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SPIE Professional July 2017

Tanya Das is new Guenther Congressional Fellow

Tanya Das as the 2017-2018 Arthur H. Guenther Congressional FellowTanya Das, a metamaterials researcher and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education activist, has been selected as the 2017-2018 SPIE/OSA Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow.

Das will serve a one-year term, beginning in September, as a special legislative assistant on the staff of a US Congressional office or committee in Washington, DC.

Das is a PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) where she works in Jon Schuller’s lab. Her metamaterials research explores new ways to manipulate light using nanoparticles.

The Guenther Congressional Fellowship program aims to bring technical and scientific backgrounds and perspectives to the decision-making process in Congress. It provides scientists with insight into the inner workings of the government and gives them opportunities to conduct legislative or oversight work, assist in congressional hearings and debates, prepare policy briefs, and write speeches as part of their daily responsibilities.

In addition to her research, Das explores issues in STEM education through her work in projects to evaluate the effectiveness of new teaching methods in undergraduate engineering courses at UCSB.

She has also undertaken projects evaluating the effectiveness of programs to increase retention and graduation rates of STEM undergraduates who come from minority and low-income backgrounds.

Das, who has a BS in electrical engineering, was also part of the workforce development team for the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), where she helped to assess workforce needs in the photonics industry.

Her volunteer work includes supporting community science events such as the annual Santa Barbara junior high science fair, Family Science Exploration nights, and Women in Photonics Week. She has held leadership roles in UCSB student organizations including the Photonics Society, the Beyond Academia conference organizing committee, and Graduate Students for Diversity in Science.

Das says she looks forward to working on policy issues related to STEM education, workforce development, and optics and photonics technologies. She hopes to use her experiences from the fellowship to pursue a career as a policy analyst, to help the federal legislative body make informed policy decisions.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201707.18

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