by Lynda F. Rysavy | Tuesday, Aug 10, 2021
Kirstie Tandberg Francis

The Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine today announced Kirstie Tandberg Francis, a doctoral candidate in integrative biology at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute is a recipient of its 2021 Science Policy Fellowship. Beginning Sept. 1, 2021, Tandberg Francis will join seven other individuals who will spend one year working in the Gulf states, directly serving state legislatures; state environmental, natural resource, oil and gas, or public health agencies; or regional offices of federal agencies. 


“The Science Policy Fellowship is a win-win for fellows and their host organizations who come to this program with a big, structural challenge to solve,” said Karena Mary Mothershed, program head and senior program manager for the GRP’s Board on Gulf Education and Engagement. “These talented fellows gain valuable experience in the craft and process of policymaking. In turn, policy decision-makers gain access to excellent researchers, who help advance evidence-based policy for the benefit of communities in the Gulf.”


Each fellow is paired with a mentor, who will work with them to develop their goals and a professional plan for the fellowship term. Francis will be working with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information at the Stennis Space Center. Throughout the fellowship year, Francis will have professional development opportunities to network, strengthen technical skills, discuss relevant issues, and learn best practices.


“I am so thankful for the National Academies of Science Gulf Research Program for funding me as a science policy fellow, and I am honored to work with and learn from some of the amazing scientists at NOAA NCEI,” said Francis. “I am excited to bring what I have learned from my research background into the world of science policy.”


Francis holds a B.S. in marine science, microbiology, and immunology from the University of Miami, where she completed an undergraduate honors thesis with her research on a marine model organism for neurofibromatosis.


She completed a summer internship with Science Under Sail Institute for Exploration where she conducted research on an invasive coral symbiont species and helped establish a citizen science-based reef restoration monitoring program. She then earned an M.S. in biological science from Florida Atlantic University. She enjoys communicating her research to a variety of audiences and hopes to help expand communication between scientists and the public.


Francis was a founding officer of the Harbor Branch Student Association, the only registered student organization on her remote campus, where she served as social chair and then president, advocated for equal access to coursework and student services, expanded the student budget, and realized her passion for leadership and advocacy.


In her doctoral dissertation research, she has identified novel marine natural products which reduce levels of a protein target called survivin in cancer cells; manuscripts are in preparation. Kirstie is interested in the intersection of human health and marine science, and she aims to one day use her research as a platform for ocean awareness and conservation.