Panels and Speakers



Efraín E. Rivera-Serrano, Ph.D., Research Associate – Department of Microbiology & Immunology, UNC Chapel Hill

"A kaleidoscopic approach to designing effective science communication strategies"

Efra is a cell biologist interested in understanding how human cells fight viral infections. He was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where he completed his undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry. He attended North Carolina State University for graduate school where he obtained a M.Sc. degree in plant cell biology and later a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences where he focused on understanding how cardiac cells fight viral infections. He continued studying virus-host interactions during his postdoctoral training experiences and is currently a research associate in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at UNC Chapel Hill.

When outside of the lab, Efra uses the beauty of microscopy to introduce the beauty of scientific research to the community through social media. He is also the founder of #UniqueScientists (, a program that focuses on celebrating diversity in STEM by sharing the journey of diverse scientists worldwide.


Day 1 Opener: SciComm Bootcamp


Ariana Eily, Ph.D.

Ariana Eily is a postdoctoral associate in Science and Society, focusing on science communication. Her work includes science communication training and coaching, as well as working with the science communication team of the North Carolina PFAS Testing Network. She is interested in the intersection between art and science, or STEAM, and in developing ways science can be more deeply connected to society. This includes leading an interdisciplinary team exploring STEAM initiatives at Duke, using improv to help scientists become better communicators, creating courses to expand our thinking about how science and society interact, and establishing a science-art exhibit called the Art of a Scientist.

She earned her PhD from the Biology department and Cell and Molecular Biology program at Duke University in February 2019. Her PhD work was a crowd-funded project focused on uncovering the mechanisms of nutrient exchange in the intricate symbiosis between the small aquatic fern, Azolla, and its obligate nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium, Nostoc azollae. An alumna of Rollins College, she has long had a passion for making science more inclusive, and a large part of her dedication to science communication and STEAM is that they open the door to making science accessible to everyone.


Day 1 Activity: Storytelling for Science


Véronique Koch

Véronique Koch is a Senior Science Producer at Duke University, where she produces videos about the research and scientists at Duke. She started out as a marine biologist, working as a grouper specialist and counting reef fish underwater in the Florida Keys. After a series of internships with television networks during graduate school, she became a television producer and she has produced Emmy award-winning science documentary shows. She has produced content for the Discovery Channel Latin America, South Florida PBS and the Sesame Workshop (Plaza Sesamo), as well as the Frost Science Museum. She also mentored high school students to produce a full-length film about climate gentrification in Miami. She loves science communication and frequently gives presentations about storytelling.

Day 1 Panel: Science Policy


Awendala Grantham, Faculty at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Author, Researcher

Dr. Awendela Grantham holds a Ph.D., M.Phil, and M.A. in French and African American Studies from Yale University. There, she also earned her bachelor’s in International Studies and French. She teaches African American History at North Carolina A&T State University. Her research focuses on how social identities are developed in the context of religious and political movements and on how we can use that information for public policy. Dr. Grantham has lectured about racial formations in local religious and community forums, including the Institute for Contemporary Art and the Black Student Union at VCU. She has won multiple grants for her work including the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship. Her recent publications are Messianism in French Caribbean Literature (2012), The Africana Experience: We’ve Come This Far (2016), and TROPES: Church Politics and Its Impact on The Black Female Identity (2019).



Andrew Pericak

Andrew Pericak serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Duke University’s, responsible for general management of the website and overseeing the work of the students and staff involved with the project. He received the Master of Environmental Management degree from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment in 2016, at which he specialized in Environmental Economics and Policy. Before that, he received the Bachelor of Arts from the University of Richmond. Andrew also has extensive experience with geographic information systems (GIS) and has produced open spatial data currently used in academic research and public advocacy.


David Kaiser

David Kaiser is the Deputy Director for the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation, which is staffed by the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation in the North Carolina Department of Commerce. In this role, Kaiser manages research projects, policy analysis, and programmatic functions, writes reports, articles, and issues press releases on innovation opportunities and activities across the state, and collaborates and fosters partnerships in support of North Carolina’s efforts in the recruitment and retention of high-growth, innovative companies statewide. Kaiser also directs conferences, workshops, and task force meetings organized by the Office. He is also responsible for the management of the social media campaign for the Board of Science, Technology, & Innovation.


Day 2 Opener: Science Improv


Andrew Ali Aghapour, Ph.D.

I'm a scholar of religion and a comedian. I have a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill, where I studied religion and science with an emphasis on the brain. I also did an M.Phil at Cambridge in the History and Philosophy of Science, in case you care. I do storytelling, stand up, and improv. My one-person show Zara is an autobiography of monotheism. Currently gigging with the Smithsonian at the National Museum of American History. I like helping scholars and scientists translate their research for a broader audience, since that's something I have experience with. Hobbies include eating food and watching content.


Day 2 Activity: Visual Communication


Jo Klein

Jo Klein (they/them) is the Geospatial and Data Visualization Librarian at UNC Greensboro (UNCG), where they provide support and resources for students, faculty, and staff working with data viz. and geographic information systems (GIS). They also serve as the library liaison to the Geography, Environment, and Sustainability Department and provide instruction on research methods and information literacy, among other services. They obtained an MLIS at UNCG and a BS in Biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Before working at UNCG, Jo worked as a contractor for the US EPA, where they produced and analyzed GIS data and antibody assay results to help investigate the effects of green space on human health.


Adrian Smith

Adrian Smith is the Head of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and also a Research Assistant Professor of Biology at NC State. His research centers on studies of ant chemical communication and insect behavioral ecology. His work has yielded the discovery and description of new chemical compounds, the fastest animal movements ever documented, and more curious observations such as the function of grappling-hook hairs on the back of ant babies. He also is also a science video producer and insect videographer, publishing content across social media platforms. In 2019, his videos were viewed over 14 million times.


Fedor Kossakovski

Fedor Kossakovski is a producer at Miles O’Brien Productions and a freelance science writer based in Carrboro, NC. His video work has appeared on PBS NewsHour, PBS NOVA, and New Mexico PBS; his written work has appeared in The Henry Ford Magazine, ACS ChemMatters, and on the PBS NewsHour website. Fedor studied chemistry and creative writing at UNC and Duke University as part of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program.


Day 2 Panel: SciComm Careers


David M. Berube, Prof. of Science Technology & Communication, NC State University

David M. Berube is a Research Professor at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in science and technology communication. He teaches graduate seminars in risk, fear, disaster, and climate change science communication. He co-ordinates a project at NCSU on Public Communication of Science and Technology committed to quantitative work in the social science of science. He has received over $10 million in grants over the decade and a half to study risk and nanoscience. He wrote Nano-Hype: The Truth behind the Nanotechnology Buzz (Prometheus Books, 2006) recently translated into Japanese. He has a series of articles and chapters on applied nanoscience, risk, and public communication and has spoken at dozens of conferences in the USA and Europe on risk communication and nanotechnology. He was a former intercollegiate debate coach but transitioned into science communication nearly two decades ago. He is the social science director of the Research Triangle Nanotechnology Network involving Duke and UNC Chapel Hill. He authored a National Nanotechnology Coordination Office White Paper on risk communication and the International Food Information Council primer on social media and food.


Alyssa LaFaro, Content Manager, Endeavors, UNC Chapel Hill

On any given day, Alyssa LaFaro can be found photographing the effects of climate change, inquiring about the formation of our universe, or writing furiously in her office. As the editor of Endeavors — UNC’s digital research magazine — she’s produced upwards of 60 multimedia stories on multiple topics including genetics, art history, nuclear physics, business, and health humanities. When she’s not behind a camera or a computer, she’s meeting with communicators, students, and faculty from across campus to learn about new research projects and unlock opportunities for collaboration.


Jonathan Frederick, Director, North Carolina Science Festival

Jonathan began his career in Tampa, Fla., as an educator at a major aquarium. In 2001, he moved to North Carolina to develop the first residential environmental education program in N.C. State Parks history. Most recently, he served as science programs manager for Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. Since 2015, in addition to directing one of the largest public celebrations of STEM in the world, Jonathan has led IMPACTS, a statewide scicomm training program focused on diversity and inclusion for both scientists and their audiences.


Robin Smith, Senior Science Writer, Duke University

Robin Smith earned a Ph.D. in biology in 2005, then spent the next few years freelancing and teaching writing before joining the news office at Duke University, where she now (bravely, foolishly, happily) covers subjects she never studied in grad school. She has written for the Raleigh News and Observer, the Charlotte Observer, and the blog column of Scientific American. When she’s not at her desk, Robin spends her time exploring art and the outdoors with her husband and two children, and waxing nostalgic about sleep. For more, visit