Congressional fellowship

Spend a year on Capitol Hill influencing science and public policy

A unique opportunity

The Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow works in the office of a US senator or representative, or with a congressional committee, in order to experience first-hand knowledge of congressional operations; contribute to the policymaking process; and forge links among the engineering, scientific, and public-policy communities. Fellows also gain a perspective that will enhance their industrial, academic, and government careers. The fellowship is an ideal way to spend an academic sabbatical or leave-of-absence from a company. 

Co-sponsored by SPIE and Optica.


Fellowships are normally a one-year term, running September through August. The Guenther Fellow will join more than two dozen other scientists and engineers in early September for an intensive orientation program on the legislative and executive branches. This program is organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which also provides educational and collegial programs for Fellows throughout the year. Following interviews on the Hill, fellows choose a congressional office — personal or committee staff — where they wish to serve. Fellows are expected to handle varied assignments, both technical and non-technical.  

A competitive stipend of $78,750 is provided by SPIE and Optica, and additional support from other sources, such as a present employer, is permitted. The societies also provide an allowance for health insurance, travel, and relocation expense ($8,000); and pay expenses for any sponsoring-society conferences that the fellow is invited to attend. Final selection of the fellow will be made in March/April after personal interviews are conducted.


Fellows are evaluated on the basis of technical competence; work experience; ability to serve in a public environment; and evidence of service to SPIE, Optica, and the optics and photonics communities. Prospective fellows must have: a PhD or equivalent doctoral level degree by program orientation; significant familiarity with optical engineering or science disciplines; a working understanding of the optical engineering and science communities; and demonstrated interest in the public policy process. Federal employees are not eligible.  

US citizenship is not required; however, applicants must be authorized to work in the United States. Applicants should have excellent interpersonal and communication skills, and possess the flexibility to tackle a variety of work. Specifically excluded as selection criteria are age, sex, creed, race, ethnic background, and partisan political affiliations.


Applications are due in early January. Candidates must submit the following materials:

  • A résumé, no longer than two pages, providing information about educational background, professional employment, community and professional activities, public policy and legislative experience, and committee and advisory group appointments, plus one additional page for professional publications and presentations
  • A statement of up to 1,000 words addressing the applicant’s interest in the fellowship, career goals, contributions the applicant believes he or she can make as an SPIE/Optica Fellow to the legislative process, and what the applicant wants to learn from the experience
  • Three signed letters of reference sent directly to, specifically addressing the applicant’s ability to work on Capitol Hill as a special legislative assistant. Letters of reference should be emailed directly to by the reference and must be in PDF format, on official letterhead, and include an electronic or scanned signature. Letters of reference should not be sent by the candidate themselves. However, the candidate is responsible for ensuring letters are received by the application deadline.


Send all application materials to:

Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellowship Program
c/o Brandy Dillingham
Optical Society of America
2010 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Office: 202-416-1409