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IEEE-USA Government Fellowships

Enabling Science, Technology & Engineering Professionals to Work With and Advise Government Policymakers

Each year, IEEE-USA sponsors government fellowships for qualified IEEE members.  The fellows chosen by the IEEE-USA Government Fellows Committee and confirmed by the Board spend a year living and working in Washington as advisers to the U.S. Congress and to key U.S. Department of State or U.S. Agency for International Development decision-makers. Known as Congressional Fellowships, Engineering & Diplomacy Fellowships, or Engineering & International Development Fellowships, the fellowship program links science, technology and engineering professionals with government, and provides a mechanism for IEEE's U.S. members to learn firsthand about the public policy process while imparting their knowledge and experience to policymakers.


Deadline for 2017-2018 fellowships - FRIDAY, 23 DECEMBER 2016

Congressional Fellowship
Information & Application

State Department Engineering & Diplomacy Fellowship
Information & Application

USAID Engineering & International Development Fellowship
Information & Application


Interested IEEE members may apply for one or all of the three IEEE-USA fellowships. However, applicants must submit (3) THREE separate applications, one for each fellowship. IEEE-USA will not accept a single application stating that you are interested in all three fellowships.

Be mindful of the fact that the three fellowships are very different from each other. If you are applying for more than one, you must submit separate cover letters, separate application packets, and separate reference letters for each application. Your cover letters, references, and application materials should reflect an understanding of the distinctions between the executive and legislative branch fellowships, and illustrate the experiences and qualifications that might benefit you in each fellowship.

News & Notices

Welcome to the 2016-2017 IEEE-USA Government Fellows!

Engineering & International Development Fellow (US Agency for International Development)

Thomas Colvin, Sunnyvale, CA - Dr. Colvin, a new IEEE member, is a physicist and aerospace engineer with years of experience applying scientific research to policy creation and analysis. For his PhD research at Stanford, he collaborated with the FAA to design a highly-efficient probabilistic framework that integrates space launch and re-entry traffic into the national airspace while preserving aircraft safety. His proposed Concept of Operations produces a 98 percent reduction in air-traffic disruption from space operations, enabling high-frequency space launches from anywhere in United States and allowing sub-orbital spaceports to be collocated with airports.

Dr. Colvin has worked with RAND Corporation on UAS surveillance strategies for counter-terrorism in Africa. He has also done volunteer consulting, for The Nature Conservancy and the Office of Governor Jerry Brown on the climate impacts of solar power facility development in the California deserts.

In addition to science and technology policy, Tom is interested in sustainable agriculture, water policy in drought-prone regions, alternative energy, wildlife preservation, and social justice. He holds a BS in Physics from Ohio State, an MS in aerospace engineering from Stanford, and a PhD in aerospace engineering, also from Stanford. Dr. Colvin has lived in Germany and Thailand and can hold simple conversations in both languages.

Engineering & Diplomacy Fellow (US Department of State)

Jonathan Rayner, Washington DC - Mr. Rayner, a new IEE member,, has most recently served asProgram Manager for Open Mission Systems for Lockheed Martin AeronauticsSkunk Works. In this role, he led his company's efforts in a collaborative working group withBoeing,Northrop Grumman, other industry partners, and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers in the establishment of an open standard for missionsystems for combat aircraft for both the Air Force and the Department of the Navy. In addition to his work in the standards body, he successfully led ateam of seven companies in a cross service flight test of U-2, F-22, and F/A-18 aircraft in the demonstration of new communications, surveillance, and electronic warfare capabilities.

Mr. Rayner held a broad range of positions during a ten year career with Lockheed Martin covering software development for the F-35, aerodynamic performance analysis for Skunk Works, and strategy and operations analysis for an internal think tank. Through these positions he participated in the engineering process across the full spectrum of air vehicles, from surveillance to strike to fighters to hypersonics. He utilized this experience to conduct cross discipline studies in integrated air and missile defense, perform open source assessment of foreign fighters, develop an air combat simulation, and participate in war games of the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. During his time as an operations analyst, he also served as technical liaison to the Lockheed Martin Aviation Systems Legislative Affairs organization.

Mr. Rayner earned an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Oklahoma State University. In addition to his formal education, he is a self-taught programmer and is proficient in multiple languages. He is a professional member of IEEE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Congressional Fellows

Mark Olive, Derby, KS - Mr. Olive is a senior member of the IEEE, is an aircraft certification engineer for Garmin International in Wichita, KS. After retiring as an officer from the U.S. Air Force – a career that culminated in the position of McConnell AFB Director of Aircrew Training – he started working in the private sector verifying aircraft regulatory compliance for several companies, including Bombardier and Cessna. He has extensive experience in flight operations, system development, and training.

Mr. Olive was the IEEE Wichita section’s chairman for 10 years. He has also served as the Government Activities Chairman for Region 5 where he coordinated IEEE-USA fly-in meetings. Mr. Olive also attended several of the annual S&T Congressional Visits Days. He holds a BS in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Nebraska, and an MS in computer science from Wichita State University.

Yan Zheng, Washington, DC - Dr. Zheng is a technology consultant with the firm Booz Allen Hamilton where he specializes in semiconductor-based microelectronics and optoelectronic devices. He has extensive experience in the growth of compound semiconductors as well as the fabrication and test of high-speed vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). Dr. Zheng supports the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in developing innovative technology programs for the Department of Defense. Programs that Dr. Zheng helped to develop include the detection of biological and chemical agents using ultra violet lasers, low cost semiconductor-based optical phased-arrays for light detection and ranging (LIDAR), and advanced cooling for high energy lasers. Dr. Zheng regularly works with universities, small businesses, military, and government organizations on projects aimed at addressing the needs of both the commercial sector and national defense.

Dr. Zheng received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a BS from the University of California, San Diego, both in electrical engineering. While at UCSD, he served as vice president and president of the IEEE student chapter and spearheaded a range of student led projects. In recognition of these efforts, the IEEE student chapter was awarded an IEEE student chapter growth award. Dr. Zheng continued his community involvement at UCSB through the development of the Leadership In Team Engineering (LITE) which he established as a program that engages both student-led teams and local nonprofit organizations in solving technical problems for the community. Dr. Zheng was also a mentor in the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) research experience for undergraduates program as well as for local community college students where he mentored traditionally underrepresented students in engineering. Dr. Zheng is a member of IEEE, AAAS, and a founding member of the UCSD chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN).

The 2015-2016 Engineering & Diplomacy Fellow (US Department of State)

UPDATE: IEEE-USA is pleased to announce that the State Department is extending Dr. Schmitt's fellowship for a second year.

Dr. Benjamin L. Schmitt
Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Schmitt received his Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania ( 2015) where he was a was a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, focusing on experimental cosmology. He research primarily concentrated on the development of novel millimeter-wavelength imaging technologies framed through the design and integration of ACTPol, a polarization-sensitive receiver upgrade for the Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT), currently fully-deployed and operational at over 17,000ft in elevation at the ACT site in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Dr. Schmitt’s research in connection to ACTPol was supported by a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship, as well as an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program grant. He collaborated with teams at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, CO, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, and field operations at the ACT site.

Dr. Schmitt previously served as a U.S. Department of State Fulbright Fellow at the Max-Planck-Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, where he engaged in plasma diagnostics research via precision measurement of the photoionization of highly charged ions propagated in an electron beam ion trap under interaction with modern synchrotron radiation light sources. He also supported the development of x-ray diagnostics systems for the OMEGA laser system at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a Department of Energy inertial confinement fusion research center, and has been a visiting researcher at both Cornell and Columbia Universities, with focus on experimental particle physics, and laboratory astrophysics, respectively.

Dr. Schmitt is a professional member of IEEE, the American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, and SPIE. He has participated in federal science and technology policy engagement events with members of Congress, the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the Executive Office of the President, and the Fulbright Academy of Science and Technology at the United Nations in the United States, as well as CONICYT in Chile. Additionally, he has worked in support of programs to develop robust bilateral relations via science policy between the U.S. and Chile, including a unique meeting with the Chilean Ambassador to the United States, Juan Gabriel Valdes. He was recently recognized as a 2015 Presidential Management Fellowship semi-finalist.

An accomplished classical vocalist with numerous principal roles with the Eastman Opera Theatre company at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, Dr. Schmitt earned a Master of Science degree in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and Astronomy, as well as a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and Modern German Languages and Cultures from the University of Rochester.

IEEE-USA is pleased to participate in the AAAS S&T Fellowship Program, which celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2013.  The Anniversary Video features former IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow (and IEEE President) Gordon Day.

For additional reference...

IEEE-USA Today's Engineer, December 2011, What Does it Take to be an IEEE-USA Government Fellow? By Sherry Gillespie, Ph.D. and Tom Tierney, Ph.D.

IEEE-USA Today's Engineer, January 2011, Federal Government 101: The IEEE-USA Congressional and State Department Fellowships, By Norman C. Lerner, Ph.D., P.E. (At the request of the US Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States — the location of Dr. Lerner's fellowship — he is his 2010 fellowship through 2011. Dr. Lerner contributed significantly to a new program sponsored by the OAS Office of Science and Technology, and it was determined that he was instrumental to the program's continued success.)

AAAS publication: "From the Lab to the Hill: Essays Celebrating 20 Years of Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows," which includes essays by IEEE-USA Congressional Fellow alumni Charles Bostian, LeEarl Bryant, Tom Fagan, George Swetnam and Don Willyard.

6 DEC 2007: US News & World Report article: Wanted on the Hill: A Few Good Scientists

Last Update: 29 July 2016

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