Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics Announces First Class of Science and Politics Fellows

Four scientists will apply their expertise to state policy development

New Brunswick, N.J. — New Jersey’s state government has received an infusion of scientific expertise thanks to the appointment of Rutgers University Eagleton Science Fellows to assist with issues from maternal health outcomes to climate change resiliency.

The fellowship, led by Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, has appointed four scientists to positions in the New Jersey departments of health, human services, transportation and the Legislature. During their yearlong appointment they will serve as full-time science advisors to agency leaders and legislators. The fellowship is part of Rutgers’ Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative.

The four fellows – Shin-Yi Lin, a biologist and neuroscientist; Andrew McAllister, an applied physicist; Allison McCague, a human geneticist; and Liana Vaccari, a chemical engineer; were selected from a pool of candidates with Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the sciences for their interest in bringing scientific expertise to politics and government.

“At Eagleton, we study how American politics and government work and change, analyze how democracy might improve, and promote political participation and civic engagement. Through programs like the Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative and the science fellowship, Eagleton helps students, elected officials, and members of the public link the study of politics with its day-to-day practice,” said Eagleton associate director John Weingart.

Scientific issues are front and center in current national political conversations. The science initiative addresses the need for scientists, elected officials, and policymakers to communicate and work together to better inform public policy. The fellowship program puts that concept to the test by giving scientists the opportunity to serve in and engage with the state government,” said Anna Dulencin, senior program coordinator for the Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative.

“The fellowship would not be possible without the support of Rutgers–New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy, Governor Phil Murphy, and the New Jersey Legislature – especially Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker,” added Dulencin.

Eagleton Science Fellows were selected for their accomplishments as scientists, interest in the American political system, and passion for public service. They have a desire to better understand how politics affect their scientific disciplines and how they can effectively engage with state leaders and institutions.

 

Meet the Eagleton Science Fellows Class of 2020:
Eagleton Science Fellows Class of 2020: Andrew McAllister, Allison McCague, Shin-Yi Lin, and Liana Vaccari (left to right).

Shin-Yi Lin, Ph.D.
Placement: New Jersey Department of Human Services

Shin-Yi Lin received her Ph.D. in molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University. She then did her postdoctoral research in evolutionary developmental biology at Rowan University-School of Osteopathic Medicine as an American Cancer Society fellow. In her placement at the New Jersey Department of Human Services within the Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services, she will help implement recently passed legislation focused on improving maternal health outcomes, especially for minority women. Lin lives in West Windsor, New Jersey.

“I’ve always seen my work as a scientist as being in the public’s interest. Now, with the Eagleton Science and Politics Fellowship, I’m making that public service even more direct by working in government,” said Lin. “I look forward to seeing how my evidence-based and collaborative approach to decision-making can contribute to policy-making in New Jersey. I hope to demonstrate the value of bringing more scientists into the work of government, not just as experts on technical issues, but also in the day-to-day work of our government agencies and our legislators.

Andrew McAllister, Ph.D.
Placement: New Jersey State Legislature

Andrew McAllister received his PhD in applied physics at the University of Michigan. McAllister’s fellowship is in the New Jersey State Legislature, where he will complete a committee rotation. McAllister is from Jackson, New Jersey.

“I want my career to be able to help and impact other lives. Public service lets me put the skills I developed during my Ph.D. to use by solving problems for large populations on short timescales,” said McAllister. “My specific scientific training involves energy efficiency, computing, and materials science. From understanding the materials behind water filtration or solar cells, to how New Jersey could use block chain technology — my scientific training will be valuable in all of the New Jersey legislative committees I will work with.”

Allison McCague, Ph.D.
Placement: New Jersey Department of Health

Allison McCague received her PhD in human genetics at Johns Hopkins University. McCague’s fellowship is at the New Jersey Department of Health, where she will work on the newborn screening program in the legislative affairs division. McCague’s hometown is Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.

“I am excited to give back to the state where I was born and raised. I am also eager to work in an environment where I am reaching across disciplines and am exposed to people with a variety of different backgrounds and expertise,” said McCague. “I have always been interested in the intersection of science and society. Science is not done in a vacuum. It is done within the context of societal structures and political systems. Scientific advancements that lead to improvements in human health can only move forward by understanding those systems, operating within them, and doing my part to bridge the gap between scientists and policymakers. I hope to not only gain a deeper understanding of the political process, but also essential communication skills and strategies that I will take with me as I build my career.”

Liana Vaccari, Ph.D.
Placement: New Jersey Department of Transportation

Liana Vaccari received her PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Vaccari’s fellowship is at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, where she will work on the climate change resilience project for NJDOT assets and infrastructure. Vaccari is from Metuchen, New Jersey.

“My interest in the intersection of science and politics is in large part about the need for communication and cross-talk. Scientists are also citizens with equal investment in a stable, prosperous society, and have cultivated a set of skills to interrogate data and address questions that arise in politics. Neither sector exists in a vacuum,” said Vaccari. “Participating in and taking care of your community is important, and as the adage goes, ‘decisions are made by those who show up.’ In a society with increasingly complex issues and a multitude of extremely pressing concerns, I look to public service as a means to use my skills to address such issues that impact broad swaths of the population.”

###

ABOUT THE EAGLETON SCIENCE AND POLITICS INITIATIVE
The Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative explores: how science, technology, and American politics intersect; the political systems that connect them; and how deeper understanding and clearer communication within and across these disciplines can benefit policymakers, scientists, and the larger public. Click here for a list of campus partners.

ABOUT THE EAGLETON INSTITUTE OF POLITICS
The Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University—New Brunswick explores state and national politics through research, education, and public service, linking the study of politics with its day-to-day practice. The Institute focuses attention on how the American political system works, how it changes, and how it might work better. To learn more about Eagleton programs and expertise, visit eagleton.rutgers.edu.

ABOUT RUTGERS—NEW BRUNSWICK
Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally acclaimed faculty, 12 degree-granting schools and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse student body.