In an October 1999 report, the National Research Council concluded that, “the U.S. Department of State needs the capability to understand how technological factors influence political and economic developments.” In its 15 May 2000 response, the U.S. Department of State recognized, “the growing significance of science and technology-based issues in foreign policy and is aware that this trend will continue and accelerate. The Department is determined to do what is necessary to respond to this challenge and to meet its responsibilities in this area.”

The Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State reached out to IEEE-USA and other science and engineering societies for help in building its S&T expertise; the result is the IEEE-USA’s Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship program.

IEEE-USA is seeking U.S. IEEE members who want to spend a year working in Washington as an IEEE-USA Engineering & Diplomacy Fellow, also known as a U.S. Department of State Fellow. The fellowships run for one year, from 1 September until 31 August each year.

This fellowship program is designed to raise awareness of the value of STEM input into the public policymaking process, and offers an opportunity for the fellow to provide technical expertise to the U.S. Department of State, while learning about and contributing to the foreign policy process.

Each year, the IEEE-USA Government Fellows Committee selects eligible IEEE members from a pool of applicants to serve the one-year fellowship at the U.S. Department of State’s offices in Washington, DC. Selections are made on the basis of the applications and interviews with the Committee. The Committee is composed of IEEE members, some of whom are former fellows. The IEEE-USA Board approves the Committee’s selections.

We still have far too few officers with strong science backgrounds, but thanks to the National Academies and others in the scientific community such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a small group of scientific fellows have joined our ranks, and their number will grow. Scientists, volunteers have graciously put their own research on hold, stopped their own work, their own life, to perform tours of duty in many of the State Department’s bureaus, and they are making a real difference. And we look forward to welcoming more scientists on to our State Department team, either as fellows or as career Foreign Service Officers or Civil Service Officers.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell Remarks to the National Academy

“…We’re at an inflection point, one where the decisions that we’re making over the next few years will shape not just those next few years but decades to come.  And that is certainly true – maybe no more true than for science and technology.  So fellowships like the ones that we’re celebrating today are not only a vital part of our past as we celebrate the trajectory we have been on and the long history; they’re not only a part of our present as so many of you in this room are; they’re critical to our future.

To our current fellows…we need your help to keep growing our partnerships with the private sector and with civil society.  And we need your good ideas, your innovation, your expertise, so that we can help solving big challenges, so that we can continue our work of trying to build a world that’s a little bit safer, a little bit more secure, a little bit more prosperous, a little bit more full of opportunity for our own fellow citizens here in the United States and for people everywhere.”

Remarks by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to celebrate science and technology fellowships at the Department of State, August 10, 2023

Engineering & Diplomacy Fellowship Application Info

If you wish to apply for IEEE-USA’s U.S. Department of State Fellowship, please apply directly to IEEE-USA using the application linked to this page. Do not apply to AAAS for the IEEE-USA Fellowship.

IMPORTANT NOTE: While you may apply for more than one of the IEEE-USA fellowships (Congressional, State, USAID) in any one year, you must be sure to submit a completely separate cover letter and separate supporting packages for each type of fellowship. Each of your statements of intent and reference letters must carefully illustrate your understanding of the specific type of fellowship for which you are applying. These cover letters illustrate to the selection committee your understanding and awareness of the distinctions between the responsibilities of legislative and executive branch personnel. IEEE-USA will not accept one application package in which you state you are interested in all three types of fellowships. Additionally, before you apply for a U.S. Department of State fellowship, please consider whether or not you think you will be able to obtain a U.S. Government security clearance. Ability to obtain a security clearance is a prerequisite to working as a U.S. Department of State fellow. If a fellow fails to obtain the necessary clearance, the fellowship will be rescinded and all stipend funds, if issued, must be returned to IEEE-USA. If you have any questions about the process, this website provides additional information: https://www.state.gov/security-clearances

In applying for the U.S. Department of State fellowship, you must provide a clear understanding of the role of the U.S. Department of State in foreign policy, along with a statement of the areas of the agency’s work that most interests you. You should also identify those areas in the U.S. Department of State where you feel you would make the most significant contribution.

If selected as a finalist, you will then be invited for an interview. Interviews may be virtual or in-person, may not be rescheduled, and must occur on one of the specified days. You will be notified of your interview date if you are selected to advance to the interview stage.

If selected for a U.S. Department of State fellowship, you must spend one week in Washington — at IEEE-USA’s expense — in mid-April, participating in the Fellowship placement process coordinated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State (STAS). In addition to the opportunities provided by the AAAS process, the STAS office will work with you one-on-one and connect you personally with offices that work on topics of interest to you. See the agency’s website to begin researching the agency’s structure and where you might like to work if selected. The Government Fellows Committee will often ask applicants if they’ve researched the agency and thought about where they may wish to work.

Submit your application ELECTRONICALLY, by the stated deadline, to Erica Wissolik at e.wissolik@ieee.org. Be sure to specify your name, member number, mailing address, daytime phone number, and e-mail address. We must receive your application via e-mail by the deadline for it to be considered valid.

To be considered for an Engineering & Diplomacy Fellowship, applicants must meet the following basic eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be an IEEE Member (which includes those in graduate student membership status) in good standing at the time of application.
  • Applicants must possess either:

i.) a Ph.D.; or

ii.) a Master’s degree plus a minimum of five (5) years of full-time, professional work experience.

Applicants who are in the final stage of obtaining a Ph.D. may apply and interview for the Fellowship. However, the applicant must provide official transcripts confirming possession of a Ph.D. prior to the start of the Fellowship on September 1st. The degree must be granted by an accredited program in a subject field that falls within the science, engineering, computer, or allied disciplines eligible for IEEE membership. In exceptional cases, the Government Fellows Committee may waive the Masters plus work experience or Ph.D. requirements for candidates with extraordinary compensating experience. The required five years of work experience must consist of full-time, relevant professional employment and does not include internships or student-related employment.

  • An applicant must be a U.S. citizen at the time of application or, at the latest, prior to selection.
  • An applicant must possess or be able to obtain a security clearance prior to the beginning of the fellowship. Please do not apply for the U.S. Department of State fellowship if you suspect there is something in your background that will prevent you from obtaining a security clearance.

Please review the Program Policies & Procedures document for complete information on eligibility requirements.

The Government Fellows Committee considers the following factors when selecting U.S. Department of State fellows:

  • education,
  • technical competence and professional experience,
  • ability to serve in a public environment,
  • previous public service/public policy expertise,
  • basic comprehension and understanding of the public and foreign policy processes,
  • evidence of service to IEEE and the engineering profession,
  • written and oral communication skills,
  • demonstrated interest in foreign policy,
  • foreign language proficiencies, and
  • overall suitability for the fellowship.

A joint IEEE-USA and U.S. Department of State committee reviews finalists, with the U.S. Department of State giving final approval of the fellow selection. The selection committee may establish additional criteria. Specifically excluded as selection criteria are age, sex, creed, race, ethnic background, and partisan political affiliations.

The fellow does not act as a representative of IEEE-USA during the fellowship term, and is not considered an employee of IEEE-USA. (See also AAAS Ethics Policy).

Prior to beginning a fellowship, Fellows are enrolled in a mandatory, multi-society, two-week orientation program organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The orientation takes place in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of every September. IEEE-USA pays for the orientation registration fees. At the completion of the 2-week orientation, fellows begin their search for a fellowship placement, and upon finding a placement, begin their fellowship. The fellowships run for one year, from September 1st through August 31st.

IEEE-USA Engineering & Diplomacy Fellows must have a security clearance. Once the fellow is selected, arrangements will be made immediately with the U.S. Department of State to obtain a security clearance (if the fellow does not already have a clearance). A security clearance currently requires a 4-6 month background check. The fellow will be asked to complete a clearance form, provide contact information, and make various disclosures. For more information, see:

Fellows will receive a stipend of $85,000. Stipends are normally paid in two equal lump sum payments at the beginning and mid-point of the fellowship. Alternative payment schedules can be negotiated. An additional, supplementary expense allowance of $5,000 is given to offset the costs of relocation to Washington, DC, but can be used for any fellowship expense, or wrapped into the fellowship stipend at the fellow’s discretion.

Stipends are non-negotiable and the Government Fellows Committee retains sole discretion to determine which stipend a fellow will receive based upon an applicant’s experience and education. For more details, please review the Policies and Procedures.

The Fellows or their employers — if applicable — are responsible for the balance of salaries, benefits (including health insurance), and all other expenses.

Payment of the Fellowship stipend is contingent upon the Fellow’s receipt of an appropriate security clearance, and reaching agreement with the U.S. Department of State on a suitable assignment.

When making arrangements to supplement the Fellowship stipend through a continued salary from an employer, applicants must consider potential conflicts of interest.

During their Fellowship year, the Fellows are required to provide IEEE-USA with three (3) reports.

  • 1st—the placement report, due at the end of the first month of the fellowship—highlights the Fellowship assignment and expectations for the year.
  • 2nd—the midyear report, due at the end of the sixth month of the fellowship—is a progress report highlighting the Fellows activities and achievements for the year to date.
  • Final—due at the end of the twelfth month of the fellowship—summarizes the Fellowship experience and offers advice for prospective Fellows as well as recommendations to IEEE-USA regarding the Fellowship program.

The fellowship experience is intended to be both a learning experience for the fellow, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for an IEEE member to pass on his/her knowledge and experience to policymakers who may or may not have a science and technology background. A successful fellow is most importantly, proactive and takes the initiative.  You will:

  • perform professionally and complete projects,
  • articulate needs in a constructive and respectful way,
  • address challenges with creativity and thoughtfulness,
  • take initiative to obtain information necessary to accomplish tasks,
  • inform the Member of Congress you are serving and achieve fellowship goals with respect for the opinions of others and an awareness of the environment; and
  • balance work time with learning time.

Staff Contacts

Erica Wissolik
Program Manager, Government Activities
Phone: 202-530-8347
Email: e.wissolik@ieee.org