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Harold U. Escobar-Hernandez attending a U.S. Senate hearing for the Committee on Environment and Public Works at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., as part of his fellowship program. | Image: Courtesy of Harold U. Escobar-Hernandez

Harold U. Escobar-Hernandez, a doctoral student in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering at Texas A&M University, is the recipient of the prestigious Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship.

"This fellowship has the potential to launch my career in many directions, and I feel honored to represent Texas A&M at the National Academies in the City of Magnificent Intentions, Washington, D.C.," said Escobar. 

The fellowship is a training-based, educational program providing the chance for early-career scholars to spend 12 weeks at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Participants discover the intricacies of science and technology policy and how scientists and engineers can effectively advise the general public.

"This opportunity is highly significant to me from a professional standpoint," he said. "It means a great deal to me personally because of the training I have been able to receive. It's crucial to be able to explore nontraditional programs and career paths outside academia and industry that can relate to government programs and have an impact on society."

Escobar has worked as a research assistant at the Mary Kay O' Connor Process Safety Center at Texas A&M for over seven years. According to Escobar, one of the highlights of his academic career is being mentored by the late Dr. M. Sam Mannan, professor in the chemical engineering department and the previous executive director of the center.

Escobar is working toward a doctoral degree in chemical engineering and his research encompasses identifying correlations between the chemistry and stability of novel compounds focusing on safety applicability and sustainability concerns. Additionally, Escobar is a student senator for the safety engineering program within the Graduate and Professional Student Government.

"I consider graduate school as a constant opportunity for growth," he said. "I've worked passionately in different roles for The Texas A&M University System, and I have been part of the Aggie family for a long time. This fills me with pride and gives me a sense of motivation while also awakening a desire to achieve more." 

As he makes his way through the fellowship, Escobar strives to be a voice for underrepresented groups in scientific fields while advocating for delivering independent, bipartisan, scientifically based advice to the nation. Escobar hopes his experiences can inspire people with varying backgrounds to push their limits while also promoting collaboration between different institutions. 

"It brings me great joy and a sense of accomplishment thinking about my path from my early school days in Colombia to Aggieland, and now to the federal city,” he said. “As a representative of Texas A&M, I'd like to use my position in this fellowship to highlight underrepresented groups, such as Latinos, LGBTQIA+ and others who look like me and deserve recognition and opportunity. I think it's important that we collaborate with other universities and communities who have similar goals to progress in hopes of expanding our horizons."