Science leads Coug to prestigious government fellowship

Seth, wearing a Cougar hoodie on a sunny day.

A year from earning his doctorate in Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University, Seth Schneider finds himself in select company.

Schneider, who also earned his bachelor’s in genetic and cell biology, is one of 551 selected for the Presidential Management Fellows Program. The two-year training and leadership development program for advanced degree holders is administered by the United States Office of Personnel Management, a federal agency that manages the U.S. civilian service. The fellowship was designed in 1977 to train public servants meant to guide the nation.

In his PMF Fellowship with the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Regulatory Science, Schneider focuses on strategic planning and process improvement for the FDA’s 16 national laboratories responsible for sample analysis of FDA-regulated human food, animal feed, and medical/specialty products.

“Not only do we monitor sample analysis across all our labs, but we are also looking at new ways we can improve the process. For example, we are aiming to implement an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning system to optimize which of our 16 laboratories should be chosen to analyze a collected sample.

“We are also partnering with State Regulatory Agencies to create an Integrated Food Safety System, where all the entities regulating the food supply can share data, expand testing capabilities, and collaboratively make the best decisions for public health protection.”

Once Schneider completes the two-year PMF Fellowship program, including a 4-6 month rotation outside of his current position, he will be eligible for permanent conversion at FDA. His 4-6 month rotation could be with any one of a variety of federal government agencies, including the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, or the National Science Foundation. 

Rotations that are not traditionally public health focused are also available including through the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Justice, Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Education, or the Administration for Children and Families.

Wherever he may end up, he wants to have an impact through government service.

“Finding something that you love and finding something that has impact in the best way you can, is a lofty goal, and you have to be open to where it leads you,” Schneider said. “This is where it is leading me.”

As someone who prioritizes impactful completion long-term goals over instant project gratification, government service is Schneider’s preference. It’s something he’s practiced during his time in Pullman.

Schneider, a member of the WSU School of Molecular Biosciences’ Students Targeted toward Advanced Research Studies (STARS) program, began pursuing his own herpes antiviral research in the laboratory of Dr. Anthony Nicola for his doctorate during his third year of undergraduate studies at WSU, allowing him to complete his studies in just seven years. 

“The support I was given from the start of my college career and throughout was phenomenal,” Schneider said. “I give Dr. Nicola and his lab a lot of credit for the superb graduate edutain I received in Pullman.”

In the process of moving to FDA’s Rockville, Maryland headquarters office, Schneider said that in his federal career he is already using writing and interpersonal communication skills he developed at WSU to build the necessary relationships and competencies for him to excel at his job.

Schneider said WSU’s Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) was essential in building those skills, as well as the International Herpesvirus Workshop where WSU supported him presenting his research on herpes simplex virus twice as part of his doctoral degree.

“I learned how to pursue long-term goals collaboratively despite setbacks, I learned how to keep my motivation by focusing on the impact that accomplishment of those goals will have, and I learned how to use failure as a stepping-stone to achievement.” Schneider said. “That discipline is what I’m forever grateful that WSU fostered in me.”

The 2023 PMF Application opens September 13th, 2022. Eligibility includes current graduate students who will complete their degree by August 31st, 2023, and recent graduates who completed their degree in the two years prior to September 13th, 2022.

For more information or to apply, please visit the Presidential Management Fellowship Program site.