Alumni Spotlight: Emily Gibson Blevins, Science Policy Analyst at the NSF
Name: Emily Gibson Blevins
Graduation Year: 2017
Degree(s): M.S. and Ph.D. in History and Sociology of Technology and Science (HSTS)
Company and location: National Science Foundation, Alexandria, Virginia
1. What do you do?
I currently work as a Science Policy Analyst at the National Science Foundation. I conduct research, analyze, and write articles, op-eds, speeches, and other materials related to national science and engineering policy. I recently accepted a position with the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) as a Technology and Innovation Policy Analyst, which I’ll begin in February. CRS provides confidential and authoritative policy analysis to Congress to guide policymaking.
2. What’s the coolest part of your job?
Having a front-row seat to some of the most exciting scientific discoveries of our time. My job requires constantly learning about new science and engineering research, which I find incredibly engaging. I love meeting scientists and engineers and discussing their work.
3. Why are you passionate about this work?
Science and technology policy is an incredibly rich field where basic questions about the value of science to society and how best to organize and fund research are constantly being considered and addressed. Historians of science and technology have a unique perspective to contribute to these discussions. I’m passionate about making sure lessons from the past are considered when planning for the future.
4. How did you find your job/what’s the best resource for jobs or networking you’ve found?
I learned about a position at the National Science Foundation while in DC on a research fellowship. Thanks to networking with other historians at conferences like the Society for the History of Technology and the History of Science Society I was contacted about the job. In addition to networking at academic conferences, if you are interested in pursuing a career in the federal government, I’d recommend regularly perusing USAJobs.gov and joining a group like the Society for History in the Federal Government.
5. What’s the most surprising detour you’ve taken from your career path? What did you learn from it?
I didn’t really set out to pursue a career outside of academia but quickly developed an appreciation for the important role that the history of science and technology can play in informing current policymaking. Working as a historian in a federal agency gave me the opportunity to apply my historical research and analysis to inform decisions about the present and future of science and engineering research in the United States. Once I discovered this path, I positioned myself to be more directly involved in policy work. It was a great lesson in being open to new opportunities and actively pursuing what interests you most — even if that lies outside of the scope of what you’d initially planned on doing.
6. What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced since graduating, and how did you overcome it?
I didn’t have the foresight to take public policy courses while at Tech because it wasn’t yet an interest of mine. After graduating, however, I realized that I needed to gain a better understanding of the federal science policy-making process. I had to do a good amount of research and reading to gain this new framework through which to apply my work. Luckily, through my HSOC studies, I had learned how to think critically and quickly distill large amounts of information into relevant bits, which served me well in overcoming this challenge.
7. What’s your #1 tip for students and alumni interested in your field?
There are comparatively few jobs outside of academia that come with the title of “historian” or “sociologist,” but the skills you hone through an HSOC degree are incredibly valuable in a number of different roles. Be creative in your job searches and a strong advocate for how the core skills you acquire in your education — research, analysis, writing — will serve your future employer.
8. Can HSOC students and alum contact you if they’re interested in following in your footsteps?
9. What are some things you can speak to and the best way for them to contact you?
Navigating the federal hiring process; how to leverage your history/STS degree for a career outside of academia (especially in the federal government); contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org