New Brunswick, N.J. — Liana Vaccari, from Metuchen, is one of four Rutgers University Eagleton Science Fellows who will assist  the State of New Jersey with issues ranging from maternal health outcomes to climate change resiliency.

The fellowship, led by Rutgers–New Brunswick’s Eagleton Institute of Politics, has appointed four scientists to positions in the New Jersey departments of health, human services, transportation and the Legislature. During their yearlong appointment they will serve as full-time science advisors to agency leaders and legislators. The fellowship is part of Rutgers’ Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative.

“Scientific issues are front and center in current national political conversations. The science initiative addresses the need for scientists, elected officials, and policymakers to communicate and work together to better inform public policy. The fellowship program puts that concept to the test by giving scientists the opportunity to serve in and engage with the state government,” said Anna Dulencin, senior program coordinator for the Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative.

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The four fellows – Liana Vaccari, a chemical engineer, Shin-Yi Lin, a biologist and neuroscientist, Andrew McAllister, an applied physicist, and Allison McCague, a human geneticist, were selected from a pool of candidates with Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the sciences for their interest in bringing scientific expertise to politics and government.

Dr. Vaccari received her PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Her fellowship is at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, where she will work on the climate change resilience project for NJDOT assets and infrastructure.  

“My interest in the intersection of science and politics is in large part about the need for communication and cross-talk. Scientists are also citizens with equal investment in a stable, prosperous society, and have cultivated a set of skills to interrogate data and address questions that arise in politics. Neither sector exists in a vacuum,” said Dr. Vaccari. “Participating in and taking care of your community is important, and as the adage goes, ‘decisions are made by those who show up.’ In a society with increasingly complex issues and a multitude of extremely pressing concerns, I look to public service as a means to use my skills to address such issues that impact broad swaths of the population.”

“At Eagleton, we study how American politics and government work and change, analyze how democracy might improve, and promote political participation and civic engagement. Through programs like the Eagleton Science and Politics Initiative and the science fellowship, Eagleton helps students, elected officials, and members of the public link the study of politics with its day-to-day practice,” said Eagleton associate director John Weingart.