Invited Speakers

Breakout Session Experts

Rob Nelson

Rob Nelson headshot

Rob Nelson is a biologist and Emmy award winning science communicator who currently acts as the director of the non-profit, Untamed Science. He's also hosted over 20 TV shows on Science Channel, Discovery, Animal Planet and Nat Geo. Rob’s passion is educating about the natural world, mostly via compelling visual stories. He also encourages people tell their own stories and is author of the book "How to make science and nature videos" and runs a popular Youtube channel called Science Filmmaking Tips and Tricks . You can find him on Youtube via his StoneAgeMan Youtube channel.


Dr. Amy Sharma

Amy Sharma Headsot

Amy Sharma, PhD, is the Vice President of Science for Georgia. In this role she is spearheading communications training and assisting in achieving Science for Georgia’s vision and mission.  

Dr. Sharma was VP of Product for Prediko, a start-up that was successfully acquired by United Technologies Corp. She has worked in many aspects of the engineering field: spearheading the development of the big data vertical and managing a $1M annual Independent Research and Development (IRAD) program at GTRI, working as an Assistant Professor in Medical Physics at the University of Western Australia, working as an Assistant Program Manager for the National Science Foundation, receiving political and outreach training as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, obtaining a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Duke University, and designing hardware logic for advanced server microprocessors at IBM.

Dr. Sharma enjoys difficult challenges, jobs with overly long titles, developing big-picture product and R&D strategies, communicating scientific and technical ideas to non-scientists, brewing her own beer, and smoking food.


Alejandra Ruiz Leon

Head shot of Alejandra Ruiz Leon

Alejandra Ruiz Leon is a first-year Ph.D. student in History of Science, focusing on Science Museums and Science Communication.  She graduated from Biochemistry from the University of Navarra (Spain) and got her master’s degree in Science Communication from Pompeu Fabra University (Spain) and on History of Science from the University of Barcelona. Alejandra has collaborated on different science popularization projects both in Spain and in Peru. In 2015 she founded Piura con Ciencia, a science popularization project that worked with students in the north of Peru.


Yvonne Blanco

Glamour shot of Yvonne Blanco

Yvonne Blanco is a senior multimedia designer at the Data Sciences Platform at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She studied at Rhode Island School of Design and worked at Cell Press for 11 years as a senior scientific illustrator, creating everything from manuscript illustrations to cover art, infographics, posters, and interactive media. She currently supports the User Education team at the Broad, helping scientists understand and use Terra (a platform for cloud-based genomic analysis) and GATK (the genomic analysis toolkit). She lives in Somerville, MA, with her cat Beef, and paints in her spare time.


Laura Mast

laura mast photo

Laura is a 6th year PhD candidate and National Science Foundation Fellow in Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a member of Dr. Ching-Hua Huang’s lab. Laura works with Georgia Tech’s Center for Teaching and Learning as a Teaching Fellow and volunteers with the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (CEISMC) and Women in Engineering program. She also runs Populy Voting Systems, a startup dedicated to streamlining STEM competitions through electronic scoring.


Dr. Kamal J.K. Gandhi

Kamal J.K. Gandhi glamour shot

Kamal J.K. Gandhi, Ph.D. is a forest entomologist at the University of Georgia, Athens.  The mission of her research group is to understand the principles of community and population ecology of forest insects, and to provide real-life solutions for forest conservation and sustainability.  She works with diverse stakeholders from regional to international levels on critical forest health issues with a focus on insect-plant interaction, disturbance ecology, and invasive species management.  Dr. Gandhi is also heavily involved with science policy in DC, and is the Science Policy Fellow of the Entomological Society of America.


Dr. Jasmine Clark

jasmine clark

Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Dr. Clark is a Lecturer of Microbiology and Anatomy and Physiology at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. She received her PhD in Microbiology from Emory University. She also currently serves as a State Representative for Georgia’s House District 108 in Gwinnett County. 


Dr. Nicole M. Baran

Nicole Baran glamour shot

Dr. Nicole M. Baran is a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience and animal behavior at Emory University. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Cornell University. She currently studies the neural and genetic basis of social behavior in songbirds. She is also currently the Executive Coordinator of the Atlanta pod of 500 Women Scientists, a feminist grassroots women in STEM organization. In addition to her scientific publications, she has written pieces for Nautilus Magazine, Scientific American, and the Bitter Southerner magazine.


Dr. Marshall Shepherd

Marshall Shepherd Headshot

Dr. Shepherd is frequently sought as an expert on weather, climate, and remote sensing. He routinely appears on CBS Face The Nation, NOVA, The Today Show, CNN, Fox News, The Weather Channel and several others. His TedX Atlanta Talk on “Slaying Climate Zombies” is one of the most viewed climate lectures on YouTube. Dr. Shepherd is also frequently asked to advise key leaders at NASA, the White House, Congress, Department of Defense, and officials from foreign countries. In February 2013, Dr. Shepherd briefed the U.S. Senate on climate change and extreme weather. He has also written several editorials for CNN, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal Constitution, and numerous other outlets and has been featured in Time Magazine, Popular Mechanics, and NPR Science Friday. He has over 90 peer-reviewed scholarly publications. Dr. Shepherd has attracted $3 million dollars in extramural research support from NASA, National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. Dr. Shepherd was also instrumental in leading the effort for UGA to become the 78th member of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a significant milestone for UGA and establishing UGA’s Major in Atmospheric Sciences.


Dr. Kira Walsh

Kira Walsh headshot

Kira Walsh is the Manager for Outreach and Communications in the Emory University Department of Chemistry. She loves working with graduate scholars to help them tell effective stories about science with a focus on finding the “frame” that helps a story resonate with an audience. She is also the voice behind the Emory Department of Chemistry website and @EmoryChem social media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Favorite communications projects at Emory include the “Department of Cat-Mistry” humor site launched for April Fool’s Day 2019 and the “I’m a chemist and…” series. Kira received her PhD from Emory’s Institute of the Liberal Arts in 2013 with a dissertation project that focused on the history of unconscious plagiarism. She is also a graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop and her sketch comedy, stand-up comedy, and cabaret scripts have been performed at Atlanta-based Highwire Comedy Company and Renegade Theatre Ensemble, among others.


Michael Terrazas

Michael Terrazas headshot

Michael Terrazas is director of research communications at the University of Georgia, where in 1992 he earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications. Terrazas has spent the majority of his career in higher education, first at Emory University from 1997-2006 where he served as director of internal communications, then at Georgia Tech from 2008-2018, where he was director of communications for the College of Computing. In all three roles, he devoted considerable time to translating research for general audiences through media relations as well as a range of digital and print communications channels.


Dr. Kim Cobb

Kim Cobb Headshot

Kim Cobb’s research uses corals and cave stalagmites to probe the mechanisms of past, present, and future climate change. She received her B.A. from Yale University in 1996, and her Ph.D. in Oceanography from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in 2002. She spent two years at Caltech in the Department of Geological and Planetary Sciences before joining the faculty at Georgia Tech in 2004. Kim has sailed on multiple oceanographic cruises to the deep tropics and led caving expeditions to the rainforests of Borneo in support of her research. As a mother to four, Kim is a strong advocate for women in science. She is also devoted to the clear and frequent communication of climate change to the public through speaking engagements and social media. Her Twitter account is @coralsncaves .


Sarah Kathryn Ruder & Chance Ruder

Sarah Kathryn Ruder   Chance Ruder

Chance & SK Ruder are the husband and wife team behind Last Chance Endeavors, an environmental education nonprofit. Through their outreach with school systems and their podcast Conservation Connection, they connect the public with the environment by communicating both scientific facts and the emotional importance of nature.