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Science Outside the Lab

Science Outside the Lab

Science Outside the Lab

Nanotechnology and Policy

"Science Outside the Lab" is a workshop in Washington, D.C. that is an introduction to how the federal government impacts and is impacted by science and technology. The program explores the relationships among science, innovation, policy, and societal outcomes. In 2024 the Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure Southwest and the NNCI Coordinating Office will be sponsoring two programs. The first will be a three-day program tailored for university faculty in the sciences and engineering. The second will be a week-long program tailored for PhD students in the sciences and engineering.

The faculty program will be held May 29th – 31st, 2024.

The graduate student program will be held June 2nd – June 8th, 2024.

Application Due Date: Feb. 26, 2024 (12 midnight MST)

Student Application   |   Faculty Application

Both programs are customized and sponsored by the Nanotechnology Collaborative Infrastructure Southwest (NCI-SW) and the NNCI Coordinating Office. They will investigate the context of government decision-making about science and engineering with a focus on the Federal Government’s role in nanotechnology. During the workshop participants meet and interact with groups of people who fund, regulate, shape, critique, publicize, and study nanotechnology and other emerging technologies. This includes people like congressional staffers, lobbyists, funding agency officers, regulators, journalists, academics, museum curators, and others.


Science Outside the Lab brings a small cohort of scholars into a participatory learning environment, allowing extensive access to speakers and educational opportunities. The goal is to expose participants to as many different viewpoints as possible and help them understand how people and institutions influence and learn from science.


Graduate students, postdocs and faculty affiliated with the universities that participate in the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) who are interested in how decisions are made about science and innovation funding, regulation, and policy are encouraged to apply to this program. 


NCI-SW and the NNCI Coordinating Office will cover program fees, housing, most meals, local transportation, and transportation to and from Washington, D.C. for participants chosen for the graduate student/postdoc program.

NCI-SW and the NNCI Coordinating office will cover program fees and some meals for participants chosen for the faculty program. Faculty participants will need to arrange their own transportation and housing. 


Program Alumni Testimonials

“We may think of the lab as the residence of science. The place where the thinking happens, and the discoveries are made. And for many graduate students, including myself, the scope of research tends to stay within this bubble. But there’s a larger picture beyond the lab, whether it be current challenges related to science at a regulatory or policy level, or what the outcomes of research may have on the public. It is a vast space, and the Science Outside the Lab (SotL) program has provided first-hand experience of this larger view of science.

My time with SotL has helped me to see what I can do, as a scientist, to link my work to the larger conversation about science. I feel as though I’ve reinvented myself as a scientist as I move forward and apply this new multidisciplinary lens to my research. It’s motivated me to initiate new collaborations and expand the breadth of my graduate work, actions that may have otherwise not occurred if I had not had the opportunity to explore this novel perspective to the academic landscape.”

          - Pat McGurrin, PhD Candidate, Neuroscience, ASU, 2016 Nano SOtL

"I thoroughly enjoyed my week in the SOTL program, an eye-opening experience into how different policymakers and stakeholders interface and engage with science. Over the course of a week, our group spoke to people from all three branches of government and various lobbyists and funding agencies. It was absolutely amazing to experience this in DC where each conversation had a distinct backdrop -- the Supreme Court, the EPA, the Senate office. I walked in hoping to learn more about how the government uses scientific information to make funding decisions, but the program ultimately prompted me to reflect more deeply on the responsibilities that scientists have in both designing socially conscious research and sharing it in a way that avoids misconceptions."

          - Cathy Zhang, PhD Candidate, Applied Physics, Harvard University, 2018 Nano SOtL

"As a first-year grad student, I got A LOT out of the SOtL program. Everyone is always quick to ask you if your career plans are headed toward academia or industry, but already I haven't felt myself pulled to either. This was an extremely helpful eye-opening experience to see other ways that you can make a huge difference in the world with a PhD in STEM without necessarily doing research - but still putting your PhD experience to good use! After all of our meetings and networking, I really felt like I could see myself thriving in science policy. The whole week did a great job of exposing us to such a wide variety of jobs as well, all the way from communicating science to the general public to working directly on 'The Hill" to regulatory and executive agencies. Best of all, the program guests and alumni were exceptional resources to learn about HOW to get into these roles. Whether you absolutely know science policy is for you, or you just want to see what positions are out there in the world, SOtL is the perfect fit!"

          - Emily Schafer, Graduate Student, Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University, 2019 Nano SOtL

Faculty Program


"I’ve been around the science-policy area for the majority of my professional career. Going in, I was a little nervous that the faculty SOtL experience might be limited in terms of the new insights it could offer someone with my prior experience. I could not have been more wrong! Even meeting with DC-based colleagues and agencies I’d worked with for years offered new insights when experienced through the SOtL lens. The program was so incredibly well-done, insightful, and fun – I wouldn’t change a thing. Arguably the best 3 days I’ve ever spent in DC!"


          - Matt Hull, Virginia Tech, 2023 Faculty SOtL


"The 2023 Faculty Science Outside the Lab provided a thoughtful and thought-provoking sequence of activities to highlight aspects of how science, policy and society intersect.  Moving around D.C. and having many of the meetings in the locations where this work is done created a much richer experience than if these were remote meetings.  Similarly, creating an intensive experience over the three-days allowed for ongoing conversations among the participants that added depth and breadth to the many complex topics covered.  This was definitely one of the most unique, valuable and fun opportunities I've had this year."

         - Kristin Field, University of Pennsylvania, 2023 Faculty SOtL


NNCI graduate students Levi Helm (Arizona State Univ.), Campbell McColley (Oregon State Univ.), and Nasreen Khan (Georgia Tech) attended the "Science Outside the Lab" program in 2021 and discuss their experiences and science policy on the "Talk Green to Me" podcast, created by Nasreen and her colleague Manali Banerjee (Ph.D., Georgia Tech, 2021). Listen to the podcast here.

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