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Senior Taking WISE Steps to Influence Tech Policy on Capitol Hill

July 10, 2013

By Dale Long, Director of Media Relations

        Stettler Capitol
  Exciting Internship Experience: Marie Stettler, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and international studies, is enjoying this summer as one of three Washington Internships for Students of Engineering program, sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineering. The program educates future engineering leaders on the public policy process.

Marie Stettler is enjoying a thrilling summer expanding her educational and personal horizons through a prestigious internship that has the Rose-Hulman senior influencing government policy about important technology issues while being in the heart of the nation’s capital.

That’s why she can be found researching in the Library of Congress, attending congressional briefings, or visiting public policy leaders in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. And, she’s living within blocks of the White House, and touring the many Smithsonian museums and cherished national landmarks.

This is the endearing lifestyle Stettler is experiencing in the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program—ranked as one of the best internships in the United States by the Princeton Review. The nine-week program, supported by a collaboration of engineering societies including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), educates future engineering leaders on the public policy process, and encourages technical input in legislative decision making.

“Marie’s experience this summer will enrich her career, and the public officials are sure to benefit from her input and recommendations,” says ASME President Marc W. Goldsmith.

So far, Stettler has met a distinguished list of science, technology, engineering and math policy leaders. Those meetings have featured Peter Lyons, assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy; Kei Koizumi, assistant director for federal research and development in the Office of Science and Technology Policy; E.W. Colglazier, science and technology advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State; William D. Magwood, commissioner of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Pramod P. Khargonekar, assistant director for National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Engineering; and Mary McKiel, standards executive for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“These leaders have made it very clear that engineers and technologist are needed on Capitol Hill to help inform legislators on technical matters that affect not only those around the country, but around the world,” says the mechanical engineering and international studies major. “They have shown me that having an engineering degree offers unlimited opportunities. That optimism and encouragement for engineering students to choose non-traditional career paths has been refreshing and motivating.”

At the conclusion of the internship, Stettler will produce a public policy paper on the science and technology community’s involvement in providing assistive technology to the disabled in developing countries. She will also present her recommendations on Capitol Hill.

“Having the opportunity to speak on a topic about which I am passionate will culminate an enriching and fulfilling experience for me,” she states. “It has been unbelievably exciting to spend the summer with an encouraging group of mentors that help foster an environment of learning about the role of an engineer in the public policy process.”

Stettler is among three WISE interns sponsored by ASME following a nationwide competition. They’re being housed on the George Washington University campus, work out of the ASME Washington, D.C., office under faculty-member-in-residence Gail Marcus (the first woman to earn a doctorate in nuclear engineering in the U.S.), and receive a $2,100 stipend to assist with living and travel expenses.

Stettler pursued this type of internship experience after spending summers in industry, at Procter and Gamble, and research, at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. These opportunities sparked a curiosity for potential work that can be done by engineers and scientists in the public sector, in turn, affecting the work done in laboratories at universities and corporations throughout the world.

“As of yet, this summer has not completely convinced me that public policy, in its purest form, will be the path that I take. However, it has highlighted the importance of both science literacy and advocacy being an integral part of every engineer’s career,” she says.