Panels and Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer, Ph.D.

Director of Communications & Science Outreach, Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR)
Associate Director of Diversity & Communication Training, iBiology


Mónica grew up in rural Puerto Rico, catching lizards and with a cow in her backyard, which sparked her interest in all things biology. A PhD scientist-turned-communicator, she uses online technologies, storytelling, community-building, and cultural relevance to make science more accessible and inclusive. Her work focuses on empowering individuals, both scientists and non-experts, through bilingual science outreach, communication, education, and mentoring. Mónica is the Director of Communications & Science Outreach for Ciencia Puerto Rico, a non-profit organization democratizing science, supporting the career development of young scientists, and transforming science education and training in Puerto Rico. She is also Associate Director of Diversity & Communication Training for iBiology, a non-profit organization that produces and distributes free online videos about research, the process of science, and professional development featuring the world’s leading biologists. Mónica earned her B.S. in Human Biology at the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón, and her Ph.D. in Neurobiology at Harvard University. You can find her on Twitter: @moefeliu.


Panel 1: Science Communication Bootcamp



Abby OlenaAbby Olena, Ph.D.

Science Writer

These days, Abby Olena writes about science—from ancient genomes to biology in space—for The Scientist, but she once looked at fish retinas for a living. After earning a PhD in biological sciences from Vanderbilt University, Abby spent a year in science journalism as the Chicago Tribune’s AAAS Mass Media Fellow and The Scientist's editorial intern. Then, she became a postdoc in science communication at Duke University's Initiative for Science & Society, where she developed and taught #scicomm courses for scientists. In addition to her work as a science journalist, Abby leads science writing and communication workshops for scientists, teaches yoga, and produces a conversational podcast called Friendlier. She lives in Carrboro with her neuroscientist husband and toddler.


Panel 2: Pitfalls of Science Communication 


Katie MackKatie Mack, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Physics at NC State University

Dr Katherine (Katie) Mack is a theoretical astrophysicist who studies a range of questions in cosmology, the study of the universe from beginning to end. She currently holds the position of Assistant Professor of Physics at North Carolina State University, where she is also a member of the Leadership in Public Science Cluster. Throughout her career she has studied the early universe, galaxy formation, black holes, cosmic strings, and the ultimate fate of the cosmos. Alongside her academic research, she is an active science communicator and has been published in a number of popular publications such as Scientific American, Slate, Sky & Telescope,, and Cosmos Magazine, where she is a columnist. You can find her on Twitter as @AstroKatie.


Fenella Saunders

Fenella Saunders

Editor in Chief, American Scientist

Fenella Saunders is Editor-in-Chief of American Scientist, a general-audience science magazine published by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honor Society, where she is also Director of Science Communications and Publications. She has been a science journalist and editor for more than 23 years, and has covered science for Discover magazine, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, NYU Physician, Scholastic, The Learning Channel, and The Discovery Channel. She received an A.B. degree in computer science from Duke University and a Master's degree in psychology and animal behavior from Hunter College of the City University of New York.


M KattiMadhusudan Katti, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State University

Madhu Katti joined NC State in August 2016 as a Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program cluster hire in Leadership in Public Science. Dr. Katti, an associate professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, studies animals and plants in cities with the goal of applying understanding toward reconciling biodiversity conservation with human development. His research also focuses on the behavioral effects of humans on other species, e.g. effects of urban noise on birdsong. He leads the multidisciplinary Urban Long-Term Research Area – Fresno And Clovis Ecosocial Study (ULTRA-FACES) project, studying the interactions between water policy, human water use, and urban biodiversity in California’s Central Valley. “He founded the Central Valley Café Scientifique in Fresno, California, and hosted an affiliated radio show that continues to air on KFCF 88.1FM in the valley every 4th Tuesday of the month. He produces and hosts the podcast Science: A Candle In The Dark, with new co-host Dr. Katie Mack. This spring he launched the Triangle Bird Count, a citizen science project to map and monitor the distribution and abundance of bird species in the urban areas of the research triangle.”

JoryJory Weintraub, Ph.D.

Science Communication Director, Duke Initiative for Science & Society

Jory Weintraub is Science Communication Director and a Senior Lecturing Fellow with the Duke Initiative for Science & Society.  He teaches science communication courses for Duke undergrads and grad students, and runs scicomm workshops for Duke faculty and postdocs.  He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC).  Jory received a BS in Biochemistry from UC San Diego and a PhD in Immunology from UNC Chapel Hill and then completed an NSF-funded postdoctoral fellowship in STEM education, with a focus on STEM diversity and minority outreach.  


Panel 3: Storytelling in Science


Jeff Polish, Ph.D.Jeff Polish

Executive Director, The Monti

Jeff Polish earned a Ph.D. in Molecular Cell Biology from Washington University in St. Louis. Upon completing that degree, he left academic research to pursue teaching, but his lifelong love of storytelling eventually called him away from science completely. In 2008, Dr. Polish started The Monti, a non-profit organization that invites people to tell personal stories on stage without notes. Dr. Polish also consults with businesses on how to use simple principles of storytelling to communicate effectively. His past clients include Boeing, Microsoft, and Juniper Networks. Jeff received a 2013 Indies Arts Award and has been profiled in Science, Our State Magazine, Southern Living and Garden & Gun.


Panel 4: Science of Science Communication


Nicole LeeNicole M. Lee, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Communication at NC State University

Nicole M. Lee is an Assistant Professor at North Carolina State University in the Department of Communication. Her research focuses on public relations and digital media, particularly within the context of science communication. Her primary program of research examines how public relations practitioners can utilize two-way communication online to more effectively communicate about science with lay audiences. This work can be seen in academic journals such as Science Communication and Environmental Communication. Her research on climate change communication has also been funded by the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication. At NCSU, Lee teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in public relations, including digital media in public relations and public relations campaigns. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the NCSU chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Seth NoarSeth M. Noar, Ph.D.

Professor, School of Media and Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill

Dr. Seth M. Noar is a Professor in the School of Media and Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work addresses the use of communication strategies for health behavior change. Dr. Noar has published more than 150 articles and chapters in a wide range of outlets in the social, behavioral, health, and communication sciences, and he serves on the editorial boards of several leading journals including Health Communication, Communication Monographs, and Journal of Communication. In 2014, Dr. Noar was recognized by Thomson Reuters as among the top 1% most cited researchers in the social sciences. In 2016, Dr. Noar received the Lewis Donohew and National Communication Association outstanding health communication scholar awards, and in 2017 he received the American Public Health Association’s Mayhew Derryberry Research award.

Andrew Binder Andrew Binder, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor of Communication at NC State University

Dr. Andrew Binder is an associate professor at North Carolina State University in the Department of Communication. His research examines how media portray science and technology and how citizens think about science topics. Using primarily quantitative social science methods, Andy conducts surveys and experiments to measure and explain citizen attitudes toward both controversial and non-controversial science topics.  Andy received a BA in French with a certificate in African Studies, an MS in life sciences communication, and a PhD in mass communications from the University of Wisconsin—Madison.  His research has been published in the journals  Public Understanding of Science, Communication Research, and Journal of Health Communication, among others. Current projects include a national opinion survey on the use of reclaimed water in homes, a meta-analysis of the relationship between sending sexually explicit text messages and sexual behaviors, and a systematic review of research on public opinion of genetic engineering.

Sarah ParvantaSarah Parvanta, Ph.D., MPH

Research Analyst
Science in the Public Sphere Program, Center for Communication Science at RTI International

Sarah Parvanta is a research analyst in RTI International’s Center for Communication Science. Dr. Parvanta’s research leverages quantitative and qualitative analytic methods to assess the effectiveness of communication strategies and messages, as well as the impact of health, environment, and energy information on beliefs and behavior. She has specialized training in health campaign evaluation and currently teaches a graduate course on measurement of social change campaigns. Dr. Parvanta has an in-depth understanding of research on communication inequalities and health disparities, and consistently considers the implications of messages, campaigns, and other communication effects on marginalized groups. Building on this experience, she has engaged with stakeholders on home energy use programming, and has conducted research on consumer understanding of energy behavior.