AIP Mather Policy Intern
American Institute of Physics
Experience Science and Policy Firsthand
The primary purpose of the AIP Mather policy internship program (supported by the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts) is to promote awareness of and interaction with the policy process in Washington, D.C. for undergraduate physics students.
Tabitha and fellow SPS intern Demitri are working in Congressional offices on Capitol Hill, directly engaging in science policy issues and efforts in the nation's capital. As part of their service, Tabitha and Demitri are introducing the other SPS interns to the public policy process by arranging field trips to appropriate science policy events or locales–Congressional hearings, governmental agencies and/or facilities, for example.
As a physics major who spent my last summer deep in a quantum optics lab at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I knew my experience with the House of Representatives would be a completely new challenge. I have long had a passion for the bridge of communication between the technical and non-technical worlds, but it was only through my internship this summer that I was able to see that passion come to life in the realm of science policy. Suddenly, I went from squeezing political philosophy classes into my schedule to witnessing the political processes first-hand. I was thrilled to find that the skills of critical thinking and communicating complex issues, developed throughout my training as a physicist, were directly applicable. Overall, my experience this summer has given me insight into the inner workings of the federal policy process, deepened my appreciation for the work of government employees to keep Congressional members informed on the pressing current issues, and exposed me to a whole range of alternative careers.
My name is Tabitha Colter and I am a Physics and Philosophy major at Furman University located in Greenville, SC. During my high school years in Knoxville, TN, I attended the Tennessee Governor's School for the Sciences where I took courses in modern physics and logic of science. While deciding on a major after arriving at Furman, it was my experience at Governor's School that pushed me into continued study of physics. The philosophy major came from my many years studying Latin and reading authors such as Cicero and Vergil and has given me valuable experience at both dissecting and crafting arguments on a range of subjects.
My time at Furman has been filled with amazing opportunities that have allowed me to discover and pursue passions wherever they may lead me. A cancelled study abroad program led me to a semester-long trip to India where I studied the interlinks between urban development, poverty, the environment, and activism. A class on political thought led me into a Fellowship program in political philosophy that has allowed me contact with contemporary academics who take their background in philosophy and apply it to current political issues. A conversation with a professor led me to a research internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where I spent my days deep in a physics lab working with optics and lasers. A poster hung up outside a classroom led to my acceptance as a TEDx speaker and an unforgettable experience in sharing my own story with the world. Since my freshman year, I have also been a staff member at our University's Writing and Media Lab where I assist both students and staff in crafting their best possible work. In this job, I often have little background knowledge in the field I am reading but help my clients see that if they are unable to give me a general understanding of it, something in their communication is off. I plan to take this skill, and the many others I have acquired, straight to Capitol Hill this summer through my work with the House Energy and Commerce Committee and look forward to experiencing the policy process hands-on!