CLEMSON — A Clemson University behavioral scientist is the first faculty member from the university to be selected as a Jefferson Science Fellow, a prestigious, government-sponsored fellowship administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. June J. Pilcher, alumni distinguished professor in Clemson’s psychology department, is one of only five fellows from across the nation selected in 2018.
Pilcher will perform her work as a fellow in the U.S. Global Development Lab, which is part of the U.S. Agency for International Development. The fellowship is designed to connect government agencies with academia to achieve sound governmental policy and effective international development through the work of highly regarded scientists such as Pilcher.
Pilcher said she is excited to get started, but what exactly she’s getting started on has yet to be revealed. The lab tailors assignments to its needs, which change depending on the fellow’s expertise and the office’s needs. The ambiguity doesn’t seem to bother her.
“It’s hard to say what I’m looking forward to doing when I don’t know what that is, but I am looking forward to the experience,” Pilcher said, laughing. “I do know that I was selected because of my background, so regardless of what I’ll be doing I hope that my expertise will be helpful for people at home and abroad.”
Pilcher’s research background focuses on the effects of stress on individuals, and her previous work has examined how physical activity, sleep and the environment affect health and well-being. The lab’s goals in developing countries are tied just as much to helping people as they are to infrastructure or the environment, so Pilcher expects her expertise to address the health of people while other fellows address the basic needs around them.
The selection of a behavioral scientist as a Jefferson Science Fellow is unique. While researching the opportunity, Pilcher noted that at least 80 percent of the work of previous fellows fell into the field of engineering and agriculture.
“I knew this going into the interview process, so to be selected is really an honor,” Pilcher said. “I hope I can be the first of many from Clemson to participate in a program that helps to stabilize areas and benefit people on a global scale.”
Pilcher arrived in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 15 and will remain in the position for a full year. However, even after the fellowship year is complete and Pilcher returns to Clemson, she will remain available to the U.S. government as an experienced consultant for short-term projects.
Robert H. Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Clemson University, is excited to see what Pilcher will accomplish during her time as a fellow. He said the Jefferson Science Fellows program is important because it brings faculty scholars into the national and international policy arena to help facilitate better translation of technology into effective policy.
Jones said this work comes at a crucial time when technology is advancing at ever-increasing rates, yet solutions to issues facing humanity remain difficult to implement because social and political systems work at a much slower pace. He said this prestigious program selects from among the best faculty in the nation, and he hopes Pilcher’s inclusion can entice further applications and involvement from faculty.
“Dr. Pilcher’s outstanding level of scholarship and leadership combined with her ability to translate ideas across disciplines make her an ideal candidate,” Jones said. “I am pleased that she has received this well-deserved recognition, and I hope that as a pioneer for Clemson in this program her involvement will encourage others to consider following her precedent.”
The Jefferson Science Fellows program was established in October 2003 as a new model for engaging the American academic science, technology, engineering and medical communities in the formulation and implementation of U.S. foreign policy and international development programming. The program is administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and is supported through a partnership between the U.S. academic community, professional scientific societies, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The program is open to tenured or similarly ranked faculty from U.S. institutions of higher learning who are U.S. citizens. The application period opens in early August and closes at the end of October. Pilcher said she hopes interested faculty at Clemson will contact her for more information on the application and selection process.
Michael Staton is with the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences of Clemson University.