Baylor Doctoral Student Selected as 2018 Congressional Science Fellow

November 30, 2017
Zack Valdez

Zack Valdez, a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) at Baylor University, has been selected as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow. (Courtesy photo)

Zack Valdez will serve as a science adviser on public policy for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

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WACO, Texas (Nov. 30, 2017) – Zack Valdez, a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) at Baylor University, has been selected as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowships. Valdez’s fellowship is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).

Since 1973, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships have provided opportunities to connect science with policy and foster a network of science and engineering leaders who understand government and policymaking and are prepared to develop and execute solutions to address societal challenges. Fellows serve year-long assignments in Washington, D.C., applying their professional and scientific expertise in all branches of the federal government.

“I am grateful for this opportunity as the 2018 ASA, CSSA and SSSA Congressional Science Fellow and hope to learn more about the legislative process involved in energy production and policy, natural resource and climate risk management, sustainable development and STEM education,” said Valdez, who will serve as science adviser on public policy for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I am looking forward to communicating complex issues to policymakers in ways that improve the confidence in science as an objective position in decision-making.”

As an interdisciplinary scientist with extensive research and leadership skills acquired throughout academia, energy industry internships and NCAA athletics, Valdez is seeking to integrate his talents toward developing and communicating science-specific solutions for decision making in public policy. He developed a passion for science policy while working within the policy group of the Baylor Graduate Student Association and during his two visits to D.C. with the AAAS and ASA, CSSA and SSSA to advocate sound science in policymaking and preserving science-based research and education funding.

“The selection of Zack Valdez as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow is not only a credit to him, but also to his Ph.D. adviser, Dr. Bill Hockaday, and to the Baylor graduate TIEEES program,” said Steven G. Driese, Ph.D., associate dean for research in the Baylor Graduate School and professor of geosciences in the College of Arts & Sciences. “This valuable experience will surely open doors for Zack for a possible future career in science advising in government.”

Baylor’s Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) fosters the interaction and integration of biology, chemistry, environmental science and geosciences for the study of the behaviors, stresses and sustainability of Earth’s natural system at multiple scales. Valdez is an organic chemist with a focus on soil C cycling, soil health and sustainability and climate change associated with biofuel agriculture.

“We are proud of Zack and his accomplishments,” said William C. Hockaday, Ph.D., associate professor of geosciences and Valdez’s graduate adviser. “It’s an honor for Baylor University to have one of its talented young scientists working on Capitol Hill. After this yearlong fellowship, Zack will be part of a network of AAAS Policy Fellows. This should open doors for Zack to have an impactful career in science advocacy and policy.”

Valdez was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2012 for his Ph.D. research at Baylor, which focused on the impacts of agricultural management practices on soil organic matter quantity and quality in biofuel crops. Specifically, he is researching combining molecular and thermal analysis techniques to understand the stability of belowground C pools to decomposition with changing land use and climate.

“This is an incredible honor for one of Baylor’s students. The competition for such appointments is fierce, which is a testament to Zack’s research and leadership skills,” said Lee C. Nordt, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of geosciences.

Valdez received his bachelor’s degree in engineering and physics from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.


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