Baylor Doctoral Student Selected as 2018 Congressional Science Fellow

Nov. 30, 2017
Zack ValdezZack Valdez, a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) at Baylor University, has been selected as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow. (Courtesy photo)

Zack Valdez will serve as a science adviser on public policy for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

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WACO, Texas (Nov. 30, 2017) – Zack Valdez, a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) at Baylor University, has been selected as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowships. Valdez’s fellowship is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).

Since 1973, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships have provided opportunities to connect science with policy and foster a network of science and engineering leaders who understand government and policymaking and are prepared to develop and execute solutions to address societal challenges. Fellows serve year-long assignments in Washington, D.C., applying their professional and scientific expertise in all branches of the federal government.

“I am grateful for this opportunity as the 2018 ASA, CSSA and SSSA Congressional Science Fellow and hope to learn more about the legislative process involved in energy production and policy, natural resource and climate risk management, sustainable development and STEM education,” said Valdez, who will serve as science adviser on public policy for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I am looking forward to communicating complex issues to policymakers in ways that improve the confidence in science as an objective position in decision-making.”

As an interdisciplinary scientist with extensive research and leadership skills acquired throughout academia, energy industry internships and NCAA athletics, Valdez is seeking to integrate his talents toward developing and communicating science-specific solutions for decision making in public policy. He developed a passion for science policy while working within the policy group of the Baylor Graduate Student Association and during his two visits to D.C. with the AAAS and ASA, CSSA and SSSA to advocate sound science in policymaking and preserving science-based research and education funding.

“The selection of Zack Valdez as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow is not only a credit to him, but also to his Ph.D. adviser, Dr. Bill Hockaday, and to the Baylor graduate TIEEES program,” said Steven G. Driese, Ph.D., associate dean for research in the Baylor Graduate School and professor of geosciences in the College of Arts & Sciences. “This valuable experience will surely open doors for Zack for a possible future career in science advising in government.”

Baylor’s Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) fosters the interaction and integration of biology, chemistry, environmental science and geosciences for the study of the behaviors, stresses and sustainability of Earth’s natural system at multiple scales. Valdez is an organic chemist with a focus on soil C cycling, soil health and sustainability and climate change associated with biofuel agriculture.

“We are proud of Zack and his accomplishments,” said William C. Hockaday, Ph.D., associate professor of geosciences and Valdez’s graduate adviser. “It’s an honor for Baylor University to have one of its talented young scientists working on Capitol Hill. After this yearlong fellowship, Zack will be part of a network of AAAS Policy Fellows. This should open doors for Zack to have an impactful career in science advocacy and policy.”

Valdez was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2012 for his Ph.D. research at Baylor, which focused on the impacts of agricultural management practices on soil organic matter quantity and quality in biofuel crops. Specifically, he is researching combining molecular and thermal analysis techniques to understand the stability of belowground C pools to decomposition with changing land use and climate.

“This is an incredible honor for one of Baylor’s students. The competition for such appointments is fierce, which is a testament to Zack’s research and leadership skills,” said Lee C. Nordt, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of geosciences.

Valdez received his bachelor’s degree in engineering and physics from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and seven academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences.

ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PROVOST FOR RESEARCH

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) assists faculty members from all academic units in identifying, obtaining and managing the funding needed to support their research and scholarship. Internal 'seed' funding, matching grant proposal funding, searchable online funding databases, grant writing seminars, proposal support and travel awards to national funding agencies are only a portion of what is provided by the various units comprising the OVPR. Additionally, the Vice Provost for Research oversees the ethical conduct of research and assists researchers in maintaining compliance with applicable policies, laws, and regulations as well as providing support in establishing interdisciplinary / international collaborations and industry partnerships.

The OVPR acts as Baylor's representative in pursuing partnerships and collaborative agreements with entities outside the university. The office negotiates sponsored research agreements with industry on behalf of faculty and pursues research, technology transfer, and the commercialization of technology. The OVPR welcomes the opportunity to discuss collaborative research and scholarship pursuits that can advance the academic mission of Baylor University to achieve R1/T1 status.

The OVPR also manages and operates the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), a three-story, 330,000-square-foot facility focused on interdisciplinary/international research, industry/university collaborations, business incubation/acceleration/commercialization, advanced workforce training, and STEM educational research and outreach.

For more information, please visit: www.baylor.edu/research or www.baylor.edu/bric.

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