David Noll, Ph.D.


David Noll holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University that he earned in 1997. He prior to his fellowship, David was a research associate at Hopkins where he did research on oligonucleotide chemistry, repair of DNA interstrandd crosslinks, high-throughput analyses of DNA binding specificity, and mechanistic enzymology. He was also on the Board of Trustees for a career center for unemployed women in East Baltimore. David entered his fellowship with an interest in exploring the connection between science and other societal issues.

David’s Comments at the mid-point of his Fellowship, April 2006

I accepted a placement on the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the office of the Ranking Member Senator Kennedy. Following the mid-term elections the office became the Majority office.

In general my portfolio of issues includes but is not limited to:

  • public health preparedness including chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear countermeasure procurement;
  • issues surrounding biomedical research including oversight and authorization of the National Institutes of Health;
  • Food and Drug Administration related issues including food safety issues (human and pet), follow-on biologics and medical device safety;

In addition to these general areas, I have been involved in several pieces of legislation that are at various positions along the legislative path. These pieces include the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006, the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act of 2007, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007, and the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2007.

Highlights or Success

  • Preparing and staffing HELP Committee hearing on Food Safety: Current Challenges and New Ideas to Safeguard Consumers, Can Congress Help Fulfill the Promise of Stem Cell Research?, and Follow-on Biologics.
  • Participating in final House and Senate negotiations on the National Institutes of Health Reform Act of 2006.
  • Staffing the Senator during the floor debate on Stem Cell debate in April.


The office provides very little formal instruction or mentoring. The office is also chronically understaffed and highly dependent upon fellows and other transient staff. This results in an environment that can be quite chaotic and challenging to work in. However, it presents enormous opportunities for fellows to quickly become involved in many aspects of the legislative process. I suspect, though I do not know, that I was afforded numerous opportunities that have not been afforded to other fellows.

The dynamic nature of the office also means that opportunities to take on increasing levels of responsibility are possible if interest and ability are displayed. Within four weeks of placement I was participating in constituent and stakeholder meeting without supervisions, by the end of November I was able to participate in the final flurry of legislative compromise that ended the 109th Congress.

In 2007, I have, with minimal oversight, been responsible for setting up House and Senate staff briefings on issues ranging from the implantation of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 to the development by sanofi-aventis for a new anti-malarial formulation done in collaboration with Medicines for Malaria Ventures and Doctors without Borders.

Discuss your thoughts on how the presence of a Fellow is benefiting your placement office.

The Kennedy health office of the HELP committee has a longstanding tradition of taking fellows from a number of sources including the AAAS, ACS, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Presidential Management Interns. As such they understand the value and utility that these fellows can bring to the office. They are also familiar with the varying skill levels that fellows can bring to the office. As such they are quite comfortable with allowing fellows to take on, where appropriate, greater responsibilities. Indeed, the current Staff Director is a former AAAS Congressional Fellow.

What challenges have you encountered? What recommendations do you have to address these situations?

The biggest challenge that I have faced is most likely very specific to this office. That challenge is knowing what to do and how to do it. The office has a steep learning curve and not enough time to bring new fellows up to speed. Again, if one is comfortable working in that environment it can be an exhilarating opportunity but I imagine that it could also be quite frustrating.