In the Biden Administration, science plays a central role in forming and implementing the solutions that help the American people.
At the State Department and within OES, our mission is to advance foreign policy through scientific diplomacy and international cooperation. We promote U.S. leadership to conserve and protect our ocean, environment, health, and outer space, for a healthier and safer planet for us all.
An important part of that diplomatic effort is promoting scientific cooperation and exchange between the United States and the world. When we innovate and collaborate across borders, science and technology can fuel peace, solve global problems, and promote economic growth.
The U.S. Science Envoys program is central to accomplishing these goals. Since 2010, 23 science envoys, some of our best and brightest scientific minds, have traveled abroad to build peer connections, promote science education and inquiry, and introduce foreign audiences to a realm of new ideas.
When you think of diplomats, you don’t necessarily think of scientists. But remember who was America’s first diplomat? It was Benjamin Franklin, and, yes, he was a scientist. In 1776, the Continental Congress sent Benjamin Franklin to Paris to gain support for American independence.
He was able to use his scientific research as a calling card to meet with the French Academy of Sciences and rub shoulders in the most fashionable salons in Paris. All while wearing a racoon-skin hat! Looking back, we see that it was Franklin’s scientific accomplishments that opened the door and helped pave the way for his diplomatic success. In a way, Benjamin Franklin was our first U.S. Science Envoy.
Indeed, science strengthens our diplomatic and bilateral relationships because it is based on principles and values that transcend politics, languages, borders, and cultures. Science also promotes a way of thinking – which is to focus on innovation, discovery, and the promise of the future.
I recently had the privilege of announcing our seventh cohort of science envoys. It includes seven eminent scientists who have devoted their careers to addressing the critical issues of our time. From ocean conservation to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; One Health and zoonotic diseases; plastic pollution; quantum science; nature-based climate solutions; and the nexus of environmental science and Indigenous knowledge – these individuals are true leaders in their fields.
Dr. Drew Harvell, Professor Emerita of Cornell University, Affiliate Faculty, University of Washington, and Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. She focuses on the health of our ocean and ocean life.
Dr. Jessica Gephart, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at American University. Her research focuses on seafood globalization and environmental change.
Dr. Christine Kreuder Johnson, Professor of Epidemiology and Ecosystem Health, and Director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. She studies the impacts of environmental change on animal and human health in order to guide public policy to mitigate zoonotic spillover and pandemic threats.
Dr. LaShanda Korley, Distinguished Professor in Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. She specializes, as she puts it, “on how materials organize,” focusing on plastics.
Dr. Prineha Narang, Professor and Howard Reiss Chair in Physical Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles, where she leads an interdisciplinary group in quantum science and technology.
Ms. Frances Seymour, Distinguished Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute. Ms. Seymour is an export on tropical forests and climate change.
And, Dr. Kyle Whyte, Professor in the environmental justice specialization at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. His research focuses on Indigenous peoples’ rights and knowledge in climate change and conservation planning, education, and policy.
This group represents some of the greatest minds in science. They know how to reach out and work with others. They are willing to serve their country and build bridges. They are eager to defend the role of science in building a better future for us all.
And this 2023 cohort of U.S. Science Envoys, the largest and most diverse cohort in the program’s history, represents the best of the United States.
This is a group of representatives we can all be proud of.