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Where Are They Now? Former Research!America Intern Gwendolyn Bogard’s Journey into Government Relations

Research!America relies on interns and fellows, whose skills drive our mission forward. In this new blog series, we are catching up with previous interns and fellows to see how Research!America impacted their career, helped them build transferable skills, and network with experts in the science and medical research landscape.

Gwendolyn Bogard was the Science Policy Intern at Research!America prior to transitioning to Policy and Advocacy Program Associate in 2020. Gwendolyn has been paving her own path in the science communication world since her undergraduate experience at Southern Oregon University where she received her bachelor’s in chemistry. She describes her communication interest as “the interface of the scientific community and policymakers.” After her time at Research!America, Gwendolyn began work as a Government Relations Associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She is responsible for the AAAS Policy Alert –  a weekly newsletter about science policy, organizing events and programs like AAAS Golden Goose Award, which honors federally funded research; she also helps with different trainings for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as legislative tracking and analysis.

Here are some highlights from our conversation with Gwendolyn.

Interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What made you choose Research!America for your internship?

“I am from Oregon and did not have any idea about the [science communication] landscape of D.C. I had done some more interpersonal, one-on-one science communication, public community outreach work. But I was interested in a larger scale, broader outlook of science communication. So, in the process of applying, I talked to the folks at Research!America, and because it is in the policy and advocacy space, it was something I hadn’t done before. They did a really good job, both before and throughout the internship, of making it very clear that I didn’t need policy experience coming in and it seemed welcoming.”

What were some of the projects that you worked on while you were at Research!America?

“During the communications internship, much of it was figuring out what a communications job looks like. I did a lot of social media – drafting tweets. Since it was such a small team, everyone worked closely with other departments. So, even though I was doing the comms internship, I was working with the policy folks all the time, which was originally why I started getting interested in the policy and advocacy side of things. I did a chunk of promotion for the Civic Engagement Microgrants. I worked on the disease fact sheets. I worked with Ellie on an op-ed about general research funding, and I believe it was published in USA Today. We were working on communication around [COVID-19] and advocating for emergency funding, a very epidemiology public health focus. I also helped with the 2020 National Health Research Forum that we hosted online.”

What hard skills were you able to take away from your time at Research!America?

“One was graphic design, which I didn’t anticipate. [The supervisors] are very good at trusting interns to explore and try new things, so I got some graphic design experience, which was awesome. This is more of a soft skill, but networking was big. I hadn’t done any formal networking before. I made the decision that this was going to be the summer I go up to people and introduce myself. I spent three months desensitizing myself and it served me incredibly well. Writing for policy, condensing information so that it’s useful for others within the policy world and social media.”

What did you enjoy most about your time at Research!America?

“The way that [Research!America] trusts interns to come in and take on substantive work is really special. I haven’t seen that in other places. Also, the idea of introducing folks to a new field. Maybe they just have the science background, but whether it’s comms or policy, [Research!America] was comfortable taking someone who was learning from the ground up and teaching them things.”

What have you been up to since you left Research!America?

“I went directly from the program associate role at Research!America into my current government relations associate role at AAAS. I think [Research!America] was supportive, especially Ellie who was an advocate for me as I was doing this job process. I just hit two and a half years here and it’s been the perfect starter job. I like and respect the team that I work with right now. We’re a small office and, similarly with Research!America, I came in and they trusted me to get going and I’ve been able to continue learning and I also feel like I’m taking ownership of things now.”

How did your time at Research!America align with the work you do now?

“AAAS and Research!America work together so much that I think the advocacy goals are similar. I think our strategy, as far as having a nonpartisan approach, [are similar]. Learning about the landscape of science policy, there are all sorts of different organizations and experts that fill different niches and younger organizations that are doing activism. And then there are organizations like AAAS and Research!America that have these long-standing connections in the landscape. So, it was a smooth transition into AAAS because I really understood how to navigate working with a lot of experts in their fields. I don’t feel intimidated. I think, too, the idea of how we traditionally do advocacy, what are the different tools that we have in our toolbox, like press releases, letters, op-eds, or individual conversations.”

What drives you to stay in the science research and advocacy space?

“A big part of it is that I get to keep learning about research all the time, and people doing fascinating, exciting, and important work. Learning every single day on the job is important to me. I feel like the work that we’re doing is important. Especially with current events, the global and national situations that we’re in with lots of different issues. I think there’s an ever-growing need for folks who can step in, be that translator, and advocate for the scientific community for research.”

Is there any advice that you would give current or future interns?

“Take note of what you like and what you don’t like, what works for you as an intern and as an early career professional in the field. For those who are new to the internship, I think being ready to learn and being patient with yourself as you’re drinking from the firehose of information that is the policy landscape. Get better at networking. Throw yourself into that, whether it’s in-person events, or doing informational interviews. They were uncomfortable and can be awkward at first, but you get so much better with practice.”

Is there anything else that you’d like to share about your time at Research!America or your professional journey?

“I learned so much. Looking back, it’s so stressful to start figuring out your career, especially if something is your first internship. It seems like everyone else has things figured out. Now I have found a very solid [job] that I really like, and I’m interested in, with science policy and science communication. There’s space for everyone in this area.”