"The WISE summer changed my life" is how Marc Canellas, a senior in
mechanical engineering at the University of Missouri in
Columbia, Mo., describes two and a half eye-opening months spent on
Capitol Hill as part of the Washington Internships for Students of
Engineering (WISE) program.
"I thought I knew a lot about NASA, commercial space flight, and space
policy" starts Canellas, “but when I started the WISE internship, I
learned there is so much more to know." Canellas enjoyed his D.C.
immersion in space policy and the politics of NASA. “I was impressed,” he
notes, “by the fact that Members of Congress have reams of statistics and data on such items as dollars spent, dollars allocated, satellites designed, or
satellites launched. However, what they don't have is information on the
intangibles. They can't see how much space flight has inspired and
continues to inspire generations; how research for space exploration
helps to push the envelope of technology; and how these concepts generate
Canellas urges scientists and engineers to get involved, and to be more
vocal about engineering policy--primarily because they can articulate and
appreciate these intangibles. "Scientists and engineers need to be more
vocal in a bipartisan fashion. Congress needs us to help explain
technology,” he said. Canellas noted that the work IEEE is doing in articulating and advocating for science, engineering and technology policy is good--and, hopefully, influences other organizations to do the same--and also sponsor additional WISE interns. “It's not enough for just the lobbying
folks to participate, everyone should participate,” Canellas said.
Canellas, who claims he caught "Potomac Fever," followed his own advice
after returning to the University of Missouri. He wanted to
"instill in my fellow engineers the appreciation of the interaction
between public policy and engineering." This idea inspired a conference
to talk about the intersection of science and policy. The Engineering
Connections between Politics and Science for the 21st Century
conference brought together researchers, politicians and
professionals to discuss a range of issues on 13 March.
In addition to organizing a large conference, serving as an ambassador
for the College of Engineering, performing astrophysics research through
the McNair Scholars Program, and…oh yea, working on his capstone
project for graduation, Canellas still finds time play intramural sports and
His advice for all: "Find something you are passionate about--and go for
it." Canellas urges engineers to get involved, even if it may initially
be uncomfortable. “We have lots of skills and are fascinating people.
Ultimately, we are problem solvers,” he said, “We can put these
problem-solving skills to use—whether to advance technology, or to influence public policy to make the technology possible.”
Nita Patel is IEEE-USA’s VP of Communications and Public Relations.