Career Strategy Fellowships Study Abroad Summer Session CAREER LINK

GSAS Alumni Spotlight: Ian Simon, Science Policy Analyst

You are here

What did you study at Yale and what is your current profession/job? 

I am a science policy analyst at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI).  I entered the BBS program in 2002 via the Microbial Pathogenesis track and graduated in 2008.  I studied the pathology and immunology of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) as a viral vaccine vector.

What do you like most about your current role? What do you find most challenging and/or rewarding?

What I like most about my role is being able to work with dozens of very smart, dedicated people, both inside and outside of the U.S. government, who work extremely hard to advance science in this country and use the best science to advance society.  What I find most challenging is working though the bureaucratic and political challenges that are inherent in government and national policy decision making. 

The most rewarding part of my role is that it affords me a way to inform national policy decisions through analyses that are grounded in evidence and scientific thinking.   But, this is an ideal that is not always achieved. 

How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?

My time at Yale was instrumental in shaping my career trajectory.  Exposure to the brilliant and rich tapestry that is the Yale community allowed me to explore my interests in politics and policy while being around best minds in science, environmental justice, law, medicine, economics, history, etc.  I met alumni who previously took this career path, which gave me confidence to explore my own career path in science policy.

What are the main skills that you acquired as a PhD student which help make you successful in your current career?

Like all PhD students, I acquired many transferrable skills that are valuable for one’s career in or out of academic science, including analytical thinking skills, the ability to synthesize and analyze complex technical information, and presentation skills.

Did you acquire any professional experience related to your line of work while in graduate school?

While in graduate school, I did many things to acquire experience that proved to be valuable professionally.  But, I sought out those experiences because I was truly interested in the efforts or activities, rather than to build up my resume.  I participated in Congressional lobby days, served as GSA Chair, co-organized genetic freedom briefings on Capitol Hill, audited public health economics courses, and volunteered with United Way of New Haven.  How?  I just put myself out there, looked for opportunities to learn, and said yes to anything that piqued interest.

What advice would you offer PhDs who are interested in your line of work?

I would advise BBS students who are interested in science policy to spend time outside of the lab, volunteering, participating, and engaging as much as you can to learn about the different aspects of science policy.  There are many sides to science policy, and it is not just one field, area or activity.  So don’t be shy about exploring and learning about the parts you like and the activities of least interest.  BBS has many alumni who have taken this path, so ask them for informational interviews to learn more.

GSAS ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT

This GSAS Alumni Spotlight is part of an ongoing series featuring PhD alumni who have chosen non-faculty careers.