The skills for a career change

Elizabeth Baden ’04

Health science policy analyst
Office of Science Policy at the National Institutes of Health

At the National Institutes of Health, Elizabeth Baden and her fellow policy analysts create the policies, budgets, and communications of the NIH so that the Institutes’ researchers can allocate their time to research. It’s a career she loves, but it wasn’t the career she imagined.

“When I left Valpo, I had no idea that science policy was even a career option,” Baden says, “And yet here I am.”

The path that brought her to Washington, D.C. began at Valpo, where Baden did her first undergraduate research alongside Professor Michael Bradley. The project convinced Elizabeth that she enjoyed biomedical research — and helped her get accepted to her next research experience, at the prestigious Mayo Clinic. When Elizabeth decided to go to graduate school, she enrolled in a doctoral program at the Mayo Clinic.

“I figured that I would do research for the rest of my life. But about halfway through grad school, I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I enjoyed the research work a lot, but didn’t necessarily want to run my own lab,” she says.

While finishing her Ph.D., Elizabeth began looking at other career options and “stumbled upon” the field of science policy. She saw it as a way to stay close to the hard science that she had studied for so many years and also have the opportunity to have a broader impact on the scientific community.

To facilitate her transition into policy work, Elizabeth took a fellowship on Capitol Hill. As a congressional fellow, she worked in a senator’s office as an advisor on general health policy issues. That was the last step she needed before beginning a career at the National Institutes of Health.

Now Baden spends her days supporting the research of other scientists. She writes budget documents, reports, and briefings to audiences including Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and other leaders at the NIH. She says that she became a strong writer through her coursework in Christ College — The Honors College, which also taught her to analyze subjects from different perspectives. She says her scientific training at Valpo also helps with her analytical thinking.

“Policy touches so much more than pure science,” she says. “I often have to get up-to-speed on a topic really quickly and absorb different kinds of information. The liberal arts education at Valpo provided me with a foundation across all subject areas and helped prepare me to be successful when I changed my career trajectory.”