Invited Speakers

Keynote Lecture: Dr. Samantha YammineSamantha Yammine

Samantha Yammine is a Neuroscientist, Science Communicator, and Digital Content Creator. She earned her PhD from the University of Toronto researching how stem cells build the mammalian brain before birth and maintain it throughout adulthood. In addition to her doctoral research, Samantha co-authored a crowd-funded research study exploring the effects that scientists sharing selfies on Instagram can have on public perceptions of scientists.

Samantha is passionate about empowering people to explore science by making it more familiar, accessible, and inclusive. She does this in part by sharing interactive science commentary and research updates on Instagram as @science.sam through short videos, emoji-filled captions, and engaging pictures. Samantha loves speaking with people about anything science, everywhere -– she's hosted a livestream with an astronaut aboard the ISS, presented her research on the streets at Toronto's busiest intersection, talked ringside with Muay Thai fighters about performance anxiety, and showed off model and real brains at 1am in a Yurt during an all-night art festival. She's produced, scripted, and hosted educational videos for companies like 3M, GE, Lady Speedstick, and Seeker, and regularly appears as a guest expert on popular media including TVO Kids, AsapSCIENCE, Leafs Nation Network, and CBC Radio. Learn more at


[PHOTO] Dr Michael ImperialeDr. Michael Imperiale: Associate Vice President for Research - Policy and Compliance at Michigan, Dr. Michael Imperiale received his PhD from Columbia University, where he studied the function of T cells in the immune response. He then moved to Rockefeller University for his postdoctoral training, where he first became interested in the control of viral replication, which he continues to study today at the University of Michigan as an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. He is a Fellow of the AAAS and the American Academy of Microbiology, and serves as Editor-in-Chief of mSphere. Dr. Imperiale has an amazingly decorated track record of involvement in bioethics and science policy. He has served on the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, where he helped determine the potential of biologics for weaponization. He has served on the NASA Planetary Protection Subcommittee, where he was involved in preventing the contamination of extraterrestrial samples from Earth. Most recently, he chaired a study at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine entitled Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology, which was presented to congress and to the United Nations. At ComSciConMI this year, Dr. Imperiale will be serving as an expert editor and participating in the Ethics Panel Discussion.

Dr. Laura Y. Cabrera is Assistant Professor of Neuroethics at the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Laura Y. CabreraSciences. She is also Faculty Affiliate at the National Core for Neuroethics, University of British Columbia. Dr. Cabrera's interests focus on the ethical and societal implications of neurotechnologies used for treatment as well as for enhancement purposes. She has been working on projects at the interface of conceptual and empirical methods, exploring the attitudes of professionals and the public toward pharmacological and brain stimulation interventions, as well as their normative implications. Her current work also focuses on the ethical and social implications of environmental changes for brain and mental health. She received a BSc in Electrical and Communication Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM) in Mexico City, an MA in Applied Ethics from Linköping University in Sweden, and a PhD in Applied Ethics from Charles Sturt University in Australia. Her career goal is to pursue interdisciplinary neuroethics scholarship, provide active leadership, and train and mentor future leaders in the field.


Dr. Elyse Aurbach is the Public EngElyse Aurbachagement Lead at the University of Michigan's Office of Academic Innovation. In this role, she develops and manages programs to optimize and reimagine dialogue models of engagement and fosters collaborations with groups across the university. Prior to joining the Academic Innovation team, Elyse pursued a double-life as a scientist studying the neurobiological underpinnings of major depression and leading a number of projects to improve science communication and public engagement. These included developing and teaching communication courses with Michigan Medicine, leading the Teach-Out “Stand Up for Science: Practical Approaches to Discussing Science that Matters,” and Co-Bossing with Nerd Nite Ann Arbor. She is also a co-founder and former director of RELATE, a science communication and public engagement organization. Elyse was a NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a finalist for the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. 


Dan Wixted received his B.S. and M.S. in Plant Pathology from Cornell University and Iowa State University, Dan Wixtedrespectively. Dan has been a pesticide safety educator for 29 years, first in Wisconsin and now with Cornell’s Pesticide Management Education Program. In addition to developing pesticide applicator certification training manuals and exams, Dan is very active in providing public outreach on hot-button topics such as the health and environmental effects of glyphosate (Roundup) and pesticide effects on pollinators, the latter earning him a share of the Outstanding Accomplishment in Extension award as part of Cornell’s Pollinator Health Team. He is also a member of New York State’s Community Integrated Pest Management Coordinating Council, has served on the EPA’s Certification and Training Assessment Group, and has been named a Fellow of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators.



Ian Demsky


Ian Demsky is an award-winning journalist, magazine editor and communicator. Demsky is currently a senior writer and public relations representative at the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center. He has also served as director of communications for the U-M Life Sciences Institute, science editor for Medicine at Michigan Magazine and web content strategist for the U-M Library. Before coming to U-M in 2010, he spent a decade as a newspaper reporter covering city/county government and criminal justice. His work has earned awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education



Elizabeth anderson

Elisabeth Anderson is the Director of Science Communication for the Center for Research on Ingredient Safety at Michigan State University. She focuses on translating dense science and technology content into engaging stories and visuals that resonate with the greater community by implementing a human-based, storytelling approach that meets individuals where they are, not where experts assume they should be. She specializes in digital media and digital tools. She most recently presented on science communication and served on a discussion panel during the David Miller Traveling Scholar Session at the 2019 Winter Toxicology Forum. She has worked in various communication capacities including at Michigan State University Information Technology, The Ohio State University Provost’s Office, and the State of Michigan Governor’s Executive Office. Linkedin:


teravest-danDan TerAvest is co-founder of Our Sci, LLC, whose mission is to develop open source hardware and software solutions for communities of research. He is an agroecologist with 5 years’ experience working with smallholder farmers in southern and eastern Africa. Prior to Our-Sci, he coordinated international research collaborations for the PhotosynQ project at Michigan State University.




Monika Wood is the Laboratory Manager for the Warren M. Smith Lecture Demonstration Lab at the University of Michigan.  She earned her Master’s Degree in Physics from Eastern Michigan University where she had the opportunity to study ionosphere characteristics using the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program facilities, or HAARP, in Gakona, AK and to work on a separate thesis project pertaining to the characterization of the discharge of a Lichtenberg figure. In her role at the Lecture Demo Lab, she is responsible for providing and maintaining over 1000 physical demonstrations that are used by instructors during introductory physics and astronomy classes.  She is involved in Saturday Morning Physics, which is a televised lecture series held on campus where professionals and experts come to present cutting edge research to the general public.  Monika is responsible for supporting the event by constructing various apparatus that help to facilitate the understanding of these highly specialized fields of research.  Additional support is provided to student outreach groups and local class visits where opportunities to present physics to a wide range of audiences and to help educate students on the best way to communicate the material help Monika to push the excitement of science to all ages.


Mark Auslander

Dr. Mark Auslander, serves as director of the Michigan State University Museum and is an associate professor of Anthropology and History at Michigan State University. A sociocultural and historical anthropologist, he works at the intersection of ritual practice, aesthetics, environmental transformation, kinship, and political consciousness in sub-Saharan Africa and the African Diaspora. As an Africanist, he has published on such topics as grassroots debates over green revolution technologies, land tenure transformations and the etiology of HIV/AIDS, modern mass witch-cleansing movements, the revitalization of precolonial political ceremonies, and creative re-readings of tradition-based African art by contemporary multimedia artists. Dr. Auslander’s Africanist work on kinship, aesthetics, place-making, and political cosmology informs his scholarship on race and cultural politics in the African Diaspora and North America. His award-winning book, The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family (University of Georgia Press, 2011) re-reads American racial politics under slavery and post-slavery through structuralist approaches to mythology and kinship. His extensive curatorial experience includes exhibitions on topics ranging from slavery, liberation, and memory in university settings to contemporary African Diaspora art to explorations of heroin and homelessness, among many others. From 2011-17, Dr. Auslander served as director of the Museum of Culture and Environment at Central Washington University, where he oversaw the academic program in Museum Studies. He also co-chairs, with Nana Akua Anyidoho (University of Ghana), the African Studies Association annual meetings (Atlanta, Georgia in November 2018) and serves on the board of directors of the Consequences of Radiation Exposure (CORE) Museum. With his students, Dr. Auslander has led numerous communities engaged/service learning courses, partnering with vulnerable communities in developing collaborative exhibitions, documentary projects, and social justice initiatives, such as restoring and documenting historically African American cemeteries; collaboratively curating art exhibitions with African refugee communities; and co-curating poetry performances with incarcerated youth in correctional facilities.

Ryan Bixenmann


Dr. Ryan Bixenmann is the Director of MSU PhD Career Services. Prior to that position, he was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the NSF Division of Graduate Education, where he was instrumental in designing and evaluating the NSF GRIP (Graduate Research Internship Program), launching the NSF Grad Ed Forum, and worked with an interagency task force to achieve strategic goals as executive secretary for an NSTC subcommittee on STEM education. Ryan was a postdoc at Montana State, where he combined analytical chemistry, ecological fieldwork, and quantitative data analysis to develop an integrated pest management strategy to reduce insect damage in wheat fields. Ryan has a PhD in Ecology from the University of Utah, where he also served as a service-learning coordinator for undergraduates and an NSF Graduate STEM Fellow in K-12 education, working on science literacy and scientific communication skills in public schools. Before doing his PhD, he was an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow with the Nevada Conservation Corps.

PatrickPatrick Morgan is a graduate from Michigan State University with a B.S. in Interdepartmental Physical Sciences & Education. He has worked for the Physics and Astronomy Department at MSU as the Outreach Coordinator, specializing in K-12 school outreach and engagement. He is the staff advisor to Science Theatre, an undergraduate science outreach program, and coordinates events which impact 15,000 K-12 students annually. His research is based on development of public outreach demonstrations and building a framework which maximizes engagement and interest.



Jim Monahan is the communications coordinator for the Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics Program.  Before coming to MSU, Jim helped teach documentary filmmaking and editing at the Mason Gross School of the Arts and worked as a videographer for Cornell University.  He has a B.A. from Rutgers University and a masters degree from the University of Southern California.  Jim’s professional interests include narrative storytelling, graphic design, and animation for science communication and outreach.  In his personal life Jim enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking and kayaking with his family.


rachelDr. Rachel Morris MLT(ASCP) cm is a faculty member in the Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics Program at Michigan State University. Trained as a medical lab technician and microbiologist, she teaches pathology, molecular diagnostics, and communication courses to undergraduates and graduate students. She is passionate about science education at all levels, as well as communicating science to the general public. Since September 2018, she has been a co-host of the podcast Speaking Science. The goal of the podcast is to translate the scientific research that affects our daily lives into accessible language that everyone can understand. When she is not teaching, Rachel enjoys reading, knitting, yoga, and gardening.



Joe Trumpey is an Associate Professor of Art, Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Michigan.  He served as Director of International Engagement for Art & Design for 6 years and instituted a school-wide international experience requirement. Trumpey earned his A.B in Art and Biology from Wabash College and his M.F.A. in Medical and Biological Illustration from the University of Michigan.  Before joining Michigan's faculty in 1994, he was chief medical illustrator and director of graphic arts for the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. While at U-M, he founded and currently directs Michigan Science Art, one of the largest groups of science illustrators working together in North America. Their most notable achievement is the completion of approximately 5,000 illustrations for the award-winning, 17-volume Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. As a freelance design consultant and illustrator, Trumpey has worked with numerous zoos, museums and publishers across the country. Trumpey's teaching focuses on aspects of sustainability and culture, experiential observation, and using creative processes to connect the natural world and society. The cornerstone of his work as an educator is an annual field course in which students meet during winter term and then conduct four weeks of fieldwork at various locations around the world, such as Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Everglades National Park, the Four Corners region, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. He is a recipient of the University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Teaching Award, has been a TedX speaker and was the Mother Earth News 2015 Homesteader of the Year. With its emphasis on biodiversity, modern agriculture and ecological sustainability, Trumpey's creative work has been exhibited in a wide variety of venues across the country. The depth of his devotion to these issues is evident in the fact that he, his wife and two daughters live and work on a small farm dedicated to their own food production and the preservation of genetic diversity in rare livestock. He designed and built their solar powered, off-grid


Dr. Shoba Subramanian is DiShoba Subramanianrector of Curriculum and Educational Initiatives and Lecturer (adjunct) at the University of Michigan Medical School. In her current role, she uses scientific approaches for curriculum innovation while also leading the Career and Professional Development team in the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. She was recently announced as one of the inaugural RISE fellows (Research, Innovation, Scholarship, and Education fellow) at Michigan Medicine. She currently is also leading a project to enhance mentoring outcomes in the biomedical sciences with a special focus on diversity and inclusivity.
Prior to her role at Michigan, Shoba was Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs and Assistant Teaching Professor at the Department of Biological Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where she served on leadership in undergraduate, masters, and PhD programs. She has founded and taught several science courses alongside many professional skills courses and workshops while working on curricular and educational reform. At CMU, she was recipient of two faculty fellowship awards for educational innovation. Shoba earned her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from CMU and completed postdoctoral training at UCSF and at CMU.



Alison Bernstein headshotAlison Bernstein joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Translational Neuroscience at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine campus in Grand Rapids in 2016. Here, her research focuses on understanding the role of epigenetics and gene-environment interactions in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease. She received her undergraduate training in biology and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and her Ph.D. training in genetics and neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis. She did her postdoctoral training at Emory University where she focused on neurotoxicology and neuroepigenetics in Parkinson’s disease. Alison also runs the Facebook page, Mommy PhD, and is a co-founder of SciMoms,  a non-profit educational organization which aims to promote evidence-based parenting and policy. She also manages the website Exposing AutismOne, which is dedicated to countering pseudoscience about autism. Her writing has appeared in Forbes and Detroit-based SEEN magazine, as well as on a variety of blogs included Biofortified, Food and Farm Discussion Lab, Skepchick, and Grounded Parents.


WDWilliam Dean is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Michigan. In addition to his research on spectroscopy of electrocatalytic systems, William works to bridge the gap between the scientific community, the public, and policymakers as a board member for the student organization Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy (ESPA). William has experience with direct advocacy in Lansing and Washington DC, and is a Science Communication Fellow at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History and a Science Writing Fellow with Michigan’s Department of Chemistry. William received his B.S. in Chemistry at UMBC in 2016 and was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2018. When not doing science, William enjoys books, board games, and hanging out with his cat Roland.



Edyta Sitko is the Midwest Senior Campaign Coordinator at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In her role, she works with a team of experts and regional allies to advance renewable energy solutions in the Midwest, and strategically engages UCS science network experts and supporters in campaigns. Prior to joining UCS, Edyta spent 12 years working as an engagement manager on national and global campaigns with Greenpeace, based in the US, Istanbul and Hong Kong. She earned a BA in political science, German, and Western European studies from Indiana University Bloomington. 



SWSeth Wiley is a 5th-year PhD candidate in the Program in Chemical Biology at the University of Michigan, studying how certain oxygen-hating bacteria live off of carbon dioxide as food in Dr. Steve Ragsdale’s laboratory. Seth received his BS in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas in 2014 and moved to Michigan in 2015 for his graduate program. Seth is involved in numerous science outreach, advocacy, and policy endeavors, and is a founding member of Engaging Scientists in Policy and Advocacy, or ESPA. Since its inception, ESPA has provided numerous workshops and opportunities for scientists to be engaged in the political process, from outreach as simple as writing a postcard, to direct lobbying with elected representatives. Seth is also a founding member of Publications to the Public, where he has been generating content, connecting with community members, and engaging with public audiences. In his spare time, Seth loves winemaking, climbing rocks, and hitting the town with his dog, Matterhorn.



Jacqui Broughton headshotJacqui Broughton joined Institutional Research (IR) at Michigan State University nearly 5 years ago where she creates meaningful visualizations from large, complex datasets to help inform student success efforts.  Previously, she was employed at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) and after that, went on to spend 8 years engaged in social welfare data, policy, research, advocacy, analysis, and lobbying at the state and federal level with various statewide non-profits. Through these experiences she developed an anti-deficit approach in thinking, analyzing data, and communicating about historically underserved, marginalized, and/or minoritized groups, especially those with intersecting identities. A social worker by education, she brings a racial equity and social justice lens to her work in data analysis and visualization. Her presentation Data Visualization for IR was awarded best conference presentation by the Michigan Association for Institutional Research in 2018.