Sarah Rispin Sedlak
Sarah Rispin Sedlak

DukeEngage in Washington, DC

The purpose of the program is to draw on what you have learned at Duke and elsewhere to contribute to and engage in the process of creating national science policy. While all students are welcome to apply, this program may be of particular interest to students studying public policy, the sciences, or completing the Science & Society certificate program. Apply to Duke Engage Visit Duke Engage Homepage

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DukeEngage Overview

During their eight weeks in Washington, students will intern with governmental agencies, think tanks, or nonprofit organizations, where they will assist with analysis of policy questions and formulation of policy options regarding science and technology policy and ethics.

The purpose of the program is to draw on what you have learned at Duke and elsewhere to contribute to and engage in the process of creating national science policy. We expect students to bring knowledge gained back to Duke in order to inform and enrich their academic and service commitments. The Duke Initiative for Science & Society has a long-standing commitment to exploring the connections between science and technology and the policy-making process. The DukeEngage Washington program complements their undergraduate offerings at Duke, which includes the prestigious Huang Fellows program and Science & Society Certificate.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

The goal of the program is to engage Duke undergraduates with opportunities to participate in experiential learning in the federal policy making process, with a specific focus on the sciences and the unique challenges that work in this niche presents, including effective science communication. During the eight weeks in Washington, the program hopes to foster an ethic of service and civic participation in students.

By the program’s end students should be able to:

  • Communicate science concepts in an accessible way
  • Understand the structure of policymaking, with a more specific understanding of how science is impacted by and can impact policymaking
  • Generate alternative solutions to policy problems they have worked on over the summer
  • Believe they can achieve a thorough understanding on social problems on a local level, and that they have the tools to impact those problems
  • See the connections between their academic work and their internship experiences
  • Engage effectively with those of differing points of view, working towards creating effective solutions together

Partnership Opportunities

Organizations that might host DukeEngage students include:

  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
  • National Institutes of Health (National Human Genome Research Institute, National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Child Health and Human Development)
  • Conservation International
  • Center for the Study of Social Policy
  • The Niskanen Center
  • Department of Agriculture
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Disease-oriented advocacy organizations (AIDS, breast/ovarian cancer, general cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.)
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • The BROAD Institute
  • The International Neuroethics Society

Examples of projects that student groups have carried out include:

  • Created a database for the Cancer Genome Atlas, a project for accessibility of information within the NCI
  • Explored an agency’s research question: How do we create a more collective global workforce to alleviate the cancer burden?
  • Wrote items for several newsletters and online information resources disseminated by an agency policy office
  • Tracked and followed bills that would impact scientific funding, enabling the American Association for the Advancement of Science to respond promptly and appropriately
  • Prepared a presentation and background papers for staff about the Bayh-Dole Act and university indirect costs reimbursement. Students also prepared case studies of nonprofit disease research advocacy organizations that described their modes of operation in preparation for a 60-expert workshop.
  • Developed projects focused on the experiences of children in foster care systems, including children of color, LGBT youth and immigrant children, folding in the work of neuroscience as applicable

The program directors work with community partners to arrange student placements after students are notified of their acceptance into this program. Students with specific placement ideas should raise those in their DukeEngage interview. In applying for this program, students must understand that placement could be at any one of the community partner organizations, or others that later become available. In sum, we will work hard to match student interest to placement site need; it is a complicated process and students need to be aware that: (1) some placements may require a separate application process or further interviews, and (2) final decisions will be made by the program directors, not by students.

Duke Engage - DC

Program Details, Requirements & Curricular Connections

This DukeEngage program is connected to the Undergraduate Certificate in Science and Society coursework and class offerings.

Visit the official DukeEngage in Washington DC page for more information about the program, including what skills and personal qualities are necessary to participate.

Read: 2022 DukeEngage Students Spend Summer in DC Defending Democracy