The U.S. Department of State has selected seven distinguished scientists to serve as U.S. Science Envoys in January 2023: Dr. Catherine Drew Harvell, Dr. Jessica Gephart, Dr. Christine Kreuder Johnson, Dr. LaShanda Korley, Dr. Prineha Narang, Ms. Frances Seymour, and Dr. Kyle Whyte.
Through the Science Envoy Program, eminent U.S. scientists and engineers leverage their expertise and networks to forge connections and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation to advance solutions to shared challenges, champion innovation, and demonstrate America’s scientific leadership and technical ingenuity.
Like their 23 predecessors, the scientists were approved by the Secretary of State.
They travel as private citizens to engage internationally with civil society as well as government interlocutors.
Science Envoys help inform the Department of State, other U.S. government agencies, and the scientific community about opportunities for science and technology cooperation although they rarely get much notice for this work.
The 2023 cohort was selected because of their expertise in key issues facing the world today and will focus on these priority areas during their service which include: Ocean Conservation and Marine Protected Areas; Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing; One Health and Zoonotic Diseases; Plastic Pollution; Quantum Information Science and Technology; Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change; and, the Nexus of Environmental Science and Indigenous Knowledge.
Catherine Drew Harvell is Professor Emerita of Cornell University, Affiliate Faculty University of Washington, and Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Harvell’s research on sustainability of the oceans has taken her from the coral reefs of the Caribbean and Pacific to the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. Her current research focuses on health of top predators and seagrass meadows in the transboundary waters of the Salish Sea. Her recent book, Ocean Outbreak, details infectious epidemics in the ocean and solutions that benefit people and biodiversity. Her awards include the Cornell SUNY Chancellors Award for Excellence, Ecological Society of America Sustainability Award, Seattle Aquarium Conservation Award, Prose Award (Ocean Outbreak), National Outdoor Book Award (A Sea of Glass).
Jessica Gephart is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Science at American University. Dr. Gephart received her Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. Her research focuses on the intersection of seafood globalization and environmental change, evaluating how seafood trade drives distant environmental impacts, as well as how environmental shocks disrupt seafood trade. Her work brings together global trade data, local consumption data, and environmental impact data to understand the opportunities and risks of seafood globalization for sustainable production and food security.
Christine Kreuder Johnson is a Professor of Epidemiology and Ecosystem Health and Director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine. Her work is committed to transdisciplinary research to characterize the impacts of environmental change on animal and human health and guide public policy to mitigate pandemic threats. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine for pioneering approaches to surveillance of emerging diseases at the animal-human interface and investigating environmental and climate-related drivers for spillover of viruses. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
LaShanda Korley is a Distinguished Professor in Materials Science and Engineering and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), American Chemical Society Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering (ACS PMSE), and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE). She also is the Director of an Energy Frontier Research Center—the Center for Plastics Innovation (CPI)—funded by the Department of Energy. Korley is a global leader in using biologically inspired and sustainable principles for the molecular design, manufacture, and valorization of functional polymeric systems.
Prineha Narang is a Professor and Howard Reiss Chair in Physical Sciences at UCLA where she leads an interdisciplinary group in quantum science and technology. Prior to moving to UCLA, she was an Assistant Professor of Computational Materials Science at Harvard University. Before starting on the Harvard faculty, Dr. Narang was an Environmental Fellow at Harvard, and worked as a research scholar in condensed matter theory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She received an M.S. and Ph.D. in Applied Physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Narang’s work has been recognized by many honors, including APS’ Maria Goeppert Mayer Award and the Mildred Dresselhaus Prize.
Frances Seymour is an expert on tropical forests and climate change. She is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the World Resources Institute, Chairs the Board of the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions, and is lead author of the book, Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change. Seymour has lived and worked in Indonesia for 11 years, including six years as Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), for which she was awarded France’s Order of Agricultural Merit. She holds an M.P.A. from Princeton University and a B.S. from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Kyle Whyte is a professor in the environmental justice specialization at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. He is founding Faculty Director of the Tishman Center for Social Justice and the Environment and Principal Investigator of the Energy Equity Project. Dr. Whyte serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and as the Chapter Lead Author for the Tribes and Indigenous Peoples chapter of the U.S. National Climate Assessment. His research focuses on Indigenous peoples’ rights and knowledge in climate change and conservation planning, education, and policy. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
Through the Science Envoy Program, eminent U.S. scientists and engineers leverage their expertise and networks to forge connections and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation. Science Envoys focus on issues of common interest in science, technology, and engineering fields and usually serve for one year. They are instrumental in strengthening our bilateral science and technology relationships, reaching out to foreign publics, and advancing policy objectives such as increasing the number of women in science and advocating for science-based decision-making by:
- Building peer-to-peer connections between in-country researchers and the U.S. scientific community
- Advocating for merit-based, transparent, peer-reviewed scientific institutions
- Promoting science education and public engagement, highlighting the role of science in society
- Advising U.S. government representatives on programs and opportunities which may support collaborative activities
The Science Envoys are leaders in academia, Nobel prizewinners, distinguished authors and government advisors. Their areas of expertise include chemistry, physics, agronomy, medicine, engineering, and evolutionary biology. Since 2010, 19 Envoys have visited 50 countries across Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, South America, and Southeast Asia and have engaged with dozens of government officials, including Heads of State. Science Envoys meet government and non-government science officials, convene meetings on topics at the intersection of foreign policy and science, technology, innovation including in the areas of oceans, emerging technology, wildlife conservation, public health, STEM education and diversity, and energy.