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.
Fun Man Fung
Chemistry and Learning Sciences Instructor, IT-for-Teaching, National University of Singapore
Fun Man Fung is an award-winning IT-for-Teaching Chemistry Instructor at the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he researches on how educational technology tools can improve learning in science. Fun Man is the co-author of the top International Chemistry Olympiad Book “10 Things You Must Know about IChO.” Fun Man is the recipient of the U.S. State Department Professional Fellowship, and YSEALI Fellowship (2019) and is the ASEM-DUO Fellow (2019-2020) at Académie De Recherche Et D'Enseignement Supérieur, Belgium. Fun Man graduated from NUS and Technische Universität München, Germany. He serves on the International Younger Chemists Network (IYCN) Board as the Elected Secretary. He is a distinguished recipient of the IUPAC Periodic Table Younger Chemist Award (2019) and QS-Wharton STAR Reimagine Education Awards (2017, 2018) for his effort in innovative teaching and learning approach.
Education Development Lead in Public Engagement, Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridgeshire, UK
Francesca Gale is the Education Development 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 and innovative activities for 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. Francesca is an experienced and enthusiastic communicator who loves to empower young people from all backgrounds to be curious and realise their potential through the discovery of life sciences and the natural world.
Helmuth Gehart, PhD
Assistant Professor, Institute of Molecular Health Sciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Helmuth Gehart was born 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. 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 investigated adult tissue stem cells in the liver and intestine and their use in clinical research and regenerative medicine. Since 2020, Helmuth leads his own research group at ETH Zurich, where he studies the dynamic interactions of stem cells and cancer cells.
Science Teacher (Biology and Environmental Science), Burlingame High School, California
Heather Johnson explored her passion for science throughout her childhood and her longing to know more about the depths of the oceans took her to Monterey Bay, California where she earned her degree in Earth Systems Science and Policy from California State University Monterey Bay. Working as a research assistant and naturalist after her college career enhanced her ability to describe and interpret the natural world and led her to pursue teaching. In the classroom Heather works to build students’ knowledge, curiosity, and confidence so that they leave her classroom having the skills to be environmental stewards and leaders. Jeffery Chen, winner of the 2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge, is an example of one of her students who is leaving high school with the skills it takes to be a leader in the science field.
Lataisia C. Jones, PhD
Ethics Fellow, American Society for Microbiology, Washington, DC
Lataisia C. Jones earned her Bachelors and Masters in Science from Virginia State University. She was the first African American to earn a PhD from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Florida State University. After thirteen years of experience as a scientist, Lataisia uses her background in cellular and molecular biology, biomedical science and neuroscience research to teach kids science through fun hands-on activities via YouTube (Hey Dr. Tay), live science shows, speaking engagements and service activities within the community. She serves as an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, and recently starred on a CBS show called Mission Unstoppable, WUSA9 Great Day Washington, and WTOP Radio Station. A statue honoring Lataisia and the other AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors will soon be unveiled at a park in Dallas as a tribute to female STEM leaders. Lataisia recently decided to leave the lab life to pursue more of her passion-filled initiatives through her new Ethics Fellow position at the American Society for Microbiology and her ongoing work within the community.
Evelyn Lamb, PhD
Math and Science Writer, Salt Lake City, UT
Evelyn Lamb earned a PhD in math in 2012 and worked at the University of Utah before leaving academia to pursue writing full-time. She is passionate about communicating mathematics creatively and playfully and helping people have positive experiences with the subject, no matter their previous math background. Her writing has appeared in a variety of media outlets, including Scientific American, Slate, Quanta, Nautilus, and the Notices of the American Mathematical Society. She co-hosts the podcast My Favorite Theorem and hosts the podcast Lathisms, which features interviews with Hispanic and Latinx mathematicians.
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.
Senior School Coordinator and High School Teacher of Biology, National Public School Koramangala, Bangalore, India
Pramila Menon has a Masters degree in Botany and a Bachelor degree in Education. She has also completed a Proficiency Course in Biotechnology from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. A childhood interest in becoming a teacher led Pramila to follow that noble path and gain over 25 years of experience in the classroom. In her career, Pramila has guided and motivated students to reach beyond themselves and become outstanding achievers. Under her guidance through the years, her students have gathered several laurels to their credit. Of the many, the most rewarding ones for her as a teacher and mentor are the Brain Bee 2016 and 2019 editions where her students have been the Regional Level winners and the prestigious Breakthrough Challenge, 2018, where Samay Godika, the Global Winner named her as the teacher who inspired him the most. She strongly believes that a teacher’s wealth of experience can enrich the entire teaching community and hence when she is not teaching, Pramila, a resource person under CBSE Board, conducts workshops for teachers working in CBSE schools.
Paola Moreno-Roman, PhD
PhD 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
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 and 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 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 60 video interviews for their series, Conversations with Giants in Medicine.
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.
Josh Nicholson, PhD
CEO of scite.ai, New York, NY
Josh Nicholson is co-founder and CEO of scite.ai, a deep learning platform that evaluates the reliability of scientific claims by citation analysis. Previously, he was founder and CEO of the Winnower (acquired 2016) and CEO of Authorea (acquired 2018 by Wiley), two companies aimed at improving how scientists publish and collaborate. He holds a PhD in cell biology from Virginia Tech, where his research focused on the effects of aneuploidy on chromosome segregation in cancer. His work on the “science of science” and cancer has been covered in the Economist, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, and other major news outlets.
Head of Physics, Markham College, Lima, Peru
As a child Luke Peedell always had a fascination with science and especially the ocean. He received a BSc degree in ocean science at Plymouth University where he focused on oceanography and marine chemistry. As a keen surfer, skateboarder and hiker, he decided to travel following these passions where he often came into contact with young people. These interactions led him to begin working for an educational charity and as a youth worker, experiences that encouraged him to pursue a teaching career. In the classroom he tries to nurture the same fascination he felt as a child in his students and develop their passion for science and learning. The 2016 Junior Breakthrough winner, Antonella Masini, was a student Luke taught and mentored.
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
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.
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
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Max Rousseaux received a BSc 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. There his research consisted of identifying for novel regulators of α-synuclein levels using forward genetic screens to gain novel therapeutic entry points for Parkinson’s disease. Since returning to Canada in early 2018, his research goals have been focused on 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.
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.
Science Storyteller, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), Cold Spring Harbor, NY
With a career that boasts more than five years of writing, reporting, and producing stories about science, Brian Stallard is a science communication purist. The award-winning Base Pairs podcast is the latest installment in his quest to tell the world about the compelling and captivating aspects of scientific discovery.
Angela Tabiri, PhD
AIMS-Google AI Postdoctoral Fellow, AIMS-Ghana
Growing up in Accra, Ghana, Angela Tabiri enjoyed playing outdoors with friends and being creative. This shaped her in the sense that writing proofs for theorems involves creativity. In June 2019, she graduated from the University of Glasgow with a PhD in Mathematics. Angela is currently an AIMS-Google AI postdoctoral fellow at AIMS-Ghana. She organizes Science Slam Ghana and is the founder of Femafricmaths, a non-governmental organization that promotes female mathematicians from Africa. A current project at Femafricmaths is providing free tuition for online high school mathematics students who have not been in school because of the pandemic. Angela also organizes outreach to high schools to promote the learning of mathematics in fun and engaging ways.
Ulrich Thiel, PhD
Professor of Algebra, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany
Ulrich Thiel is a professor at the University of Kaiserslautern, 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
Assistant Professor, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato, CA
Tara Tracy is an Assistant Professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Her laboratory investigates the molecular mechanisms in neurons that lead to memory loss in Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Her laboratory is funded by the National Institute on Aging. She received her PhD from the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley and completed her postdoctoral studies at the Gladstone Institutes. Tara is passionate about increasing diversity in scientific research and mentoring the next generation of scientists.
GP, Ecliptic Capital and CEO, Strangeworks Inc., Austin, TX
whurley is an Eisenhower Fellow, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), vice chairman of the Entrepreneurship Steering Committee at the IEEE, the first Ambassador to CERN and Society, founding partner of the CERN Entrepreneurship Student Programme (CESP), and co-founder of EQUALS; the Global Partnership for Gender Equality in the Digital Age. whurley is co-founder and general partner at Ecliptic Capital, and founder and CEO of Strangeworks, a quantum computing startup. Prior to starting Strangeworks he was a managing director at Goldman Sachs. He came to Goldman Sachs via the acquisition of his startup, Honest Dollar. Prior to Honest Dollar, whurley founded Chaotic Moon Studios which was acquired by Accenture.
Jeff Wiener, PhD
Teacher Programmes Manager, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
Jeff Wiener is a staff scientist, managing CERN’s national and international teacher training programmes. 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 and teachers to the fascinating world of high energy physics.
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.