Fellows in Training: Movin’ to California

Renita Polk, PhD, is a 2016 CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellow.
Renita Polk, PhD

Renita Polk, PhD, is a member of the 2016 Class of CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellows. She received her PhD in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology from Johns Hopkins University, where her research sought to reveal the genetics behind congenital heart defects in people with Down syndrome. Polk completed her undergraduate studies in Genetic Engineering at Cedar Crest College, and her Fellowship placement is with Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson).

 

“You’re moving to California?! Maybe you’ll meet a movie star!”

That was the response I received from many friends in Maryland when I told them I would be moving to Sacramento. Though they were joking, I think we were all hoping that there was a small possibility that I might meet one.

Although I knew Sacramento wasn’t the land of movie stars, I did think that it would be sunny and warm all the time. My only previous experience in California had been a family trip to Disneyland when I was five.

I learned quickly how wrong I was.

It does get cold in Sacramento, and it is not always sunny. In fact, it rained most of the day on the first day of the Fellowship, and I had to stop at the store to buy an umbrella because I didn’t pack one. Even after telling that story, some of my friends still think I am exaggerating when I tell them that it is not 75 degrees and sunny all year round!

And although I have not met any movie stars, I literally walk into political stars every day at work in Sacramento. One day I even accidentally “photobombed” a selfie two assemblymembers were trying to take together. I find it amazing every day that I can walk down the hall at work and run into people that I read about in the newspaper — and realize that I play a part in that world now.

CCST Science Fellow Renita Polk is finding her way around the California State Capitol as she trains with the State Assembly.
CCST Science Fellow Renita Polk is finding her way around the California State Capitol, after life in Maryland and a career in genetic research.

Another pleasant reality about life in Sacramento — and as a CCST Science Fellow — is how nice everyone that I have come into contact with has been.

I was excited about moving to California and for the opportunity I was going to have as a CCST Science Fellow, but I was equally terrified; I did not know a single person in California. But the support and kindness of everyone here, including the CCST staff and staff in the Capitol offices, have had a huge impact on my feeling welcome and comfortable in Sacramento.

The CCST staff and other Science Fellows made me feel comfortable and at home on my very first day. During our first day of training, all of the Science Fellows shared one thing about ourselves that the others in the room did not know. I shared that it was my birthday, and I was surprised at lunch with a birthday cake! It’s obvious that the staff really did care about all of their Science Fellows, and are willing to go out of their way to support us and make us feel comfortable.

Even though Sacramento teasingly toyed with my California weather expectations (bring it on, spring and summer!), my time here as a Science Fellow has exceeded my expectations in every other way. I’m now immersed in the world of California policy, and I’m glad I can experience this world with the great support of my entire office and the CCST staff and cohort.

— Renita Polk


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