Invited Speakers

Community Engagement and Embodied Science Communication:

Nicole BracciPh.D. Candidate in Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences

Maria DeNunzio, M.S. Student in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise at Virginia Tech

Mika Pagani, Ph.D. Student in Entomology at Virginia Tech

Daniel Bird Tobin, Theatre Archaeologist and Senior Faculty Fellow in the Center for Communicating Science at Virginia Tech


Applied Science Communication: Crafting Podcasts and Outreaches:

Jonathan Joyce

Danielle Murray, Director of Education, Science Museum of Western Virginia

Paras Patel, Virginia Tech Ph.D. Candidate, Co-founder and Co-host of Big Lick of Science

Rachana Somaiya, Virginia Tech Ph.D. Candidate, Co-founder and Co-host of Big Lick of Science


Write-A-Thon: Finding Your Story in Your Science:

Katie Burke, Ph.D., Digital Features Editor at American Scientist

Tiffany Trent, Science Writer and Science Fiction Author


From Climate Grief to Evidence-Based Hope: Tools for Self-Care and Meaningful Action:

Elin Kelsey (please see Keynote Speaker tab for bio)


Communicating Science in a Policy Space:

Todd Schenk, Associate Professor, School  of Public and International Affairs

Members of V-SCI: The Virginia Scientist-Community Interface (V-SCI, is a coalition of early-career scientists and engineers dedicated to getting science into the hands of the public. Members work with nonprofit, grassroots, and community leaders to provide scientific expertise for local and regional advocacy issues. V-SCI teams have contributed public comments and other technical documents on a range of issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the endangered candy darter, and the Radford Army Ammunition Plant.

Members of SPEAC: The Virginia Tech Science Policy Education and Advocacy Club (SPEAC) was founded in Fall of 2019 with the goal of connecting members to careers and opportunities at the interface of science and policy. Currently, the group meets monthly to learn more about the growing field of science policy and offers members the chance to engage in science advocacy projects, both at the local and state level, and develop important written science communication skills. SPEAC is an officially recognized chapter of the National Science Policy Network and a local Allied Group with the Union of Concerned Scientists. SPEAC is comprised of graduate students, although undergraduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and faculty are welcome to get involved. To join the listserv and receive monthly newsletters, please email Site:

Kathryn Lopez is a Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering studying the corrosion of infrastructure and working to help various communities find solutions to lead in drinking water problems. She aims to help expand access to safe drinking water and design more sustainable water supply systems. She is also passionate about using science to develop effective and socially benefitting policies and founded SPEAC in 2019 to help educate other students about opportunities at the interface of science and policy. She is originally from Miami, FL, obtained her B.S. in chemical-materials engineering from Florida State University, and is a NASEM Ford Fellow. In her spare time, she is an avid reader, amateur gardener, and aspiring bodybuilder.

COVES Fellowship (Directly from the COVES website): The Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) Fellowship is a 12-week fellowship program of the Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine (VASEM). Graduate student and postdoctoral fellows will serve as science advisors in a variety of possible placements, including legislative offices, executive agencies, or prominent companies and nonprofits in the state of Virginia. Fellows will gain experience by serving their host office and performing relevant tasks such as researching, drafting, and revising relevant policies. Fellows will also be paired with a VASEM member who will serve as an experienced science policy mentor throughout the fellowship.

Margaret Nagai-Singer (@MargaretNagai): Margaret Nagai-Singer is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences program at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation research focuses on cancer immunology, but Margaret is also passionate about policy work that extends beyond her research. Margaret was a 2021 COVES Fellow where she worked with the Virginia Department of Forestry on a water quality/quantity project. She is also involved in SPEAC at Virginia Tech where she has worked on food insecurity and Medicaid expenditure projects. Margaret also participates in a local advocacy group focused on policing reform policy in Virginia.



The Intersection of Performance Art and Science:


Playwright, producers, and actors of Rhino 2020, including:

Alireza Namayandeh, PhD Candidate, Department of Geosciences

Rachel Nunn, MFA Candidate, VT School of Performing Arts


C. Meranda Flachs-Surmanek, MS Candidate, Urban & Regional Planning and Theatre's Directing & Public Dialogue Program, and Adjunct Instructor, Center for Communicating Science

Laura Epperson, Post-MFA Fellow in Applied Performance, School of Performing Arts

Maddie Betts, MS Student, Fisheries and Wildlife Science

Mason Rosenthal,  Post-MFA in Applied Performance, Instructor for the School of Performing Arts, Faculty Fellow for the Center of Communicating Science