Dr. Catharine Young participated in the University Honors Program (UHP) and the Biology Honors Program during her time at UNC Charlotte. She graduated in 2001 with a B.S. in Biology and dual honors. After graduating from UNC Charlotte, Dr. Young went on to participate in a post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. The fellowship solidified her desire to pursue a career in science and led her to pursue a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia. While Dr. Young loved science and knew that her career would be grounded in it, she also knew that a job in academia was not the right fit for her. Instead, she wanted to find a way to combine her love for science with her love for international work and so she looked to the field of science policy. In order to pursue that goal, Dr. Young obtained a Masters of Public Affairs and participated in Science and Technology Policy and Postdoctoral training in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University.
After completing her postdoctoral training, Dr. Young was selected as an American Association for the Advancement of Science & Technology Fellow, a program designed to give those with a Ph.D. in the sciences the opportunity to learn about science policy. She was placed at the Department of Defence (DoD) in the Biological, Chemical, and Nuclear defense program, a job that entailed utilizing diplomacy to mitigate the potential use of bioweapons by foreign countries. Her first assignment involved working with the former Soviet Union portfolio, including Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Armenia. This was followed by an assignment working on the DoD’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa. Together, her science background and international experience provided Dr. Young with the skills that led her to her current position working in science diplomacy for the United Kingdom.
Dr. Young is currently the Senior Science and Innovation Advisor for the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom, based at the British Embassy in Washington DC. Recognizing the role of science, technology, and innovation in a country’s economic prosperity the UK embeds science attachés around the world to promote international engagement with on-the-ground science and innovation experts. Dr. Young’s responsibilities include building strategic relationships among leading US-UK science and technology-related organizations; fostering transatlantic scientific collaborations between academic institutions; identifying and evaluating emerging science and innovative trends; and influencing UK science policy. She also serves as the lead for the Health and Life Sciences Sector, which entails working with the seven UK consulates in the US as well as Canada and Latin America, to coordinate major strategic programs to tackle global health issues collaboratively.
In addition to her work for the Foreign Office of the UK, Dr. Young is the co-founder of the non-profit organization Blueprint International. Blueprint International’s mission is to provide practical technological solutions to combat complex social welfare problems in the world around it. One of their premier projects has been addressing failures in supply chains of vaccines. They have worked to develop a web management platform that will allow for better management, planning, and tracking of vaccine supplies to ensure that they are reaching their destination. Blueprint International’s work on this project led Dr. young to be selected as a TED Fellow for the TEDGlobal conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2014.
Dr. Young credits UHP with providing a foundation for her future success. UHP provided her with a network of supporters, recommenders, and influencers. It challenged her to think outside of the box and to not be afraid of failure. Combined with her experience growing up in apartheid South Africa, Dr. Young’s experience in UHP taught her to reach outside her comfort zone and try new things. Dr. Young, like so many other UHP members, met life-long friends in the program who she still keeps in touch with.