SACNAS welcomes a renowned collection of multidisciplinary researchers and STEM leaders to speak before our full conference audience.
Dr. Hannah Valantine is the first NIH Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity, and a Senior Investigator in the Intramural Research Program at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Prior to starting this position in April 2014, Dr. Valantine was Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Leadership at Stanford, a leadership position she held since November 2004. She is nationally recognized for her transformative approaches to diversity and is a recipient of the NIH Director’s Pathfinder Award for Diversity in the Scientific Workforce. She is currently leading NIH efforts to promote diversity through innovation across the NIH-funded biomedical workforce through a range of evidence-based approaches. Dr. Valantine maintains an active clinical research program that continues to have high impact on patient care. Current research extends her previous finding that an organ transplant is essentially a genome transplant, and that monitoring the level of donor DNA in a recipient’s blood as a marker of organ damage will detect early stages of rejection. She is currently overseeing a multi-site consortium of mid-Atlantic transplant centers to validate these findings clinically toward the development of a non-invasive tool for detecting early signs of organ rejection.
Dr. Gregory Cajete is the Director of Native American Studies at the University of New Mexico, a Professor in the College of Education Department of Language, Literacy and Socio-cultural Studies, and overall, an educator for 41 years with an emphasis in Indigenous science education. He is the Former Dean of Research and Cultural Exchange at the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe, NM. Dr. Cajete is the author of seven books which include: Look to the Mountain: An ecology of Indigenous Education; Ignite the Sparkle: An Indigenous Science Education Model; Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence; Indigenous Community: Rekindling Teachings of the Seventh Fire.
Dr. Gabriela González is the spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. She completed her PhD at Syracuse University in 1995, then worked as a staff scientist in the LIGO group at MIT until 1997, when she joined the faculty at Penn State. In 2001, she joined the faculty at Louisiana State University, where she is a professor of Physics and Astronomy. Her current research focuses on characterization of the LIGO detector noise, detector calibration, and searching for gravitational waves in the data. In 2007, she was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society for her experimental contributions to the field of gravitational wave detection, her leadership in the analysis of LIGO data for gravitational wave signals, and for her skill in communicating the excitement of physics to students and the public. Read more about LIGO’s recent detection of gravitational waves in the New York Times and STEM + Culture Chronicle.
Dr. Mónica Feliú-Mójer grew up in rural Puerto Rico, surrounded by nature and with a cow in her backyard, which sparked her interest in all things biology. A scientist-turned-communicator, she uses online technologies to build connections and empower people from underrepresented communities through science outreach, education and mentoring. Dr. Feliú-Mójer has a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón and a PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard University. She is the vice-director and news editor-in-chief of Ciencia Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization using social networks to improve public understanding of science and K-12 science education and to support the career development of young scientists. Dr. Feliú-Mójer is also the Community Engagement and Outreach Manager for iBiology, a non-profit organization that produces and distributes free online videos about research, the process of science and professional development featuring the world’s leading biologists. Dr. Feliú-Mójer is also an alum of the Linton-Poodry SACNAS Leadership Institute.
Dr. Ari Daniel has always been drawn to science and nature. As a graduate student, Dr. Daniel trained gray seal pups (Halichoerus grypus) for his Master’s degree in Animal Behavior at the University of St. Andrews, and helped tag wild Norwegian killer whales (Orcinus orca) for his PhD in Biological Oceanography at MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. For the last nine years as a science reporter, Dr. Daniel records a species he’s better equipped to understand – Homo sapiens. Ari produces web videos and digital interactive content for NOVA. He has reported on science topics across five continents. His public radio stories have aired on programs including PRI’s The World, Radiolab, Here and Now, and Living on Earth.
Dr. Jedidah Isler is currently an National Science Foundation Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University. She was recognized as a 2015 TED Fellow for her innovative research and efforts to inspire a new generation of STEM leaders from underrepresented backgrounds; as well as having been invited to Astronomy Night at the White House. She has been featured in various publications including Wired, Diversity in Action, Ebony, NPR:CodeSwitch, and The Crisis Magazine and her writing has appeared in the New York Times. As a speaker, Dr. Isler works with schools, museums, libraries, and nonprofit organizations across the country to advance the cause of truly inclusive STEM engagement and has established herself as a champion of access and empowerment in STEM education from middle school and beyond.
Dr. David Saltzberg is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA and the Science Consultant for the television sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” He received a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1989 from Princeton University where he worked at the cyclotron. He received a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1994, where he measured the mass of the W boson at Fermilab and contributed to the discovery of the top quark. He worked at CERN, looking for neutrino oscillations with photographic emulsion. His research interests include high-energy neutrino astronomy and the Large Hadron Collider. He received a Sloan Fellowship, NSF Career Award, DOE Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, and Antarctica Service Medal. Dr. Saltzberg has been the science consultant for “The Big Bang Theory” since its pilot episode. He helps out by checking scripts and meeting with the producers, writers, set decorators, prop masters, etc. to ensure scientific accuracy.
Dr. Sherilynn Black is an Assistant Professor of the Practice in Medical Education in the Duke University School of Medicine. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology (Biology minor) as a Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with Highest Honors. She completed her doctoral studies in the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University and completed additional studies in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her current research focuses on identifying the common variables associated with successful STEM student-development interventions in higher education, and in creating computational models that are predictive of the success of higher education intervention programs. Dr. Black serves as the founding Director of the Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity for Duke University School of Medicine. Her office works to bring talented underrepresented graduate students to Duke and to enrich their experiences over the course of their doctoral studies through a series of professional development opportunities, academic enrichment programs, mentoring programs, and cohort-formation activities. Dr. Black is also an alum of the Linton-Poodry SACNAS Leadership Institute.
Dr. Keolu Fox's research interests include genome sequencing technologies, genome editing and indigenizing medical research. Dr. Fox is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Genome Sciences working with experts at Bloodworks Northwest, in Seattle, WA. His work focuses on the application of genome sequencing to increase compatibility for blood transfusion therapy and organ transplantation. Along with fellow indigenous geneticists Dr. Katrina Claw and Dr. Joe Yracheta, Dr. Fox co-founded IndiGenomics, a tribal non-profit organization with a mission of bringing genomic expertise to indigenous communities, empowering indigenous research capacity and positively contributing to health research with indigenous communities for present and future generations. Recently Dr. Fox's work has been in the international media spotlight, with recognition in outlets such as Wired, the BBC, CBC, NPR, The Atlantic, Forbes, Indian Country Today and others. He was named a TED Fellow in 2016. View Dr. Fox’s TED talk on “Why genetic research must be more diverse.”
Ms. Tariyal is currently CEO and Co-Founder of NextGen Jane, a healthcare start-up that offers women insights into their reproductive health. The NextGen Jane Smart Tampon® platform tracks biological changes predictive of disease and informs women about how genetic and epigenetic factors influence their reproductive health state. NextGen Jane’s patented device processes tampon menstrual analytes and preserves them for laboratory analysis on myriad scientific platforms. Ms. Tariyal holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a M.B.A from Harvard Business School, and a S.M. in Biomedical Enterprise from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to NextGen Jane, Ms. Tariyal worked at the Broad Institute, where she led an international genomics operation investigating viral hemorrhagic fevers in West Africa. Ms. Tariyal’s career has focused on commercializing innovations in the life sciences to improve healthcare outcomes. She has expertise in emerging markets research operations (India, Africa) and women’s reproductive health and fertility. Read a recent article about Ms. Tariyal in the New York Times.
Dr. Talithia Williams takes sophisticated numerical concepts and makes them understandable and relatable to everyone. As illustrated in her popular TedTalk, "Own Your Body's Data," she demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways, using statistics as a way of seeing the world in a new light. She has made it her life's work to get people more excited about the possibilities inherent in a STEM education. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Spelman College, Masters' degrees in both Mathematics from Howard University and Statistics from Rice University, and a PhD in Statistics from Rice University. Her professional experiences include research appointments at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the National Security Agency (NSA), and NASA. She is active in her faith community and serves with her husband as a Christian marriage mentor couple, all while being the mom of three amazing boys. Dr. Williams is a former member of the SACNAS Board of Directors and an alum of the Linton-Poodry SACNAS Leadership Institute.
Dr. Robert Garcia is an accomplished educator and the 28th Mayor of Long Beach. Mayor Garcia has taken a leadership role in economic development and investing in technology. He is committed to moving Long Beach forward by attracting tech and green jobs, creating new educational partnerships, and making government more efficient.
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