Public Policy Undergraduates Travel Europe for Collaborative Research Experience

Julia Melkers and students in her ROCS Lab began the summer traveling around Europe to present their research.

Posted June 10, 2022

Undergraduate student researchers in the School of Public Policy began their summer in style — by traveling around Europe to research and present alongside graduate students from three countries. Professor Julia Melkers, director of the Research on Careers in Science (ROCS) Lab in the School of Public Policy, organized the trip, which included stops in Vienna; Bristol, England; and Leiden, Netherlands.

Melkers led the excursion with her three ROCS Lab undergraduate student researchers: Katie Marchese, a rising fourth-year public policy and history, technology, and society major, rising fourth-year public policy major Rena Marrotta, and rising fourth-year public policy major Lydia Weiderholt.

“These three young women are amazing. They have done such great work in the ROCS lab, and I wanted to give them an opportunity to expand their horizons even further,” Melkers said. “They are such a formative time of their careers; I found it so exciting to see the field of science policy — and Europe — through their eyes.”

The team’s first stop was at REvaluation ’22, a research and innovation policy evaluation conference in Vienna, where they teamed up with graduate students from the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Vienna. The international group worked together to attend conference sessions, talk to participants, and develop a presentation of their findings. They delivered their thoughts in a closing session of the conference titled, “Research Evaluation: Perspectives of the Next Generation.”

“This conference taught me so much about the European framework for evaluation,” Marchese said. “Prior to this conference, I had no idea of the relative intensity of evaluation, especially for the public sector. I was also introduced to many new ways of thinking and considering research, including increased stakeholder involvement through co-creation and the application of social innovation.”

From there, the group traveled to England, where Melkers and Gemma Derrick, associate professor at the University of Bristol, had organized an interdisciplinary workshop for early-career researchers. There, the Georgia Tech students presented and discussed their ROCS lab work with graduate students in Bristol’s School of Education.

Marchese and Weiderholt presented their work on Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computing program. Marrotta presented her work on an assessment of institutional culture and student retention in Georgia Tech’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The National Science Foundation funded their research.

“Throughout the two weeks, I was constantly reminded of the value of diverse perspectives available throughout the world and the benefits those opinions provide to policymaking,” Weiderholt said. “They also influenced my outlook on my own career by emphasizing that my degree can be helpful worldwide.”

Before heading home, the ROCS team made one last stop in the Netherlands, where Melkers had organized another symposium with Thed van Leeuwen, senior researcher in the Centre for Science and Technology Studies at Leiden University. Again, Tech students presented their work alongside graduate students from the host school.

“Throughout this trip, my confidence in my ability to present my work grew, and I really enjoyed seeing how my team’s presentation prompted interesting discussions and received positive feedback,” Marrotta said. “This was my first time in Europe, and I am so grateful to have had this amazing experience where I saw new places, learned new things, and met new people.”

Melkers added that she hopes that Georgia Tech policy students can continue collaborating with institutions in other countries.

“Everywhere we went, I heard so much positive feedback on our students and their work,” she added. “Plans are underway to keep the momentum going with similar pairings of Georgia Tech and international students at future conferences. This is a true testament to how well our students truly shined; it was a resounding success!”

The School of Public Policy is a unit of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.

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School of Public Policy | Sam Nunn School of International Affairs