Invited Experts

The conference will host four different panels on the following subjects:

  • Science Writing
  • Science Multimedia
  • Communicating Science to Policymakers
  • Careers in Science Communication

Ricardo Nuila

 Keynote Speaker: Ricardo Nuila, M.D.

Dr. Nuila is an attending physician at Baylor College of Medicine and a professor in the Medicine and Society program at University of Houston. He is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and his short stories and essays have been featured in Best American Short Stories 2011 and the New England Journal of Medicine. 



Jade BoydJade Boyd, Science Editor and Associate Director of News and Media Relations, Office of Public Affairs at Rice University. Boyd joined Rice in 2002 and promotes university research in science and engineering with written press releases, print and online news features and direct pitches to news reporters. He has a degree in journalism from Texas A&M University and previously worked at United Press International, the Bryan-College Station Eagle and InternetWeek magazine.


Barbara GastelBarbara Gastel, M.D., M.P.H., Texas A&M University Science and Technology Journalism Coordinator. Dr. Gastel earned a B.A. from Yale and an M.D. and an M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins. After medical school, she did  an American Association for the Advancement of Science mass media fellowship at Newsweek. She also has  taught science writing at MIT, authored many books, and she spent two years as visiting professor of  technical communication at Beijing Medical University (now Peking University Health  Science Center). 

Michelle SauerMichelle Sauer, Ph.D.Principal Writer / Editor at RnAEditing. Dr. Sauer got her Ph.D. in Veterinary Microbiology and eventually became an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston (UTH).  While at UTH, she moved away from the laboratory research and towards research development/technical writing, and she received her certification as an Editor of Life Sciences in 2011. Dr. Sauer most recently joined the staff of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at Prairie View A&M University. 

Karen Kaplan Karen Krakower KaplanAssistant Vice President at The University of Texas Health Science Center at  Houston (UTHealth). Mrs. Kaplan is a communications professional with more than 20 years of  experience in the Texas Medical Center. She is currently the Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, Special Assistant to the Senior Executive Vice President, and Senior Communications Officer and Director of University Communications at UTHealth. In addition, she has served for over 10 years as editor of UTHealth’s award-winning HealthLeader, an online wellness magazine with a worldwide subscriber base.

Scott SolomonScott Solomon, Ph.D.Professor in Biosciences at Rice University and Popular science author for and Slate. Dr. Solomon received his doctorate in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Texas at Austin where he examined the evolutionary basis of biological diversity in the Amazon Basin. He has worked as a visiting researcher with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Rio Claro, Brazil.

Neal LaneNeal Lane, Ph.D., Senior fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute. Dr. Lane is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus at Rice University. Previously, Dr. Lane served in the federal government as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from August 1998 to January 2001, and he served as director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and member (ex officio) of the National Science  Board from October 1993 to August 1998. Before his post with NSF, Dr. Lane was provost and professor of physics at Rice, a  position he had held since 1986.

Susan MarriottSusan J. Marriott, Ph.D.President and Founder of BioScience Writers. Dr. Marriott trained at the National Institute of Health after getting her Ph.D. from Kansas State University. She has been a professor at Baylor College of Medicine since 1991. BioScience Writers is a company specializing in scientific writing and editing services, consists of editors with broad knowledge in over 170 scientific disciplines. She is also director of special projects, quality enhancement plan at Baylor College of Medicine, which aims to demonstrate the institution’s ability to initiate, implement, and evaluate initiatives to impact student learning.

Brianna RapiniBrianna Rapini, Co-Creator of the Amoeba Sisters Science Video Website. Brianna Rapini graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in biology. Additionally, she completed the UTeach program, a national program which trains aspiring secondary STEM teachers. She earned her master's degree from SHSU in educational administration. In her career in public school education, Ms. Rapini has been an AP Biology/biology teacher, science instructional specialist, science program coordinator and instructional technology specialist. Currently, she enjoys teaching biology in Klein ISD and working with her sister on their "Amoeba Sisters" YouTube video series part-time. The "Amoeba Sisters" YouTube channel, which has a cumulative view count of over ten million views, features cartoon videos that use humor and relevance to engage students with topics that connect to secondary science standards.

Sarina PetersonSarina Peterson, Co-Creator of the Amoeba Sisters Science Video WebsiteSarina Peterson graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelors in economics in 2010. She then earned her masters from the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service in public policy with concentrations in nonprofit management and education policy. Before graduating, Ms. Peterson won second prize at the A&M university-wide Raymond Idea Challenge for a STEM-based video game and published a paper on using games in STEM education at Virginia's Center of Excellence in Education. Ms. Peterson has worked at Dallas ISD as a program evaluation analyst for 3 years, lovingly dedicating her free time to the Amoeba Sisters YouTube channel, which has over 90k subscribers as of January 2017.

Oludurotimi AdetunjiOludurotimi Adetunji, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the College for Undergraduate Research and Inclusive Science and director of the Science Cartoons Program (SciToons) at Brown University. Dr. Adetunji earned a B.S. in Physics and Computer Science from Fisk University, and his Ph.D. in Physics from The Ohio State University. He runs the SciToons program at Brown University, which is a new approach for communicating scientific research and concepts to broad audience via storytelling, animation, high-quality multimedia, and art. 

On March 10, 2017, Dr. Adetunji will be giving a seminar on Communicating Science through Multimedia Platforms. The seminar will be held at Rice University Farnsworth Pavillion in the Rice Memorial Center from 10:00-11:00 AM. Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP here.

Laurence YeungLaurence Yeung, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Earth Science, Rice University. Dr. Yeung's research focuses on Earth's atmospheric and biogeochemical cycles. Specifically, he uses stable isotopes to understand processes ranging from stratospheric chemistry to carbon cycling in the oceans. His expertise also includes public engagement in science: he was a founding producer for PHD TV, an online-based science outreach venture led by Jorge Cham (creator of PHD Comics). Dr. Yeung's animated video, Teamwork in the Tropical Atlantic (a collaboration with Meg Rosenburg), was a finalist in the 2014 BLUE Ocean Film Festival and won second place in the 2014 Ocean180 video contest.

Terri SabellaTerri Sabella, RN, J.D., Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of CommUnityCare. Terri Sabella is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and the Critical Care Trauma Nurse Internship at Parkland Health and Hospital System. She began her career in healthcare as an ER/ICU and Trauma nurse, where she served the safety net population in Dallas, Texas. While working at Parkland, she attended Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, graduating in 2005 with her J.D. As an attorney, she has represented health systems, hospitals, physicians and other practitioners. Ms. Sabella joined CommUnityCare in 2011 as Associate General Counsel, before moving onto General Counsel. This federally qualified health center provides primary care to the uninsured and underinsured of Travis County, TX. In 2013, she became the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, with an intent to use her past experiences to drive organizational improvement. 

Ellen BrekenridgeEllen Brekenridge, Ph.D., J.D., M.P.H., Faculty Associate, Department of Management, Policy, and Community Health, University of Texas School of Public Health. Dr. Brekenridge received her Ph.D. in sociology and history of science from University of Pennsylvania, her J.D. from University of Houston Law Center, and her M.P.H. in Management, Policy and Community Health from University of Texas School of Public Health. She has served as Assistant Project Manager and Publications Manager at the Coordinating Center for Clinical Trials at the University of Texas School of Public Health. In her current position since 2015, she is the co-investigator and project manager for 1115 Texas Medicaid Waiver Assessment.

Rekha LakshmananRekha Lakshmanan, M.H.A., Director of Advocacy and Policy at The Immunization Partnership. Rekha Lakshmanan received her B.A. in political science from The University of Texas at Austin and her M.H.A. from Texas Woman's University. In her current position, she is responsible for formulating and designing effective public health policies to promote high immunization rates and oversees the development of multiple coalitions across the state. She also continually educates lawmakers about the importance of evidence based laws and policies. She has in-depth experience working with large integrated health systems in both the public and private sector,  state immunization programs, advocacy organizations, physicians, and policy-makers. 

Elizabeth FestaElizabeth Festa, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Center for Written, Oral, and Visual Communication, Rice University. Dr. Festa is a lecturer in the Program for Writing and Communication at Rice University. She teaches research writing, presentation, and visual communication across the disciplines. She received her Ph.D. in English literature from Vanderbilt University and her B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame. Before coming to Rice, she taught at Vanderbilt University and the University of Georgia. Dr. Festa has designed and taught over 35 writing-intensive and oral presentation-intensive courses. Her research interests include American literary realism and modernism, material culture, visual culture, and documentary work.  Dr. Festa was a member of the screening committee for the inaugural Fulbright/National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship and has served on that committee since 2014.

Scott FaulkScott Faulk, Director of Media Production for Go Local Video in Houston, TX. For 20 years he has been producing and teaching video and television production.  He has a passion for bringing ideas to life and helping businesses and individuals grow.



Jane ZhaoJane Zhao, Director of Digital Media Commons (DMC) of Fondren library at Rice University. Ms. Zhao provides oversight and management of the DMC. She offers training workshops and assists patrons in developing digital media projects including audio, video, graphics, web, scanning, and others. Ms. Zhao came to Rice in 2005. Before coming to Rice, she worked at the Curriculum Innovation Center of the Houston Community College as an instructional technician. She earned her Master's Degree in Computer Science from the University of Rhode Island in 2001.