Week 5: Councils, Committees, and Cybersecurity

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Sunday, July 4, 2021


Casey Roepke

As a 2021 graduate, my entire senior year of college was online due to COVID-19. In order to get absolutely anything done and keep my motivation high, I relied on deadlines and the adrenaline of turning in assignments, even if an email submission was much more anticlimactic than the situation required. For example, I submitted my thesis project — a 150 page political science paper — by clicking the send button on an email. Not quite the celebratory milestone I had wanted.

Still, I’ve learned to make those email submissions feel like accomplishments. This past week, I submitted several projects and tasks that I’ve been working on, and I felt that same relief and accomplishment on each one, which has helped me stay motivated and timely. 

My week started off with interviewing Dr. Steve Schmid, a former Fellow in OAM, for my communications article for Connections (the internal NIST publication) that I’ve been working on. After hearing his experiences, I added a few of his quotes to my draft and submitted that rough draft (or “lead-in” — not the full article draft, but a general sketch of the direction I wanted to take it in) to Zara, the office’s Communications Director. Zara and I sat down to check in on the article early in the week and ended up having a great conversation about where the rest of the article was headed. I also pitched the idea of tailoring a second version of this article for a larger, outside-of-NIST audience. I’ve loved hearing from former and current OAM Fellows so far, and I think that publishing the article more widely could show how valuable their experience was, and encourage people to volunteer their time to NIST, too! 

Tuesday morning, I attended a webinar called “U.S. Manufacturing Priorities for the Biden Administration and 117th Congress.” A pretty apt title, as essentially various representatives from the Biden Administration and Senator Schumer’s office spoke about which aspects of manufacturing they were prioritizing. I was taking notes for the office, trying to determine which of the Administration’s priorities best matched what work we’re doing. Good news: we’re already focusing on a ton of the priorities listed!

Because I didn’t have any meetings on Wednesday except for my check-in with my mentors, Lisa and Robert, I spent most of the day in high-intensity-work-mode. I was trying to turn around a white paper report (of sorts) on the various advisory boards, councils, and committees mentioned in the U.S. ICA and NDAA legislation. I ended up writing a summary of the advisory groups and recommending the level of involvement Manufacturing USA should take in each case, while also creating a chart breakdown with the details of each group. On Friday, I met with Don (one of the AAAS Fellows in the office) to go over my paper, and I think we’re going to bring it up at our next meeting. I am really enjoying learning about how much each individual word matters in a piece of legislation.

On Thursday, I was up bright and early — 7 a.m. my time — to attend the monthly meeting of the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing (NSTC and SAM respectively, yes I’m still learning new acronyms!). It was so interesting to hear updates from different agencies and learn how they all work together on projects related to advanced manufacturing.

One (stressful) highlight of this week was putting together a budget for cybersecurity education in under five hours with Lisa and Zack (AAAS Fellow). When Lisa submitted our plan, she credited Zack and me with helping her out — which felt crazy and big! As I’ve taken to saying with a huge dose of sarcasm, absolutely no one should trust me to think about money. Government budgets are huge amounts of money — but of course, so many people are involved with the work being done with those budgets, so a project can burn through a million dollars in a flash. Still, it doesn’t get any less crazy for me to hear about ten million dollar projects being on the low-end of some of the work being done in our arena. 

Another definite highlight was attending a lecture by Dr. Melissa Phillips, a NIST research chemist who works to develop methods for food Standard Reference Materials (SRMs). Her lecture was so interesting — especially hearing about how she thinks about the food that we eat each day.

I’m enjoying my long weekend, ready to hit the ground running next week!


Casey Roepke (she/her)