Meridian Trains Next Generation of Science Diplomats


Over the summer of 2022, Meridian International Center held a four-week virtual diplomacy training pilot course in partnership with the National Science Policy Network (NSPN) and Global Blood Therapeutics. The Diplomatic Skills Training for Young Scientists provided 25 early-career science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals with the training and knowledge necessary for a career in diplomacy. The course consisted of three half-day virtual trainings and culminated in a full day in-person program in Washington, DC. 

This Washington program included site visits to the U.S. Department of State and Meridian’s historic campus, where students were able to network, engage in a hands-on crisis simulation, and explore diplomatic career options.  

Offered as part of Meridian’s DiplomacyRISE initiative, the course was announced by Meridian CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday at the 2022 Meridian Diplomacy Forum, and aims to promote diversity and equity among the next generation of U.S. diplomats by providing greater access to skills training, career guidance networks, and emerging issue expertise. 

In today’s world, there is a clear need for a new kind of diplomat: the science diplomat. These individuals will be critical as the U.S. continues to tackle the most pressing issues of our time. Climate change, pandemic diplomacy, ocean/Arctic diplomacy, and space exploration all demand a scientific perspective alongside diplomatic knowledge and sensitivities. The American diplomatic sector needs a workforce equally comfortable analyzing data as they are negotiating diplomatic solutions to match the challenges of our time.  

Scientists receive extensive analytical training, but many find it difficult to transition to a policy career. These newly-minted STEM Ph.D.s and postdoctoral scholars typically find that skills like cultural sensitivity and negotiation – the “soft skills” that are especially important in the realm of diplomacy – are underdeveloped. The Diplomatic Skills Training for Young Scientists course addresses this crucial gap through lectures, guest speakers, and hands-on seminars.  

The course was led by Tania Chomiak-Salvi, a retired Foreign Service officer and public diplomacy educator, and had the opportunity to hear from an expert line-up of diplomacy practitioners with decades of experience, including Ambassadors Donald Yamamoto, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2017 to 2018, Amy Hyatt, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Palau from 2015 to 2020, and Ted Osius, President & CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, as well as Dr. Jane Carpenter-Rock, Deputy Director for Museum Content and Outreach, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Content focused on critical knowledge areas for foreign affairs and diplomatic skills, such as protocol, the basics of embassy operations, negotiation, and diplomatic communication. 

For the course’s final meeting, students convened at the U.S. Department of State to learn from a panel of professional science diplomats, with an address delivered by Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina 

Ambassador Donald Yamamoto delivering the keynote during the site visit at Meridian’s campus.

“I think we need more intersection between science and diplomacy. We need more scientists who are interested in the diplomatic space, and we need more people within the diplomatic space to listen to scientists,” shared Sharmini Pitter, Ph.D., Environmental Earth Science from Stanford and an NSPN member, “There’s just so much work to be done, and we could always use more collaboration… I’m blown away by having this opportunity to learn about diplomacy as a scientist, and I think it’s going to have a pretty big impact on my career choices moving forward.” 

Ona Ambrozaite, Materials Science Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins University shared what she loves about science diplomacy “is you don’t have to be an expert in one field. You can use what you learned and apply it to different topics and issues. It gives you adaptability in fields you may not be an expert in, but you can figure it out and offer evidence-based solutions to any issue that comes at you.” Ambrozaite, also the 2022 Science Diplomacy Chair at NSPN, highlighted “this course is a crucial step to cultivating the next generation of American diplomats in order to tackle transboundary issues through integrating science with diplomacy.” 

Thanks to the generous support of the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, the course will be offered to a new cohort of science diplomats-in-training in the summer of 2023. Meetings will largely be held virtually, with a final site visit for networking and career exploration in Washington, D.C. Applications will open in early 2023.  

For questions about Meridian’s DiplomacyRISE initiative or our Diplomatic Skills Training for Young Scientists course, please contact Vishva Bhatt, Diplomatic Engagement Associate, at   

Students attending the hands-on crisis simulation and networking visit on Meridian’s historic campus.

Project summary

Meridian Trains Next Generation of Science Diplomats
Number of Attendees: 30
Impact Areas: Science and Technology, Public Diplomacy
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement
MicrosoftTeams-image (1)