Tara is the CEO and founder of the global non-profit Iridescent. Her mission in life has been to transform the opportunities available to young people, especially girls, to reach their full-potential and impact their communities. Tara founded Iridescent in 2006 to create and deliver powerful science, engineering, and technology education to empower underrepresented young people. Iridescent has since grown to a community of over 3,500 mentors and more than 63,000 participants throughout the world through its flagship programs Technovation and Curiosity Machine. Forbes highlighted Tara in 2016 as “the pioneer empowering the incredible tech girls of the future” and she was prominently featured in the award-winning documentary Codegirl. Tara earned her BS in Physics from St. Stephen’s College and a MS in aerospace engineering from Boston University. Tara left her PhD program in aerospace engineering at USC to pursue her social entrepreneurship to found Iridescent and directly empower girls and children everywhere.
MacCalvin is a Boston native currently earning his Masters in Business Administration from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. After earning a Bachelors of Science in Management and Information Systems from Boston College, MacCalvin worked as a IT Consultant at EMC and as a Managing Business Technologist at DigistasLBI. In 2012 while at DigitasLBI, MacCalvin formed a partnership with Citizens School, a non-profit organization whose mission is to close the opportunity gap for middle schoolers in low-income communities by creating after-school programs that extend the learning day. Looking to blend his passion for technology and innovation with his passion for giving back to his community, MacCalvin recruited members of the Digitas team and launched an after-school curriculum that has brought technology and marketing-based courses to over 250 students in the Boston public school system. Outside of his studies, MacCalvin serves on the Citizen Schools Leadership Council, Massachusetts STEM council, TEDxBoston leadership team, and is the Director of the Wolverine Venture Fund at the University of Michigan.
Dawn Thompson met her husband, Punkin Chunkin cofounder Bill Thompson, in 1988, and she’s been a diehard Chunker ever since. Dawn has been there for every major Punkin Chunkin moment, from the first centrifugal machine to the first (and only) spectator to be hit by a punkin; she even co-wrote a ballad about the Chunk’s origins (performed at every championship since 1989). In her spare time, Dawn inspires future engineers by doing mini trebuchet demonstrations at local schools. When asked about her amateur engineering accomplishments, Dawn merely says, “I’m pretty good at the mechanical stuff.” ‘Pretty good’ is an understatement coming from the first woman to ever earn a Championship Punkin Chunkin title, a feat achieved with her winning air cannon Hormone Blaster on the event’s 25th Anniversary. Dawn’s desire to share her passions for mechanics, innovation, and creativity makes her a Science Super Hero to backyard engineers everywhere.
Samuel O’Dell is a Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Roane State Community College, where he is in the midst of faculty who are truly dedicated to teaching and making a difference in their students’ lives. He tries to model his teaching after my father and the great faculty in Science Education at the University of Georgia, where he earned his PhD. He doesn’t have to look any further than my students to find science superheroes; many of them have families, full time jobs, struggle with financial resources, or all of the above. Yet they persevere in order to get into professions that help others, and he is proud to be amongst them. To anyone reading this, he thanks you for your interest in science and science education. You make the world a better place.
Michael Weiss is an American engineer who is known for his contributions to on-orbit satellite servicing missions, particular of the Hubble Space Telescope. Weiss most recently served as deputy program director on the Hubble Space Telescope program at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,MD. Weiss received his B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland College Park in 1978 and 1983. He has led the systems engineering for missions including the systems engineering for missions including the Solar Maximum Mission, Upper Atmosphere Research Satelite, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer as well as the first shuttle based satellite repair, the Solar Maximum Repair Mission in 1984. Weiss was involved in all 5 Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions. He directed systems development during servicing mission 1 and servicing mission 2. He served as deputy program director through servicing mission 4. He also led the Mishap Investigation Board investigating the failure of a balloon launch from Australia carrying a gamma-ray telescope for to the University of California at Berkeley.
Jordan Kruger is the STEM Director and Assistant Principal of ITW David Speer Academy, a new STEM high school in Chicago, IL. He was born and raised in Chicago and is passionate about improving science education and has been for the past 11 years as a teacher and as a high school administrator. After graduating from the University of Illinois (where he also was a a part of the Fighting Illini football team), he entered Teach For America and taught science at an inner-city high school in Chicago. Since that time he has taught Physics, Biology, AP Biology, Chemistry and now as a high school administrator he works to create a curriculum focused on empowering inner-city students to succeed in STEM in college and beyond. His goal is to create over 1000 minority STEM professionals by 2026 by developing strong science curricula and STEM outreach programming.
“Every day is Earth Day!” Mark Ferraro’s students are greeted by this phrase as they enter the classroom. He studied Horticulture, Earth and Space Science, Environmental Science and learned how to be an administrator at Temple University. As a science educator for the past 19 years, Mark loves “getting his hands dirty” by incorporating real world experiences into his classes. He has helped introduce hydroponics and aquaponics to the LEED certified Lower Merion School District that has always been very supportive of sustainability initiatives. Mark has guided the district wide Green Council which searches for ways to decrease our ecological footprint. When he’s not in the classroom, you can find Mark standing in a creek or hiking in a forest. He is passionate about our planet!
Major Hope Klukovich
Maj Hope M. Klukovich is currently assigned to United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) as the Director of Faculty Research/Assistant Professor for the Department of Chemistry. Maj Klukovich attended Officer Training School at Maxwell AFB, AL, and commissioned in 2004. Her first assignment was to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson AFB, OH where she worked as a fuels chemist. Her next assignment was to USAFA as an instructor of chemistry. Following her assignment at USAFA, Maj Klukovich attended Duke where she was awarded a doctorate in chemistry. Next Maj Klukovich was assigned to the Rocket Propulsion Division of AFRL at Edwards AFB, CA in 2012. In 2014-2015, Maj Klukovich was the Chief of the Air Force Petroleum Agency’s lab at Al Udeid AB, Qatar. She was also a metal finishing chemist and water treatment chemist prior to her military service
Adam teaches 7th grade Life Science in Watts, Los Angeles. Obsessed with insects since birth,he has spent a lifetime exploring how tiny creatures give us big ideas. This is especially helpful in urban settings, where it’s easy to lose touch with the environment we depend on. He deploys his substantial bug zoo to help rebuild that connection. “You can’t ask someone to protect what they don’t love, and you can’t ask someone to love what they don’t know,” says Adam. “Bugs are a means to give students ownership over some small piece of nature, and this fosters a sense of responsibility for the world at large.” Adam’s work on insects –primarily ants- has led to collaborations with Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and NASA Astrobiology- the search for extraterrestrial life. His tales of the people he has met while looking for bugs have brought him to the TEDx stage, and served as the basis for Bug Bites, a kids science show he hosts on PBS and KCET.
Jon Mullen was born in Nepal, adopted into an American Family as an infant, and then managed to grow up all over the world until age 15. Being homeschooled, he had plenty of time to spend exploring the planet around him. He maintains his deep passion for science.Jon began his teaching career in South America. Then it was on to Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, where he is the Science Lab teacher for 700 kids aged 5-10. Jon wants his students to experience a sense of awe each time they leave his classroom. He wants them to understand their grave responsibility to take care of our world. He wants them to ask questions, and to think critically. “If they’re not talking about science class at the dinner table, I haven’t done my job,” he says.Ask him and he’ll tell you he has the best job on the planet.
Alexandra Kuechenberg is an interdisciplinary artist, technologist, and Creative Director at the Frost Science Museum. Her projects are built around emerging interactive media technologies and are driven by her fascination with human perception. From 2006-2012 Alexandra led the design and development of numerous artworks for renowned light and space artist James Turrell. Her work for Turrell inspired her to explore alternate avenues of communicating the wonders of perception to wide audiences. In 2012 she founded the creative studio TO:SEE, a Miami based research and design practice. TO:SEE’s mission is to facilitate collaborative development of non-invasive technologies that facilitate authentic human and environmental connection. Since 2013, she has been building programs, exhibits and experiences for Miami’s new Frost Science Museum, set to open in Spring 2017. Alexandra holds a terminal degree in creative technology from NYU’s Interactive Technology Program and uses light as a jump rope.
Douglas Robinson is a cell biologist who investigates how cells control their shapes for normal human health. His lab initially uses a model organism Dictyostelium to discover fundamental concepts and then applies these insights to human diseases, including cancer and lung disease. Doug’s lab has also built an outreach initiative for high school students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Based on the success of the high school program, Doug and his colleagues then created a pipeline effort called the Johns Hopkins Initiative for Careers in Science and Medicine (CSM). So far, CSM has served over 100 students from high school through postbaccalaureate levels. 100% of the high schoolers have matriculated into 4-year colleges, and some of the first group of postbaccalaureate students were just accepted into MD and MD/PhD programs. CSM’s overarching goal is to create opportunity for scholars to achieve success independent of socioeconomic background.
Debbie Sterling is the Founder and CEO of GoldieBlox, the award-winning children’s multimedia company disrupting the pink aisle in toy stores globally and challenging gender stereotypes with the world’s first girl engineer character. Debbie is an engineer, entrepreneur, and one of the leaders in the movement toward empowering girls to build their confidence, dreams and ultimately, their futures. She was named TIME’s “Person of the Moment,” honored by the National Retail Foundation as one of 25 “People Shaping Retail’s Future,” and was recently added to Fortune Magazine’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list. In 2015, Debbie was inducted as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship and honored by the National Women’s History Museum with a “Living Legacy” Award for her work to empower girls around the world. Debbie received her degree in Engineering at Stanford University in 2005.
Olivia Pavco-Giaccia focuses on the synergies between science, entrepreneurship, and girl-centric activism that impact both local and national dialogs. Her first book Ava & The Copper Key was awarded a Gold Medal by Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards. She is the founder and CEO of the social venture, LabCandy, while also finishing her degree in Cognitive Science from Yale University. Oliva was selected as the youngest-ever Fellow at Yale’s Entrepreneurial Institute. She led LabCandy’s highly successful Kickstarter campaign that met its entire funding goal in only three days. LabCandy’s brightly colored lab coats, kid-sized sparkly lab goggles, and science adventure storybooks are enjoyed by kids around the world. She has collaborated with a variety of STEM-focused initiatives including Imagine magazine and the Women’s Leadership Initiative, while serving on the Champions Board of the National Girls Collaborative Project, the country’s largest non-profit organization committed to girls in STEM.
Livia Eberlin, Ph. D
Livia S. Eberlin is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin. Originally from Brazil, she moved to the USA in 2008 to pursue her PhD in Analytical Chemistry at Purdue University. During her PhD, she developed mass spectrometry imaging to human cancer diagnosis and surgical margin evaluation. In recognition of her innovative work, she received several awards including the Nobel Laureate Signature Award from the American Chemical Society. In 2012, she started her postdoctoral work at Stanford University. During that period, she received the L’Oréal for Women in Science Fellowship, a K99 pathway to independence award from the NIH, and was listed in the Forbes 30 under 30 list in Science and Healthcare. In 2016, Dr. Eberlin joined the University of Texas at Austin. She is passionate about research at the interface of chemistry and medicine. Her research group is focused on developing innovative chemical technologies to address critical problems in health-related research.
Nazli Azimi, Ph.D.
Dr. Nazli Azimi is Co-founder and CEO of Bioniz Therapeutics, as well as the co-inventor of its core-technology. As both a noted researcher and a seasoned business professional, Dr. Azimi’s vision and passion for the future of immune therapeutics have driven Bioniz’s core technology from a hypothesis shared with her co-founder, to a fully realized platform technology that is best recommended by the world class business leaders. Dr. Azimi originally graduated from the University of Tehran with a doctorate in pharmacology, from which she went on to a post-doctorate immunology program at one of the premier research groups at the NIH directed by Dr. Thomas Waldmann, a pioneer in the field of immune-therapy. During her post-doctoral studies, Dr. Azimi made seminal contributions to the discovery and characterization of interleukin 15, a critical immune system protein. After the NIH, Dr. Azimi joined the faculty at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where she studied immune cytokine responses to herpes and other viruses before transitioning into entrepreneurship. Before founding Bioniz, Dr. Azimi demonstrated her talent for translational science and leadership as Founder and CEO of Dermaheal USA a privately held company which was acquired in 2014 after 7 years of successful operation. Fitting into Dr. Azimi’s expansive knack for diverse thought, she is also a trained artist whose paintings were exhibited when she lived in Washington, DC.
STEAM Lab Teacher, Millstone Elementary, Central NJ. Do Madagascar hissing cockroaches prefer the scent of peppermint over vanilla? Can you design a mountainside motel for a mouse? How about create safe transport for a 2,000-year-old fossil? This is what happens in Beth Topinka’s S.T.E.A.M. lab at the Millstone Township School District in central New Jersey. Beth also runs the Community Problem Solvers club that recently won first place in the New Jersey Future Problem Solving State Bowl. Looking to solve the problem of the spread of an invasive species, Beth’s students developed a solution to keep seeds from sticking to shoes and clothes. The Phearlessly Phighting Phragmites project team heads to the International Conference in Wisconsin in June.
Beth’s teaching philosophy is to engage students with their community to collaborate on authentic problems. She’s a vocal advocate for interdisciplinary, problem-based learning. In 2016 she was selected to be a Science Friday Educator Collaborator, as well as a state finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. After graduating from Ashland University in Ohio and completing a master’s degree at The Ohio State University, Beth earned her teaching certification from Georgian Court University in New Jersey. She taught middle school science for 12 years, earning a Gifted Education Certificate from Rutgers along the way. She moved to Millstone’s elementary school to develop a NGSS-based STEAM program. WSF Program—The Ultimate Science Day: Visitors to Beth’s “What’s Shakin’?!” activity choose among three different structural engineering design challenges. How will your structural solutions protect precious artifacts from the terrifying earthquake encountered on our mighty, bicycle-powered shake table? Yes, you get to ride the bike!
Dr. Valerie Camille Jones
Math Teacher, Ron Clark Academy, Atlanta, Georgia. Dancing their way through geometry and algebra is what earned Camille Jones the reputation as her students’ favorite teacher…and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and recognition by Congressman John Lewis. Frequently dressed as a Poké Ball and teaching in a classroom that looks like it’s straight from the set of Willie Wonka, Camille uses real-life applications to teach her middle school in Southeast Atlanta that math is part of everything from architecture to basketball and more. Dr. Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Spelman College and continued her studies by earning master’s and doctoral degrees in Mathematics Education from Georgia State University and Columbia University respectively. Dr. Jones is national board certified and also a certified industry studio teacher. She is greatly respected for her creative approach in making the most difficult topics tangible to her students. Dr. Jones teaches her students how to effectively use mathematical models as communication tools. In the classroom, she develops art and video game simulations to connect students to math and coordinates field trips to provide real-life examples of the influence of math. WSF Program—Cool Jobs: Glow-in-the-dark sticks, dancing, geometric shapes will entrance the audience in how Jones teachers math in her class.
Physics Teacher, Basis Independent Brooklyn School. It’s hard not to love your physics teacher when he has a fellow teacher smash a cinderblock on his chest with a sledgehammer to demonstrate inertia and mass. Leaving his home state of Mississippi and teaching university physics, Joshua headed to Brooklyn to show that even 11-year-olds can grapple physics.Joshua Winter has been teaching physics for over 15 years to students of all age levels. Whether kindergartners or college students, his engaging teaching style, and exciting demonstrations make even the most complex concepts accessible. Winter is the recipient of numerous excellence in teaching awards including the Herb Handley Outstanding New Science Teacher Award from the Mississippi Science Teacher’s Association and the Faculty Teaching Award in Natural & Physical Sciences and Math & Statistics from the Mississippi State University. For his series on the Physics of Football, he won the GOLD Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters. Winter is also a musician in a local rock band and enjoys hiking and traveling with his wife and two pups.