Kiri Wagstaff of the College of Engineering is working in Washington, D.C., this academic year, serving as an artificial intelligence expert in the office of Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona.

Wagstaff, a computer science instructor who spent 19 years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is assisting the senator, a former astronaut, through an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship.

“I attend hearings and briefings related to AI and machine learning, assess proposed bills from a technical standpoint and speak with federal agencies to help identify areas in need of additional resources or legislation,” she said. “Due to my NASA background, I'm also contributing to legislative activity related to aviation and commercial space activities.”

Wagstaff will be in Washington through August 2024 and after that plans to return to Corvallis to continue teaching the course “Machine Learning Challenges in the Real World.”  

“I expect my time in Congress will allow me to enrich the course with additional perspectives on AI-related policy and impact,” she said. “By then some of the relevant legislation currently being devised, argued and voted on may be in effect.”

Wagstaff is part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Rapid Response Cohort in AI. The six members of the AI cohort, chosen from a pool of 130 applicants, are among 276 scientists and engineers that the AAAS has placed across all branches of the federal government for yearlong fellowship assignments.