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Expert Panels

What does it mean to be a scientist? What jobs can you do with STEM training? What can you expect on your own science journey? Our expert panelists are here to help answer all of these questions and more! This year’s panels are designed to be accessible and informative for all participants, including students, parents, and educators. If you already have questions you’d like to ask, submit them ahead of time here. We’ll also be accepting some live questions during the panels, so make sure to tune in!

The views expressed by the panelists are their own and do not reflect those of their empoyers

Panel 1: STEM in Academia


Nicole Spiegelman

Scientist, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals

Nicole is a research scientist at a small biotech company outside of Boston. She is involved in the research and development of therapeutics for rare liver diseases.


Ritchie Patterson

Professor, Physics, Cornell University

Ritchie Patterson uses particle colliders to investigate the nature of the cosmos. Right now, she is sifting through data from the Large Hadron Collider to discover particles that might have existed in the early universe -- and would explain some today's mysteries. As a Cornell Physics professor, Ritchie also mentors graduate students and leads large research teams. Ritchie has two daughters (now ages 15 and 20), loves walks outside, and is an enthusiastic skier.


Martha-Elizabeth "Marty" Baylor

Associate Professor and Department Chair, Physics and Astronomy, Carleton College

Marty is originally from Columbia, MD. She thought she was going to be a paleontologist as a kid, but ended up becoming a physics major in college (even though she has more undergrad credits in Chinese than physics!) where she also studied abroad in China. Marty has experience teaching middle and high school physics, working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center designing telescopes and optical test beds, and working for a laser company in China. She now lives Minnesota where she plays with lasers, works with light-sensitive plastics, and teaches physics at Carleton College.


Jessica Lamb

Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT. Future Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota

Jessica grew up in Fargo, ND as a dancer and theatre kid who also really liked math and science. She went to college at the University of North Dakota where she got her B.S. in Chemistry along with minors in mathematics and Spanish. She then went to graduate school at Cornell University and worked with Geoff Coates to earn her PhD in organic chemistry in 2017. She currently does polymer chemistry research in the group of Jeremiah Johnson at MIT as a National Institutes of Health Postdoctoral Fellow. In the summer of 2020, she will begin her independent research career as an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota.

Panel 2: STEM Education


Melissa Eblen-Zayas

Professor, Physics, & Director, Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, Carleton College

Melissa has been a professor of physics at Carleton College (Northfield, MN) since 2005, where teaching and research are both important parts of her job. Her research involves trying to gain a better of understanding of materials that have unusual electric and magnetic properties. She is currently the Director of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching, a role in which she works with other faculty to help them improve their teaching and implement new teaching methods. During Minnesota winters, Melissa mostly likes to hide inside and read, but when the weather warms up, she can be found outside bicycling, camping, or hiking with family and friends.


Lilli Morris

Assistant Professor, Chemistry, The College of Wooster

Lilli Morris grew up in Durham, North Carolina before going to Williams College where she got her degree in Chemistry and Math. She got her Ph.D. from Cornell in polymer chemistry, designing ways to make plastics that are strong but degrade in sunlight. She now works as a Chemistry Professor at the College of Wooster, where she teaches and does research with undergraduate students.


Natasha Holmes

Ann S. Bowers Assistant Professor, Physics, Cornell University

Natasha Holmes is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at Cornell University. Her research focuses on physics education research -- studying how students learn in college-level physics courses. She received her undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Guelph, where she explored several majors (including biochemistry) before settling into physics. She was pulled by the apparent objectivity of physics and the elegant ways physicists try to understand the world through beautiful, simple, mathematical models. She conducted research as an undergraduate student, exploring projects such as simulating how planets and solar systems form and studying one of the detectors on the Mars rovers. Intending to pursue particle physics for her PhD, she learned about the field of Physics Education Research and switched her focus to study how students learn in lab courses. She received her PhD in physics from the University of British Columbia and then moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a postdoctoral researcher for two years. She's been working at Cornell University for just over three years now.


Steffany Brown

Developer Programs Engineer, Google

Steffany Brown is a Software Engineer at Google, where she focuses on Cloud Data Analytics products. She received a nontraditional engineering education from Ada Developers Academy in Seattle, Washington, after a career in gender-responsive STEM education. Steffany is passionate about learning and building tools that promote empathy, equity, and creativity in technology. She is an artist, afro-futurist, and dog mom to Turing.

Panel 3: Careers in STEM


Christina Cordero

Mechanical Engineer, New Hudson Facades

Christina grew up in Syracuse, NY loving math, science, and learning about how the world works. When she was choosing colleges, she focused on those with strong engineering programs and ultimately decided on Villanova University. Christina studied mechanical engineering there and pursued engineering and manufacturing internships each summer. In both school and internships she learned valuable skills regarding engineering and teamwork. After graduation she accepted a job at an HVAC engineering design firm called AKF. Christina worked there for a year and a half gaining experience before finding a better career fit at an engineering and manufacturing company called New Hudson Facades. She has been there for over two years now, designing the facades of high rise buildings in places like New York City and Philadelphia.


Leah Crane

Science Reporter, New Scientist Magazine

Leah is a physics and space reporter for New Scientist, a weekly science magazine based in London. She went to college in Minnesota and now I lives in Chicago. Leah spends most of her time at work writing news stories, and as well as New Scientist's weekly space newsletter and the occasional longer feature story. She’s used to working from home even when there isn't a pandemic, so I also spend a lot of time watching people walking their dogs past my windows.attended Carleton College where she earned her undergraduate degree in physics. After college, she worked as both a paralegal and a freelance writer for a while before starting her current job as a reporter at New Scientist! Now, she writes mostly news stories, but also contributes to the weekly space newsletter (Launchpad) and the occasional longer feature story.


Anne LaPointe

Senior Research Associate, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Cornell University

Anne LaPointe is the director of the Catalyst Discovery and Development Laboratory in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell. Dr. LaPointe is an inorganic chemist studying new ways to make sustainable polymers, and she uses robotics to perform many experiments at the same time. Prior to Cornell, she worked at Symyx Technologies, where she and her coworkers developed ways to combine chemistry, robotics and software to speed up research and development.


Abigail Juhl

Materials Research Scientist, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL)

Dr. Abigail Juhl is a Materials Research Scientist in the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate at Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Dr. Juhl is leading an effort to dynamically control the propagation of acoustic waves through architected materials for application in acoustic and vibration mitigation. Abby received her Bachelors of Science in Materials Science and Engineering from North Carolina State University, and her Doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She completed a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Optical Materials Branch at AFRL before starting in her current position. She also served as the ‘Acting Assistant Chief Scientist' for the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate and the ‘Flexible Materials and Processing Research Team Lead.'


Elizabeth Kellogg

Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University

Dr. Kellogg uses a specialized form of microscopy, called cryo-electron microscopy, to study the building blocks of life. She started her lab at Cornell in 2019 after doing her Ph.D. at the University of Washington (Seattle) in computational protein modeling and then doing her Postdoctoral studies at UC Berkeley studying cryo-electron microscopy. She especially enjoys thinking with her lab on how to develop new tools in cryo-electron microscopy and using this technique to study how cells organize their information (through organization of their genomes).

Panel 4: STEM in Industry


Leah Cole

Developer Programs Engineer, Google

Leah Cole is a developer programs engineer at Google, working on Composer, Google Cloud’s hosted version of Apache Airflow. Previously, she worked at GE for on multiple projects in the industrial IoT space. Leah is a graduate of Carleton College, where she studied computer science and also took enough German to have a semi-accidental minor. Outside of work, Leah likes playing piano, traveling (when it's safe to do so!), crocheting, reading, and playing Animal Crossing (she has apples on her island). She lives in California with her partner Alex and her very chatty cat Millie.


Anum Aftab Sheikh

Cell Processing Lead, Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation

Anum Sheikh graduated from Montclair State University (MSU) with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a minor in Chemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. After college, Anum worked at Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation as a Clinical Data Specialist before moving on a year later to the production unit as a Cell Processing Specialist. Anum is currently a Cell Processing Lead managing the Kymriah cancer treatment process, a prescription cancer treatment for patients up to twenty-five years old that have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma adult patients that have relapsed or are refractory. In addition to working as a CPL, Anum is also pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Project Management at MSU, part of the Sigma Alpha Pi: National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) and Alpha Epsilon Lambda (AEL) Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Chapter.


Susana S. Lopez

Synthetic Chemist, Corteva Agriscience

Although now a synthetic chemist, Susana began her academic career as a theater major. With no prior exposure to chemistry in middle school or high school except for the occasional science fair and both parents from other countries (neither of whom hold advanced degrees). It was taking organic chemistry in her third semester of college that Susana fell in love with chemistry and decided to pursue an advanced degree in organic chemistry. Science is not limited to those that know right away what they want to be when they grow up! After graduating with a BS in chemistry from Barry University, Susana completed her Masters in Science at Florida State University and Ph.D. at the University of South Florida in organic chemistry. She then did a two-year post-doc at Northwestern University before taking a position at Corteva Agriscience as a synthetic chemist in crop protection discovery. The road to her dream job may not have been easy, but in the end, everything she went through was worth it!


Ornella D. Nelson

Senior Scientist I, AbbVie

Ornella is originally from the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Cameron University in 2012 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology from Cornell University in 2018. At Cameron, Ornella was an active member in the Chemistry Club and served as the president in 2010. At Cornell, she was a Graduate Student Ambassador and served as a mentor in the Graduate Students Mentoring Undergraduates (GSMU) Program. Currently, Ornella is a scientist at the pharmaceutical company AbbVie, where she works in research and development. During her spare time, Ornella enjoys listening to music and dancing.


Valerie Weisner

Research Materials Engineer, Advanced Materials and Processing Branch, NASA Langley Research Center

Dr. Valerie Wiesner is a Research Materials Engineer at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, where she develops ceramic materials to enable reusable hypersonic/space flight and durable Lunar lander vehicles to explore the Moon and ultimately Mars. She started her career at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, as a Pathways Internship student while finishing her Ph.D. in materials engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. After earning her Ph.D., she worked to develop protective ceramic coatings and composites resistant to damage by sand and volcanic ash for engines that power airplanes to enable safe, efficient flight. She attended Carleton College in Minnesota majoring in physics with a certificate in Japanese. She was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, and enjoys spending time with family and friends, stargazing and traveling.