April 19, 2024

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Announcement of the 2024 Cohort of U.S. Science Envoys

The U.S. Department of State has selected four distinguished scientists to serve as new U.S. Science Envoys in 2024:  Dr. Rumman Chowdhury; Dr. Stephanie “Steffi” Diem; Dr. Sian Proctor; and Dr. Dawn Wright.  Through the U.S. Science Envoy Program, eminent U.S. scientists and engineers leverage their expertise and networks to forge connections and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation to advance solutions to shared challenges, champion innovation, and demonstrate America’s scientific leadership and technical ingenuity.  The scientists selected to participate in 2024 make up the first all-female cohort in the history of the U.S. Science Envoy Program.

The U.S. Science Envoy program was established by the Secretary of State in 2010.  Like their 30 predecessors, the 2024 Cohort will travel as private U.S. citizens to engage internationally with civil society as well as government interlocutors.  Science Envoys help inform the Department of State, other U.S. government agencies, and the scientific community about opportunities for science and technology cooperation.  The Department selected the 2024 cohort to take advantage of their expertise in key issues facing the world today:  Artificial Intelligence; Fusion Energy; Civil Use of Space; and Ocean Sustainability.

Dr. Rumman Chowdhury is a data scientist and social scientist.  She is the CEO of Humane Intelligence, a technology nonprofit that builds a community of practice around evaluations of artificial intelligence (AI) models.  Dr. Chowdhury is also a Responsible AI Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.  Previously, Dr. Chowdhury served as Director of the Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability (META) team at Twitter, as well as the Global Lead for Responsible AI at Accenture Applied Intelligence.  She has earned numerous awards and accolades, including Time Magazine’s 100 most Influential People in AI, BBC’s 100 Women, Worthy Magazine’s top 100, the Bay Area’s top 40 under 40, and Forbes’ labeled her one of Five Who are Shaping AI.  Dr. Chowdhury holds two undergraduate degrees from MIT, a M.S. in Quantitative Methods of the Social Sciences from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, San Diego.

Dr. Stephanie “Steffi” Diem is an Assistant Professor in Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison).  Her experimental plasma physics research focuses on using microwaves to heat and drive current in magnetically confined, high-temperature plasmas for fusion energy development.  Dr. Diem is the Principal Investigator of the new Pegasus-III experiment that is developing innovative ways to start up future fusion power plants.  She is a member of the New Voices of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), and was a speaker at the White House Summit on Developing a Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy.  Prior to joining UW-Madison, she worked as a R&D Scientist in the Fusion Energy Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and served a long-term assignment at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility at General Atomics in San Diego, CA.  Dr. Diem received her B.S. in Nuclear Engineering at UW-Madison and Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University.

Dr. Sian Proctor is a Geoscience Professor at the Maricopa Community Colleges, an Afrofuturism Space Artist, and an Astronaut.  She is the Chief Inspiration Astronaut of Space2inspire and founder of The Proctor Foundation for Art and Science.  In 2021, she was the mission pilot for SpaceX Inspiration4, the first all-civilian orbital mission.  Dr. Proctor is the first female commercial astronaut spaceship pilot and the only African American woman to ever be a space mission pilot.  She is also the first African-American commercial astronaut, and the first African-American to paint in space.  She is currently serving as a member of the National Space Council Users’ Advisory Group, representing the Maricopa Community Colleges.  Her motto is “Space2inspire,” where she encourages people to use their unique strengths and passion to inspire themselves and those within their reach.  She believes that we need to actively strive for a just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive (J.E.D.I.) space both on Earth and beyond.  Dr. Proctor holds a B.S. in Environmental Science, an M.S. in Geology, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education from Arizona State University.

Dr. Dawn Wright is a geographer and oceanographer, Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri), and Courtesy Professor at Oregon State University.  Her work has focused on mapping the ocean floor in locations all over the world.  Dr. Wright has also assisted with several outreach and policy programs, hoping to encourage more minority and female students to consider a career in the sciences.  In 1991, Dr. Wright became the first African-American woman to dive to the ocean floor in Alvin, a deep-sea submersible vehicle, and in 2022 she became the first, and only, African-American to dive to Challenger Deep, the deepest point on Earth.  An elected member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, as well as the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Wright earned a Ph.D. in Physical Geography and Marine Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Dr. Wright also holds a B.S. cum laude in Geology from Wheaton College (Illinois), and an M.S. in Oceanography from Texas A&M.

In 2024, the U.S. Science Envoy Program is also extending the work of three members from the 2023 Cohort:  Dr. Jessica Gephart from the University of Washington, Dr. Prineha Narang from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dr. Kyle Whyte from the University of Michigan.  These Science Envoys will continue their terrific S&T cooperation in the areas of: illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing; quantum information science and technology; and the nexus of environmental science and Indigenous knowledge.

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