Invited Speakers

We are excited to introduce our amazing speakers and panelists!


Keynote speaker

Lucy JonesLucy Jones

Dr. Lucy Jones is founder and chief scientist of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society, which aims to foster the understanding and application of scientific information to create more resilient communities, and a Research Associate at the Seismological Laboratory of Caltech. With a BA in Chinese Language and Literature from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Seismology from MIT, Dr. Jones furthers resilience to natural hazards through scientific research and collaborations with policy makers, including 33 years with the US Geological Survey, and writing over 100 published papers on statistical seismology and integrated disaster scenarios. and most recently The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and what we can do about them) (published by Doubleday, 2018). She is also a musician and composed In Nomine Terra Calens (In the name of a warming earth). Her pioneering science was recognized with numerous awards including the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal.


Fundamentals of SciComm Workshop

sarah mojaradSarah Mojarad


Sarah Mojarad is on the faculty at the University of Southern California. She is a lecturer in Viterbi School of Engineering. Her areas of expertise are in social media, science communication, misinformation, and online professionalism for students and researchers in STEMM disciplines.


Sarah currently teaches Social Media for Scientists and Engineers. It is believed to be the first full-length course in higher education that educates STEMM students on the issues and opportunities of using social media for professional communication.


Sarah has given talks and seminars at scientific meetings and universities around the world. She has presented her work to the National Science Board, National Institutes of Health, and US Department of State. She has been quoted by Becker’s Hospital Review, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and CNN. In 2017, her commentary on social media pseudoscience was published in Science.


Activism in Science/Diversity and Inclusion Panel

smadar naozSmadar Naoz

Smadar Naoz is a theoretical astrophysicist who works on a wide range of topics, from the formation very first stars in the Universe to the gravitational interactions of planets, stars, and black holes. At UCLA, Prof. Naoz teaches various courses, including introductory undergraduate physics, classical mechanics for majors, and graduate courses in advanced astrophysics. She is also the chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at the Department of Physics and Astronomy. 

Prof. Naoz recently was awarded the American Astronomical Society's Helen B. Warner Prize, for a significant contribution to theoretical astronomy during the five years preceding the award.


Evelyn ValdezEvelyn Valdez-Ward


Evelyn (she/ella) is a fifth year, formerly undocumented, PhD candidate, Ford Foundation Predoctoral and Switzer Foundation Fellow studying the effects of drought on plants and soil microbes. As a Research + Practice Collaboratory Fellow, her final dissertation chapters aim to study marginalized scientists and their use of science communication and policy for advocacy and social justice. She was named one of 2020's Grist 50 Fixers, a list of emerging leaders across the U.S. who are working on solutions to our world’s biggest challenges. She has published articles in Science, Scientific American, and PNAS, was an invited speaker at the 2018 March for Science rally, named a 2018 UCS Science Defender, voted best of Story Collider 2018 in LA, awarded UCI's Dynamic Womxn's Award for Outstanding Social Justice Activist and the Svetlana Bershadsky Graduate Community Award for her advocacy for undocumented scientists. She was recently a 2020 AAAS Mass Media Fellow. 


Additionally, she co-founded and co-directs ReclaimingSTEM: the first workshop to address the need for science communication and policy training spaces for marginalized groups: BIPOC, first-generation, disabled, LGBTQIA+, undocumented, etc. ReclaimingSTEM has been hosted four times since 2018, both virtually and in person, and has reached over 500 attendees internationally.



Newton NguyenNewton Nguyen

Newton Nguyen is a PhD Candidate at Caltech, working on designing the next generation's ground-based and space-based carbon observation systems. He is broadly interested in quantifying emissions of greenhouse gases from remote sensing instruments. Newton also serves on Caltech's Committee for Graduate Admissions and Recruitment and cofounded the Caltech Disability Coalition, the National Blind STEM Mentorship Program, and the Caltech Triathlon Club. He holds a BA in Geophysics from UC Berkeley. Outside work, he enjoys training for and racing in triathlons and marathons. 




kalani heinzKalani Heinz

Kalani Heinz (she/they) is a Hawaiian archaeology Ph.D. candidate at UCLA. Their research explores archaeology as activism, considering how Native Hawaiian ways of knowing can be integrated into the discipline and how archaeology can contribute to Native Hawaiian activist efforts. Her dissertation combines microalgae and climatic data to understand the negative impact of sugarcane plantation ditch diversions on Hawaiians’ access to water. Because there is little long-term hydrological data for this region, she hopes this data will aide Hawaiians in increasing interim instream flow standards and mitigating climate change. The Nā Wai ʻEhā community’s guidance and contribution to this project have been paramount and she would like to express her extreme gratitude to them. She is a Ford’s Pre-doctoral fellow, a NSF GRFP scholar, a National Geographic Society Early Career Grant recipient, president of the Hawaiʻi’s Daughters Guild of California, and secretary for the National Pacific Islander Education Network.


dakotah tylerDakotah Tyler

Dakotah Tyler is an astrophysics Ph.D. student at UCLA. He is an observational astronomer with research interests that focus on exoplanets and instrumentation. He is currently working to understand the various physical mechanisms & processes that go into shaping the observed exoplanet demographics landscape. A non-traditional student, Dakotah returned to school to pursue a passion in astronomy after completing a college football career at the University of Kentucky where he earned a degree in Community and Leadership Development. Both past and present experiences have fueled a desire within him to be active in making an impact to improve the communication, recruitment, and retention of underrepresented groups in astronomy & physics, as well as STEM as a whole.




Public Science Discourse & Socially Sensitive Topics / Empathy in SciComm Workshop

Joan Millerjoan miller

joan miller is a doctoral candidate in Communication at the University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and a transmedia artist with a broadly interdisciplinary approach. joan’s work focuses on empathy at the intersection of media fandom and politics. Her dissertation - tentatively titled “The Use of Feeling” - explores the ways in which empathy and pathos govern our behavior both in relation to our fandom and to our communities at large. joan is especially interested in themes of kinship, empathic communication and anti-colonialist approaches to producing media scholarship. Currently her attention is focused on theorizing and prototyping a methodology of fandom studies inspired by Bardic and Griotic traditions of the values and necessities for community storytelling.


Honing Your Message with Improv Workshop

Heidi Klumpe

Heidi Klumpe is a PhD candidate at Caltech using systems and synthetic biology to understand how cells process combinatorial inputs. She has worked as an editor and podcast manager at Caltech Letters, an online platform for the research and ideas of the Caltech community, and is the creator and host of "Not My Thesis," a podcast about the unpublished parts of research and the wider experiences of the scientists performing it. Heidi has also helped run Caltech's "Storytelling for Scientists" class, which teaches scientists to become better communicators by developing their writing and performance skills. Before quarantine, she loved being onstage and less than six feet from other members of IMPLiCIT, Caltech's improv theater troupe.



Brian BrophyBrian Brophy

Brian Brophy is the Director of Caltech Theater, a veteran actor in the film/TV/theater industry, and has directed over fifty plays around the world. He is a Fulbright Scholar; served as an Artist in Residence at the Indian Institute of Technology and Yale NUS (National University Singapore); and is a multi-recipient of California Arts Council grants with a George Soros award for his theater project.



Mike WongMichael L. Wong

Dr. Michael L. Wong, a postdoc at the University of Washington and the NASA NExSS Virtual Planetary Laboratory, wants to know whether we are alone in the universe. Specifically, Mike studies planetary atmospheres—the thin sheathes of air that can promote the emergence of life and habitability, and may contain the fingerprints of biospheres on distant worlds. Mike is passionate about science education and public communication: he has taught graduate- and undergraduate-level courses in astrobiology and workshops on science communication and design, is co-authoring the texbook Astrobiology: A Multidisciplinary Approach (2nd Edition), and hosts a podcast called Strange New Worlds, which examines science, technology, and culture through the lens of Star Trek.


SciComm in Los Angeles / Entertainment Panel

DavidDavid Saltzberg

David Saltzberg is a particle physicist who conducts experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva looking for new elementary particles. His other research takes him to Antarctica where NASA flies scientific payloads on balloons at 120,000 feet to look for cosmic neutrinos.

At UCLA Prof. Saltzberg teaches a variety of courses, including introductory undergraduate physics, practical electronics for majors, and graduate courses in advanced topics. He is currently the Department Chair of Physics and Astronomy.

When he is not in the lab or teaching, Prof. Saltzberg consults on the scientific content of television shows, which have included The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, Manhattan, The Leftovers, Scijinks, and The Watchmen.

Saltzberg is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and has been awarded the Antarctic Service Medal by the National Science Foundation. The asteroid "8628 Davidsaltzberg" is named after him.


RosannaRosanna Xia

Rosanna Xia is an environment reporter for the LA Times. She covers the coast and has written about sea level rise, toxic dumping and endangered species in the deep ocean. Her stories connect science and policy and have led to new laws and regulations. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 for explanatory reporting and holds a degree in quantitative economics from Tufts University.


Emily Lakdawalla 2Emily Lakdawalla

Emily Lakdawalla is an internationally admired science communicator and educator.

She has written about robotic exploration of the planets for The Planetary Society website and magazine, as well as contributed to the weekly Planetary Radio podcast. Emily is currently an editor of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Her first book, The Design and Engineering of Curiosity: How the Mars Rover Performs Its Job was published in March 2018. A second book, Curiosity and Its Science Mission: A Mars Rover Goes to Work will follow in 2021. 

She was awarded the 2011 Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award from the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society for her blog entry about the Phoebe ring of Saturn. Asteroid 274860 was formally named “Emilylakdawalla” by the International Astronomical Union on July 12, 2014. She received an honorary doctorate from The Open University in 2017 in recognition of her contributions in communicating space science to the public.


kateKate Helen Downy

Kate creates entertainment that makes you fall in love with things you thought were boring. As co-founder of Caveat NYC, a comedy venue specializing in nerdy nightlife, she led development on such hits as "Why Your Train is F*cked", "Nerd Search", Doctors Without Boundaries", and "Nevertheless She Existed" (a finalist in Comedy Central's Yes And....Laughter Lab). She co-created the Underground Science Festival, as featured in the NY Times, where comedians and storytellers celebrated women, LGBTQ, and POC scientists from history whose achievements often go unrecognized. Kate is the former Creative Director of Museum Hack, where she created the best-selling Bad@ss B*tches of the Met tour and consulted on storytelling and audience engagement with Nike, Club Med, GE, The US Parks Department, The Georgia O'Keefe Museum & Ghost Ranch, and spoke internationally at museum conferences. Kate has been a featured guest on Mysteries at the Museum, History Bitches, and The Story Collider, and her opinions on NYC's best butts have been published in the New York Post. She is currently working with Himalaya Learning to develop their audio courses.


Featured Write-a-Thon Expert Reviewers

Kerry MauckKerry Mauck

Kerry Mauck is an assistant professor of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside, where she works to understand the emergence, spread, and biology of plant pathogens transmitted by insects. At UCR, Dr. Mauck teaches courses in science communication with a focus on translating complex science stories into narratives accessible to non-scientist readers. She is an active participant in UCR’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, where she teaches ENTM 060W (Scicomm: Exploring Effective Communication Methods in the Life Sciences) an entry-level science-writing course targeted to sophomore-level undergraduates. At the graduate level, Dr. Mauck teaches ENTM 251 (Seminar in Plant-Insect Interactions), which challenges students to produce publishable popular science media pieces on their dissertation research topics. 


lorena villanuevaLorena Villanueva Almanza


Having fallen in love with the Baja California peninsula, Dr. Villanueva did her research on desert oases for her PhD at UC Riverside. Besides working on her project, she also participated in science outreach events, wrote for the California Botanical Society’s newsletter, and started a science communication group at UCR. After Lorena finished her PhD, she became the Outreach Coordinator of the California Botanical Society hoping to get other students excited about writing about plants. Soon after she got to DC, Lorena became an intern at the Education Department of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo to learn about informal education and animals. But Dr. Villanueva did not want to stay too far from plants, so she started volunteering at the US Botanical Garden running discovery carts. As a Mexican scientist, she feels very responsible for making science accessible to the Hispanic community in the US and Mexico which is why she tries to translate science resources into Spanish in all her roles. In her spare time, Lorena enjoys running in Rock Creek Park and keeping up with news from Mexico. She is very excited to be joining the Indianapolis Star team this summer as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow.



alice shapleyAlice Shapley


Alice Shapley is a Professor and the Vice Chair for Astronomy and Astrophysics in the Department of Physics Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles.  She received both Alfred P. Sloan and David and Lucile Packard Foundation Fellowships in 2006 and has been honored as the 2014 Aaronson Lecturer at the University of Arizona/Steward Observatory, the 2018 Biermann Lecturer at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, and the 2019 AAS Kavli Plenary Lecturer.  Alice uses both large ground-based telescopes and space-based facilities to collect optical and infrared images and spectra of distant galaxies observed in the early universe in order to understand galaxy formation and evolution.  She has co-authored $\sim 170$ refereed papers and teaches graduate seminars at UCLA on both scientific writing and oral presentations.



robert perkinsRobert Perkins


Robert Perkins is a content and media strategist and the emergency communications coordinator at Caltech. He holds bachelor’s degrees in journalism and anthropology from the University of Kansas, and a master’s in professional writing from USC. After working as a reporter for City News Service in Los Angeles, he became a public information officer for the LA County Department of Public Health during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Since then, he has worked in research communications. At Caltech, Robert writes about engineering and planetary sciences, and helps coordinate Caltech’s COVID-related communications efforts.

AJ FilloA.J. Fillo
During his undergraduate career A.J. Fillo worked as a Magician but quickly fell in love with mechanical engineering and fluids mechanics.  As a graduate student at Oregon State University A.J. received a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and studied turbulent combustion. As part of his fellowship, A.J. combined his loves of science and art and founded two STEAM outreach programs at Oregon State University and in the local Corvallis, Benton-County Community which focus to break down the barriers kids face in accessing STEAM education.  In addition A.J. began working as a freelance science writer and in 2019 earned an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship where he worked as a science writer and producer for NOVA at WGBH in Boston.
A.J. completed his Ph.D. in 2019 and continues to work as a freelance writer and producer.  In addition to script writing, A.J. uses his engineering skills to design and build on camera science demonstrations; you can find examples of his work on YouTube channels such as Veritasium, and Physics Girl from PBS Digital Studios.

Mia de los ReyesMia de los Reyes

Mia de los Reyes (@MiaDoesAstro on Twitter) is a PhD candidate in Astronomy at Caltech who studies the chemical evolution of low-mass dwarf galaxies. She is a member of a number of student-led affinity and activist organizations on campus, such as the Women in Physics, Math, and Astronomy group and the Caltech for Black Lives ally organization. Outside of Caltech, she has led a number of initiatives through the Astrobites collaboration, including the #BlackinAstro series of posts and interviews that helped kick off #BlackinAstroWeek. Mia was also one of the co-organizers of the #ShutDownSTEM/#StrikeForBlackLives event that occurred on June 10, 2020


briley lewisBriley Lewis

Briley is a third-year graduate student and NSF Fellow at UCLA studying Astronomy & Astrophysics. She is interested in the complete “story” of exoplanets: how different kinds of planets form and evolve (possibly even evolving into something that can host life!), and how we can observe this process. Currently, Briley is also working on her Graduate Certificate in Writing Pedagogy at UCLA and teaching a course she designed on astrobiology and science journalism for UCLA Clusters, an interdisciplinary first-year undergraduate educational initiative. Outside of UCLA, she is a member of the Astrobites collaboration and a freelance science writer, with pieces published in Massive Science, The Orbiter, and more.



stephanieStephanie (Hamilton) Deppe

Stephanie (Hamilton) Deppe, Ph.D., is a planetary scientist and science communicator based in Pasadena, California and currently the Astronomy Content Strategist at the Vera C Rubin Observatory. She spent her doctoral career at the University of Michigan discovering and studying new objects in the Kuiper Belt region of the Solar System using a Chile-based project called the Dark Energy Survey. During her degree, she discovered the wonderful world of science communication and has spent the past several years writing about and presenting science to diverse audiences, while simultaneously training other researchers to do the same. She co-founded ComSciCon-Michigan and currently serves on ComSciCon’s Leadership Team as the Write-a-thon lead and Editor-in-Chief of the organization’s blog, ComSciConversation. When she’s not thinking about and sharing science, she can probably be found reading a book, hiking, rock climbing, or just generally enjoying the outdoors.


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