Honest science is the best policy: Katie Harris curates Real Scientists

Real Scientists is going governmental this week with Dr Katie Harris (@KatietheRockDoc), an AAAS Congressional Science Policy Fellow with the US House of Representatives. We chatted with her about science, civic engagement, and Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park is always involved:

Welcome to Real Scientists! How did you first get into science?
I blame Jurassic Park – even though Archaeologists most definitely do not dig dinosaurs, I always loved the idea of fieldwork (and in fact, that was the best part about being an Archaeologist).

How did your science work lead you into policy?
I got hooked on policy and advocacy through my graduate student government. For two years, my job was to advocate for graduate students at the university, state and federal levels, and I LOVED it. I felt like I was actually making a difference in my fellow students’ lives. When the time came for me to think about post-PhD, I knew I wanted to do policy.  

Can you walk us through a typical work day?
I work on energy and environmental policy with the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee (Democrats). In the day to day, this means I:

  • Prepare legislation, oversight letters, memos, briefings, statements, and other materials for members of Congress
  • Research policy related to energy and mineral resources, climate change, mitigation, and USGS issues on public lands
  • Represent the Committee in meetings with stakeholders, Congressional members/staff, and advocacy groups to build relationships, collaborate on topics of shared interest, and advance legislative goals

What keeps you motivated?

Dr Katie Harris

Dr Katie Harris

My favorite cliché saying is “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” and it’s this idea that first got me interested advocacy and civic engagement during graduate school, and still drives my involvement in science policy now. I love gaining all the knowledge I can about our government systems (whether university and student government, or the federal government) and then passing that knowledge along to help others navigate these systems. If I can make those systems better while I’m doing it, then that’s a bonus.

What do you get up to when you’re not at the office?
I look for any excuse to travel and/or ski (expensive hobbies, unfortunately). My less expensive hobbies include: hanging out with my family, friends and cats, drinking coffee, hiking, and trying new food. Except beets. Never beets. I used to play the French Horn professionally (in a small, regional orchestra, but still!). To be honest, my current position doesn’t leave me much time for extracurricular obligations.

What does your perfect day off look like?
I wake while it’s still brisk (but not TOO early), have coffee on my patio, go out for a hike during the middle of the day, then come home, get cleaned up, and grab dinner with friends.

Katie Harris, welcome to Real Scientists!

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