A Milestone Year for the ASME Federal Government Fellows Program
Apr 9, 2015
Since 1973, ASME's Federal Government Fellowship Program has been providing Society members with the opportunity to interact with legislators and provide much-needed engineering and technical expertise advice during the U.S. policy-making process. For the first time in the program's history, three female ASME members — Gloria Wiens, Briana Tomboulian and Maureen Fang — are serving simultaneously as ASME Federal Government Fellows.
The ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program enables ASME members to devote a year working in government, providing technical advice to policy makers and key federal agencies. Traditionally, ASME Federal Fellows have served in either the Executive or Legislative Branch.
One of the three Fellows, Gloria Wiens, PhD, is currently in the middle of her second term as an ASME Foundation Swanson Fellow. The Swanson Fellowship was established in 2010 in recognition of ASME Honorary Member and Fellow Dr. John A. Swanson. All ASME Federal Fellows who serve their fellowship terms in the Executive Branch are designated as ASME Foundation Swanson Fellows.
Dr. Wiens, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Florida, has spent her two terms as a Swanson Fellow serving as the assistant director for research partnerships at the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (NPO), which is hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. In this capacity, she works with Advanced Manufacturing NPO and federal agency staff to plan, design and develop formal documents for announcements and solicitations for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes, and to manage physical and electronic outreach efforts to non-federal stakeholders on advanced manufacturing issues.
During her first term as a Swanson Fellow, Wiens served as executive secretary for the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0, a committee under the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Since August, she has been chair and executive secretary for the Advanced Manufacturing NPO Interagency Working Team, which plans and coordinates federal advanced manufacturing activities and develops policy documents for the NNMI.
With her second term coming to a close this September, Wiens noted that while the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program’s ultimate goal is to improve U.S. policy as it relates to engineering and technology, the program also offers considerable benefits for the engineers who are selected.
“The ASME Fellows Program brings the engineering perspective into the government decision process and program development,” she said. “It provides the underlying technical foundation necessary for strengthening and providing technical creditability and content in government proposals, subsequent actions and approaches for addressing issues and program development.” In addition, she said the program “provides networking, greater perspective and opportunity to contribute in a way that enables one to have a greater impact on the nation as a whole, and greater awareness of opportunities that may not normally be realized." The program also heightens the visibility of women engineers as experts within the profession, she said.
A second ASME Federal Fellow, Briana Tomboulian, Ph.D., also began her one-year term as an “ASME Congressional Engineering Fellow” in January. Dr. Tomboulian, who is serving in the office of Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst last June, and had previously served as a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow for three years, researching heat radiator designs for an in-space nuclear electric propulsion system.
As an ASME Congressional Engineering Fellow for Sen. Markey, a noted supporter of the environment and clean energy, Tomboulian provides technical expertise on energy and environmental issues. Her responsibilities range from composing memos and remarks for the Senator, preparing him for congressional hearings and committee meetings, conducting research for his speeches, meeting with constituents and interest groups, and working on longer-term projects. The opportunity to serve in a Senator’s personal office affords Tomboulian a unique opportunity to learn about the legislative process from the inside.
Inspired by her grandmother, who was a state legislator and environmental advocate in Michigan, Tomboulian began participating in congressional visit days organized by technical advocacy groups during graduate school. After several trips to Washington, D.C., where she discussed the need to support R&D funding for NASA and other STEM programs with Massachusetts Congressional Delegates, she knew she had found her niche.
“I really loved the human side of policy — negotiating and communicating the issues affecting my community,” Tomboulian said. “I felt like I could have a much broader impact with my skill set through policy work versus pure research. I wanted to complete my doctorate to strengthen my technical and research abilities, and then hone the policy side of things. I’ve always wanted to make a difference, to serve society in some way. I was so thrilled when I was offered the ASME Congressional Engineering Fellowship.”
Tomboulian agreed that women engineers could benefit from the experience, noting that the Federal Fellows program opens the door to many alternative paths for women and other minorities in the engineering profession. "It's nice to have another option as an engineer,” she said. “The program has opened my eyes to exciting non-traditional career paths that incorporate activities and responsibilities that draw on more of my personal strengths. This is an opportunity for me to be a mechanical engineer, but in a different capacity that is really inspiring.”
This year, ASME also introduced a new fellowship based outside of Washington, D.C. — the Advanced Manufacturing Fellowship — which was established at the Youngstown, Ohio, headquarters of the America Makes innovation center. Maureen Fang, the Society's inaugural Advanced Manufacturing Fellow, began her year-long term in January.
America Makes, which launched three years ago as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute and is managed by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, was established to help the United States expand its capacities in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, by encouraging collaboration among leaders from business, academia, non-profit organizations and government agencies on areas such as design, materials, technology and workforce development.
Fang, a former Pratt & Whitney mechanical engineer and current PhD candidate in mechanical engineering technology at Purdue University, works with Mike Hripko, the center's workforce and education outreach deputy director, to develop new programs for disseminating both emerging and production-level additive manufacturing information, tools and techniques to U.S. industry and to the community colleges and colleges of engineering who are preparing the next generation of engineers and technicians. Although ASME and America Makes are still working on the details, these programs may include continuing education courses for practicing engineers and managers through the Society's Training & Development department, and 3D printing curriculum integration reports, guidelines and webinars that would be developed for colleges and universities by ASME's Engineering Education program. Ultimately, the ASME Advanced Manufacturing Fellowship aims to create value for America Makes and ASME by leveraging the strengths and capabilities of both organizations.
Although working full-time during her fellowship at America Makes, Fang continues to work on her PhD research and dissertation — at night and on the weekends — and is on track to receive her doctorate sometime this year. Fang, who held positions in manufacturing, design, quality, and structures engineering departments while employed at Pratt & Whitney, says the fellowship has been “a wonderful opportunity. The timing was perfect because I finished most of my responsibilities at Purdue and now have the opportunity to perform my research off campus while doing this fellowship. The Advanced Manufacturing Fellowship has offered me so much in terms of learning a new type of technology and working for a private-public partnership type of organization, which is different for me. I come from industry, so being able to work with a non-profit organization like ASME and a public-private partnership like America Makes is very exciting. I’m grateful to be here.”
The ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program is made possible through the financial support of the ASME Foundation. To learn more about ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program, visit www.asme.org/about-asme/get-involved/advocacy-government-relations/federal-fellows-program.