Announcing the Inaugural Congressional Innovation Scholar: Katherine Pratt

TechCongress Announces Inaugural Congressional Innovation Scholar

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, TechCongress, a nonpartisan initiative dedicated to building 21st century government and developing cross-sector technology leaders, is pleased to announce its inaugural Congressional Innovation Scholar. The Congressional Innovation Scholars program will provide technical graduate and postdoctoral students an opportunity to serve in Congress and contribute to the policy making process. Katherine Pratt, the inaugural Congressional Scholar, brings experience from public interest organizations and the military. Pratt has deep technical expertise and will find a placement with a Member of Congress or Congressional Committee to gain firsthand knowledge about the legislative process while applying her in-depth technical experience to policy challenges. As a Congressional Innovation Scholar Pratt will perform a similar function to a Congressional Innovation Fellow, for a shorter duration. In past classes of the Congressional Innovation Fellowship, fellows have worked with the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, the House Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the Offices of Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).  

“We’re thrilled that Katherine is joining TechCongress as our first Congressional Innovation Scholar,” said TechCongress Founder and Director, Travis Moore. “The recent Facebook hearings displayed just how urgently we need additional technical expertise in Congress. Katherine’s extraordinary experience in the Air Force and as an engineer studying neural and digital privacy will make her a unique asset on Capitol Hill.”  

Recruiting Katherine is the product of nearly 18 months of outreach and research in academia by TechCongress. Computer science and engineering faculty consistently describe that a significant number of their students -- five to 10 percent --have a strong interest in public policy, but have no established pipeline to transition into government positions. TechCongress is building the first section of this pipeline with the Scholars program.

The 2018 Congressional Innovation Scholar, Katherine Pratt, is an MIT-educated aerospace engineer. Pratt served for four years as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, primarily as an engineer working on operational readiness of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. She served as the subject-matter expert on everything from aerodynamics to the pilot’s helmet, which made her responsible for explaining complicated situations to non-technical audiences. Now, as a PhD student in electrical engineering, Pratt is currently studying the security, ethics, and policy of brain computer interfaces. Her research involves a potentially scary subject: how malicious entities can elicit private information using brain signals.

TechCongress is incubated at New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) and one of several projects at New America aimed at bridging the divide between the tech and policy communities, and building a sector of public interest technologists. The 2018 class of TechCongress fellows is supported by the Ford Foundation, the Knight Foundation, entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman, the Hewlett Foundation and the Democracy Fund.