7 people posing for photo in front of building (State Dept.)
The incoming cohort of U.S. Science Envoys outside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington for an orientation briefing February 2. From left: Jessica Gephart, Frances Seymour, Kyle Whyte, Drew Harvell, LaShanda Korley, Christine Kreuder Johnson and Prineha Narang. (State Dept.)

The State Department’s Science Envoy Program brings together eminent U.S. scientists and engineers to demonstrate America’s scientific leadership and technical ingenuity.

This year, seven distinguished scientists have been selected to serve as U.S. Science Envoys. This majority female cohort is the largest and most diverse in the program’s history.

The new cohort traveled to Washington for their orientation February 2. They met with State Department and White House officials to discuss administration priorities and identify opportunities for sustained international cooperation on solutions to shared challenges.

“Science strengthens our diplomatic and bilateral relationships because it is based on principles and values that transcend politics, languages, borders, and cultures,” said Assistant Secretary Monica Medina after meeting with the cohort.

Meet the envoys

The scientists were selected and approved by Secretary of State Antony Blinken for their work focusing on a wide range of U.S. climate and foreign policy topics, such as:

  • Ocean conservation and marine protected areas.
  • Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.
  • Prioritization of diseases transmitted from animals to humans.
  • Plastic pollution.
  • Quantum information science and technology.
  • Nature-based solutions to climate change.
  • Nexus of environmental science and Indigenous knowledge.

Drew Harvell, professor emerita at Cornell University, affiliate faculty at the University of Washington, researches the sustainability of the oceans. She currently focuses on the health of top predators and seagrass meadows in the transboundary waters of the Salish Sea.

Jessica Gephart, assistant professor in environmental science at American University, studies the intersection of seafood globalization and environmental change, and how the seafood trade affects the environment.

Christine Kreuder Johnson, professor of epidemiology and ecosystem health and director of the EpiCenter for Disease Dynamics at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, looks at the effects of environmental change on animal and human health. Her work helps public policy mitigate pandemic threats.

Woman gesturing and talking while another woman listens (State Dept.)
U.S. Science Envoys Drew Harvell, left, and LaShanda Korley attend an orientation in Washington. (State Dept.)

LaShanda Korley, a distinguished professor in materials science and engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Delaware, is a global leader in using sustainable principles inspired by biology to design high-functioning adhesives.

Prineha Narang, professor and Howard Reiss Chair in Physical Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, leads an interdisciplinary group in quantum science and technology.

Frances Seymour is an expert on tropical forests and climate change. She is a distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, chairs the board of the Architecture for REDD+ Transactions and is lead author of the book, Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change. She previously worked in Indonesia for more than a decade and served as director general of the Center for International Forestry Research.

Kyle Whyte is a professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and as the chapter lead author for the Tribes and Indigenous Peoples chapter of the U.S. National Climate Assessment. His research focuses on Indigenous peoples’ rights and knowledge in climate change and conservation planning, education, and policy.