Organizing Committee

Kayleigh O’Keeffe is co-chair of the ComSciCon-Triangle 2018 Organizing Committee and a Ph.D. candidate in the Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on the ecology of infectious diseases. Specifically, she studies how interactions among fungi living on the same plants affect disease caused by fungal parasites on those plants. This work lets her spend some days in the field, other days in the lab, and still others in the greenhouse. She is a science ambassador at the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, has written for the Genetics Society of America, and loves all things science education and communication.


Christina Lebonville is co-chair of the ComSciCon-Triangle 2018 Organizing Committee and a Ph.D. student in the Psychology & Neuroscience department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her work looks at the intersection of opiates, learning and memory, and the immune system within the brain – basically how our immune system can be “trained” from past experience. She is co-chair of the Triangle Society for Neuroscience Outreach Committee, a Morehead Planetarium and Science Center science ambassador, always involved in different outreach projects, and passionate about teaching and mentoring undergraduates. In her sparse spare time, you can find her hiking/backpacking, watching movies, playing video games, and reading incredibly nerdy and geeky books.


Deirdre Sackett is a 5th year Ph.D candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill. She works under Dr. Regina Carelli in the Behavioral and Integrative Neuroscience Department. Deirdre researches the neurobiology of decision making, with a specific focus on the neural substrates of impulsive choice. In the rare moments that she’s not in lab, Deirdre can be found advocating for science communication. She was the Vice President of UNC’s Science Writing and Communication (SWAC) club and Chief Editor of the club’s student-run science blog, The Pipettepen. Deirdre also serves as the Chapter Representative and Communications Chair of the Triangle Society for Neuroscience chapter. Outside of work, Deirdre enjoys going on long hikes, playing video games, and cooking new recipes.

Catherine Chen is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She studies how animal behavior can explain patterns of species distribution and evolution using toads, with a particular focus on behaviors associated with sex. When not rearing toad babies or making toad robots for her research, Catherine can be found running the evolutionary biology blog EvoBites, hiking the mountains and coast of NC, and cooking elaborate dishes.


Manisit DasManisit Das is a 3rd year Ph.D. candidate in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC Chapel Hill. Manisit’s research focuses on adjusting the immune suppressed tumor environment in pancreatic cancer using nanoparticles for drug delivery. He is actively associated with UNC’s American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) student chapter, and Science Writing and Communication (SWAC) Club at UNC as a writer and editor. He has facilitated workshops on “Cross-Cultural Leadership Development” offered to incoming Biomedical Science graduate students at UNC. When he is not in the lab, you can probably find him in the trails, admiring the diverse beauty of North Carolina. He has hiked in almost all of the 41 North Carolina State Parks.  


Ben Zeldes is a 6th year (gasp) Ph.D. student in Chemical and Biomolecular engineering at NC State University. His research focuses on metabolic pathways in thermoacidophiles (microorganisms living in very hot and acidic environments), looking for ways they could be used to make industrial chemistry more “green”.  When not growing microbes in the lab, he likes to grow them in his kitchen at home, having developed a passion for making bread, beer, and pickles.  Ben loves talking about science, whether presenting his own research at conferences and the Three Minute Thesis competition, or asking questions as a judge at high-school and undergraduate science fairs.


Christina M. Marvin is a 5th year Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focuses on light activatable drugs using red blood cells as circulating carriers. She is passionate about promoting discussions between scientists and non-scientists in order to connect scientists with their local and global communities. She is currently the President of UNC’s Science Writing and Communication Group (SWAC) and Chair of the Steering Committee for the Morehead IMPACTS Program. In Spring 2017, she will finish both a TIBBS internship at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center and the Graduate Certificate in Business Fundamentals. Her ultimate career goal is to direct a science outreach and education center.     

Laura Mudge is a third-year Ph.D. Student in the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research is focused on understanding how disturbances (like tropical storms) drive changes to coral reef communities. You might wonder how she studies coral reefs in Chapel Hill, but Laura is fortunate enough to be able to conduct summer field work in the Caribbean. She has a strong interest in science communication and education, most recently having participated in ComSciCon Triangle, SciREN networking events, and teaching for undergraduate ecology courses both at UNC and abroad.


Seunghyun Yoo is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Forest Biomaterials at NC State University. His research focuses on structure analyses of biomass derived carbon materials (biochar, activated carbon) and  their applications for battery and supercapacitor electrode. Seunghyun is especially interested in introducing environment friendly technologies to general public. Combined with his research background at biomaterials and internship experience at Tesla Gigafactory, he wants to convey physical and chemical details of these technologies as easily as possible to people with non-STEM backgrounds.  


Paul Enriquez is a Ph.D. Candidate in Structural and Molecular Biochemistry at NC State University. His academic research focuses on gene editing, epigenetics, and structural biology. Outside the lab, he is interested in making important scientific information widely available to general audiences and supporting causes to advance scientific literacy.