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CCU’s Rick Peterson named an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow

August 5, 2019
CCU’s Rick Peterson named an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow

Rick Peterson, an associate professor in the Department of Coastal and Marine Systems Science at Coastal Carolina University, has been awarded an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF) with a placement within the Department of Defense, in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Threat Reduction and Arms Control. He is the first professor from CCU to earn this fellowship.

“This office leads the DoD’s efforts to defend against current and future nuclear, chemical and biological attacks,” said Peterson. “I am excited to learn about the role of science in contributing to policy decisions at the highest levels of our government!”

Peterson is among 278 highly trained scientists and engineers who will spend a year serving professionally in federal agencies and congressional offices. The U.S. government benefits from the contributions of STPF fellows while fellows learn first-hand about federal policymaking and implementation.

The fellowship program is operated as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) mission to advance science and serve society. The program aims to support evidence-based policymaking by engaging the knowledge and analytical mindset of science and engineering experts, and foster leaders for a strong U.S. science and technology enterprise. Fellows represent a broad range of disciplines, backgrounds and career stages.

The 2019-20 class is comprised of 278 fellows sponsored by AAAS and partner societies. Of these, 33 will serve in Congress and 245 in the executive branch among 19 federal agencies or departments.

“We are truly happy to welcome the 47th class of Science & Technology Policy Fellows this fall,” said STPF Director Jennifer Pearl. “The incoming class of fellows are on their way to making a big step forward in advancing science and society.”

Peterson’s background is in nuclear chemistry, specifically from an environmental and oceanographic perspective. He uses natural nuclear isotopes to study the timing of various processes associated with the water cycle on land and in the ocean, and he has led several research trips involving CCU students to study isotopes in the Amazon River plume and the Gulf of Mexico.

“While studying environmental nuclear isotopes is scientifically valuable, it lacks the societal relevance associated with topics involving nuclear weapons and energy production,” he said. “This fellowship will allow me to build upon my scientific background to better understand nuclear chemistry principles as they pertain to these topics that impact our national security. I am particularly interested in learning about the history of our nation’s nuclear policies and how those policies may need to be amended in response to emerging nuclear threats across the globe.”

The Office of Threat Reduction and Arms Control in the DOD is responsible for leading the efforts to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related materials that may be used to construct those weapons. Peterson will gain in-depth experience in nuclear-based weapons materials and have the opportunity to engage in international efforts to reduce the spread of chemical and biological weapons.

Since the program’s inception in 1973, more than 3,000 fellows have supported the executive, judicial and legislative branches of the U.S. government seeding every corner of Washington and beyond with a high caliber of scientific know-how. After the fellowship, many fellows remain in the policy arena working at the federal, state, regional or international level. Others pursue careers in industry or the nonprofit sector. Those who choose academia often teach or mentor students to understand the policy context for research and the importance of science communication.

Along that vein, the experience for Peterson will translate into a better education for CCU students as graduate programs in the Department of Coastal and Marine Systems Science at CCU strive to enhance delivery of policy-related content to its students.

“An opportunity such as this – while clearly speaking to the excellence of an individual faculty member, Dr. Peterson – also points to the overall excellence of the academic programs at Coastal Carolina University, an overall excellence that impacts the entire graduate and undergraduate student experience,” said Michael Roberts, dean of the Gupta College of Science at CCU.

Visit to learn more about the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, as well as Science Translational Medicine; Science Signaling; a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances; Science Immunology; and Science Robotics. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The nonprofit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For additional information about AAAS, see