SPIE Professional July 2008
The Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow Program, co-sponsored by SPIE and the Optical Society of America, has named Robert Saunders as the fellow for the 2008-09 year. The program was established in 1999 and named after Guenther, a tireless advocate for optics and photonics, following his April 2007 death.
The Congressional fellowship is designed to provide a learning experience for fellows who can foster links between the optics and public policy communities and bring a technical perspective to decision-making in the U.S. Congress. The Society supports the program because of the important link between innovation and federal spending for science and technology education and for research and development.
Saunders received his BS summa cum laude from the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA), and earned his PhD in physics from Duke University (Durham, NC). Since receiving his PhD, Saunders has returned to Duke as a postdoctoral fellow where he studies imaging for the early detection of breast cancer. In addition to continuing his imaging research, Saunders has developed and taught a graduate course on public speaking for scientists and engineers and interned with the N.C. Board of Science and Technology where he examined the influence of science and technology on state economies.
"Robert will bring outstanding expertise as Congressional Fellow," said Eugene Arthurs, CEO of SPIE. "His background is particularly well suited, with his wide experience in policy along with impressive technical work."
While earning his PhD, Saunders served as president of the Duke Graduate and Professional Student Council and worked extensively on student health insurance, which helped him realize the intricacies behind health policy and other policy issues.
"Most of the issues that interest me, from health care to energy, require a nationally coordinated policy, which can only come from legislation passed by the Congress," he says.
The fellowship will prove a venue for Saunders' vision to serve. Following the lead of the late Dr. Guenther, whose career bridged scientific expertise and public service, Congressional fellows work as scientific legislative assistants on the staffs of members of Congress or congressional committees.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science facilitates an intensive orientation for all Congressional and executive branch fellows from more than two dozen scientific societies in the fall.
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