Passion and Purpose: Meet the 2021 Presidential Innovation Fellows

October 19th, 2020

Congratulations to GRASP alumni, Agata Ciesielski!

Published by US General Service Administration

Authored by Joshua Di Frances

Introducing the 34 data scientists, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs who will work alongside federal leaders to digitally transform government as Presidential Innovation Fellows’ 2021 cohort.

Today, we are thrilled to announce that federal agencies will engage a new class of Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIFs) with technical and entrepreneurial expertise to help modernize government and deliver value for the public. This new class of Fellows includes 34 technology leaders who are beginning a year-long “tour of duty” in the U.S. government, tackling issues of national priority alongside 22 federal agency partners, with some embedding multiple Fellows into their organization to work towards bold goals on shared projects. Established by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in 2012, and housed at GSA since 2013, PIF has recruited some of industry’s most renowned technologists into the federal government, and this year is no different. This year’s cohort is especially noteworthy as they are beginning the program in a fully virtual environment and they are our most diverse cohort yet. 

These 34 Fellows come with experience in artificial intelligence (AI), data science, product management, digital marketing, health innovation, and customer experience (CX) and design, and hail from Missouri, Illinois, Texas, Washington state, Maryland, New York, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Virginia, California, Georgia, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 

PIF has also doubled down on our AI emphasis to attract the brightest minds in AI to work on some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. 12 of PIF’s 26 agency projects will focus on AI, and 15 Fellows in the cohort have deep technical expertise across areas like computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), neural networks, and advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics. And the impact of AI in government is profound. With this new cohort, PIF’s AI work will help combat hiring biases, protect human health and the environment, advance COVID-19 diagnostics, and more. These exceptional individuals will work in close cooperation with agency leaders across the federal government on the strategic, operational, and tactical use of AI in order to help agencies evaluate, design, develop, and implement this technology.

Presidential Innovation Fellows have played critical roles in the government’s response to multiple crises since the program’s inception. Because of this, we have become a trusted partner to government leaders both in agencies and the White House. I’m extremely proud that this new cohort serves as another great example of PIFs stepping up during a crisis to help the American public.

We’re already blown away by the compassion and talent in this mission-driven community. Every leader here is committed to creating positive change at the scale of the federal government. When asked, “Why government?,” AI leader and new PIF Kimberly McManus shared: 

“Leading and working on data science initiatives, I’ve spent my career working with diverse groups of people to develop products, including recommendation algorithms for jobs postings at LinkedIn, and the full research and development lifecycle at 23andMe. I’m eager for the opportunity to utilize my skills in data science leadership, policy, and cross-disciplinary initiatives to drive large-scale, positive change in the U.S. government.”

This cohort is unlike any other. We’re starting virtually. We’re bringing in new skillsets, experiences, and federal agency partners. At the same time, the leaders in this cohort already share so much with our community. They believe tech is a tool to improve the lives of all people in our country. When challenges arise, they see opportunity to learn, partner, and co-create solutions. We’re also so proud that this group of innovators reflects the diversity of our country.

The program, which was started by the White House Office of Science and Technology, has been housed at GSA since 2013. Since its inception, PIF has recruited 193 fellows who have worked in more than 40 agencies to advance government innovation and deliver stronger public services for all Americans. We’re proud to continue such rewarding work.

Embedded within federal agencies as “entrepreneurs in residence,” these Fellows will bring their industry expertise into 26 projects. Get to know them and their projects here:

Agata Ciesielski (she/her) joins PIF from Morgantown, West Virginia, and will be detailed to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). She’ll be working alongside four other Fellows to develop the agency’s technology strategy and roadmap to setting up centers of excellence in emerging technology areas. Agata has been working (and playing) in the field of machine learning, robotics, space and biomedical engineering for the last 20 years. Her most recent professional experience involved algorithms for Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab for COVID-19, advanced molecular development, and lifelong learning.

Read about the program, as well as, about the rest of the cohort in the article published by US General Service Administration