Bringing Scientific Thinking to Public Policy

Gabby Nepomuceno
Gabby Nepomuceno

Gabby Nepomuceno, B.S., Chemistry, '15

With the State Capitol right across the Yolo Causeway, UC Davis students and researchers have the unique opportunity to directly engage politicians and policymakers with their research. One such talented individual is Gabby Nepomuceno (Ph.D., Chemistry, ’15).

Near the end of her doctorate, Nepomuceno was awarded a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship from the California Council on Science & Technology (CCST), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that connects California’s top scientists and research institutions with policymakers. The fellowship program places scientists into the California State Legislature for one-year appointments. Current and former CCST Science Fellows have worked on everything from healthcare to water quality, education to foster care, medical marijuana to a STEM-ready workforce.

“Our mission as CCST Science Fellows is to help make California’s policy stronger with science,” explained Nepomuceno, a Bay Area native. “We help translate relevant information from subject matter experts, so policymakers can quickly grasp very technically challenging issues and then do what they do best: find creative ways to solve policy problems.”

Nepomuceno was assigned to the office of Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) and the Assembly Business and Professions Committee, which Bonilla chairs. “It’s fascinating to see her talk through tough policy issues and bring opposing sides together,” said Nepomuceno.

At the UC Davis Department of Chemistry, Nepomuceno focused on designing chemical probes to study cell division in bacteria. She said that working in the policy world has been an adjustment after the controlled conditions and replicated trials of research life. “Scientists draw conclusions based on evidence gathered. But one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is that the negotiation and consensus-building of policy is neither simple, nor black and white,” Nepomuceno said.

— Doug Banda, doctoral student in chemistry in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.