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Welcome to our USAGSO STEMinist: Adventures in STEM with Everyday Superheroes Host Directory!

Thank you to all our STEM Superheroes who have hosted a STEMinist session! Learn more about each of our past hosts below. 

2022 Hosts

Dr. Kimberly Arcand, Visualization Scientist
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Kimberly Kowal Arcand, Ph.D., is the Visualization scientist & Emerging tech lead for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which has its headquarters at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Arcand is an award-winning producer and director. She is a leading expert in studying the perception and comprehension of high-energy data visualization across the novice-expert spectrum. As a science data storyteller, she combines her background in molecular biology and computer science with her current work in the fields of astronomy and physics.

Dr. Arcand kicked off our STEMinist series in 2022 with this special video! Many thanks to AstraFemina for connecting us with Dr. Arcand.  

Melissa Cristina Márquez, Shark Scientist
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Melissa Márquez is a marine science education expert, currently finishing her doctoral degree at Curtin University. Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Mexico, Melissa has worked at the forefront of marine science education and communication for over a decade, hard at work combatting the misinformation that's rampant in ecological fields — and paving the way for Latina women like her in science.

When the ocean conservationist isn’t at sea filming for various TV shows, she has been instrumental leading the DEI charge in marine science, fighting for and advancing inclusive science communication efforts, and challenging the status quo for women in STEM. Through her advisory roles in Women in Ocean Science, Beneath The Waves, Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS), and PangeaSeed, she hopes to leave a wake of opportunities for generations to come.

Her first children book series, Wild Survival, was published in 2021-2022 by Scholastic to rave reviews.

Sonya Hassan-Carey, Animator

Sonya Hassan-Carey is an Animation Technology Specialist and is recognized for leading the creation of The Princess and the Frog, a milestone in animation history for featuring the first African American Disney princess. Today, Hassan-Carey runs The Animation Lounge which she founded. Here she runs workshops on animation and consults.

Hassan-Carey strives to inspire diversity in the field of animation, saying “I'd love to find a way to encourage and mentor younger Black women.”

Genesis Velazquez, Chemist and Cosmetic Scientist

Genesis Velazquez is a chemist with a passion for beauty product innovation. Genesis has several years of experience launching skincare, personal care, hair care, and other consumer goods. She is a scientist with a passion for beauty product innovation, inspired by her love of creating pretty things and the science that brings them to life.

Genesis is also the founder of Elitegen Innovation, a turn-key product development company. She works with beauty brand owners to provide R&D and product management support to help independent beauty brands launch successful products. She hopes to grow this service to build successful brands for beauty entrepreneurs big and small.

Be sure to check out her podcast, The Glam Chemist to hear more from Genesis! 

Samantha Wynns, Conservation Biologist and Science Educator
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Biologist Samantha Wynns has always been a nature geek. Growing up on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park, she spent her summers hiking mountains, rafting rivers, and observing the wild. Sam knew from an early age that she wanted to study and protect these beautiful places and the creatures that live in them. She is a conservation biologist that both does science and communicates science.

Sam now proudly works with the National Park Service at Cabrillo National Monument where she wears many hats: gathering data as a field biologist, educating youth and the public as a science educator, and bringing the Parks-to-the-People with community outreach. During any given day she can be found wrangling snakes (gently and respectfully, of course), leading a STEM summer camp for underserved girls, or giving scientific lectures out in the community. In every role, Sam’s goal is to illuminate and inspire a passion for STEM and a commitment to environmental stewardship. She, her husband, two rescue cats, and a very friendly parrot live in beautiful San Diego, California.

Samantha Wynns is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit.

Elizabeth Mendes, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology PhD Student

Elizabeth-The-Scientist Mendes, a first-generation Latina, is currently a Pharmacology and Cancer Biology PhD Student at Duke University, Duke University School of Medicine. Her interests are translational research, the biotechnology start-up industry, and patent law. Elizabeth brings awareness to mental health through her social media platforms.

Dr. Birthe Veno Kjellerup, Civil and Environmental Engineer

Dr. Birthe Kjellerup is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Maryland. Kjellerup's research activity is in the biofilm area. Biofilms are a trending topic in microbiology today - a biofilm is made up of microorganisms and the "glue" that links them together, enabling them to do their job.

In her research, Kjellerup is utilizing a way to harvest the energy from wastewater via bacterial biofilms. This innovative process has the potential to supply 1-2 percent of our national power consumption every year, meaning less dependency on "the grid" for our increasing power needs. Simultaneously, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which impact climate change. 

Sarah Wilson, Robotics Engineer

Sarah Wilson is a robotics engineer at Tortuga AgTech in Denver, Colorado. She uses her green thumb and her engineering skills alongside farmers and engineers to build technologies that are revolutionizing the way we grow food. Through smarter farming, she is able to address social, economic, and environmental sustainability issues in global food systems.

Prior to her work in agriculture, Sarah leveraged her experience as an extreme skier in her role as a biomechanical research engineer in Vail, Colorado. At the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, she developed technology and methodology to measure athlete motion for research in injury prevention and recovery. She also led an on-snow research series focused on ski equipment safety and injury prevention.

Sarah Wilson is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit.

Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, Professor, Founder, and Cyber Crime Investigator

Dr. Ashley Podhradsky is the Vice President of Research and Economic Development at Dakota State University. Ashley also applies her digital forensic skills in industry as a member of the First Bank and Trust Board of Directors. Her research teams have received over $5.6 M in competitive grants and contracts.

In addition to her academic and professional work, she has a strong passion for increasing gender diversity in cybersecurity. She is the co-Founder of CybHER, a program to introduce middle school girls to cybersecurity. Ashley was the recipient of the EmBe 2017 “Young Woman of Achievement”, The 2017 Merrill Hunter Award for Excellence in Research, and 2017 and 2018 New America Cybersecurity Fellow.

Dr. Ashley Podhradsky is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit.

Daisy Huang, Renewable Energy Mechanical Designer

Daisy Huang is a mechanical engineer with a strong background in materials, design for manufacturing, applied math, applied physics, ice and snow physics, and sustainable energy. Daisy is currently the Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Energy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  

Aisha Lawrey, Electrical Engineer

STEM advocate, Aisha Lawrey, has 20 years of experience on this journey. Working in industry, government, nonprofits, and education she knows how to engage many different stakeholders, at all levels. Her focus is on increasing the number of women and minorities in engineering.

Aisha recently joined the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), Inc. as the Senior Director, Programs and Scholarships. She is responsible for planning, directing and executing all scholarships and program activities. Prior to joining NACME, Aisha was the Director of Engineering Education with the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME). She directed and guided the work of ASME in helping to shape the future of mechanical engineering and engineering technology.

Aisha Lawrey is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit.

Melanie Lang, 3D Printing
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Melanie Lang, FormAlloy Co-Founder and CEO, is motivated by developing a disruptive technology to deliver geometrically complex components made from exotic materials, at cost-effective prices, and with reasonable lead times. In addition to her role at FormAlloy, Melanie currently serves as the Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Navy League San Diego, America Makes executive committee, and is a Women in 3D Printing Ambassador.

Heather Chandler, Game Developer

Heather Chandler makes games. During her 23-year career in video game development, including 3 years as a Senoir Producer on Fortnite, she’s led teams at Epic Games, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Activision. She’s published several books and articles on making games and has lectured about it around the world.

In 2019, Heather combined her love of games, passion for team-building, and entrepreneurial dreams to launch Whole Brain Escape, an escape room in Apex, NC. With four real-life adventure games in a 3,000 square foot facility, it provides immersive, interactive fun for everyone.

Heather is a strong advocate of STEM education, and is committed to providing opportunities for students of all ages to get excited and engaged with technology.

Heather Chandler is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit.

Michele Waters, Medical Mycology

Michele Waters is a communications specialist with a love for science. Michele is a USA Girl Scouts Overseas alumna! She earned her Girl Scout Gold Award in Alconbury, England, and has carried her passion for making science accessible for all into her professional life. 

2020-2021 Hosts

Dr. Raven the Science Maven

Raven Baxter, Ph.D., aka Dr. Raven the Science Maven, is an internationally acclaimed American educator and molecular biologist known for effortlessly merging science with pop culture. Using her magnetic personality, she challenges the status quo to prove that science communicators aren’t all one and the same. 

Dr. Raven’s kicked off our STEMinist series in 2021 with this special video

Paula Garcia Todd, Chemical Engineer

Make an impact! Paula Garcia Todd grew up in Brazil knowing that she loved STEM and wanted to pursue engineering to create change and help people. With a background in chemical engineering, her career has focused on Pharmaceutical Sciences to help fight diseases. She believes that everyone working in a STEM field has a responsibility to educate our younger generation on the beneficial, real-life impact of STEM. In 2020, she was named "Woman of the Year in Engineering" by Women in Technology.

Paula Garcia Todd is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit

Dr. Harshini Mukundan, Microbiologist

Meet Harshi! Dr. Harshini Mukundan who goes by Harshi, is a microbiologist and team leader at the Los Alamos National Labs. Her work focuses on developing diagnostics of infectious diseases. She leads and participates in projects aimed at developing rapid detection and diagnostics assays for breast cancer, influenza, toxic panels, and others. In addition to her research, she excels in scientific and community outreach activities and mentoring and has received numerous awards and honors. She advocates for her treatments to be accessible to all people, so that all people can be healthier and happier.

Dr. Harshini Mukundan is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit

Dr. Olivia Mullins, Neuroscientist and Founder and Executive Director of Science Delivered

Dr. Olivia Mullins is Founder and Executive Director of Science Delivered, a science education nonprofit which focuses on elementary science and educational equity. She also developed and implemented the STEM Trading Card project, where modern and diverse STEM professionals are featured in a trading card format, and created free resources for classroom and at-home science, which can be found at:

Prior to her work at Science Delivered, Dr. Mullins was a neuroscientist working at the University of California, San Diego. She received her BA from Boston College in 2004 and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from University of Virginia in 2012. She additionally wrote the kid’s science experiment book “Experimenting with Science,” published through the junior “For Dummies” series.

One of Dr. Mullins’ top interests is ensuring all elementary school students are provided with a foundational, hands-on, and high quality science education.

Erin Twamley, Educator and Author

Erin Twamley is a writer, a researcher, an educator (M.Ed.), a Lifetime member of the Girl Scouts and a STEMinist. Her passion is working with kids of all ages and grade levels, with a focus on upper elementary (3rd-6th). Erin writes on the topics of women, diversity, science, technology, engineering and math or STEM. She is an award-winning nonfiction children book author. Erin brings interactive encounters to schools, libraries, and Girl Scout troops all around the world. She has lived on three continents.

Erin is also the co-creator and host of our USAGSO STEMinists: Adventures in STEM with Everyday Superheroes program series. 

Janice Lao, Environmental Scientist

Janice Lao is both an Environmental Scientist and a Development Economist. Her life’s work is in making businesses a force for good. She has a rare combination of deep scientific and cross-discipline knowledge, and the ability to engage and communicate effectively. For over 20 years, she has been multi-awarded internationally for her work in sustainability, including being named in Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s most influential sustainability leaders, the only Asian, and one of the youngest, in the list.

Jasmine Cox, Textile Engineer

Jasmine Cox serves as the director of textile technology programs and business innovation at Gaston College’s Textile Technology Center. In this position, she plays an instrumental role in giving students from rural, western North Carolina the opportunity to earn a degree in textile technology through the Gaston College of Textiles and the Wilson College of Textiles.

In addition to her day job, Cox serves as a member of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council (DYALC) within the Wilson College and chairs the DYALC’s event committee.

Learn more about Cox’s path to success in this Wilson College News update

Iris Caldwell, Mentor and Fashion Model

Born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Iris Caldwell jump-started her career in fashion and moved to NYC. There Iris obtained two out of three of her degrees and found her true love for mentoring. Throughout her career, Iris has had internships with companies like Donna Karen International, NBA Brooklyn Nets, NBA Charlotte Hornets but it all led her back to her passion of helping youth and preparing them for their futures.

While in school at Queens University for her master's in Communication Iris had her first job with Girl Scouts Hornet’s Nest Council. There she was able to hone in on mentoring and non-profit work. Now Iris is a middle school success coordinator for a non-profit and is helping the youth of today find their passion and purpose within themselves.

Does Iris look familiar? She’s appeared on countless runways, magazine covers, and television shows!

Dr. Kristen Lear, Bat Conservationist

Dr. Kristen Lear loves bats! Dr. Lear currently works as Bat Conservation International's Agave Restoration Program Manager leading the organization's Agave Restoration Initiative to restore critical foraging habitat for endangered pollinating bats and support community livelihoods in the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico.

She is also passionate about public outreach to raise awareness and appreciation of bats and their conservation. Engaging with the public, including local community groups, social media communities, and policy makers, is a vital part of conservation and is an aspect of her work that she strives to continually build upon and develop! Through her mentoring and youth activities, Dr. Lear hopes to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM/STEAM, increase science literacy among the public, and support the next generation of scientists.

Dr. Kristen Lear is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit

Melissa Luker, Environmental Conservationist

Melissa Luker is an experienced program and training facilitator with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit sector. She is skilled in outdoor education and ethics, training, mentoring, STEM research, and more! Melissa earned her master’s degree focused on Restoration Horticultural Science from Cornell University. Among her favorite past roles in the STEM field, are Master Educator with Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, Restoration Specialist with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Park Ranger at Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

In addition to being an Overseas Volunteer Partner, Melissa loves hosting USAGSO’s annual Girl Scouts Love State Parks programs

DaNel Hogan, Educator and Physicist

DaNel Hogan is the Director of The STEMAZing Project for the Office of the Pima County School Superintendent where she teaches teachers how to better engage students to make sense of the world using 3-dimensional science instruction. DaNel finds her creativity and imagination focused on #STEMontheCheap hacks – using inexpensive materials to teach STEM lessons. From programs serving early childhood educators to systemic, district-wide teacher leader programs and multi- and single-day professional development opportunities for teachers, DaNel enjoys helping teachers cultivate STEM minds and particularly enjoys working with STAR Fellows as they start their teaching careers.

Before returning to Tucson to lead The STEMAing Project, DaNel served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, DC. While in DC, DaNel was involved in national level STEM issues and particularly focused on K-Gray Energy Literacy. Prior to her Einstein Fellowship, DaNel Hogan was a physics teacher for nine years. 

Dr. Davina Durgana, Statistician

An International Human Rights Statistician and Human Trafficking Professor, Dr. Davina Durgana is a Report Co-Author and Senior Statistician on the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index, and works for the Minderoo Foundation. ⁠

She is the American Statistical Association's 2016 Statistical Advocate of the Year, Vice Chair of Statistics without Borders, and a Forbes Top 30 Under 30 in Science for 2017 for her work on statistical modeling, human security theory, and human trafficking.

Dr. Davina Durgana is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThen SheCan Exhibit

Dr. Jessica Fagerstrom, Medical Physicist

Dr. Jessica Fagerstrom is a Medical Physicist who is passionate and committed to treating cancer patients with the highest quality healthcare. Through her current work at the Northwest Medical Physics Center, Dr. Fagerstrom ensures that radiation is delivered safely and effectively. Dr. Fagerstrom is board certified in Therapeutic Medical Physics through the American Board of Radiology and is an active member of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

Dr. Fagerstrom enjoys volunteering with young students, encouraging the next generation to pursue a career path in Medical Physics and other STEM professions. She also loves hiking, marathon running, and snorkeling with her husband, family, and friends.

Dr. Jessica Fagerstrom is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit

Isha M. Renta López, Meteorologist

Isha M. Renta Lopez is a scientist that works in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) as an Analyst and Program Manager. In her current position she manages programs, leads people, is involved in the science policy process, and performs research and development analysis. Previous to this position, Isha was a meteorologist/forecaster for the NOAA’s National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington Forecast Office. In her duties Isha provided forecasts and briefings for their partners and the public, issued warnings, as well as data analysis. Before that, Isha worked as a Research Meteorologist for the Department of the Navy.

Before her work for the Navy, Isha worked as a Student Researcher at Howard University, and at various organizations including the National Science Foundation, NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, and NOAA’s Marine Modeling and Analysis Branch. Isha was also part of a 30-day research cruise that took place in May 2007.

Isha founded and currently directs Semilla Cultural, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the Afro-Puerto Rican musical and dance genre of ‘bomba’. 

Dr. Arylene Simon, Biomedical Engineer

Patented inventor, Dr. Arlyne Simon, is a biomedical engineer and author of a children’s book series called Abby Invents. Recognized as a trailblazing female innovator by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Arlyne invented a blood test that detects when cancer patients reject bone marrow transplants. Her passion for healthcare has led her to design syringes, train clinical lab technologists in Kenya, help build supercomputers and now design medical imaging equipment.

As an author, Arlyne crafts stories about a girl inventor who creates things that do not exist – like unbreakable crayons, folding machines, and more! Eager to inspire more girls to become inventors, Arlyne founded a multicultural children’s products company named Abby Invents - a one-stop shop for future inventors. To date, Abby Invents has reached more than 5,000 future inventors.

Dr. Arlyne Simon is an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN Ambassador and featured in the #IfThenSheCan Exhibit