Evaluation Panel

  • Rose Ahlefeldt, PhD

    Rose Ahlefeldt, PhD

    Research Fellow, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

    A childhood interest in understanding how everything works led Rose Ahlefeldt into studying physics at university, and she graduated from Australian National University (ANU) with a PhD in solid state physics in 2013. After stints in France and in Bozeman, Montana as a Fulbright Scholar, Rose returned to ANU. In her research, she studies the optical spectroscopy of rare earth crystals and how they could be used to make high-performance quantum memories. Rose has enjoyed teaching people new skills since she was a teenager and has taught everything from swimming to Japanese over the years. Currently, she teaches science communication to undergraduate physics students.

  • Andrea Alfano and Brian Stallard

    Andrea Alfano and Brian Stallard

    Science Storytellers, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Cold Spring Harbor, NY

    Co-hosts, script writers and producers of Base Pairs, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory podcast on the power of genomic information, Andrea and Brian are science storytellers. As digital content creators and science communicators in the Laboratory’s Public Affairs Department, they are pioneering new ways to engage public audiences on biomedical research. Andrea has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Cornell and has written for Scientific American and Audubon. Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism and was a web writer and editor for Nature World News. Unabashed science enthusiasts and curious beyond belief, this dynamic duo is conquering today’s digital space by sharing the wonders of life science through as many communications channels as possible. Listen in at http://labdish.cshl.edu/podcasts/.

  • Francesca Gale

    Francesca Gale

    Education Lead in Public Engagement, Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridgeshire, UK

    Francesca Gale is the education lead for the Wellcome Genome Campus – the home of the Sanger Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute. Responsible for the education programme on and off campus, she works alongside scientists to develop engaging resources for school students of all ages and leads professional development courses on contemporary genomics for UK science teachers. Previously, Francesca worked as Head of Education at Colchester Zoo, where she was responsible for the development of the zoo’s formal and informal education programmes and established an award-winning education and presentations department. She read Biological Sciences at Exeter University and graduated from the University of the West of England, Bristol with an MSc in Science Communication. With seventeen years’ experience, Francesca is a passionate and enthusiastic communicator who loves to empower young people to be curious and realise their potential, through discovery of life sciences and the natural world.

  • Helmuth Gehart, PhD

    Helmuth Gehart, PhD

    Postdoctoral Researcher, Hubrecht Institute, Utrecht, NL

    Helmuth Gehart was born 1984 in Vienna, Austria and showed a keen interest in understanding the world around him. From an early age, he was deeply fascinated with the complex machinery that is our body. Therefore, he studied molecular biology at the University of Vienna. Subsequently, he moved to Switzerland, where he received his PhD from ETH Zurich in 2013. During his PhD training with Romeo Ricci, Helmuth studied the mechanisms behind type 2 diabetes and the complex cellular checkpoints that maintain balance to prevent disease. Thereafter, Helmuth aimed to combine his knowledge of signaling and metabolism with the fascinating field of stem-cell biology. Thus, he joined the group of Hans Clevers in Utrecht, Netherlands, where he investigates adult tissue stem cells of the liver and their use in clinical research and regenerative medicine. As a result, Helmuth co-developed a culture system that allows for the expansion of human liver stem cells outside the body, which opens new avenues for modeling and treating liver disease.

  • Lisa Girard, PhD

    Lisa Girard, PhD

    Director, Strategic Communications, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA

    Lisa Girard is the Director, Strategic Communications at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, coming to Whitehead from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard where she served as Director, Scientific Communication. Prior to her tenure with the Broad Institute, Lisa held the position of Associate Director of Strategic Alliances, Scientific Editor with the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, where she served as creator and editor of StemBook, an online review of stem cell biology. Lisa was also a creator and editor of WormBook, an online review of C. elegans biology at the California Institute of Technology. Lisa earned her B.A. in Biology from University of California, San Diego, her Ph.D, in Plant Biology from University of California, Berkeley and completed postdoctoral work in C. elegans genetics at the California Institute of Technology.

  • Chris Lintott, PhD

    Chris Lintott, PhD

    Professor of Astrophysics, University of Oxford, UK

    Chris Lintott is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, where he is also a research fellow at New College. His own research focuses on galaxy formation and evolution, but as Principal Investigator of the Zooniverse, Chris leads a team who run the world's most successful citizen science projects, allowing more than a million people to discover planets, transcribe ancient papyri or explore the Serengeti. A passionate advocate of the public understanding of science, he is best known as co-presenter of the BBC's long running Sky at Night program and as an author and journalist.

  • Markey McNutt, MD, PhD

    Markey McNutt, MD, PhD

    Assistant Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX

    Markey McNutt received his MD and PhD degrees from UT Southwestern Medical Center where he studied the molecular mechanisms that control cholesterol levels in humans. After graduating, he continued his clinical training completing a residency in internal medicine and fellowship in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism. In fellowship, he worked in the laboratory of Helen Hobbs trying to better understand the metabolism of fatty acids. Markey returned to training to complete a residency in clinical genetics before joining the faculty of UT Southwestern as an assistant professor of genetics and metabolism. He splits his efforts between seeing patients in the clinic, performing research into rare and undiagnosed genetic diseases, and leading educational activities for medical students, graduate students, and medical residents and fellows.

  • Paola Moreno-Roman

    Paola Moreno-Roman

    PhD Candidate in Biology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
    Co-Director – Research Experience for Peruvian Undergraduates
    Co-Founder – Yachaq Warmi

    Paola Moreno-Roman was born and raised in Peru. Paola majored in biology in Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (Peru), where she did research on tuberculosis at the Sheen and Zimic lab. During her last year in college, Paola did a four-month research internship at the Lusk lab at Yale University through the REPU (Research Experience for Peruvian Undergraduates) program. In 2013, Paola moved to the United States to start her PhD studies in cellular and molecular Biology at Stanford University. Paola seeks to understand what are the regulatory programs that guide adult intestinal stem cells through the differentiation process in the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster). Paola’s research will help us understand how differentiation is regulated in the intestines of vertebrates, including humans, and shed light on how improper differentiation can lead to disease. Furthermore, Paola is very involved in initiatives to support and empower women in STEM and future female leaders in STEM both in the United States and in her home country.

  • Ushma S. Neill, PhD

    Ushma S. Neill, PhD

    Vice President, Scientific Education and Training, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY

    Ushma S. Neill obtained her PhD in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University studying pulmonary mechanics and used a Marshall Sherfield Postdoctoral Fellowship to do a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College. After 2 years as an editor at Nature Medicine, she joined the Journal of Clinical Investigation as Executive Editor. In May 2012, Ushma became the Chief of Staff to the President & CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. In February 2016, Ushma took on the educational mission of Memorial Sloan Kettering as VP, Scientific Education and Training. While she has had these roles at MSK, she has served as the Chief Editorial Consultant to the journal, Molecular Metabolism and also retained the position of Editor-at-Large for the JCI. In her continued role at the JCI, she has served as chief interviewer in over 50 video interviews for their series, Conversations with Giants in Medicine.

  • Richard Nestoff

    Richard Nestoff

    Physics Instructor, North Royalton High School, North Royalton, Ohio

    Rick Nestoff received a BS degree in mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University and an MS degree in mechanical engineering at Clemson University. As a project engineer at Caterpillar Industrial, he managed the installation of factory automation systems in the United States and in Spain. He received a patent for the automated system installed at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. After eight years of extensive travel, Rick attended John Carroll University to become certified to teach mathematics and physics. Currently teaching physics and AP Physics 2 at North Royalton High School, Rick shares his enthusiasm for engineering by encouraging student participation in technical competitions. He has advised competitive student teams in the Case Western Reserve University Robotics competition, CWRU Bridge Building Competition, West Point Bridge Competition, Marine Advanced Technology Education Underwater Robotics Competition, and FIRST Robotics Competition. For fourteen summers, Rick taught Introduction to Robotics at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth in California, Maryland and Hong Kong. Ryan Chester, a student in Rick’s AP Physics class, won the initial Breakthrough Junior Challenge and named Rick as an inspirational teacher.

  • Sam Pressman

    Sam Pressman

    Creative Executive, Pressman Film, New York, NY

    Sam Pressman is a film director and producer with a love of both documentary and fiction production. Working for Pressman Film, Sam helped to bring the biopic of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan The Man Who Knew Infinity to the screen. In conjunction with the release of the film, Pressman quarterbacked the Spirit of Ramanujan Initiative, an international talent search for mathematically gifted young people who lack traditional institutional support. Pressman believes in the motion picture as a transformative technology which connects cultures and expands our consciousness. Sam is currently working with director Mary Harron on a film about painter Salvador Dalí and a VR game show for cinema lovers, The Movie Game.

  • Victoria Rafalski, PhD

    Victoria Rafalski, PhD

    Research Scientist, Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco, CA

    Victoria Rafalski is a research scientist studying the role of microglia in neurodegenerative disease. She received her PhD in neurosciences from Stanford University in 2012 and received her BS in biology from Georgetown University in 2005. Victoria was curious and interested in science as a child, collecting bugs and popping impatiens flower seed pods. She has mentored students from under-represented backgrounds and participates in science education through the Gladstone Institutes Student Outreach Committee. In her spare time, Victoria volunteers regularly at Family Dog Rescue, a local dog shelter.

  • Cliff Ransom

    Cliff Ransom

    Executive Editor, Americas, Partnerships and Custom Media, Nature Research, New York, NY

    Cliff Ransom is a seasoned science journalist. He is the former editor in chief of Popular Science and has held leading positions at Popular Science, National Geographic Adventure, Discover, and The Sciences. He has moderated panels at SXSW, the Pioneers Festival, and the Kairos Summit, among others.

  • Maxime Rousseaux, PhD

    Maxime Rousseaux, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

    Max Rousseaux received a BA degree in biochemistry from the University of Ottawa in 2007. He then continued with graduate studies in neuroscience under David S. Park, also at the University of Ottawa, where his research principally focused on elucidating mechanisms of neurodegeneration in mouse models of Parkinson’s disease. During his time as a graduate student, Max pursued his passion for outreach by visiting communities in northern Canada and in Tanzania to promote scientific literacy by demonstrating scientific concepts using hands-on experiments. In 2012, Max moved to the United States for a Canadian Institutes of Health Research postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Huda Zoghbi at Baylor College of Medicine. His research consists of identifying for novel regulators of α-synuclein levels using forward genetic screens to gain novel therapeutic entry points for Parkinson’s disease. His future research goals are to better grasp how protein mislocalization drives neurodegeneration in diseases such as Parkinson’s and ALS. In his spare time, Max remains committed to promoting scientific literacy through various teaching mechanisms.

  • Natalia Simonenko

    Natalia Simonenko

    Co-founder and Chair, Movavi and Movavi IT School, Moscow, Russia

    Natalia Simonenko co-founded Movavi in 2004 and led this business through 2012. Today Movavi is 200-employee, privately-held, consumer software company with a portfolio of more than 30 multimedia products used by millions of customers in 150+ countries. She stepped down from day-to-day operations of Movavi in 2012 to become a chair and focused on philanthropic projects in the field of STEM. Natalia co-founded and leads Movavi IT School, with a mission to provide Siberian kids and teenagers aged 6-16 with a high-quality STEM and robotics education in after-school and summer camp settings. Her new project is a full time privately owned and managed science and mathematics focused K-12 School in Novosibirsk, Russia should open its doors for the first students in 2018. Natalia graduated from Novosibirsk State University with the Honors Bachelor of Science degree in economics and law and completed joint executive MBA program at London Business School and Columbia Business School.

  • Ulrich Thiel, PhD

    Ulrich Thiel, PhD

    Research Fellow in Algebraic Geometry and Lie Theory, University of Sydney, Australia

    Ulrich Thiel is a research fellow in mathematics at the University of Sydney, specializing in a subject called representation theory, which is, broadly speaking, the study of symmetries and how they arise in all sorts of objects. He focuses on certain aspects on the pure and algebraic side of this subject, and also develops computer programs to approach some of the theoretical questions. Ulrich grew up surrounded by oscilloscopes and antennas, so it was almost unavoidable to be interested in engineering, physics, and computer science. Only later, a few years away from finishing school, he discovered the beauty of pure mathematics and found in it his native language, quoting John von Neumann: “If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.” He is fascinated by the capabilities of computers and is an active amateur radio operator enjoying decoding signals way below the noise level.

  • Tara Tracy, PhD

    Tara Tracy, PhD

    Research Scientist, Gladstone Institutes, San Francisco, CA

    Tara Tracy received her PhD from the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. Her graduate work was focused on investigating the molecular signals that regulate synapse development between neurons in the brain. When she joined the Gladstone Institutes in 2011, she began to use her expertise in synapse physiology to uncover the mechanisms that cause memory loss in neurodegenerative diseases. With fellowships awarded by the National Institute on Aging and the BrightFocus Foundation, Tara has made significant contributions to advance research on Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, Tara received the Award for Excellence in Research on Alzheimer’s Disease from the Alzheimer’s Association. Tara is passionate about increasing diversity in scientific research and mentoring the next generation of scientists. To promote outreach, she leads activities at the Gladstone Institutes to engage Bay Area students in neuroscience research.

  • Jay Wacker, PhD

    Jay Wacker, PhD

    Ontology Architect, Quora, Mountain View, CA

    Jay Wacker has a PhD in theoretical particle physics from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a postdoctoral scholar at the Stanford Institute of Theoretical Physics before becoming a faculty member at Stanford University working at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Jay's research focused on techniques to discover new laws of nature at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, and proposing new models of Dark Matter. Jay currently leads the team to organize Quora's knowledgebase of question and answers.

  • Jeff Wiener, PhD

    Jeff Wiener, PhD

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland

    Jeff Wiener is a postdoctoral research fellow, managing CERN’s national and international teacher training programmes and investigating teachers’ conceptions of particle physics. He completed his PhD in physics education research in cooperation with the University of Vienna through the Austrian Doctorate Programme at CERN. His doctoral research was focused on how to appropriately introduce elementary particle physics in early physics education. Before joining CERN, Jeff worked as a high school physics, philosophy, and psychology teacher in Vienna, Austria. Aside from his postdoctoral research projects and the coordination of CERN’s Teacher Programmes he is also heavily engaged in CERN’s S’Cool LAB. In addition, Jeff is a highly active conférencier and guide, who has introduced thousands of students to the fascinating world of high energy physics.

  • Julia Wilson, PhD

    Julia Wilson, PhD

    Associate Director, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, London, UK

    Julia Wilson builds and supports the relationships that are needed to support the strategic vision of the Sanger Institute. These activities range from interactions with the scientific community, commercial entities, funders and other key stakeholders. She increases awareness of the Sanger Institute’s research, explore new collaborations and areas of research, and strengthen and build on existing links to accelerate and expand the impact and reach of Sanger Institute science. She works to translate the outcomes of research and reposition the Sanger Institute as a potential source of translational opportunities. In addition, she raises awareness of the importance and impact of genomics research with policy makers and facilitates the translation of genomics research into clinical practice. Previously Julia was Assistant Director of Research at Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Science Programme Manager at the World Cancer Research Fund. As a scientist, she was a postdoc at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and then worked for a number of years at Cancer Research UK and Queen Mary University of London.

  • Dagnia Zeidlickis

    Dagnia Zeidlickis

    Vice President, Communications, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Cold Spring Harbor, NY

    Dagnia Zeidlickis is passionate about sharing the wonders of life science with public audiences. She leads a team that leverages all forms of media available to tell stories about the societal relevance of CSHL’s research discoveries and innovative approaches to science education. With a bachelor’s and master’s from the Johns Hopkins University in economics and international relations, she has previously worked in areas ranging from government relations, trade and investment policy, corporate relocation and public relations. But Dagnia found her true calling thanks to the help of the 1100 CSHL faculty, employees and students. Their work inspired her conviction that the public needs to know more about biology and genetics. Why? So that everyone can make informed decisions about personal and societal issues like healthcare, food security, energy sources, the environment and even the criminal justice system! Science matters to each of us every day, in every way and that’s why Dagnia is proud to be part of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge.