Publication Celebration: Motor Vehicle Crash Testing Regulations for More Inclusive Populations by Emilee Kotnik

STEM and Culture Chronicle
3 min readJan 24, 2022


In this member spotlight we sit down with SACNISTA Emilee Kotnik, who authored a memo in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance titled “Motor Vehicle Crash Testing Regulations for More Inclusive Populations” for their special issue on focused on intersectional science policy.

Emilee Kotnik, Washington University in St. Louis

Tell us a little about your policy memo for the special issue of JSPG.

I had participated the last 2 years in the annual policy memo competition through ProSPER (Promoting Science Policy, Education and Research), our campus’ grad student science policy group, and we were delighted to win 3rd place this year! It’s really amazing to practice what it’s like being a fellow advising on policy, even though it’s outside our core research (mine is on ovarian cancer research, I’m a genetics PhD candidate).

As our group brainstormed, we landed on some research about how there are disparities in equipment across genders and diverse body types. For instance, it sounded crazy that NASA didn’t have enough spacesuits for TWO WOMEN to go to space at the same time. We found compelling research around crash testing for motor vehicles and we were fascinated (and alarmed) by the disparities that lead to injuries and death. Industries are slow to adopt new standards, but when you regulate at the federal level, we saw that there had been progress on things like safety belt changes.

After a review of some of the other precedents out there, our recommendations were three-fold, 1) update the safety requirements to include a more representative female crash test dummy, 2) offer tax incentives to companies that go beyond standard regulations and include elderly, over and underweight body types to find out how they respond differently to crash test injuries, and 3) invest in more virtual modeling through R&D vs. expensive physical testing.

That’s the fun part, creative problem solving…thinking, “If I were in charge, what are the best methods I can think of to solve this?” It’s tricky, but fun!

What is your interest in sci policy?

Our graduate training prepares us to be scientifically literate and help people behind the scenes by improving medicine, but you can do that even more directly through science policy. There aren’t that many scientists in government, but so many policy decisions involve science. Hopefully later on in my career, I can continue this work. I get a lot of gratification from connecting the community to science.

Has being a SACNAS member helped you in your STEM journey?

We are still in the early days of building our SACNAS chapter, but I’ve been treasurer in the past. SACNAS provides an opportunity to build community at WUSTL and all over the country. I’ve built a lot of connections in science policy and its been great to combine those worlds. We are the most marginalized and so we can make the most impact by speaking to the needs of our communities along with the scientific authority to back it up.

Do you have advice for other SACNISTAS interested in science policy?

Participating in the JSPG competition is a really nice opportunity to practice something in grad school that is applicable to a science policy career. For younger students considering science policy, I’m no expert — I just learned by doing it. Your education is a time when you can fail and learn the most, so I encourage everyone to go for those opportunities!

Read Emilee’s policy memo in the Special Issue:

About this Series

In collaboration with SACNAS, 500 Women Scientists, and the National Society of Black Engineers, the Journal of Science Policy & Governance released a special issue focused on intersectional science policy. Three SACNAS members are among the authors and we sat down with them to learn more about their research, celebrate their achievement, and find out about their journey to publication.

To read memos by other SACNAS members, check out:

Defining the Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting by Jorge Jimenez

Period Poverty, A Risk Factor for People Who Menstruate in STEM by Katherine Andersh, PhD

To read all the articles in the JSPG special issue, visit



STEM and Culture Chronicle

Dedicated to advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in science. Science, culture, and community in the movement for true diversity in STEM.