Local Organizers


sara hugentoblerSara Hugentobler (Chair) - Sara is a 4th year PhD student in the Integrative Biology program, pursuing dual degrees in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior as well as Environmental Science and Public Policy at MSU. She is a member of the Meek Lab, looking at how anthropogenic change affects genetic diversity in Chinook Salmon. Before she started her PhD, she worked in all manner of science jobs, including work as lab technician at Myriad Genetics, a School Outreach Educator with the Living Planet Aquarium, and an academic advisor at Utah Valley University. She got her MA in Marine Conservation and Policy at Stony Brook University in New York. Sara occasionally tweets her scientific thoughts and hopes to use her science communication skills to one day affect national fishing policy.


 Ellen Ellen KW BrennanKW Brennan (Co-Chair) - Ellen is a 4th year PhD candidate in the U-M Neuroscience   Graduate Program. As an NSF GRFP scholar, she studies the electrophysiological properties   and connections of cortical circuits involved in memory. Outside of the lab, she is passionate   about both science communication and breaking down stigmas about mental health, actively   working with multiple groups such as Michigan Science Writers and PhD Balance. Her dream   is to work in science communication, bridging the gap between universities doing cutting-edge   research and the public who funds them. When she isn't focusing on science, you'll find her performing improv, playing with her dogs, and trying to create the next best cocktail.  


TRiggins HeadshotTi’Air Riggins is a current Biomedical Engineering PhD candidate at Michigan State University.  She received her bachelors in Biomedical Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2011 as the first black undergraduate BME student, and proceeded to earn a master’s from the University of Cincinnati in 2013.  Her research focus is integrating tissue engineering with implantable electrodes to tune immune response in the brain, in the REIL lab under the direction of Dr. Erin Purcell. She is heavily involved in the BMES, NSBE and is in the speaker’s bureau for the Rape And Incest National Network.  She has also served in the community under her platforms of sexual assault awareness and exposing underrepresented students to STEM as Miss Indiana United States 2015 and has received awards for her Social Justice in 2016 and Humanitarianism in 2018.  She was named a fellow in the Society for Neuroscience from 2016 – 2018. Her future goals include managing her own lab and being a successful entrepreneur and mentor for students who are underrepresented students in neuroscience and engineering. You can follow her on Twitter and connect on Linkedin.


JessiJessica Chenca Chen  - Jessica holds a BS in biomedical engineering from the University of Southern California and is currently working toward her PhD in neuroscience at the University of Michigan. She is an NSF GRFP scholar with a passion for science communication. She likes to write blogs and hold science discussions on various forms of social media, but her current favorite form of scicomm is skyping into K-12 classes across the nation as a guest speaker. Her goal is to use her passion for science to inspire others. Find her on LinkedIn or Twitter!


jmJoseph Mastron - Joseph is a Postdoctoral Researcher of Physical Chemistry in LSA Chemistry at UM (Kubarych Group). After studying Chemistry at Cerritos College (A.A., 2011) and the University of Southern California (B.S., 2013), Joseph completed doctoral studies at the University of Chicago (Ph.D., 2019). Joseph uses ultrafast Infrared and Visible laser pulses (25-100 femtoseconds long) to study how molecular structures behave in time, and how chemical reactions occur. You can connect with him on Linkedin.



zpZechariah Pfaffenberger - Zechariah Pfaffenberger is a graduate student at the University of Michigan studying physical chemistry in the lab of Dr. Julie Biteen. He grew up in Indiana near South Bend. He attended Indiana Wesleyan University and graduated with his Bachelors in Chemistry in 2018. His current research interests are single-molecule microscopy and spectroscopy, specifically plasmon-enhancement of fluorescence and circularly polarized luminescence spectroscopy. Zechariah writes for the University of Michigan chemistry website, does outreach at local middle/high schools near U of M, and is always looking for ways to expand his Sci Comm horizons. While not in his lab, he enjoys reading, podcasts, running, consuming Oreos, and generally living life to the fullest.




Allison Young - Allison Young is an integrative Biology PhD candidate pursuing a duel degree in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior at Michigan State University. She received a BS in Agricultural Biotechnology from the University of Kentucky in 2015. As an NSF GRFP scholar in the Dyer lab, she studies individual and species level differences in the exploratory behaviors and lifespans of European and Asian honey bees. She enjoys giving public talks on her research and the importance of pollinators in the US and in India, as well as developing interactive STEM lesson plans for K-12 audiences. Her dream is to combine her passions for research and science communication to advocate for pollinator conservation.


SDShiba Dandpat- Shiba is a 5th-year doctoral candidate pursuing his research in biochemistry and biophysics. His current research focuses on understanding the genetics of bacteria to develop innovative drug development strategies to combat antibiotic resistance. He is passionate about innovations in biotechnology and healthcare. He holds an integrated BS-MS degree majoring in Chemistry



Fatima Javed - Fatima Javed is a third-year PhD candidate in the dFepartment of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan. As an AHA Predoctoral fellow, Fatima works to understand how our immune cells migrate towards the site of infection and injury. She is also becoming active in promoting scientific ideas and concepts to the community at large. Fatima does this work with an organization, called RELATE which focuses on teaching fellow scientists how to effectively communicate their research to a lay audience. Outside the lab, Fatima enjoys hanging out with her friends and reading books