The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing science for the benefit of all people.” Science and Technology Fellows at NSF partner with NSF staff for a year-long term of service. During that assignment, Fellows assist in the planning, development, and oversight of agency programs. Many also develop projects that both interest them and serve the organization to which they have been assigned. MCB is excited to welcome Dr. Alias Smith as our AAAS Fellow for the 2017-18 term.
What is your educational background?
I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from University of Missouri, Columbia. Next, I completed my Ph.D. in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics at University of California, Los Angeles, where I studied gene expression in the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. My postdoctoral training at University of California, San Diego, centered around understanding the life cycle of the parasite Giardia lamblia.
What is your position? When did you start working in MCB?
I began my posting as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in MCB in September. As an AAAS Fellow I have the opportunity to carve out my projects within the scope and mission of MCB. I have received great guidance from MCB staff, program directors, and our acting division director in creating my fellowship plan. My primary focus in MCB is on working with the program directors in the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) cluster to develop and align research goals with synthetic biology research interests both within NSF and between NSF and outside agencies.
Additionally, professional development is a major component of the AAAS Fellowship. During my time in MCB, I will learn advanced data analytics skills to conduct a portfolio review of the proposed science submitted to the SSB cluster under past solicitations. I will also become more familiar with the merit review process. The AAAS Fellowship and MCB also provides opportunities for me to work on projects that broaden participation in science and technology education, training, and careers.
What attracted you to work for NSF?
Science education, mentoring, and outreach have been consistent components of each phase of my research training and professional career. Recently, I became curious about the bigger picture: What mechanisms influence STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education and research on a larger scale? I want to learn first-hand how NSF impacts the science-education and the research communities. The AAAS Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to directly witness the inner workings of NSF and to support the agency’s mission and strategic goals.
What have you learned so far from your position?
I have learned how valuable it is to have a variety of expertise among reviewers and program directors during the merit review and funding decision process. It is impressive to witness how much work and thought goes into reviewing each proposal.