Congressional Science Fellowship
Hall of Fame
David Szymanski was the GSA–U.S. Geological Survey Congressional Science Fellow for 2008–2009. Szymanski earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State University (MSU) in 2007; his research focused on the chemical evolution of silicic magmas in northern Costa Rica. Since 2005, Szymanski has managed the inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometer and X-ray fluorescence spectrometer geoanalytical laboratories for MSU’s department of geological sciences. Szymanski master’s degree in structural geology is also from MSU, and in 1998 he worked as an intern geologist at Union Pacific Resources in Fort Worth, Texas. Szymanski earned a B.A. in geology from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1996.
In addition to his broad background in the geological sciences, Szymanski, at the time of his appointment, practiced forensic science and also held a master’s degree in forensic chemistry from MSU. He worked as a consultant in civil and criminal cases and wass a court-qualified expert witness in Michigan, where he was a contract analyst for the Michigan State Police.
Szymanski’s diverse scientific background and interest in science policy are linked by a desire to address societal problems through teaching science to nonscientists. “The ability to communicate the essence of scientific issues is paramount to the integrity of the judicial process, and I believe fostering scientific literacy is equally important to the legislative process,” says Szymanski. While pursuing his doctorate, Szymanski worked with a multidisciplinary research group on teaching college science to understand how students learn complex systems in geology and biology. He recently co-authored an article related to this research for the Journal of Geoscience Education. Teaching students to think in terms of systems fuels his interest in science policy. “No single legislator or staff can have a breadth and depth of knowledge on all scientific issues,” says Szymanski, “but given the right tools, citizens and legislators alike can judge the soundness of the science behind policy.”
Szymanski is grateful for the opportunity to serve as the GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow for 2008–2009. He anticipates returning to the classroom after his year on Capitol Hill, bringing back a unique perspective on the relationships between science and public policy to share with students and colleagues. “I want to convey how scientific literacy informs social and political decision making. In turn, understanding earth processes can help students make sound civic decisions on ‘voting issues’—the policy questions directly related to earth cycles.”