Invited Speakers

S*content subject to change

Keynote Lecturer: Dr. Susanna L. Harris

Susanna L. Harris, PhD is a recent graduate from the microbiology program at the University of North Carolina. Susanna started PhD Balance to empower academics during and after Grad School, with a special focus on supporting academics' mental health. Susanna can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @susannalharris while PhD Balance can be found at @PhD_Balance and at  


MMarguerite Matthews, PhD is a health program specialist in the Office of Programs to Enhance Neuroscience Workforce Diversity at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). As a program specialist, Dr. Matthews supports NINDS diversity initiatives and programs that provide neuroscience research training and career development for underrepresented students and early career investigators. Prior to working at NINDS, she was a 2016-2018 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow in the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health, supporting policy planning and implementation in the Division of Biomedical Research Workforce and the Division of Loan Repayment. Dr. Matthews received her BS in biochemistry from Spelman College and her PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship in behavioral neuroscience at the Oregon Health & Science University, where she also served as program director for the Youth Engaged in Science (YES!) outreach initiative and program director for the OHSU Fellowship for Diversity in Research Program to recruit and retain postdoctoral researchers from underrepresented backgrounds. 


Theodore Nicholson III, PhD is Director of Engineering for a startup medical device company in the behavioral diagnostics Tspace located in downtown Decatur, GA. His team develops and manages technology projects that may have commercial utility. He previously managed the Research Technology Development and Transfer team at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).  Theodore works to build cross-functional engineering teams that can build products for the medical device industry and leads 10 software, quality, hardware, and systems engineers.  He accomplishes this by working with external vendors to set up contract manufacturing and clinical trials for product prototypes designed with EarliTec.  Theodore is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and is Treasurer of the Healthcare Innovation Special Interest Group within that organization.  His work there includes creating collaborations between industry, academia, and NSBE members to solve problems, develop talent, and create new product offerings within the healthcare space.  Previously, Theodore worked in the defense arena for a chemical polymer company building and testing drug delivery, energy storage, sensors, and other devices.  Theodore earned his BS degree in Chemistry from Oakwood University in Huntsville, AL and his MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering with a focus on biomedical nanotechnology from The Ohio State University.


Dr. Erin Purcell studied neural engineering during her graduate work with Dr. Daryl Kipke at the University of Michigan, where her work focused on developing wEays to improve the integration of neural implants with the surrounding brain tissue. She became interested in neural regeneration and plasticity, developing techniques to deliver stem cells and drugs with the implant and characterizing the effects of those treatments using histology and extracellular electrophysiology. Following graduation, Erin joined the Kresge Hearing Research Institute as a Research Fellow in Dr. Keith Duncan's laboratory at the University of Michigan, where she trained in intracellular (patch clamp) neural recordings. She characterized the electrophysiology of stem cell-derived neurons and studied treatments to alter their firing patterns and passive electrical properties. She subsequently joined MSU as a Senior Research fellow in the Neural Systems Engineering Lab, where she set-up patch clamp electrophysiology for brain slice recordings and used optogenetics techniques to study the influence of motor input on sensory-evoked activity in the rat somatosensory cortex.
Erin was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor in the Fall of 2014 in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and she joined the new Department of Biomedical Engineering at MSU in 2016. She teaches 400- and 800-level courses with the goal of integrating students from biology and engineering backgrounds into a cross-disciplinary learning experience. Erin works with her students at multiple outreach activities each year to encourage young women to enter the engineering discipline. As the P.I. of the Regenerative Electrode Interface Lab, Dr. Purcell is pursuing new approaches to characterize, modulate, and regenerate neuronal responses at the interface of electrodes implanted in the brain. Her lab is funded by two NIH R01 awards and an NSF CAREER award.


PPatsy Delacey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Psychology Department in the Biopsychology Area at the University of Michigan. She studies a sexually selected signal in wild male gelada monkeys in northern Ethiopia as part of the Simien Mountains Gelada Research Project. Outside of research, Patsy is a member of the RELATE Coordinators Team, an organization dedicated to training STEM University of Michigan graduate students and postdocs in effective lay-audience communication and engagement. Connect with her on Twitter.




Dr. Kathy Spindler has been a professor of Microbiology & Immunology in the UM Medical SchoolK since December 2001. Prior to that she was a professor of Genetics at the University of Georgia. Dr. Spindler’s research focuses on the molecular biology and pathogenesis of viruses that infect mice. In addition to her research, she is currently the permanent Secretary-Treasurer of the American Society for Virology, and she has been active in graduate education, UM’s ADVANCE program, and science communication. Since 2012, Dr. Spindler has been a co-host of the podcast, “This Week in Virology.” In 2017 she was named a Yale Poynter Fellow for Journalism, and she participated in the Yale Science Journalism Symposium in April 2017. She received the University of Michigan Basic Sciences Teaching Award in Microbiology and Immunology in 2012. She has been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.



Rachel Morris, Ph.D. MLT (ASCP)CM   is a faculty member and graduate program director in the Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics rmProgram at Michigan State University. She teaches introductory pathology, molecular diagnostics, and scientific communication. Since 2018, she has been the co-host of Speaking Science, a podcast which seeks to translate the science that affects our daily lives.

Linked in:

Twitter: rlmorris_mi



MMMoiya McTier is an astrophysicist and folklorist based in New York City. Her astronomy research aims to learn how the Milky Way's motion affects planet formation. Outside of research, Moiya has written a science fiction novel, given hundreds of talks about science, been interviewed on dozens of podcasts and tv shows, and designed multiple exhibits for the New York Hall of Science. She also hosts a podcast called Exolore, where she invites experts to help her imagine the life and culture on alien planets.





Ian DemskyIan 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.




EPEileen Pollack graduated from Yale with a BS in physics and earned an MFA in creative writing from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author, most recently, of the novels The Professor of Immortality, The Bible of Dirty Jokes, A Perfect Life, and Breaking and Entering, which won the Grub Street National Book Prize and was named a New York Times Editor’s Choice selection. She is also the author of two collections of short fiction, The Rabbi in the Attic and In the Mouth, which won the Edward Lewis Wallant Award. Eileen’s work of creative nonfiction Woman Walking Ahead: In Search of Catherine Weldon and Sitting Bull was recently made into a movie starring Jessica Chastain and Sam Rockwell. Her investigative memoir The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club was published in 2015 by Beacon Press; a long excerpt appeared in the Times Sunday Magazine and went viral. 

Eileen has received fellowships from the NEA, the Michener Foundation, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Massachusetts Arts Council. Her novella “The Bris” was chosen by Stephen King to appear in the Best American Short Stories 2007. Her essay “Pigeons” was selected by Cheryl Strayed for the 2013 edition of Best American Essays; “Righteous Gentile” appears in the 2018 edition of Best American Travel Writing. A long-time faculty member and former director of the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, she now lives and writes in Manhattan.


Sarah Kearns is a Chemical Biology Ph.D. student studying molecular roads in cells using microscopes in the Cianfrocco and VerheySK labs. These roads, called microtubules, have road signs in the form of chemical modifications that can get messed up in cancers. She chaired the inaugural ComSciCon-MI in 2018, is the Editor-in-Chief for MiSciWriters and EquilibriUM magazine, and writes for her blog, Annotated Science. Outside the lab, Sarah loves to take photos, make playlists, drink coffee, and supports the use of the oxford comma. You can find her on Twitter talking about open access, science communication, and structural biology.

Photo credit: Leisa Thompson Photography, courtesy of the U-M Life Sciences Institute.



TKTom Kuntzleman has broad interests, which reflects his profound curiosity in how the universe operates. He publishes regularly in the Journal of Chemical Education on topics that describe interesting, everyday applications of chemistry. His articles include descriptions of the chemistry of batteries, glow sticks, the Diet Coke and Mentos reaction, and how stunt people safely light themselves on fire. He is an associate editor of the Chemical Education Exchange, and has recently been named an honorary fellow at the University of Wisconsin, working in Bassam Shakhashiri’s group.

Tom’s broad range of interests serves him well, as his work as a professor at Spring Arbor University (SAU)  involves teaching general, analytical, inorganic, and physical chemistry. Kuntzleman actively recruits students to work alongside him on many of his research projects, with students sharing authorship him on several publications. He strives to engage his students in the subject matter, making chemistry come alive through chemical demonstrations and hands-on activities as much as possible. Kuntzleman is very active in awakening public interest in science, as he has presented well over 300 chemical demonstration shows to the public on campus, local schools, and other community venues. He also is the director of SAU’s popular Cougar Science Camp and also directs the annual Halloween in the Science Lab celebration.

You can see some of his explorations by following him on Twitter (@pchemstud), checking out his YouTube Channel ( or by visiting his blog at



Mallory Martin-Ferguson currently works at the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School as a Conflict Resolution and MMFAcademic Relations Specialist and Associate Resolution Office addressing Graduate student needs.  Previously, Mallory worked as the Associate Director for Housing Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution for the University of Michigan; overseeing all conduct in residential spaces and works to educate staff in Student Life on the values of restorative practices and the intersection with diversity and inclusion.  Mallory attended the University of Colorado where she received her Bachelor's in International Studies and later received her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington in 2010.  In 2018 she received her Graduate Certificate in Restorative Practices from the International Institute of Restorative Practices. Mallory also served as Midwest Region Chair for The Association of Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA) from 2018-2020 and is currently a Board Member for the Southeastern Dispute Resolution Office in Jackson, MI.




JWJackie Wrange is a 3rd year PhD student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan. From 2018-2020 I was the Director of Outreach for the University of Michigan's Association for Women in Science (AWIS) chapter, where I helped organize the AWIS after school mentoring program at Forsythe Middle School in Ann Arbor and coordinate the annual Young Scientists' Expo held at Forsythe every March. I've worked hard to practice different forms of science communication since graduating with my B.S., taking any chance I get to present, speaking with people in and outside of my discipline, and maintaining my personal website. Practice = improvement, so I'm really excited to do my best to help others more effectively communicate their work!

AWIS UM social media info: Website Bog Instagram Twitter



Awanti Sambarey, PhD is a postdoctoral research fellow in Biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan.  Here, she works onA the systems biology of tuberculosis infection, applying machine learning methods for optimizing new drug combinations for the disease. She is a recipient of the Postdoctoral Translational Scholars Program Award by the Michigan Institute of Clinical and Health research. Awanti is passionate about science communication and outreach, and co-founded "The STEM Times" ( - a scicomm platform that aims to communicate science & stories of scientists effectively to the public via the visual medium of Instagram. (Instagram @thestemtimes, Twitter @TheSTEMTimes, FB: She is a strong advocate for amplifying women in STEM, mentoring and participating in the AWIS-UM chapter, and is a proud facilitator for Girls Who Code at UofM - promoting diversity and programming in STEM. She is actively involved in empowering young students from low-income backgrounds in India as part of the Freedom Employability Academy ( mentorship program. She strongly encourages participation of scientists in public engagement and science communication. Awanti can be found on Twitter (@awanti_sp) and on LinkedIn (   
Kara L. Haas, @KaraHaaSciEd, joined Michigan State KHUniversity’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station team as Environmental Education Coordinator for the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in October 2009.  In 2014 she took on the new role of Science Education and Outreach Coordinator for Kellogg Biological Station.  Kara has a B.S. in Biology from Hope College and Master’s in the Practice of Teaching: Early Childhood Education from Western Michigan University and is a new graduate student in the MSU’s Teacher Education program.  Kara coordinates the KBS K-12 Partnership which brings K-12 teachers and scientists together to improve environmental literacy.  She collaborates with many campus based faculty in College of Education, College of Natural Science and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources on projects that engage K-12 teachers and preservice teachers in experiences at KBS.  Kara enjoys spending time outside with family, friends, plants and birds.  Program website: