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AACR Science Policy Fellowship

The application period for the 2022-2024 AACR Science Policy Fellowship is now closed.
Please visit this site in October, 2023 for the 2024-2026 fellowship application.


2022-2024 AACR Science Policy Fellow

Tristen Tellman, PhD


From funding research grants to minimizing the barriers to clinical trials, the decisions made in Washington, D.C., directly influence the rate of progress we make against cancer. Issues regarding health and science are becoming increasingly complex. Involving cancer researchers more actively in the policy-making process can help educate policy makers and the public about exciting developments in cancer research. The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Science Policy Fellow will make significant contributions to those efforts through a two-year fellowship under the purview of the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs.

Program Overview

Purpose: This fellowship is designed for early-career cancer research professionals who hold an advanced degree (PhD, MD, MD/PhD) and are interested in the development and implementation of cancer research-related policies on the national level. The fellow will gain experience drafting, analyzing, and implementing policy through time spent working within the U.S. Congress, the National Cancer Institute, and in the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs in Washington, D.C.  In addition, there may be opportunities to work at the AACR headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Activities: Day-to-day activities will vary by rotation. The fellow will research and analyze policies and proposals on a range of issues of importance to the cancer research community and summarize the findings for different audiences. Other writing tasks could include: drafting policy position statements, preparing testimony, and writing articles for public consumption. The fellow will represent both the AACR and his or her rotation-specific office in a variety of settings, from one-on-one meetings to larger forums.

Duration: 24 months

Proposed Rotation Schedule:

4 months
AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs
6 months
National Cancer Institute Congressional office and/or committee involved in cancer research-related policy issues
6 months
Congressional office and/or committee involved in cancer research-related policy issues
8 months
AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs & various departments at AACR headquarters


The AACR Science Policy Fellowship is open to AACR members who are early-career cancer research professionals with advanced degrees received within five years of application. Candidates must demonstrate an interest in the relationship between cancer research and policy, and display excellent written, oral, and interpersonal skills. Although U.S. citizenship is not required, candidates must be legally eligible to work in the U.S.; the AACR cannot sponsor visas. Applicants need not have degree “in hand” at time of application but must have completed their degree before the official start date of the fellowship.

Application Process

Application Materials: Interested candidates must provide ALL of the following on or before the application deadline (November 22, 2023). Materials should be sent to [email protected] with the subject line “(Applicant name) 2024 AACR Science Policy Fellowship.”

  • AACR Science Policy Fellowship Application Form.
  • Curriculum Vitae: Use the CV to detail your education, professional accomplishments, publications, and any honors and awards. Please include all relevant policy experience here, as well. The NIH Biographical Sketch Format Page will not be accepted from the applicant.
  • Candidate Statement (1,000 words, using Candidate Statement template)
  • Policy Statement (500 words, using Policy Statement template)
  • Two letters of recommendation: These letters should speak to your professional/scientific competence and what makes you a good candidate for the AACR Science Policy Fellowship. At least one letter must be from an active AACR member familiar with your qualifications for this fellowship.

NOTE: When a template or form is provided for application materials, the template MUST be used.


  • October 16, 2023: Application period opens
  • November 22, 2023: All application materials must be submitted by midnight (Eastern time)
  • December 2023-January 2024: Virtual interviews
  • January 2024: Selection of the AACR Science Policy Fellow announced
  • March 2024: Fellowship begins

STAFF Contact

Please direct all inquiries to:

Dana Acton
Director, Science Policy and Legislative Affairs


Can I apply if I have not completed my degree?

As an applicant, it is not required to have your degree “in hand.” However, you must have completed your terminal degree before you start the fellowship. This means all research finished, dissertation successfully defended, and all edits and administrative tasks finalized.

What qualifies as “early-career?”

For the purposes of this fellowship, the AACR considers “early-career scientists” as individuals who have received their terminal degree within the past five years. Exceptions may be made to accommodate family- and health-related disruptions to this timeline. Ideally, candidates will have finished their graduate or medical training. Postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, and medical residents are eligible to apply. Undergraduates are NOT eligible for the AACR Science Policy Fellowship.

What counts as an “advanced degree?”

Almost any terminal scientific degree is appropriate: PhD, MD, MD/PhD, ScD, DO, PharmD, or equivalent. If you have a question about your degree, please contact Dana Acton to discuss.

Do I need to be a member of the AACR to apply?

AACR membership is required. Membership in the AACR confers useful benefits. Applicants must have applied to become members of the AACR before submitting their science policy fellowship application, however only proof of application is required to submit an application.

Can non-U.S. citizens apply?

There are no citizenship requirements. However, by submitting an application for this fellowship, the applicant who is not a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident assures that the visa status will provide sufficient time to complete the fellowship.

Do I need previous policy experience to apply?

Ideally, successful applicants will be able to highlight experiences and activities that demonstrate their interest in science policy-related matters. Examples include but are not limited to: participating in a Hill Day; volunteering with an advocacy organization; writing opinion pieces for a newsletter or local newspaper; or joining a policy committee or discussion group.

Application and Selection Processes

Can I submit application materials as I complete them, or should I submit everything together?

We would prefer to receive all materials as attachments in one email. However, if you have everything except the reference letters completed, you may submit those documents and follow up with a second email containing your letters of recommendation. Please make sure all emails have “(Applicant name) 2022 AACR Science Policy Fellowship” as the subject line.

Should I submit my letters of recommendation myself or have my reference-writers send them on their own?

You should submit all your application materials, including the letters of recommendation. You are responsible for ensuring all materials are submitted prior to the November 24, 2021, deadline. The AACR will not consider applications for which there are missing or incomplete materials.  

What information should my references include in their letters of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation should be written on official institutional letterhead and may address topics including but not limited to:

  • The nature of the writer’s relationship to the applicant;
  • Professional qualifications and accomplishments of the applicant;
  • Written and oral communication skills and leadership qualities, and examples of each;
  • Examples of activities that demonstrate the applicant’s interest in policy; and/or
  • General comments on why the applicant is a good candidate for the AACR Science Policy Fellowship.

NOTE: Weight will be given to these letters in the evaluation of the application, as it should detail the applicant’s merit, as well as their potential to become an effective policy fellow.

How many fellows will be selected for the AACR Science Policy Fellowship?

One fellow will be selected for the 2022-2024 AACR Science Policy Fellowship.

What will the selection process be like?

The process will be managed by the AACR Office of Science Policy and Government Affairs. A Selection Committee will review the application packages and identify semifinalists for virtual interviews. Selection of the fellow will be approved by the AACR president and by CEO Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), before being announced in March 2022.

The Fellowship

How will the fellow be compensated?

The AACR will provide a stipend of $70,000/year, plus benefits, for the fulltime, two-year fellowship.

Will the AACR pay for my relocation and/or provide housing?

The AACR does not pay or reimburse for relocation costs, and fellows must find their own housing. See this article on living and relocation costs for an idea of how costs in Washington, D.C., compare to other major cities.

How will rotations be determined?

Rotation projects will be fellow- and agency-specific and it is difficult to determine what they will be in advance. Day-to-day activities may include analyzing and summarizing policies and data; developing written and oral presentations for a variety of audiences; and preparing policy statements and/or white papers. In general, activities for NCI fellows will focus on policy issues dealing with the administration and conduct of research.