Stephanie DeLuca, Ph.D.

ACS Science Policy Fellow, 2014-2016


Stephanie DeLuca joined the ACS Office of Public Affairs as the Science Policy Fellow in September 2014. Her goal is to learn about science policy and member engagement and to add her experiences as a chemist to the OPA staff talent pool. DeLuca defended her Ph.D. thesis in Chemical and Physical Biology from Vanderbilt University, where she has developed novel protein modelling methods for a software suite used by scientists worldwide. DeLuca also holds a B.S. in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  She has received many awards and honors, including the National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB) Oracle Scholarship for Excellence in Computer Science; the National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award; a Fulbright Scholarship for pre-doctoral work at the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany, and the NFB / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarship. In addition, DeLuca has extensive experience in science outreach and worked with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Public Outreach Committee to develop a science communication certificate program that will be fully available online.

First Year Fellowship Report

As the new ACS Science Policy Fellow, I have had the privilege of working with great staff within the ACS Office of Public Affairs (OPA). I began my fellowship in September 2014, immediately after defending my doctoral dissertation at Vanderbilt University, which focused on developing computational tools for  

As I reflect on the past ten months working in the Office of Public Affairs (OPA), I am astonished about how quickly time has passed. It is hard to believe that, just last summer, I was preparing for my thesis defense and my move to the Washington, D.C. area. I thought I knew what to expect from the fellowship, but the experience thus far has certainly surpassed those expectations and never ceases to surprise me. I like new challenges and adventures, though, so I am excited for my second year of the fellowship, which ACS has graciously extended.

One of the aspects of working at ACS that I both enjoy (and sometimes feel intimidated by) is the breadth of the society’s activities, programming, and coverage of policy. On one hand, this allows me to learn about the many facets of public policy and gain a unique perspective from the non-governmental organization (NGO) point of view. At the same time, it can be somewhat overwhelming to understand how all of these things work synergistically to form ACS as a world-renowned organization. Indeed, one unexpected advantage of working for ACS on is the esteem with which the world’s largest scientific society is held in the policy realm, but the organization itself is complex.

I wear many hats as Science Policy Fellow, but my main job is to assist in non-advocacy relations with federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE), among others. In addition to monitoring federal agency activities via the Federal Register, attending advisory council meetings, etc., the Federal Relations team played a large role in the 2015 ACS Legislative Summit. While several board members attended meetings on Capitol Hill, we accompanied other board members to meetings at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the DOE, the NSF, and the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office (NNCO). During our visits, we learned about the status of efforts to reorganize federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs and sustainability programs at the agencies. While the agency visits themselves were informative and exciting for a new Fellow, I learned that I enjoy the organized chaos involved in the execution of the Legislative Summit.

While there is still much to learn, I have gained a better understanding of what people mean when referring to public policy. Even a few months ago, when drafting my mid-year report, I was working to grasp the concept and how it intersects with ACS. However, now I feel more confident in developing an individual project, the subject of which is yet to be determined.

As Science Policy Fellow, I also work closely with the Policy & Governance team, and I have been able to contribute in that space. For example, the ACS recently adopted a policy statement, “U. N. Convention of Persons with Disabilities,” which I assisted heavily in drafting. Along those lines, we are currently in the process of putting together an ACS Science & the Congress briefing on people with disabilities in the STEM and healthcare workforce. The briefing has great potential to inform Congressional members and staff on the issue, which given the aging workforce, is of growing importance. It is gratifying to know that ACS can provide unbiased, objective, well respected expertise on Capitol Hill. Ascertaining the difference between advocacy and non-advocacy activities has been a key component of my training.

Aside from my Federal Relations and Governance & Policy responsibilities, I have been exploring advocacy work by covering the ACS Defense Science and Technology (S&T) portfolio. This includes covering meetings of the Coalition for National Security Research (CNSR), as well as monitoring defense authorization and appropriations legislation that would potentially affect ACS members. In addition, I helped draft an ACS press release urging Congress to invest in American S&T by eliminating the budget caps associated with the Budget Control Act, often referred to as sequestration. However, because I am not a registered lobbyist, I am careful not to reach the threshold amount of time and number of meetings required for registering. While I understand the need for and importance of these regulations, I often wish I could dedicate more time and effort advocating for the S&T enterprise so it can do what it does best. I enjoy the process, though, and am considering advocacy as a future career possibility.

The Science Policy Fellowship has also helped me learn about myself, including my interests in international science policy, my strengths and weaknesses in working with colleagues, the type of work I like to do, as well as the pace and environment in which I am most productive. For example, preparing and assisting with the Legislative Summit was a great experience for me because I like project management-type work that keeps me busy and engaged. I could easily picture myself working in a fast-paced environment, in which the schedule is always stacked, allowing me to push myself. I like complex projects, such as putting together congressional briefings, which can be thought of as an interesting, complicated choreography.

Outside of ACS, I have been able to explore other means of professional development, including participating in Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills and joining the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment (WCEE), as well as the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). All of these organizations provide excellent networking opportunities and a chance to step outside of my comfort zone.

Now that the second year of my fellowship is approaching, I am excited to take what I have learned so far and begin focusing and applying that to my individual project. During the upcoming months, I will nail down and begin addressing a specific, open question of policy relevant to ACS. I am also looking forward to contributing much more to ACS’s important public policy efforts, as well as to begin planning the next stage of my career.

Become a Fellow

Application deadline: January 15

Contact the Policy Fellowship Program

Policy Fellowship Programs
External Affairs & Communications
American Chemical Society
1155 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 872-4386