Organizing Committee

ComSciConCAN 2020 is organized by:

Kaylee Byers (University of British Columbia; @kaylee_byers)

kayleeKaylee Byers is a wildlife health biologist and science communication nerd. She is the Deputy Director of British Columbia’s Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, and a PhD Candidate at the University of British Columbia where she studies urban rats and their impacts on human health. In her free time she organizes Nerd Nite Vancouver, a monthly science seminar series, and runs science communication training via the organization SciCATs. She’s also an avid hiker, knitter, and lover of puns.



Maria Drout (University of Toronto & Dunlap Institute; @mrdout)


Maria Drout is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. She is an observational astronomer who studies the evolution and death of massive stars and the origin of peculiar astronomical explosions.  In 2013, while a graduate student, Maria co-founded of the ComSciCon series of workshops, and is a member of the Leadership Team. She was previously a NASA Hubble Fellow at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena. received her Ph.D. from Harvard, M.A.St from the University of Cambridge, B.Sc. from the University of Iowa, and is originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Alexandra Gellé (McGill University; @AlexGelle)

AlexGelleAlexandra has been involved with Pint of Science since her first day as a PhD student at McGill University. She is now the director of Pint of Science Canada and can often been found in bars discussing science or holding meetings. She is also a contributing writer for the Science Network and The Conversation Canada, in English and French.




Cylita Guy (University of Toronto; @CylitaGuy)

Cylita-GuyDr. Cylita Guy recently completed her PhD at the University of Toronto. Cylita studies why bats seem to be good at carrying diseases that they sometimes give to humans, but rarely get sick from themselves. To answer the questions she is interested in, Cylita uses a combination of computer simulations and fieldwork - that means she actually catches wild bats! When not in the field chasing bats or at her computer analyzing data, Cylita looks for ways to spark other people’s curiosity about the natural world. With a local nature center Cylita has started a Junior Bat Biologist program and her hilarious field exploits have been featured in the general audience book in Fieldwork Fail: The Messy Side of Science! Cylita has also worked as a host at the Ontario Science Centre, appeared on TVOKids Science Max, and speaks regularly to diverse audiences at various events around Toronto about her work. In her down time, you can find your friendly neighbourhood batgirl chasing her next big outdoor adventure.

Rachel Helms (University of Toronto; @rachelhems)


Rachel is a PhD candidate in environmental chemistry at the University of Toronto. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in chemistry at the University of Guelph. Her research focuses on atmospheric chemistry, specifically investigating reactions of organic molecules in clouds and their impact on the Earth's climate. In addition to research, she is an active member and co-chair of the Green Chemistry Initiative, a graduate student run organization that promotes green chemistry and sustainable practices at the University of Toronto. You might also catch Rachel volunteering at the Royal Ontario Museum, where she likes to chat about whale skeletons, the life cycle of bees, and many other topics related to biodiversity!

Katie Moisse (McMaster University; @katiemoisse)

Katie-MoisseKatie Moisse teaches science communication at McMaster University. She's also a science journalist, with bylines in Scientific American, ABC News, Spectrum and The Atlantic. She has a Ph.D. in neuropathology from the University of Western Ontario and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.






Pramodh Senarath Yapa (University of Alberta; @PramodhYapa)


Pramodh Senarath Yapa is a PhD Student in Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics at the University of Alberta. He studies the properties of matter when it is cooled to near absolute zero, and explores how quantum mechanics leads to the formation of new states of matter. His current obsession is superfluid Helium-3, which is liquid that has zero viscosity and thus can flow without friction. In 2019, Pramodh was chosen as the winner of the Dance Your PhD competition sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his swing-dancing rendition of electron behaviour, "Superconductivity: The Musical!". Outside of various #SciComm activities, Pramodh is playing ultimate frisbee, recording music or out exploring the great outdoors!


Thanassis Psaltis (McMaster University; @psaltistha)

thanassis-psaltisThanassis is a Physics PhD candidate at McMaster University. He took his BSc in Physics from University of Athens in Greece and his research interest lies in the area of Experimental Nuclear Astrophysics, the study of the origin of the elements in the cosmos. Thanassis has worked as a researcher in laboratories in Greece, Canada, Germany, Japan and the USA (NCSR “Demokritos”, TRIUMF, Argonne National Laboratory). When not smashing nuclei using big machines to find out what are we made of, he produces/presents shows in W.J. McCallion Planetarium, edits for the science website “ScienceSeeker” and participates in science communication initiatives both in Greece and Canada (SciCo, Researchers’ Night Hamilton, Pint of Science).


Farah Qaiser (University of Toronto; @this_is_farah)

farah_qaiserFarah Qaiser is a graduate student, science advocate and science communicator. She is currently completing a Master’s degree at the University of Toronto, where she uses DNA sequencing to better understand complex neurological disorders. When not in the lab, Farah engages in various science outreach, policy and communication initiatives in an effort to build an engaging and inclusive science culture here in Canada. Farah writes about science for various media outlets, has led Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons to address the encyclopedia’s gender biases, and is one of the co-founders of the Toronto Science Policy Network, which is a platform for student and post-doctoral researchers to learn about and engage in science policy.

Rackeb Tesfaye (McGill University; @RackebT)

Rackeb-TesfayeRackeb Tesfaye is a PhD student in the Program of Integrated Neuroscience at McGill University. Her research is focused on examining biological and behavioral factors that contribute to increased sleep problems found in youth with autism. Outside of the lab, Rackeb is a science communicator and outreach advocate for diversity and inclusion in STEM. She is the founder of Broad Science, a Montreal based initiative that makes science inclusive, engaging and intersectional through audio storytelling projects.



Sydney Valentino (McMaster University; @sydvalentino)

Syd-ValentinoSydney is a Master's student (Year II) studying how the heart changes with exercise in people who have recently had a heart attack. She is passionate about spreading science into the community and is interested in blending science and art. Living in Hamilton, Sydney enjoys biking to practice what she preaches and to give her an excuse to make banana bread.



Oliver Wearing (McMaster University)

Oliver-WearingOliver is a PhD Candidate in Biology at McMaster University. Aside from his research on circulatory adaptations to low oxygen environments, he enjoys facilitating public engagement with the sciences and environmental issues, and spending time amongst wildlife outdoors.





Charles Cong Xu (McGill University; @CharlesCongXu)


Charles Cong Xu (徐聪) is a Ph.D. student in the Redpath Museum & Department of Biology at McGill University. He completed his Master’s degree in Evolutionary Biology (’16) through the Erasmus Mundus Program, which allowed him to travel around Europe and China. Charles completed his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, where he first became interested in the intersection between genetics and the environment. As a researcher, Charles has worked on a variety of organisms including algae, bacteria, fish, flies, birds, lizards, mice, leeches, pandas and spiders. Charles is the founder of the STEMM Diversity @ McGill initiative.