout the 12-weeks, I provided DBHDS’ Office of Crisis Services and Support with implementation science knowledge to aid the adoption, implementation, and maintenance of redesigned crisis services. I analyzed training data to identify places in the Commonwealth in need of mobile crisis responders and calculated the associated training costs. Secondly, I helped the data and quality infrastructure team develop a framework to measure equity, licensing standards, and utilization.Most importantly, I produced a technical report that covers the prevalence of mental health and substance use crises in the United States, benefits of investing in a high-functioning crisis system, the current rollout and implementation of mobile crisis response training in the Commonwealth, and evidence-based strategies at the disposal of DBHDS. The evidence-based strategies could help DBHDS target different stakeholders in the transformation including provider organizations, Virginia Medicaid, policymakers, and citizens.


Alissa Ganser, Host Office: Office of Senator Jennifer McClellan During my 2022 Fellowship with the office of Senator McClellan (Virginia, District 9), I was able to see firsthand how the state government runs and what goes into not only developing and implementing state policies, but also how policies are communicated to constituents. Many of my duties involved speaking with constituents directly and helping them address their concerns for how different policies and court rulings would affect them and their loved ones. During my Fellowship, I researched and prepared talking points for some of the Senator’s speaking engagements. I enjoyed this, as I was able to repurpose the research skills that I had honed throughout my science career. I was also able to attend an online progressive policy conference, where I learned about new ways to analyze voter trends and how to support progressive policies and candidates in state government. I hosted a town hall event for District 9, where constituents could pose questions to Senator McClellan and the Delegates that represent portions of District 9. Overall, I had an excellent experience working with Senator McClellan’s office, and I learned how important state government can be for influencing national policies and trends. I was able to utilize skill sets that I already possessed (i.e., research skills), and I was able to improve my communication skills during my work with constituents. I am now planning to move away from the lab and into a science policy position for my future career, and I can honestly say that being a COVES Fellow changed my life.

Xu Han, Host Office: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Office of Recovery Services The COVES Fellowship has given me a fresh look into the policy-making realm at the state level. I have worked in the industry and in academia, both in the US and internationally, and have been doing research about solving problems in a systematic way, but none of the previous experiences would match what the COVES Fellowship would offer - to look at very large and complex real-world problems at a high level, and tackle them with comprehensive, integral and sustainable solutions. For the summer of 2022, I worked with the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) at Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS). The project that I contributed to is about analyzing the data collected from the listening sessions for peers, drawing insights from the feedback data and making strategic plans for the regional operations in the near future. As the office made it a priority to build a strong data foundation and to rely more on the evidence-based decision-making process, I focused my work on creating a pipeline for turning the data into actionable, traceable, and measurable outcomes. Several analyses frameworks were employed to build a system that helps identify the major contributing factors and quantify their impact to the key performance metrics of the office, including the S.W.O.T. analysis, root-cause analysis, and cause-effect analysis. The work was presented to the leadership as well as to a large peer audience and was well received! Through the fellowship, I have made meaningful connections with wonderful speakers, mentors, fellows, and colleagues. It is a highly rewarding journey that helped shape my research goals and enriched my graduate student life. I look forward to staying engaged with the policy-making community on delivering wholesome solutions to some of the toughest problems in our society.


Nathan Holland, Host Office: The Port of Virginia As a COVES Fellow, I was exposed to the inner workings of the third largest economic engine for the Commonwealth. I learned that the Virginia Port Authority’s influence is the direct result of aligning science policy to the scheduling and synchronization of containers between shipping vessels, locomotives, and tractor trailers.  The collocating of port containers results in the distribution of goods and products to servicers and their consumers.  I worked with the Director of Environmental Policy and Compliance along with some oversight from the VP of Asset Management.  The scope of my project was to utilize data mining to report on the terminal equipment’s carbon footprint at the Norfolk International Terminal and Virginia International Gateway.  I was to begin this work by filtering the port’s databases to find and establish emission metrics for hybrid shuttles.  Initial surveys of the database tables resulted in a need to modify my scope of work.  Ultimately, I had to evaluate the information provided and audit the path to how this data was acquired and populated into the database. My findings assist the port’s environmental planning and design consultant as they continue efforts in data management, tracking and reporting for decarbonization sprint efforts towards the port’s goal of NET ZERO emissions by 2040.

Alie Lepp, Host Office: Virginia Marine Resources Commission As a COVES fellow with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), I gained insight into the delicate balance between economic development and protecting valuable tidewater resources in the Commonwealth. An average day with the Habitat Management division of the VMRC included drafting scoping comments, traveling to project sites to verify existing conditions for a permit request, reviewing the Code of Virginia to evaluate specific permit applications, or engaging with the other agency divisions to prepare for the monthly Commission meeting. I drafted over 50 scoping comments, or letters of jurisdictional determination with occasional recommendations, sent to agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, the United States Department of Navy, and Dominion Energy. These comments can help correct proposals that are not in compliance with state or federal regulations, and as a result I’ve gained confidence in using policy writing style. Using nearly two years of scoping comment data, I performed a statistical analysis to determine which territories, engineers, and request types received the most requests throughout a given year. This information will be valuable for VMRC staff in prioritizing requests and distributing workload among a limited staff. Throughout the fellowship I also provided support for ongoing projects, including the impact of proposed development of offshore wind farms on Virginia’s economically important fisheries. My short time with VMRC fostered an appreciation for regulatory work and the challenges of working within the confines of a state agency. I’m leaving the COVES fellowship with a new perspective of the discrepancies between how scientists want science to be incorporated into policy, and the numerous other factors policymakers consider when writing policy. I hope this clarity will strengthen my capacity to translate between groups as I finish my PhD and seek out other opportunities in the science-policy space.


 Kyle Mason, Host Office: Office of Senator Ghazala Hashmi The COVES Policy Fellowship has facilitated the incipiency of my preparedness for a career in policy advisement. In the summer of 2022, I was honored to be hosted by the Office of Senator Ghazala Hashmi, where I was given the opportunity to engage in a policy advisement project aligned with my research interests as a Health Psychology doctoral student. My research interests and training at the intersections of healthcare access, health decision making, and health disparities led me to engage in a project that would inform Senator Hashmi on existing legislative gaps regarding health equity, and provide advisement on potential policy solutions. I engaged in the following initiatives to identify the gaps and potential solutions regarding health equity policy in the Commonwealth of Virginia: (a) Virginia Policy Review, (b) National State Policy Review, (c) Federal Policy Review, (d) Virginia Agency Regulatory Review, (e) Qualitative Interviews of Key Stakeholders, (e) Virginia State Budget Review, and (f) Empirical Literature Review. These initiatives fused with my doctoral training, and public service supported me in articulating policy deficits and solutions to promote health equity in the Commonwealth of Virginia through a policy memo - “A Reappraisal of Healthcare Accessibility in the Commonwealth of Virginia: Equity Beyond Affordability”. I look forward to continuing to engage with the Office of Senator Ghazala Hashmi as they prepare to draft bills and engage key stakeholders in the discussion of my policy recommendations for health equity in Virginia. Being a COVES Policy Fellow is a great honor, and I am so grateful for the mentorship and encouragement that will extend well beyond the fellowship.


 Elena Meyer, Host Office: Virginia Department of Environmental Quality For the Fellowship, I was placed with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), where I was assigned to assist with the House Bill 206 stakeholder Regulatory Advisory Panel (RAP). HB 206 (“Small renewable energy projects; impact on natural resources, report.”) relates to small renewable energy projects and their impact on Virginia’s natural resources. Under the law, a small renewable energy project is defined as producing less than 150 megawatts of power. Under the existing permit-by-rule process, these projects can obtain accelerated permitting through DEQ. HB 206 adds to this process by requiring significantly disruptive solar projects to create a mitigation plan to address their impact on prime agricultural soils and forested lands. HB 206 also mandates the formation of a stakeholder group to “assist in developing regulations to implement these requirements.” Key considerations include defining functions and values for ecosystem services that will require mitigation, and determining how a significant adverse impact on these environments will be defined. Additional policy considerations include meeting goals within the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the 2025 Chesapeake Bay goals, as well as understanding and responding to the needs of different communities within the Commonwealth. Over the course of my placement with DEQ, I wrote the briefing document that RAP group members received prior to their initial meeting. I attended and provided minutes for four of the RAP stakeholder meetings (on July 28th, August 2nd, August 19th, and August 23rd). I also worked collaboratively with the facilitation team at the Institute for Engagement & Negotiation (IEN) from the University of Virginia to manage research needs throughout the project. The final report to the General Assembly is due in October 2022. I am currently assisting both DEQ and IEN in drafting this report.


Nicholas Minster, Host Office: Virginia Bio My placement in the COVES Policy Fellowship was with the trade group, Virginia Bio, which represents life sciences in Virginia. My project was a three-part solution to provide Virginia Bio members with a "Legislative Toolkit". This toolkit is intended to help members understand the policy landscape, which positions are beneficial, and provide opportunities to interact with legislators. The first step was to define policy positions on prescription drug pricing, rare disease funding, and a position to promote the bioeconomy. These positions are well-researched and based on available data. A government affairs committee was also formed to assess the policy papers and make any revisions. Finally, members were provided contact with legislators through contact with the committee and through an organized "Who's my legislator" town hall. This three-part tool kit is an important resource for developing life sciences companies in Virginia. Although the COVES policy fellowship is not a comprehensive training program, it is a good starting point. You will get access to a policy network within Virginia, and in my case, a network of life sciences leaders. While I have decided that policy is not in my career interests, the fellowship has reaffirmed my interest in regulatory science.

Lacee Savage, Host Office: Virginia Department of Transportation In the summer of 2022, I worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), where I was able to work in close relation to my field all while expanding my skill set. During my time at VDOT I reviewed their policy work of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs). Through research and prior knowledge, I was able to provide expertise recommendations of how VDOT can improve and incorporate testing procedures that closely relate to CAVs. I attended weekly meetings, expanded my network, and was provided options to not only expand my knowledge of science policy, but also some my other interest. Before working through this fellowship, I had no prior knowledge of science policy. The COVES fellowship provided with an introduction into this field. The fellowship taught me to step into new experiences more boldly. When first beginning, I was hesitant to how I could truly be a benefit to VDOT being that I had no experience in that field; the resources provided from VDOT, and COVES guided with the right balance of assistance and freedom to retain more confidence. Due to the process that VDOT has for its CAV Readiness, my work will take a while to be considered, but still retains as groundwork for future projects. Overall, the COVES fellowship allowed my to improve and incorporate new skills and has provided with a larger network.

Casie Slaybaugh, Host Office: Virginia Board for People with Disabilities In the summer of 2022, I worked with the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities on the beginning phases of the 2023 Annual Assessments. I completed research on geographic disparities in community living services for individuals with disabilities. I was able to learn a lot about policy advising and how executive agencies function. I attended a quarterly meeting of the full board and enjoyed seeing how the larger advisory board made up of self-advocates, parents of children with disabilities, and other executive and community employees give feedback on and affect the actions of the agency staff. Our first task was narrowing down a very broad topic into a single research area. My research ultimately consisted of two main parts: Community Services Board (CSB) services and Virginia broadband expansion. I compiled a database of services offered by each of Virginia’s 40 CSBs as well as information about their annual reporting, basic funding for services, and whether each CSB is considered urban or rural. Following this, I researched Virginia’s plan for broadband expansion, which has been accelerated and prioritized due to COVID-19. I compiled information on internet use among people with disabilities, how rural areas facilitate internet connection for their citizens, and various barriers to accessing the internet. I learned a lot about writing for a policy audience, how the government functions day-to-day, and what career options exist in science policy at the state and federal levels. I’m very grateful for the knowledge I gained and connections I made from this fellowship.


Hazel Sun, Host Office: Virginia Department of Forestry During Summer 2022, I served as the COVES fellow at The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). My primary responsibilities include (1) understand the close relationship between forest conservation and source water protection, and the potential of using forest conservation/reforestation as a tool to protect source water; (2) dive into Virginia state policies and laws that are relevant to these two topics, and any connections that have been reflected by the Code of Virginia (spoil alert: there’s not much); and (3) provide policy recommendations based on the (lack of) Virginia laws that pertain to forest conservation and source water protection, and on the successful cases from other states in the U.S. Working with the Assistant State Forester Terry Lasher, I provided a comprehensive report covering the research I had conducted regarding the above three topics at the end of the fellowship. The report provided analysis on a diverse range of topics relevant to forest conservation and source water protection efforts, including from the state legislative perspective, VDOF internal perspective, forestland owner perspective, water work perspective, and forest land use change (particularly to solar utilities) perspective. The fellowship has been such a valuable learning experience for me to understand the process of state policymaking and advising. This was my first step into the policy world as a natural scientist by training, and it provided me with great insight in terms of future career directions after finishing my PhD.


Yezi Yang, Host Office: Office of Delegate Sally Hudson I'm a geochemist studying extinction events that happened 500 million years ago. However much I care about my research subjects, it's notoriously difficult to talk to or connect with any of them. My fellowship experience with the office of Delegate Hudson allowed me the opportunity to build connections, in this case with other human beings - listening to the constituents' needs and answering their policy questions, from the state's carbon cap-and-trade program to reproductive autonomy. I learned how to write for my audience when the news was devastating; I learned not only to write accurately and concisely, but also to write with respect, empathy, and a sliver of hope. In addition to working as a legislative correspondent, I started a research project on the demographics of the House of Virginia from 1965 to the present. I collected the birth year, race, gender and other demographic information for about 700 delegates, and visualized these data with Python. Coding is not an everyday part of my research, but this project gave me a lot of practice in cleaning and analyzing data. The figures I generated tell stories: the arduous civil rights movement led to the reappearance of Black delegates in the House of Virginia in the 1960s; a surge of women won the 2017 House of Delegates election, following the 2016 presidential election. Today, with Roe v. Wade overturned, these immediate election responses following key political events gave me a lot of hope.

Adele Balmer, Host Office: Virginia Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee The COVES Fellowship enabled me to gather insight into the inner workings of policymaking in Virginia.  I was able to learn first-hand about the importance of Senate committees and how committee staff members work to inform policymakers on important topics. By working with the Virginia Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee, I was able to make a real-world impact by bringing my expertise to both the health and education subcommittees. My primary project was to conduct a study to provide accurate information to Virginia policymakers about factors that influence Medicaid expenditure to identify areas for potential cost savings by addressing policies that affect health. I was able to transfer my statistical knowledge from working with biological data to build a model that determined how 29 different health factors (e.g., obesity rates, unemployment, and graduation rates) affect Medicaid spending. The results from this study can be used by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee to help make informed decisions on which health factors to focus on to yield the greatest cost-effective improvements. I found it fulfilling to use my statistical expertise on areas outside of my training to make an impact on society and I plan to continue working in science policy upon graduation.” Adele’s work has also been featured in the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Movement for Science program and Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally postcard series.

Janey Dike, Host Office: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Division of the Chief Clinical Officer “This summer, I was paired with Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), Division of the Chief Clinical Officer. During my time, I was immersed in learning about the new implementation of Project BRAVO (Behavioral Health Redesign for Access, Value, and Outcomes)​​, which strives to enhance quality behavioral health services across the state that are evidence-based, feasible, and trauma-informed. As a psychological trauma researcher and graduate student clinician, it was so exciting to be involved in discussions about the nuances, barriers, struggles, and successes of implementing large-scale interventions to those most in need of services in a way that is supported by research. I was able to learn about how different entities work together to implement common goals for the state, and I aided in outlining and organizing training needs across departments. In line with Project BRAVO goals, I spent time compiling information related to racial equity and mental health, such as prevalence rates and best practices and running demographic analyses on psychiatric hospitalization data. With this information, I also created a presentation for a Racial Equity Workgroup to highlight barriers to mental health care and disproportionate racial-ethnic group representation in diagnosis and treatment. Regarding the behavioral health workforce shortage issues in Virginia, I identified the various ratings comprising Virginia’s mental health ranking among national reports, compiled information about disparities in workforce racial-ethnic representation, and compared requirements for various licensure titles. Overall, I was able to better understand the inner workings of mental and behavioral health policy in the context of a state government office, and found the conversations with my new network to be invaluable.”  Janey’s work was also featured in the Engineers and Scientists Acting Locally postcard series

Isis Garcia-Rodriguez, Host Office: Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Office of Recovery Services “As a COVES Fellow, I was given the opportunity to not only engage in work that was related to my field of counseling psychology but also to apply the knowledge I have learned so far in my academic career. I was also given the space to branch out beyond the academic world, into the policy sphere and learn how to engage in new and exciting ways. While working with the Office of Recovery Services, I participated in monthly stakeholder meetings where we established working groups for upcoming policy initiatives, community-based outreach, and provider well-being. I also engaged in providing an outline and framework for a state-wide, regional needs assessment to get a better understanding of what was needed regarding recovery services. By gaining this information, we were able to develop thorough, regional-informed job descriptions for the new hires this Fall. I also participated in conversations about recovery providers’ health and well-being. We began an initiative to provide support groups for the recovery providers, as the pandemic has only highlighted the rates of burnout for this community. Although this wasn’t an original goal, I felt it was important to also start the framework for a provider-level need’s assessment. Although my time as a Fellow is over, I have continued my work with the Office of Recovery Services. We will continue our efforts to begin provider support groups to be able to uplift this population of service providers by highlighting their resiliency. Beyond my work with the ORS, I was able to gain invaluable relationships and mentors through the fellowship experience. I have continued to have conversations with these mentors, and I hope to continue to grow my network."

Chelsea Gray, Host Office: Office of Virginia Delegate Rodney Willett “During my 2021 COVES fellowship, I was honored to work in Delegate Rodney Willett’s office. Throughout the course of the fellowship, I gained experience in multiple stages of policy development, from initial ideas to draft legislation. My research was led by a combination of my expertise, the office’s needs and values, constituent concerns, and shifting concerns within the Commonwealth. I researched both science and policy on topics of environmental protections, campus sexual assault, public comment periods, and mental health policy. I participated in policy meetings with state agencies and advocacy groups to develop relationships, further research and worked with the legislative aide and members to develop policy recommendations and draft legislation. I produced informational materials that communicate science research and policy for legislative members and the general public and also assisted with responding to constituent emails. Due to the nature of policy development in Virginia, much of my work will not see fruition for months or even years. Therefore, after the fellowship, I provided the office with a multi-chapter document that can be referred to in the future, providing detailed information about past and current state policy and the current state of research. This process gave me a deeper understanding of how science is used in policy and at the intersection of state and local laws. The fellowship has also allowed me to create long-term relationships with individuals in the state government, and we have made plans to continue our work on legislation in the upcoming legislative session.” Chelsea’s work has also been featured in the Engineering and Scientists Acting Locally postcard series.

Tara Illgner, Host Office: Joint Commission on Technology and Science “As a COVES Fellow working with the Virginia Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) this summer (2021) has been a great experience, especially in working with my mentor, David Barry, and Hassan Abdelhalim. The three main projects that JCOTS focused on this summer were the new (1) Virginia Consumer Data Privacy Act (VCDPA), (2) Child Protection Online Bill, and (3) VASEM Coastal Flooding Report. Each of these projects presents unique challenges and opportunities. I enjoyed learning about them and supporting JCOTS in these projects wherever possible. An exciting new development in the last month of the Fellowship was being able to broach the topic of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies for Virginia. In probing Virginia’s history with CCS tech, we were surprised by little-to-no developments or discussion in this area. I was aware of an exciting new zero-emission power-generation CCS technology, Allam-Fetvedt Cycle, in operation at the NET Power plant in North Carolina. I decided to invite NET Power to speak with myself, Dave, and Hassan. Given the success of that meeting, and with the support of Dave and Hassan, there have since been further meetings scheduled to discuss this technology with key members of JCOTS. NET Power and I presented the merits and potential of this technology for Virginia to the full JCOTS meeting in September 2021. The experience of this fellowship has been interesting, exciting, and educational. I have also made great connections and gained new insights into the legal and policy structures behind science and tech in Virginia.  Lastly, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to introduce CCS tech to VA legislators, and am very grateful to COVES, JCOTS, Dave, and Hassan, for making it all possible.” Tara also published her work in SciTech ForeFront in addition to being featured in the National Science Policy Network’s blog."

Nikita Lad, Host Office: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia “The VASEM Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) fellowship was an amazing experience as it gave an insight into state-level policymaking as well as allowed me to make some meaningful connections and interact directly with policymakers and stakeholders. The project that I worked on at my host institution ̶the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) ̶ started by looking at a few background resources regarding existing laws, policies, and practices in Virginia, followed by conducting interviews with state/government personnel both from the executive and legislative branch, universities’ chief research officers, private sector CEOs, and association leaders. These interactions with the host office and stakeholders not only gave me an insight into the formulation of legislation but also taught the scientist in me the importance of viewing issues from the policymakers’ lens. Furthermore, putting together a report of recommendations for a non-technical audience was another learning experience. This project on exploring the need for basic research support at Virginia’s Higher Education Institutions gave me a true sense of “policy for science” and taught me ways to bring all the information together and place it objectively. Overall, the COVES experience was remarkable because you get to learn from each other as a cohort as well as the guest speakers’ and mentors’ experiences, which inspires you to do more in this space. The 12-week fellowship is planned similarly to federal-level fellowships and is an exciting opportunity for those who want to explore this incredible field of science policy.” Nikita’s work was featured in the National Science Policy Network’s blog and the report she published while working with SCHEV was shared with policymakers across Virginia."

Sunil Manandhar, Host Office: Center for Innovative Technology “As a graduate student researching on security and privacy of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices for the past five years, it was a privilege to work with the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) that is working on accelerating innovation, commercialization, and entrepreneurship in the cybersecurity domain. During my fellowship, I received a wonderful opportunity to understand how companies and government officials view and address security and privacy concerns associated with the use of IoT devices. My research was focused on understanding the viewpoints of partner companies, state/county officials, and the public to develop a model of statewide privacy policies around the introduction of advanced technologies such as Machine Learning in public spaces. In my first week of the fellowship, I got a chance to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Smart Community Testbed at Stafford County. This was particularly exciting for me because I got to interact with representatives from more than 15 vendors and learn about the technology and services offered by them. This interaction also helped me with my initial assessment in understanding concerns related to privacy, safety, and security from the viewpoint of companies and users. Furthermore, the event also helped me understand the strength of public-private partnerships as I participated in discussions between officials from different government entities and company representatives. During my fellowship, I researched existing literature on smart city implementations, as well as privacy legislation (e.g., General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), and Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA)) to further explore challenges and understand policies related to privacy in smart cities. Furthermore, I also received opportunities to separately discuss technologies with partner companies as well as compare notes with representatives working on a similar smart community project in Arlington County. All of these interactions extensively helped me scope out the project to identify core research challenges and tasks that would require additional emphasis and effort. After spending some more time on the literature review, it was clear that a comprehensive study is necessary to answer important questions that address various privacy and data protection concerns in the smart city context. At the end of the fellowship, I provided the office with all the progress documents and a summary document that described completed tasks as well as plans for remaining work. In summary, the fellowship was a great learning experience. My interactions with mentors from CIT and COVES were really insightful and fun. The experience has helped me better understand how technologies are used and implemented in real-world and inspired me to think about research problems from a practical standpoint.”

Margaret Nagai-Singer, Host Office: Virginia Department of Forestry “During my time with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), I generated a report that investigates the impact of forests on water quality and quantity. As climate change, urbanization, and development pose a major threat to forests and water security, this work will aid in protecting Virginia against these threats by providing forest owners with mechanisms to keep their forests as forests. Additionally, this report will provide a foundation for a new division within VDOF. In the report, we provided evidence that responsibly-managed forests are paramount to protecting Virginia’s water from the current and imminent challenges it faces. We recognized forests as a type of green infrastructure that can provide our communities, especially Black communities, with clean water. We gathered data that will inform foresters on what forest management opportunities are available and specifically identified land owned by public water systems as a great opportunity for collaboration. We also demonstrated that trees in Virginia provide impressive financial benefits by reducing runoff, among other ecological benefits. We then provided multiple frameworks to improve how forests are used and recognized for their water benefits, including 1) Policy changes in the Code of Virginia; 2) Programs that VDOF can initiate; 3) Ecosystem Services Financing with a Triple Bottom Line approach; 4) Innovative Markets; and 5) Public Outreach Campaigns. We also provided several examples of other states who have successfully implemented similar ideas and that can serve as a foundation for Virginia’s exciting and upcoming work.

Homa Jalaeian Taghadomi, Host Office: Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources “For the COVES Policy Fellowship, I was placed with the Office of the Secretary of Natural Resources as my host institution. My project consisted of helping with the Commonwealth of Virginia Coastal Master Plan and Resilience Initiative. My project focused on comparing the Community Flood Preparedness Fund (CFPF) Grant Manual with the Coastal Resilience Master Plan (CRMP) Prioritization Approach. I also used Dewberry’s DRAFT Work plan, which establishes a prioritization approach based on the CRMP Framework Document. Using both documents, I analyzed how projects are organized or grouped and could determine what factors are used to screen and evaluate projects. Another part of my project was to assess flood exposure of state-owned buildings, which was done using GIS and the EO24 State-Owned Buildings spreadsheet. This opportunity helped me to better understand resiliency in Virginia, and more broadly afforded me new connections and opportunities. Each week, I met with the CRMP team and my mentor, Admiral Ann C. Phillips, who serves as the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection. Additionally, the COVES program hosted various speakers each week. Overall, the COVES Policy Fellowship program was a great learning experience.”

Kelsea Yarbrough, Host Office: Office of Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan “As a COVES Fellow, I was placed with Virginia Senator Jennifer McClellan’s office as my host institution. During my time assisting Senator McClellan’s office, I was fortunate enough to work on various projects. Amongst my projects, the biggest contribution I had was helping constituents with their unemployment benefits cases with the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC). The VEC had an astounding number of backlogs and active unemployment benefits cases at the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our constituents reached out to Senator McClellan’s office for assistance in clearing their cases and helping them obtain their unemployment benefits. Since the VEC cases were an integral part of my projects, I also was able to interact with the constituents and assist them with resources to help their individual situations. This also led to an opportunity to facilitate relationships between state agencies to solve constituent problems. I also had the opportunity to assist and facilitate basic policy research for future legislation. This fellowship continued to strengthen my communication skills while I interacted with lobbyists, other legislative offices, constituents, and state agencies.” Kelsea’s work was also featured in the National Science Policy Network’s blog.