We're excited to introduce our participants for ComSciCon-RMW 2019!

Jessie Smith (@_jessiejsmith_)

I’m a first year PhD student studying Information Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I’m researching data science ethics, specifically machine learning. In the past, I’ve done work with the government in Colombia to promote open data platforms to build trust between public entities and communities in order to battle corruption. This led me towards starting a coding school for Spanish speakers in Colombia (still a work in progress). I also write regularly about the unintended consequences of rapid tech growth in society. When I’m not in front of my computer screen I’m almost always outside, doing yoga, or both at the same time!


Marcel Jardeleza (@cellahmar)

Hafa Adai (Hello in CHamoru)! I am originally from the island of Guam and I am currently a MS student in Ecology at Colorado State University. I am studying the role of phenotypic plasticity in the performance of an invasive species and biological invasions’ effect on natural systems. I have always had a passion for outreach and have experience creating scientific workshops and presentations that targeted audiences from all ages, backgrounds and cultures. A couple of my favorite jobs included teaching elementary students about sea turtles and educating beach goers about the coral reef through mini presentations right on the beach. I was also a radio personality on a popular morning show on Guam where I further developed my skills in communicating to the public. Aside from science, I enjoy running, climbing and traveling.


Julia Trowbridge (@chapin_jules, @chemclubcsu)

I am an undergraduate student studying Chemistry and Economics at Colorado State University and am set to graduate in May 2020. My research focus is on understanding the effect of the organic cation on the structural behavior and electronic properties of hybrid- halide perovskites, which are potential semiconductors for photovoltaic devices. Outside of the lab, I run public relations for CSU’s American Chemical Society affiliated student organization and previously spent three years bringing science to the newsroom as a reporter for the Rocky Mountain Collegian.



Azure Hansen 

I'm a postdoc at NIST working on a cold atom gyroscope for an inertial navigation quantum sensor and for studying the fundamental physics of gravitation. I love feeding kids liquid nitrogen marshmallows and roasted bugs. Being involved in a variety of outreach and nonprofit projects lets me develop programming in all areas of science, philosophy, and nature. In another life I'd like to be Geordi La Forge or David Attenborough.



Caitlyn Hall (@caitlynahall)

I’m a PhD student at Arizona State University focusing on natural hazard resilience using microbes to reduce damage from earthquake-induced liquefaction. She works with industry, community, and government leaders to develop best-fit technical and policy solutions to best-address a community's challenges and values.  Her other research focuses include controlled environment agriculture, sustainable use of resources for urban farming, and using biochemical methods to remediate oil-contaminated soil. For fun, Caitlyn spends her time rock climbing and trail running.



Alireza Rahimi (@arahimiaf)

As a Salsa\Bachata (a bit of Kizomba) dancer and explorer, I always seek new hobbies to season life. When I’m free of my free-time activities, I’m a PhD student at Coatings and Polymeric Materials Department of North Dakota State University. With funding of Office of Naval Research, my work is focused on developing marine paints that are non-toxic and uninhabitable for marine organisms, like algae or barnacles, to avoid biofouling. Additionally, I’d like to share science and my knowledge with public. Thus, I created a personal blog where I upload basic chemistry videos in Dari language for Afghan students to help them with learning and solidifying some concepts. I’m excited to be back in CO for ComSciCon - I had a fascinating time hiking Rocky Mountains in 2016.


Juliane Brown (@WaterJbbrown)

In lieu of buying a red sports car, I decided to pursue a PhD midlife to expand my horizons and opportunities. Now in my 4th year at the Colorado School of Mines Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, I am investigating how to assess risks to human health from consuming a diet impacted by poly and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as well as the uptake of overlooked PFAS by edible crops. I am truly enjoying life as a student, researcher, instructor (at Red Rocks Community College), and mentor to other graduate students. I’m always on the lookout for new active learning approaches to incorporate into my classroom. I wholeheartedly support community-based science initiatives -- citizens can collect useful data! I believe we need to work smarter to effectively communicate with the public on understanding exposures to and risks from contaminants in our environment. I’m also grateful to have the challenge and joy of balancing this life alongside my lively 7-year old son, determined 12-year old daughter, ambitious husband, crazy dog, and our 8 lovely egg-laying hens. 


Lindsay Winkenbach

I am a third year PhD candidate in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program at Colorado State University. The focus of my research, and a long-term fascination of mine, is how a single, fertilized egg can develop into a complex, multicellular organism such as ourselves. Outside of lab, I serve as VP of Engagement for the Graduate Student Council as CSU, the on-campus liaison for the Northern Colorado Chapter of Graduate Women in Science and an officer for the science policy and advocacy group at CSU called Science in Action. In my free time you’ll likely find me in the mountains skiing, camping, or hiking.


Brittnee Halpin (@BrittneeHalpin)

I am a fourth year graduate student studying environmental engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. I work in water treatment and am really excited about finding new ways to treat stormwater runoff in cities. Stormwater causes a lot of pollution, but our society has yet to figure out a comprehensive and effective treatment approach, especially in dense urban areas. When I’m not in the lab, out in the field or sitting at a desk, I am sometimes walking around in a rainstorm to see where the runoff goes. On sunny days, I can be found hiking, practicing yoga, trying all sorts of new recipes, or (dare I say it) relaxing.




Arianna Punzalan (@AriannaPunzalan)

I am a MS student at Colorado State University in the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. I am using GPS data to predict condor range expansion in California with the goal of reducing potential conflict between the highly endangered species and alternative energy. My love of communicating science began during my time working for the National Park Service, where I was able to educate visitors about endangered species and natural resource stewardship. I believe it is imperative for researchers to find creative ways to engage the public in science and conservation, especially in the age of alternative facts and climate deniers. My other passions include most outdoor activities, true crime, and my dog. 


John Malloy (@astrobioJ)

I am a second-year PhD student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. I am fascinated by the general principles underlying life on a universal scale, and to that end, I study astrobiology in order to predict how life on other planets would appear. I use complex systems science tools, such as network theory, applied to biochemical networks to discover the organizing principles of life. As a comparison, I use pharmaceutical data to explore the organizational structure and evolutionary pressures on the compounds and reactions generated through the pharmaceutical creation process. Outside of thinking about alien life on other planets and other associated deep topics, I compete in ultramarathons and cheer for the Washington Capitals hockey team (sometimes simultaneously). 


Nate Crossette

As a graduate student in the Physics Education Research Group at the University of Colorado – Boulder, I study how students learn to use the abstract mathematical tools used to model physical phenomena. Before beginning my PhD in physics education, I worked on high performance simulations of industrial plasmas as an Applications Engineer at Tech-X Corporation. In this role, I helped train scientists from CERN, ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization), Jefferson Lab, the US Air Force, and commercial organizations in techniques of plasma simulation. I have also taught ski lessons at Eldora Mountain Resort and maintain an OEC (Outdoor Emergency Care) certification for treating medical emergencies in wilderness environments.


Dana Stamo (@danaxfs)

I’ve just embarked on my PhD program this Fall at CU Boulder, where I research novel treatments for hard-to-treat infectious disease. Both of my parents are immigrants from Romania, and I love the challenge of explaining complex concepts oversalted with jargon in a way that is digestable for non-native English speakers. Another consequence of being a first-generation student is that my parents had no idea how higher education worked in the U.S. which left me joining the PhD game very late. To address this, I helped start a student organization at CU that works to bridge the gap between grad and undergrad students in order to better prepare underserved undergrads for their future STEM careers. When I’m not growing bacteria or helping undergrads, I’m either painting, ice skating, or skateboarding. 


Seré Williams (@SereWillia)

As a generalist masquerading as a specialist, I like to spend my time learning about almost anything I can get my hands, ears, or eyes on. I enjoy sharing this passion for learning with others. Being a curious student is so far, my favorite way to teach. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at Colorado State University studying how plant hormones interact to regulate their physiology. This summer I completed my masters in understanding drought stress response in rice at the level of gene expression. Plants are great. They convert carbon into human-usable forms that feed us and help make the world a beautiful place. Apart from drought-stressing my yard, I enjoy road biking, building chicken coops, and making cheesecakes. 


Erika Allen (@ErikaSloop)

I took the long road to science via a bachelor's in English with a focus in creative writing and roughly seven years of marketing. I am now a graduate student in CSU's Microbiology-Immunology Master's Plan B program. Throughout this blitz of catching up on basic science courses and diving headfirst into some incredibly dense classes, I have discovered a love and genuine interest in medically relevant bacteria and the human immune system. I am currently volunteering in a lab focused on testing preclinical drugs for tuberculosis treatment. When I'm not digging myself out from under a mountain of homework, I enjoy baking, writing, hiking, and travelling. 

Nick Singstock

I like to solve problems and learn new things. If I am bored, I will unintentionally create new problems and challenges for myself that I then have to deal with. Fortunately, I rarely find myself bored as a 3rd year PhD student researching advanced materials, machine learning, clean energy, 3D printing, and quantum computing. When I have free time I enjoy climbing, cooking, gardening, and yoga. My favorite place to climb is Estes Park, my favorite recipes are cheese fondue and cauliflower wings, my chickens and tomato plants are taking over my yard, and I can do a handstand for almost a half-second, be impressed. Also I don't have a Twitter, talk to me in person instead, I'm mostly friendly!


Molly McDermott

I am a third year PhD Student at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department. I study interactions between environmental conditions and sexual selection in migratory songbirds. I have long been fascinated by animal adaptation. Growing up in Alaska, I marveled at the caribou, chickadees, and ptarmigan that survived harsh winters and put a great deal of energy into antlers, songs, and colorful plumage. For my current research, I track individual Barn Swallows – familiar farm residents here in Colorado - to measure how wintering conditions affect plumage traits and breeding performance. For my master’s, I studied how vegetation change in the Arctic may impact insect communities and the songbirds that depend on them for food. In addition to my biological interests, I am a musician and I’m interested in communicating scientific information via creative disciplines. When I’m not working on my dissertation, I’m usually riding my bike, playing music, or cooking.


Valerie Bernstein (@scigalval)

I am a PhD student in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department at CU Boulder and a space weather enthusiast! I explore solar wind and atmospheric drag modeling for the purposes of satellite collision avoidance and protecting our technology in space. I strive to use my research and education experiences to promote engagement with and accessibility of Earth and space science, especially for non-technical or younger audiences. Ask me about my space plasma mini-golf design! I also run an interdisciplinary STEM seminar series for graduate students at CU because I love to hear what other people find inspiring about their scientific fields. I give practice presentations to my cat, am currently on a national parks kick, and jump at any chance to explore abandoned places.


Holly D’Oench - The Watercolor Naturalist - (@WatercolorNat)

I am a wildlife biologist turned artist! I create naturalist-style watercolor paintings that engage and inform viewers about organisms we share our world with. I originally worked as a biologist for several years, conducting fieldwork for wildlife monitoring and management. My focus was on avian monitoring and banding, but I have also conducted research on carrion beetle diversity and abundance in the Rocky Mountains. I now blend my biological knowledge and experience with my artistic skill to create a unique form of science communication. Some of my paintings are accompanied by an educational video where I explain the biology of the organism depicted in the painting.


Ankita Arora (@arorankita)

I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Colorado-Anschutz Medical Campus and a staunch RNA biology enthusiast. Anything from origin of life to life in space and transhumanism excites me. I’m currently studying and trying to decipher rules that govern RNA localization in neurons. My goal as a researcher is to eventually give back to society especially to underprivileged sections of society. I’m currently mentoring underprivileged students in India through online mentoring sessions. When not in the lab, you can find me in a quirky café, exploring the mountains or having a beer at the breweries Colorado has to offer. My two dogs (Bachhi, meaning daughter in Hindi and Zeus) are the best stress busters in my life and love to take them on walks and hikes.


Zoe O’Donoghue (@ZoeODonoghue)

I am a PhD student in the Microbiology program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. My research focuses on the intersection between virology (specifically Dengue virus) and RNA structural biochemistry. I have also worked to develop an after-school STEM program at an underserved elementary school near my campus. We’re in our second semester and it’s by far one of the most rewarding projects I’ve ever worked on. Outside of that and lab I am the epitome of the Colorado stereotype- I have a dog (Jax!), drive a Subaru, exhibit a profound appreciation for microbrews, and love to be in the mountains no matter the season. I have found myself increasingly drawn to all aspects of science communication and am really excited to be participating in this workshop! 


Kira Altman (@Astro_Kira)

I am currently a Master’s student at CU Boulder studying Aerospace Engineering. I dream of one day being an astronaut and I am obsessed with anything GPS related - I love using GPS for unusual applications such as studying the changing environment through remote sensing. My passion for space stems from a childhood spent stargazing in the Colorado mountains. When I’m not messing around with GPS receivers, I spend time writing poetry and short stories or rock climbing. I am heavily invested in space outreach and making space accessible to all - one of my outreach projects involves a comedy instagram account modeled after the style of Drunk History to get people excited about space and science (@drunkengineering). 


Mj Riches (@mzCHEMj)

I have never been content doing one thing, which is probably why I would consider myself an environmental/atmospheric/analytical/plant chemist. I’m a fourth year PhD student in the Chemistry Department at Colorado State University, where I actively stress/torture plants for science. My research primarily focuses on the effects of a changing atmosphere on plants, and the plants’ subsequent effects on the changing atmosphere. I am a strong advocate for science education for both children and adults, mental health and for making one’s research accessible to all. I work to promote a positive lab safety culture and I enjoy volunteering for science fairs. When I’m not sweating it out with my plants in the greenhouse or the arboretum, you can find me knitting, leading a game of Dungeons & Dragons, or crafting at home with my 8 year old puppy.


Gretchen Kroh (@GretchenKroh) 

 I am a 5th year PhD student studying plant responses to nutrient stress. I have focused on how the plant adapts to iron (Fe) deficiency, and I was originally drawn to this research because of its direct impact on human health. Iron deficiency anemia is the most widespread nutrient deficiency worldwide. One reason for this is that crop plants are also commonly Fe deficient because soil Fe is poorly available. I have been working to understand how plants regulate their Fe when deficient, so that we can eventually pinpoint specific pathways and proteins to engineer crops with a higher nutritional value. Since it took me 18 years to realize how interesting plants are, I have made it my goal to spread the love of plants to as many age groups as I can through written science communication and hands on outreach events. When I’m not teaching about all the cool things plants do, or stressing out about the health of my plants in the lab, I’m either trying to keep my 25 houseplants thriving, watching my cat hunt grasshoppers, or climbing in a beautiful place.


Afnan Shazwan Nasaruddin (@AfnanShazwan)

 I am an international student from Malaysia, and a 5th year PhD student at Colorado State University studying bacterial disease of potato called blackleg/soft rot. Each year, this disease causes more than $40 million losses in the potato industry in the United States. My research focuses on chemotaxis, a mechanism by which bacterial cells move in response to chemical signals in the environment. I am passionate about communicating science to the public and engaging historically underrepresented groups in STEM. Outside of grad school, I enjoy hiking and running both half and full marathons. One of my dreams is to run an ultramarathon. 

Patrick Thieringer (@Patty_Microbes)

I am a 2ndyear PhD student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Colorado School of Mines studying environmental geomicrobiology. My research and interests include identifying metabolic pathways supporting microbial growth in a low temperature serpentinized environment by combining techniques of genomic analysis with lipidomic approaches to better develop biomarker detection and understand biogeochemical cycling in this extreme environment. My previous experience leading bike touring trips for young adults fuels my passion to combine outdoor learning techniques and support active learning efforts to provide all style-types of learning to students. I fully support science education inside and outside the classroom, and also providing all opportunities to share research and knowledge – it is my belief that everyone has the ability to understand your science as long as you can communicate it effectively! When I’m not trying to convince microbes to stay alive, you can find me biking, trail running, or practicing jazz guitar. For this conference, I newly joined the twitterverse and am excited to explore different media platforms to promote science communication!


Raquel Salvador (@RaquelSGa, Insta - @raquelsaga)

I joined the Voeltz Lab in the CU Boulder MCDB department as a Postdoc to unravel the inner life of cells with high resolution microscopes. I research the communication between the different specialized parts of the cell and how these parts work together to achieve proper cellular function. During my PhD in Germany, I studied the proteins responsible for cell death. I am the vice-president of the Postdoc Association of Colorado, where I also manage the website and social media. Apart from microscopes, I love basketball, performing cooking experiments, and swing dancing.    

Laura St. Clair

I am a 3rd  year PhD student in the Arthropod-Borne Infectious Disease Laboratory  in the Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology department at Colorado State University.  I work in Dr. Rushika Perera’s lab where we study the interaction of flaviviruses, specifically dengue viruses, with host cell lipid metabolic pathways.  Dengue viruses are known to hijack and disrupt cell lipid metabolism, and our lab wants to understand how that is advantageous to the virus, the mechanisms behind those disruptions, and how we may use that information to identify “choke points” for viral interference.  My work in Dr. Perera’s lab is focused on a particular group of lipids known as sphingolipids. Our lab’s previous metabolomics studies have revealed many lipid species that are differentially regulated upon infection, including sphingolipids. Sphingolipids are potent, bioactive signaling molecules, and are of interest because of their involvement in immune signaling pathways.  Studying the disruptions to sphingolipid metabolic pathways during infection may explain some of the pathogenesis of dengue disease, and may elucidate novel avenues for the development of future anti-viral or immunomodulatory therapies.


Carolina L. Gonzalez-Berrios (@clgonz_pr)

I am a Puerto Rican PhD student in the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory at Colorado State University. My research focuses on understanding the mechanism(s) that cause early embryo mortality in dairy cows and detecting genetic markers that can distinguish cattle who are prone to pregnancy loss. Outside of work, I focus on outreach by supporting, teaching and serving as a role model for underrepresented minority groups, specifically, women. I strive to achieve this as a collaborator and blogger for the Women in Agriculture Sciences (WAGS) organization. Our mission is to educate, empower and connect women to break misconceptions of having a career in agriculture sciences. I have also volunteered as an advocate for science through brain awareness week and as judge in regional conferences where high schoolers (CSEF) and undergraduates (MURALS and CURC) participate in. During my free time, you can find me outside hiking, biking, camping and/or bouldering.


Jeremiah Traeger (@jerbivore)

I am a 6th year graduate student in Chemical Engineering in the Dan Schwartz group. My research focuses on single-molecule studies of oligonucleotide DNA using fluorescence microscopy, and investigating hybridization and transport behavior on solid-liquid interfaces. Much of my current work involves investigating the effect of electrostatic repulsion between negatively-charged DNA strands in my system by altering ionic strength in solution or the amount of oligonucleotides on the surface. Through this work, I have been able to characterize the importance of DNA transport and surface repulsion on effective DNA binding in surface hybridization systems. In my free time, I enjoy playing drums for my band and being involved in campus labor organizing and local racial justice issues.