The Stanford Woods Institute announced today the 2014 cohort for its Rising Environmental Leaders Program (RELP), an innovative interdisciplinary initiative that exposes graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to national policy development, partnership building and public service careers.

The 22 participants were selected from a competitive field representing six of Stanford’s seven schools. Their research interests span a wide range, including the brain science behind environmental decision-making, fisheries management optimization, changing landscapes’ effect on infectious disease transmission and development of non-petroleum-based plastics.

"The RELP program allows young and emerging leaders to learn how their work can help in informing strong public policy,” said Stanford Woods Institute Co-Director Buzz Thompson (Law). “RELP always draws the very best young scientists at Stanford, but this year's cohort is the strongest ever."

RELP builds leadership and communications skills with experiential learning and exposure to leaders from government, NGOs, think tanks and business. A key component of the program is an intensive weeklong program in Washington that introduces participants to a range of government-sector professionals and pushes participants to strategize ways for maximizing the impact of their research. Hosted in partnership with the Bing Stanford in Washington Program, this “boot camp” gives participants firsthand knowledge of how to fund research, build networks, inform policymakers and communicate science research to nonscientists. During 2014, RELP will expand to become a broader, year-long leadership program focused on training, experience and networking.

“I am an engineer and think about everything in an engineering context,” said RELP participant Bryce Anzelmo, an energy resources engineering graduate student interested in developing natural gas-powered transportation. “Public policy is shaped in a different frame. I would like to get a sense of how I can work with – not against – policymakers.”

"I am keen to learn more about how to design research to make it useful for policymaking, how to translate results to operational advice, and how to communicate this advice effectively,” said Nina Overgaard Therkildsen, a postdoctoral scholar in biology who wants to make fisheries management more sustainable.

“Sanitation and environmental conservation are mostly public goods, so any large initiative in these domains needs the government and policy to succeed,” said Sebastien Tilmans, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student working on a program to install portable, affordable dry household toilets in the developing world. He is also part of the 2014 cohort.

Beyond opening participants’ eyes to a diverse range of perspectives, insights and experience, RELP is designed to create an interdisciplinary network with a common set of experiences to support and enhance each other’s research and career opportunities. Ideally, this network results in more diverse and practical environmental research projects and learning opportunities during and after the participants’ time at Stanford.