People

Speakers:

Dr. Sherry-Ann Brown, MD, PhD: Resident physician and cardiology fellow, Mayo Clinic

Growing up in Jamaica, Sherry-Ann Brown was very involved in Christian fellowships and youth groups, which paved the way for her participation in the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA).  Brown then studied here at Wesleyan University, earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Physics.  She went on to complete the MD/PhD program at the University of Connecticut Health Center.  Sherry-Ann Brown now works at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where she is a cardiology fellow.  Brown serves on CMDA’s National Resident Council.

Dr. Ximena Cid: Assistant Professor of Physics, California State University

Ximena grew up in an urban environment in Sacramento California.  She attended UC Berkeley and obtained her bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics.  While completing her undergraduate degree, she was fortunate to obtain a research position in Dr. Janet Luhmann’s Space physics group.  Though she loved doing research and applying what she was learning in the classroom to real world scenarios, she felt isolated as one of the few Chicana and Native students in her courses.  She found her connection with the SACNAS community and has been a member ever since.  She started her graduate career at Florida Institute of Technology, but transferred after her first year.  She followed her graduate advisor, Ramon Lopez, to UT Arlington where she completed her Masters and Ph.D. in Physics and Applied Physics.  After grad school, she accepted a tenure-track position at North Lake College.  She accepted a postdoc position with Lillian McDermott’s Physics Education Group at the University of Washington.  She recently accepted an assistant professors position in the Physics Department at California State University, Dominguez Hills.  Her area of focus is on the use of representations in physics and the space sciences.  She is also a passionate advocate for underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

Dr. Aki Roberge: Research Astrophysicist, NASA Goddard

Aki Roberge grew up in rural Vermont and discovered her passion for science in high school: “When I took biology, I decided that’s what I wanted to study. Then the next year I took chemistry, and decided that’s what I really wanted to do. Then I took physics, and that sealed the deal.”  She graduated with a Physics degree from MIT, and completed a PhD in Astrophysics at John Hopkins.  Roberge continued her studies in a postdoctoral fellowship at the Carnegie Institution of Washington.  Now working at NASA, Aki Roberge studies newly-forming planetary systems and looks at dust around disks.  She seeks to understand planet formation and to develop a better understanding of how our solar system was created.

Dr. Rebecca Thompson-Flagg: Public Outreach Specialist, APS

Originally from Maryland, Rebecca Thompson-Flagg attended Bryn Mawr College and chose to study Physics because of its intellectual challenge.  Flagg continued her studies at the University of Texas in Austin, where she earned a PhD.  At this time, she also performed science demonstrations at high schools around Austin.  Flagg is now a Public Outreach Specialist for APS, where she follows her passion for teaching and designing experiments.  As part of her efforts to increase female interest in science, Rebecca Thompson-Flagg recently designed a comic series about a female superhero, Spectra, who has laser powers.

Keynote Speaker, via teleconference

Dr. Ginger Kerrick: Flight Director, NASA

Raised by a single parent in Texas, Ginger Kerrick was a star student and athlete.  She earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Physics at Texas Tech University.  Kerrick then interned in NASA’s Safety Organization Department, and hoped to become an astronaut.  Unfortunately, health problems interfered with her lifelong dream, but she through her new position of Mission Operations Directorate she was able to engage in the space program in a different way.  She worked her way up to Flight Director, and has supported numerous crews and shuttle operations.  Ginger Kerrick is the first Hispanic woman to be a NASA flight director.

Panelists:

Dr. Noël Bakhtian: Senior Fellow, White House Office of Science & Technology Policy

Dr. Noël Bakhtian is a Senior Fellow at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP), working on environment and energy. In her previous role at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Noël led coordination and strategy efforts on Energy-Water Nexus activities for the Office of International Affairs, managing the U.S. interagency working group on the international water-energy nexus (IWEN) and supporting bilateral and multilateral DOE nexus engagements including the new $50M U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center energy-water track, and the water component of the U.S.-Israel Energy Dialogues. Prior to joining DOE International Affairs, Noël’s work experience included serving as a technical lead in DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, formulating energy policy in the U.S. Senate, energy consulting for DARPA, inventing new technologies for Mars missions as a member of the Advanced Supercomputing Division at NASA, and analyzing bird flight through experimental analysis and field work as a Churchill Scholar.  Noël completed her undergraduate work in Mechanical Engineering and Physics at Duke University, holds Master’s degrees from University of Cambridge and Stanford University, and completed her doctorate at Stanford University’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Genevieve Brett: Ph.D. candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Genevieve Brett was a Porter Scholar at Skidmore College, double-majoring in Physics and Mathematics and graduating with a B.A. in 2012. She is now a Ph.D. candidate for physical oceanography in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program. Her main hobby is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art. In the future, Genevieve plans to pursue an academic career.

Dr. Candice Etson: Assistant Professor of Physics, Wesleyan University

Candice Etson holds two undergraduate degrees – a BFA in Dance from NYU, and a BA in Physics from Hunter College of CUNY, where she was a MARC (Minority Access to Research Careers) Scholar.  She received her PhD in Biophysics from Harvard University, after which she was a TEACRS (Training in Education and Critical Research Skills) Postdoctoral Fellow at Tufts University. Dr. Etson’s research specialty is is single-molecule imaging and spectroscopy. She moved to Middletown with her husband and two daughters this summer, when she joined the faculty of the Physics Department at Wesleyan University.

Dr. Angela Hight Walker: Research Chemist, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Dr. Hight Walker is the leader of the Optical Spectroscopy of Nanostructures project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where she began her career as a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in 1994.    Angela received her Ph.D. in Chemical Physics in the Novick laboratory at Wesleyan University.  Her research group focuses on advancing Raman spectroscopic techniques and specifically their applicability to characterize nanostructures.  Her team has developed resonance Raman capabilities and unique hyphenated Raman techniques such as AFM-Raman and magneto-Raman and applied them to the study of the underlying chemistry and physics of nanomaterials, including noble and transition metal nanoparticles, carbon nanotubes, and graphene and other 2D materials resulting in over 100 publications and a patent. Angela is actively involved in international standards activities regarding nanotechnology, leading the US technical committee on Measurement and Characterization to ISO TC229. An issue of great importance to Dr. Hight Walker is encouraging the young and underrepresented to participate in science.  Through on and offsite demonstrations and lectures, she activity engages in promoting the excitement of science.  Recruiting, promoting and mentoring undergraduate students and postdoctoral researchers is a passion. She co-organized one of the APS 2014 Women in Physics conferences which was jointly sponsored by the University of Maryland and NIST.  Her awards include the Department of Commerce Silver Medal and the NIST Diversity and NIST Bronze Medals.  

Dr. Meredith Hughes: Assistant Professor of Astronomy, Wesleyan University

Meredith Hughes is an assistant professor of astronomy at Wesleyan University.  Her research involves using radio telescopes to study the formation of planets around nearby stars.  She holds a bachelors degree in Physics & Astronomy from Yale University and a PhD in Astronomy from Harvard University.  She recently completed a 3-year term on the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy, during which time she also served as the liaison to the Working Group on LGBTIQA Equality.  She was one of the organizers of the first-ever Inclusive Astronomy conference, which took place in June 2015 and was the first national-scale meeting to take an intersectional approach to equity and inclusion in the field of astronomy.  At Wesleyan, she also co-organized the inaugural meeting of the Astronomy Anti-Racism Group (AARG!), which brought astronomers from around the northeast region to discuss and organize anti-racism activism in the field of astronomy.  She is also the faculty advisor for Wesleyan Women in Science, and one of the organizers of this year’s CUWiP meeting.

Melissa King: Ph.D. candidate, Wesleyan University

Melissa King is currently pursuing a Ph. D. at Wesleyan University in chemistry and her research focuses on inorganic nanomaterials. As a mother of three, Melissa did not have a traditional college experience but decided to attain a degree in Chemistry in 2010 and received her ACS certified B.S. in Chemistry in 2014 from central Connecticut state university.  Having an active life Melissa is still involved in her personal and academic communities via volunteer work. Some of these things include outreach programs for high school students interested in pursuing physical science degrees in college, tutoring at the college level, as well as participating in and helping to organize local science fairs and invention conventions for younger students. Upon completion of her Ph. D., Melissa would like to continue on to an academic position.

Renee Lathrop: Assistant Professor of Physics, Dutchess Community College

Renee Lathrop graduated from Susquehanna University with a BS in Physics in 2000, University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a MS in Physics in 2002, and Marist College with a MA in Education Psychology in 2008.  She has experience in teaching physics to high school, community college, and 4 year college students.  Since 2003, she has been primarily teaching physics at Dutchess Community College located in Poughkeepsie New York.  She has been an active member of the American Association of Physics Teachers organization since 2002 presenting at conferences and being a member of various committees.

Alison Leonard: Director of Printer Software, MakerBot Industries

Alison is the Director of Printer Software at MakerBot Industries, the desktop 3D printing company.  In this job, she manages a team of 20 software developers who design and build the Desktop Software, Toolpathing algorithms and Firmware for MakerBot printers.  She started at MakerBot as a the company’s first full time firmware engineer.  She learned how to write firmware at Centeye, an R&D company that makes optic flow sensors for experimental drones.  

Jessica Mink: Astronomer and software developer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Jessica Mink is a positional astronomer and software developer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.  She has SB and SM degrees from MIT in Comparative Planetology, co-discovered the rings of Uranus while working at Cornell, worked on occultation predictions which led to the discovery of Neptune’s rings and detection of the extent of Pluto’s atmosphere after returning to MIT. After moving up the Charles River to the Center for Astrophysics, she worked on the Spacelab 2 IR Telescope, developing some key workstation software and moving into the Telescope Data Center, where she developed pipelines for ground-based spectrographs.  Along the way, she wrote the commonly used software packages WCSTools and RVSAO, became a bicycle activist, and changed gender.

Clara Moskowitz: Senior Editor, Scientific American

Clara Moskowitz is Scientific American’s senior editor covering space and physics. She has a bachelor’s degree in Astronomy and Physics from Wesleyan University and a graduate degree in Science Journalism from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Prior to joining Scientific American, she worked for Space.com, Wired, Discover Magazine, and the American Museum of Natural History.  

Dr. Kerstin Nordsrom: Clare Booth Luce Assistant Professor of Physics, Mount Holyoke College

Kerstin Nordstrom is a Professor at Mount Holyoke College: one of the “Seven Sisters” colleges, and one that remains an institution for women and gender minorities. Her research is in soft matter physics; her group uses video-analysis and mathematical modeling to understand the behavior of a variety of non-Newtonian flows, from avalanching sandpiles to the flow of polymer solutions in microfluidic channels. She is a member of the APS Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, and has been involved with the group LGBT+ physicists.

Dr. Christina Othon: Assistant Professor of Physics, Wesleyan University

Christina is an Assistant Professor in the Physics department at Wesleyan University. Her research is in experimental soft condensed matter physics and she is an expert on hydration dynamics and collective motion in biological materials. She is passionate about STEM diversity, and her outreach efforts include the establishment of a local Girls Summer Science camp. While originally from the Midwest, she has had the opportunity to live all around the US, and is happy to be settled here in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

Jesse Shanahan: Graduate student, Wesleyan University

Jesse Shanahan is a graduate student studying Astrophysics at Wesleyan University. She began her career as an Echols Scholar at the University of Virginia and was a dedicated researcher of North African linguistics. Despite switching careers to pursue her love of science, she remains a language lover and still translates French, Arabic, and Latin poetry for fun. At Wesleyan University, she studies supermassive black holes and active galactic nuclei with Dr. Edward Moran. In her spare time, she organizes public outreach events at local schools, specializing in special needs and at-risk classrooms. In her first year of graduate school, she founded an astronomy outreach program for kids, which has received attention from press and remains a popular bi-monthly event at Van Vleck Observatory. Throughout her career, Jesse has advocated staunchly for inclusive equity and is a founding member of the Astronomy Anti-Racism Group (AARG!). She continues to be a dedicated disability rights activist and is currently in the process of forming the first working group on disability justice and accessibility in astronomy.

Dr. Meng-Ju (Renee) Sher: Postdoctoral fellow, Stanford University

Meng-Ju (Renee) Sher is an acting Assistant Professor at Stanford. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan in 2007 and Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University in 2013. Afterwards, she joined Professor Aaron Lindenberg’s group at Stanford conducting research on renewable energy materials using ultrafast lasers. Currently, in addition to doing research in the Lindenberg group, she teaches material science classes and coordinates undergraduate summer research programs for the Materials Science and Engineering department at Stanford. She is excited to join the Physics department at Wesleyan as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2016.

Maggie Wittlin: Associate in Law, Columbia Law School

Maggie Wittlin graduated from Yale with a B.S. in Physics in 2005. She worked as a science writer for Seed Media Group for three years before heading back to Yale for law school, where she was a member of the Cultural Cognition Project. After clerking for two federal judges, she worked as a litigation associate at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, focusing on patent litigation. Maggie is now an Associate in Law at Columbia Law School, where her research focuses on evidence and decision-making.

Mei Chai Zhang: Ph.D. candidate, Princeton University

Mei Chai Zheng is currently a fifth year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Electrical Engineering at Princeton University. Her graduate research focused on designing novel cavities for quantum cascade lasers and emitters for applications in trace gas sensing and medical imaging. She was awarded the Princeton Francis Robbins Upton Fellowship and the NDSEG Fellowship to support her graduate research from 2011-2015, and recently received the Harold W. Dodds Honorific Fellowship in recognition of outstanding performance and professional promise. Prior to graduate school, she received her B.A. and M.A. in Physics from Wesleyan University in 2010 and 2011, respectively.  There, her research focused on theoretically understanding optical systems that exhibits parity-time symmetry. During that time, she was also a long-term visiting research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Selforganization in Göttingen, Germany.