Stephanie Herring, Ph.D.

ACS Congressional Fellow, 2007-2008


Stephanie Herring holds a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University.  Prior to her fellowship, Stephanie completed a postdoctoral research at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease focusing on how large non-coding RNA regulates the expression of 18S ribosomal RNA in malaria.

She was active in Connecticut Microbicides Now, a chapter of the Global Campaign for Microbicides, in which she educated the public and policy makes about microbicides.  Stephanie approached her fellowship interested in exploring the connection between science and public policy in order to explore a future career in public health.

Mid-Year Fellowship Report, February 2008

For my Congressional Fellowship I have been fortunate to work on the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming for Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass).  The Select Committee was established by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, in order to focus attention and resources on energy independence and global warming issues.  In addition, the Committee works to draw attention to the direct and indirect impacts global warming will have on people, and those populations most vulnerable to climate change impacts. This has been an excellent experience working on the interface between climate science and public policy.

Over the past five months on the Select Committee I have had the opportunity to be active on a broad array of issues pertaining to climate change, but my focus has been on climate change impacts on public health and adaptation.  This has necessitated learning more about climate change science through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment and other reports, and by meeting directly with experts.  It has been encouraging to see the science captured in the IPCC report play an instrumental role in laying the foundation for climate policy action in Congress.  The Select Committee is active in highlighting climate change science and I have been impressed with the degree to which the staff prioritizes scientific integrity.  For example, I participated in organizing a hearing addressing how global warming has increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Western United States.  In preparing briefing memos and drafting the Chairman’s statements, ensuring an accurate reflection of the scientific consensus in addition to including uncertainties was a priority to the Committee leadership. 

I also have had to familiarize myself with the concerns of skeptics who remain unconvinced by the scientific consensus reflected in the IPCC report, and formulate responses based on the IPCC and other literature.  As a scientist I appreciate that reasonable questions remain about the present and future impacts of anthropogenic global warming.  However, during my fellowship it has been sobering to see first hand how legitimate scientific debate is twisted to create a perceived atmosphere of uncertainty, and how that perception impacts the policy world by providing an excuse for inaction.

The Select Committee is cognizant of how international climate change issues impact the United States and this has been reflected in my work. For example, I have been involved in technology transfer issues, impacts on developing and vulnerable nations, and international health concerns.  In collaboration with the Union of Concerned Scientists and the World Resources Institute, I hosted a briefing on China’s climate change policy and how it impacts the United States. 

Although I rarely deal with constituent issues, recently I met in person with constituents in Representative Markey’s district in Massachusetts to discuss the climate change legislation being considered in Congress.  The Weston Climate Group is comprised of local environmental activist, and the format provided me with some insights about how Congress and Representative Markey’s efforts are being received, and their concerns. 

I would like to extend my gratitude to the American Chemical Society for providing me with this opportunity to work on the interface of climate science and public policy as a Congressional Fellow.  I am eagerly looking forward to the remainder of my fellowship.