By Kate Griswold
After growing up in a small town in India and studying at an agriculture and technology university there, Pallavi Phartiyal made a drastic life change. Having never been on a plane, she packed her bags and came to the United States. She studied biotechnology in soybeans and received her master’s degree in agronomy from the University of Missouri–Columbia. After her master’s, she earned a PhD in cellular and molecular biology from UW–Madison.
Phartiyal wasn’t much different from many young graduate students; eleven years ago, midway through her graduate studies, she sat in an audience of students at a career day and considered what she would do once she completed her PhD She listened to speakers who had careers in teaching, consulting, communications, research and marketing, but her favorite speaker was one who talked about their career in science policy.
Beyond taking rigorous science-focused classes, Phartiyal started to take courses in law and policy studies during her time at UW–Madison, and she started talking with people outside of academia. She volunteered with the American Heart Association and joined their advocacy efforts in Washington, D.C. Soon after, Phartiyal landed a fellowship with Research!America, a medical research advocacy organization, which helped her transition to a full time position with the American Association of Advancement of Science (AAAS). After a few years with AAAS, she had the opportunity to help launch a brand new initiative for the Center for Science and Democracy, at the Union of Concerned Scientists where she currently works.
“Even though science policy is a career path which is not very well defined, a lot of opportunities exist, if you have the creativity and persistence and to seek them out.”
Phartiyal is now the Senior Analyst and Program Manager for the Center where she advocates for the use of science in solving pressing societal problems. She said skills she gained pursuing her PhD help her in her current position and advises, “A basic requirement for being a good scientist is to have curiosity, loads of it, but also to channel this curiosity towards a defined problem, don’t under-estimate the skills you gain during school like team environment, dedication and critical thinking.”
In her current position she promotes the crucial link between science and technology with democratic decision making. Using independent research, analyses, and effective advocacy, her work helps UCS create innovative and practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future.
Phartiyal enjoys her career in science policy and likes that she can bring real-world change in policy making and corporate accountability by bringing science and data closer to the needs of the people.