Invited Speakers

Keynote Speaker: Maryn McKenna

Keynote Speaker: Maryn McKenna

Maryn McKenna is an Atlanta-based independent journalist who specializes in public health, global health and food policy, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, where she teaches health and science writing and storytelling. She is the author of the 2017 bestseller BIG CHICKEN: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats, which received the 2018 Science in Society Award and was named a best book of 2017 by Amazon, Smithsonian, Science News, Wired, Civil Eats, and other publications (and is published in the UK and other territories under the title Plucked) and the award-winning books Superbug and Beating Back the Devil. She appears in the 2019 documentary Resistance Fighters, which won top prizes at the Vancouver and Paris film festivals, and the 2014 U.S. documentary Resistance, and her 2015 TED Talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work any more?" has been viewed 1.8 million times and translated into 34 languages. She writes for The New York Times Magazine, WIRED, The New Republic, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Newsweek, NPR, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Slate, The Atlantic, Nature, and The Guardian, among other publications. She has received the 2019 AAAS-Kavli Gold Award for magazine writing, the 2019 John P. McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication, the 2014 Leadership Award of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, and the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences, among many other honors. In 2018, she was a Poynter Fellow in Journalism at Yale University; in 2013-2014, she was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT. 



Invited Experts for Individual Panels and Sessions

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Detailed Bios:




Dr. Theresa Gaines

Theresa Gaines, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. In the wet-lab, her research focuses on creating novel small molecules that interact with the CXCR4 protein receptor—which has ties to inflammation and cancer metathesis. Her other research interests include creating and using organic chemistry games to maximize student learning inside the classroom. She is the founder and game designer for Big Magnet Games, a game company that produces organic chemistry card games that students can use to practice and revise. Theresa is also an amateur cheesemaker. She makes mostly hard and semi-hard style cheeses and occasionally streams the process on Twitch to showcase and discuss cheesemaking with the community.



William Katzman


William Katzman has lead the NSF-funded LIGO Science Education Center team for the last 11 years.  Prior to that he taught middle and high school science in Massachusetts and directed the exhibits program at a science museum in North Carolina.  If you want a longer bio …here’s a longer one:  William Katzman is an award winning informal science educator who has lead the amazing NSF-funded LIGO Science Education Center team for the last 11 years.   Immediately prior to working at LIGO he directed the exhibits program for a science museum and worked on the acclaimed NSF funded TEAMS grants.  As a prior teacher he cares about what the students learn as well as how the students learn.  He has previously taught at the middle, high and community college level.  He has written and cowritten nationally published articles and federally funded grants.   In his spare time he enjoys investigating the world around him with his two children and wife, and occasionally trying out his acting chops.  if you want a funnier one:  William Katzman,  has lead the NSF-funded LIGO Science Education Center team for the last 11 years.  Prior to that he directed the exhibits program at Catawba Science Center in North Carolina, and  taught middle and high school science in Massachusetts  - all indicating that he can’t be re-hired in any state he’s already worked in.  Apparently word gets out.


Dr. Neil Lamb

Dr. Neil Lamb is an award-winning science educator who leads the educational outreach efforts at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. He completed his PhD and postgraduate training at Emory University in Atlanta where he was also a faculty member in the School of Medicine. His career shifted from hands-on research to science education when he realized his true calling: inspiring a passion for human genetics and biotechnology in others. This past year, over 1.9 million students, educators, practitioners and members of the general public were impacted by the efforts of Dr. Lamb and his team.


Dr. Meisa Salatia

Meisa Salaita has made it her mission to help others see and appreciate the beauty of science by making it a part of everyday cultural experiences. Through her work founding and directing the Atlanta Science Festival and Science ATL, she spends her days convincing everyone else to fall in love with science as well. To that end, Meisa has produced radio stories for NPR, hosted TV shows on a variety of networks, and written for HowStuffWorks - all in the name of science. In addition to her work with the Festival, Meisa is one of the Atlanta-based producers for The Story Collider, a science storytelling podcast. Meisa has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Northwestern, and has been named a Woman Making a Mark by Atlanta Magazine and a Woman Who Means Business by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.


Dr. Kira Walsh

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 stage scripts have been performed at Atlanta-based Highwire Comedy Company and Renegade Theatre Ensemble, among others.




Jen Christiansen


Jen Christiansen is a senior graphics editor at Scientific American, where she art directs and produces illustrated explanatory diagrams and data visualizations. She began her publishing career in New York City at Scientific American in 1996, moved to Washington, D.C. to join the staff of National Geographic (first as an assistant art director/researcher hybrid and then as a designer), spent four years as a freelance science communicator and returned to Scientific American in 2007. Jen writes and presents on topics ranging from visualizing uncertainty, to her quest to learn more about the pulsar chart on Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album cover. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a B.A. in geology and studio art from Smith College.





Dr. Anna Funk


Anna Funk is a freelance writer and editor based in Kansas City, MO. After defending her Ph.D. in plant biology, she spent a season as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel followed by 2.5 years as editor at Discover magazine. At Discover, she wrote and edited stories for the print magazine and website, launched her own series on Discover’s YouTube channel, and worked with countless freelance writers. Follow her on Twitter at @DrAnnaFunk and for her latest shenanigans. 


Kitta Macpherson


Kitta MacPherson is an award-winning science writer who has worked in daily newspapers and at Princeton University. She blogs on science and life at

During her career in daily newspaper journalism, most of it at The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., she reported on numerous breakthroughs in science. MacPherson has won recognition for her work from the National Association of Science Writers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the New Jersey Press Association. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The Copperfield Review, Mused, Medium, Enchanted Conversation and the Prachya Review. She teaches journalism at Rutgers University and St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey.


Prasha Dutra


Prasha hosts Her STEM Story, a weekly podcast that helps women in STEM excel in their STEM careers and beyond. Her STEM Story has won a spot on the Top 15 STEM podcasts of 2019and has featured over 100 interviews since 2017. She started Her STEM Consulting, LLCto provide customized coaching and consulting for women to help them take their careers to the next level. She has helped over 50,000 womento start their side hustles, find their brilliance, confidence and find role models in STEM. currently lives in Providence, RI with her husband Nick, and they love to cook indian 


Mary Powers

Mary Powers is the senior science writer and content editor at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a leading research and treatment center focused on catastrophic pediatric diseases. She joined St. Jude in 2010 after an award-winning career as a journalist. She worked as a reporter for the Associated Press, the Arizona Daily Star and The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. Mary also spent a year at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. She specialized in health and science writing during the latter half of her journalism career. Her work has also appeared in magazines and she authored two trade-publication books for adolescents. 


Joseph Stunzi

Joseph Stunzi is a former Foundation Fellow and graduate of the University of Georgia, where he studied Biology, Psychology, and Creativity up to the graduate level.  From an early age, Joseph’s passions focused on science research, getting approved for live-patient medical research at Emory Hospital at 12 and going on to win America’s Top Young Scientist of the Year the following year.  After university, he joined the Emmy-award winning team at Stillmotion as Director of Technology where he focused on building their online education platform as well as story-focsued creative work. Following Stillmotion, Joseph dedicated a year to founding his second startup Meducate with the goal of providing mobile-first video-based continuing medical education (CME) for doctors and nurses.  Joseph joined Facebook in San Francisco as a Director focused on social good projects. In his role, he built a global creative team, strategy, and workflow for key projects for their F8 Developer Conference, Accessibility Team, and "Community Voices" (a now 2.27 million person community).  Joseph's consultancy Locomotive continues to build businesses, drive creative campaigns, and develop strategies for a global client roster including Apple, AT&T, BCG, Canon, Google, Lyft, NCAA, NFL, 23&Me. In recent years, projects have included everything from wearable healthcare technology for aging seniors to pipeline natural gas to disaster relief tech in the Caribean. Locomotive has enabled him to learn how to innovate and grow businesses across any industry.  Joseph aspires to create conversations that lead to world-changing ideas through his love of startups, strategy, science, and storytelling.



Dr. Healthier Bloemhard

I am the assistant director of federal relations in Vanderbilt University’s Office of Federal Relations. In this role, I interact regularly with leaders in Congress, focusing primarily on the Tennessee congressional delegation and their staffs, to support the university’s education and research missions. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, I was a science and technology policy fellow sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and placed in the Defense Laboratories Office of the Department of Defense. I was also the American Astronomical Society’s John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow from 2015 to 2017. I hold a doctorate in physics from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and a bachelor’s of science in physics and astronomy from George Mason University.


Dr. 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. Ryan Fortenberry

Dr. Fortenberry is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry & Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi. The Fortenberry Lab at Ole Miss leverages the use of computational techniques for the exploration of the structure and detectable spectra for novel molecular species in the interstellar medium (ISM), planetary atmospheres, and proto-planetary disks.


Dr. Nika Larian

Nika Larian is a current AAAS Science and Technology Policy (STPF) Fellow in the Center for Nutrition within the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau of Resilience and Food Security. Dr. Larian is passionate about the intersection of nutrition and human health with public policy and public perception. Nika received her Ph.D. in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Kentucky in 2019. Her doctoral research explored the effects of environment pollutants on human health, namely diabetes and obesity. As a Post Doctoral Scholar in the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, she studied antibiotic resistant sepsis, wasting in chronic illness, and fat metabolism. Recently, Nika served as the Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs for NAGPS and the State Regulatory Specialist for the Kentucky Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


Dr. Amy Sharma

Amy Sharma, PhD, is the Vice President of Science for Georgia, a non-profit dedicated to improving communication among scientists and the public, increasing public engagement with science, and advocating for the responsible use of science in public policy.     Dr Sharma was VP of Product for Prediko, a start-up that was successfully acquired. She has worked in many aspects of the engineering field: spearheading the development of the big data vertical at GTRI, designing a Medical Physics program at the University of Western Australia, working for the National Science Foundation, receiving political and outreach training as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow, and obtaining a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Duke University.