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SPIE and OSA choose Cornell professor as 2012-2013 Guenther Congressional Fellow

31 May 2012

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and the Optical Society (OSA) have selected Cornell UniversitChris Schaffer JPEGy professor Chris Schaffer as the 2012-2013 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow.

Schaffer will serve a one-year term as a special legislative assistant on the staff of a congressional office or committee in Washington, D.C. He will formally begin the program in early September, starting with a comprehensive training and orientation program facilitated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for Congressional and Executive Branch Fellows sponsored by more than two dozen scientific societies.

Schaffer will then go through an interview and selection process with offices of senators, representatives or committees on Capitol Hill before choosing which office he will serve.

The Congressional Fellows program aims to bring technical and scientific backgrounds and perspectives to the decision-making process in Congress, and provide scientists with insight into the inter-workings of the federal government. Typically, fellows conduct legislative or oversight work, assist in congressional hearings and debates, prepare policy briefs and write speeches as part of their daily responsibilities.

Each year, following a formal application process, finalists are interviewed and Fellows are selected by a committee comprised of volunteer members from OSA and SPIE. For more information on the selection process and fellowship criteria, visit the SPIE or OSA websites.

Schaffer, a member of SPIE, is an associate professor in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Cornell, where he joined the faculty in 2006. His lab's research focuses on elucidating the cellular dynamics that underlie a variety of neurological diseases through optics-based studies. Projects focus on Alzheimer's disease, small stroke, epilepsy, spinal cord injury and cancer metastasis.

As the Guenther Fellow, Schaffer is interested in contributing to the efforts to reform science education and looks forward to providing the perspective of a professional scientist and educator to policy discussions.

Schaffer said, "There are so many legislative issues today that have a science or technology component to them, but there is a shortage of people in Congress with the right training and experience to properly analyze them. I hope to be able to provide solid, data- and analysis-driven thinking and advice that contributes to better policy making."

Schaffer studied physics as an undergraduate at the University of Florida where he worked on the development of techniques for the temporal shaping of very short duration laser pulses. He earned a PhD in physics from Harvard University as a National Defense Science and Engineering Fellow, where he worked with Eric Mazur on the physics of the interaction of short duration laser pulses with transparent materials as well as on applications in the micromachining of transparent materials and in the targeted ablation of biological structures.

He completed his post-doctoral work with David Kleinfeld at the University of California, San Diego, where he became increasingly interested in applying physical science methods to biological problems, and began the studies on neurological diseases that his lab now continues.

Read the press release from Cornell University.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional growth, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $2.7 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2011.

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