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CUWiP Speakers


2024 Millie Dresselhaus CUWiP Keynote Speaker: Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Jocelyn Bell Burnell inadvertently discovered pulsars as a graduate student in radio astronomy in Cambridge, opening up a new branch of astrophysics, work recognized by the award of a Nobel Prize to her supervisor.  

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

She has subsequently worked in many roles in many branches of astronomy, working part-time while raising a family. She is now a visiting academic in Oxford and the chancellor of the University of Dundee, Scotland. She has been president of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society, in 2008 became the first female president of the Institute of Physics for the UK and Ireland, and in 2014 the first female president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She was one of the small group of women scientists that set up the Athena SWAN scheme.

She has received many honors, including a $3 million Breakthrough Prize in 2018. The public appreciation and understanding of science have always been important to her, and she is much in demand as a speaker and broadcaster. In her spare time, she gardens, listens to choral music, and is active in the Quakers. She has co-edited an anthology of poetry with an astronomical theme, Dark Matter; Poems of Space.

Bell Burnell served as the Keynote speaker for the CUWiA (Conference for Undergraduate Women in Astronomy) at West Virginia University in 2018. (below)

Jocelyn Belle Burnell with group at CUWiA WVU

2024 Plenary Speaker: Dr. Julianne Pollard-Larkin

Dr. Julianne Pollard-Larkin is an Associate Professor of Medical Physics at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX.  She is the Service Chief medical physicist in MD Anderson’s Thoracic Radiation Oncology Clinic.  Dr. Pollard-Larkin also conducts clinical research and mentors and teaches Medical Physics residents, Radiation Oncology residents and graduate students. Her primary research interests include Flash ultra-high dose radiotherapy, pacemaker radiotherapy dose measurements and improving the efficacy of motion management in thoracic treatments and radiobiology. Julianne is also the Chair of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine’s (AAPM) Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee as well as the chair of the American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) Liaison Committee on Underrepresented Minorities (LCURM).  

Julianne Pollard Larkin

She received her PhD in Biomedical Physics at UCLA and her B.S. in Physics and Mathematics at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fl.  After receiving her PhD at UCLA, Julianne was accepted into the Medical Physics Residency program at MD Anderson in Houston, Tx.  Following her residency, Julianne was hired by MD Anderson as faculty.

Beyond her role in the clinic and classroom, Julianne is a firm believer in outreach and increasing the number of women and underrepresented populations in science.  Ensuring that more underrepresented students and women follow in her footsteps is Julianne’s passion. 

Dr. Pollard Larkin's Plenary lecture is titled “Attitude, Aptitude and Altitude: My Journey from Physics Student to Physics Leader”. 

Panelists and Guest Speakers
Spoogmay Khan

Spoogmay Khan

Spoogmay Khan is 5th-year graduate student in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Ohio University. She is also an APS Advancing Graduate Leadership (AGL) Leader who works through APS efforts to connect undergraduate students with graduate students and postdocs, and build a larger community for women and gender minorities in physics. Spoogmay’s research focuses on exploring radiation effects in semiconducting materials, particularly GeSe2. Beyond academics, she is actively engaged in the Ohio University organization for international students and has served on several graduate student organizations. When not immersed in physics, she loves chasing beautiful sunsets and taking long drives amidst the fall foliage.

Ami DuBois

Dr. Ami DuBois is a research physicist in the Plasma Physics Division at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Ami DuBoisWashington, DC. She received her B.S. in physics from the Florida Institute of Technology in 2007 and her Ph.D. in physics from Auburn University in 2013. After graduate school, Dr. DuBois accepted a 3-year post-doctoral position at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and prior to joining NRL she worked as a diagnostic scientist at TAE Technologies, a commercial fusion power company. Dr. DuBois’ research interests include connecting laboratory studies of plasma compression to the dynamics occurring in current sheets that contribute to magnetic reconnection in space plasmas. She is also interested in developing novel diagnostics for use in the laboratory and space. Dr. DuBois is an APS Career Mentoring Fellow and is involved with outreach and mentoring.

Linda Poplawski 

Linda Poplawski

Linda has a passion for problem solving and puzzles that led her to medical physics. She received her bachelor's in physics from High Point University in High Point, NC in 2013. She attended Duke University for master's in medical physics in 2015, with her thesis research focusing on dose deformation in genealogical brachytherapy. Linda spent a year working in radiation safety, before attending the University of Iowa for her medical physics residency, in which she graduated in 2018. She started her career at WVU Medicine as a staff physicist and continues to find ways to continuously improve the Radiation Oncology department. 

Samana Shrestha
Samana Shrestha

Samana Shrestha, is as a visiting instructor at University of North Florida in Jacksonville. She teaches lower- level lectures and laboratories in the Department of Physics in UNF. Prior,  she worked as a postdoc associate in Baylor College of Medicine for 2 years. Samana completed her PhD in Physics with research in Bio Physics from the University of Rhode Island in 2018. Her research in short was working in enhancement of radiation effect to kill cancer using targeted nanoparticles. She is an AGL/APS leader and a recipient of American Short – Term Research Publication Grant Fellowship 2022-2023 awarded by American Association of University Women (AAUW). She lives in Jacksonville, FL in a happy family of 3 with a teen son.

Andrea Richard

Andrea Richard obtained her B.S. degree in Physics and Mathematics with minors in English and Engineering from
Andrew Richard
Muskingum University in 2011. She obtained her M.S. degree in 2014 from Ohio University, where her focus was neutron time-of-flight spectroscopy of the deuteron breakup reaction. Andrea received the DOE Office of Science for Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) fellowship during her Ph.D. which she obtained from Ohio University in 2018 focusing on the low-energy nuclear structure of the magnesium isotopes. After obtaining her Ph.D., Andrea was a postdoctoral researcher at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University as a Nuclear Science and Security Consortium Postdoctoral Fellow and then at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Her work was primarily related to indirect neutron-capture constraints for the astrophysical i-process (intermediate neutron-capture process) using the beta-Oslo method and surrogate reaction method at radioactive beam facilities. Andrea is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ohio University. She is actively involved in mentoring, policy advocacy, outreach, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. In her spare time, Andrea loves to read, take care of her plants, and hang out with her miniature schnauzer Winston.

Emily Moravec

Dr. Emily Moravec is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Green Bank Observatory and will transition to a scientist position in April 2024. She received her B.A. from St. Olaf College in 2014 with a major in Physics, and then went South to receive Emily Moravecher M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Florida in 2019 in Astronomy. In 2020, she moved internationally to Prague, Czech Republic for her first postdoc to work at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences and a support scientist at the Czech node of the European ALMA Regional Center. In late 2021, she moved back to the US for her second postdoc which is her current position now. Emily is a radio astronomer who investigates the evolution of active galaxies and galaxy clusters.

In 2018, Emily was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine. During her time at the Academies, she worked with the Board on Physics and Astronomy and the Space Studies Board. She went on to co-found a science policy group at the University of Florida called Emerging Leaders in Science Policy and Advocacy.

Kathryn Williamson

Kathryn Williamson has over a decade of experience in astronomy and earth science education and outreach, including aKathryn Williamson variety of interdisciplinary projects that span art, climate action, and more. In Fall 2019, she helped plan a Campus Climate Rally in coordination with the Global Climate Strikes and taught a "WVU Climate Conversations" book club that resulted in a podcast under the same name. In February 2020, she led a group of faculty and students to the state capital to host a Climate Change Education Day with legislators. She founded the West Virginia Climate Change Professional Development project, which has engaged over 120 teachers in climate change learning and action, including a Public Service Announcement component, which aired student-produced video and audio clips around state radio and news avenues to reach an estimated 40,000 West Virginians. In October 2023, she taught "Critical Climate Science Conversation" to Alabama teachers. She also serves as co-chair of the Astronomers for Planet Earth resource working group.

Weichao Tu

Dr. Weichao Tu received her bachelor's degree in 2006 from Peking University in China and her Ph.D. in 2011 from the Weichao TuUniversity of Colorado at Boulder. She worked as a postdoc Research Associate at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 2012 to 2015, and then was hired as a tenure-tracked faculty at the Department of Physics and Astronomy of West Virginia University (WVU) in 2015. In 2020, she was granted tenure and promoted to an Associate Professor at WVU. Dr. Tu has been extensively involved in the quantitative analysis and numerical modeling of energetic particles in Earth’s inner magnetosphere. She has authored and co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications, with four of them selected as “Editor’s Choice” of Space Weather Journal. Dr. Tu is the recipient of the prestigious APS Katherine E. Weimer Award and the NSF CAREER Award. She has served as panelist and reviewer for many NASA and NSF review panels, as a session convener at many international conferences, and as a Member At-Large on the NSF GEM Steering Committee.

Francesca TavazzaFrancesca Tavazza

Francesca Tavazza has been a member of the scientific staff at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) since 2003. She earned an undergraduate degree in Physics and a MS in Materials Science from Universita’ Statale di Milano, Italy, and a PhD in Physics from the University of Georgia. She is currently leading the Materials for Energy and Sustainable Development Group in the Materials Measurement Science Division, with focus on autonomous design and machine learning (ML) applied to materials design and characterization. Before, she served as Project Leader of the “Electronic and Functional Materials” project, leading a team focused on computational modeling, high-throughput discovery, and AI/ML investigation of solid-state material properties. Her areas of expertise include Density Functional Theory (DFT) modeling of quantum phenomena, electronic, optical and spectroscopic properties of standard and van der Waals-bonded materials, DFT and Molecular Dynamics investigation of mechanical deformations, uncertainty evaluation in DFT and ML, fitting of force fields and ML models. She has published over a hundred papers in refereed journals and contributed to the organization of tens of workshops/symposia.  She served as chair of the Computational Materials Science and Engineering committee, TMS, in 2020-2022, as well as is part of the TMS Materials Innovation Committee - subcommittee on AI.

Amy Hessl

Dr. Amy Hessl is a Professor of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University where she uses the chemistry of tree Amy Hesslrings to understand solar weather over the last 3000 years.  She received her PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona in 2000 and has received several awards for her research including the Benedum Distinguished Scholar, WVU’s highest recognition for researchers. Since 2021, Dr. Hessl has also served as the director of the WVU Office of Undergraduate Research (UgR), that connects undergraduate students with research opportunities both on campus and off campus. UgR hosts an academic year program for new researchers, the Research Apprenticeship Program (RAP) and the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) for more advanced student researchers.

Megan Jones

Megan Jones spent 9 years as part of the NANOGrav Collaboration, receiving her PhD in Physics in 2018 before Megan Jonescompleting her postdoc at UWM. In 2022, Megan successfully transitioned to a career in data science, leveraging her transferable skills from astronomy research to secure positions in two different companies within a six-month period. She is currently a data scientist at a market research company where she wears several hats, including data engineering, software engineering, and advanced analytics. Megan is passionate about helping others navigate the career transition process and sharing her experiences with those interested in making a similar transition.

Stephanie Sears

Stephanie completed her PhD in plasma physics at WVU in 2014.  She was a visiting scholar at UCSD for two months, andStephanie Sears then took a post-doctoral research position at UW-Madison from 2015 to 2017.  From there, she transitioned to an industrial role at Advanced Energy Industries, working as an applications engineer in semiconductor processing from 2017 to early 2023.  In January 2023, she accepted a position as a verification engineer at Hach Company, focusing on new product development in the water quality industry, and that is her current role.  When not working I enjoy curling, homebrewing, yoga, and hiking.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Baeza-RubioJacqueline Baeza-Rubio

Jacqueline “Jackie” Baeza-Rubio is a 1st-year graduate student at Yale University. At her undergraduate institution, UT Arlington, She researched neutrinoless double-beta decay under Dr. David Nygren and Dr. Ben Jones. Jackie previously worked in the Neutrino Rare Event Searches Group for 2 years as a High School intern and specialized in the construction and improvement of TPCs in search of neutrinoless double beta decay. Her research included Barium tagging efforts for the NEXT collaboration. At UTA, she was the PR director for the outreach program @DFWTapTalks, UTA’s youngest McNair scholar, and undergraduate board representative for the National Society of Hispanic Physicists. At Yale, she intends to stay in neutrino physics and move to neutrino mass measurements by joining Project 8.

Mary Jane BrundageMary Jane Brundage

Mary Jane Brundage is a 4th year Ph.D student studying Physics Education Research (PER) at the University of Pittsburgh. Student alternative conceptions (misconceptions) can many times be a roadblock for students wanting build deeper understanding in upper-level classes. Mary Jane has used different conceptual surveys to identify introductory physics concepts that are difficult for students at the introductory, upper, and graduate level. We hope that by identifying these alternative conceptions, curriculum can be adapted to better fit the growing needs of students. Some of the surveys include the Energy and Momentum Conceptual Survey (EMCS), the Conceptual Survey of Electricity and Magnetism (CSEM), the Survey of Thermodynamic Processes and First and Second Law (STPFaSL), and the Quantum Mechanics Formalism and Postulates Survey (QMFPS). She has investigated co-construction and construction of knowledge in an upper-level quantum mechanics course to help identify how peer instruction of concepts is helpful for students. 

Lisabeth Marie Santana
Lisabeth Santana
Lisabeth Marie Santana (she/they) is a 4th year Physics Education Ph.D student at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on the experiences of marginalized students in physics and astronomy using qualitative and quantitative analyses. Lisabeth has conducted qualitative studies and used thematic analysis to investigate undergraduate women’s experiences in physics, their interactions with peers and instructors, and how physics culture impacts them. These investigations highlight how physics culture can perpetuate inequities and stereotypes towards marginalized students. Lisabeth is also dedicated to creating counterspaces and building community in physics.

Sydney Wait
Sydney Wait
Sydney Wait graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue with an emphasis in Thermodynamics.
After taking a career hiatus to raise her children, she completed an education program in Software Development and currently works as a Senior Software Engineer and Technical Architect for Constellation Digital Partners Inc. located in Raleigh, North Carolina.  She performs her duties remotely from her little slice of Heaven in Ona, WV.

Olivia YoungOlivia Young

Olivia Young (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year graduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) from Short Gap, WV.  She is currently working as an NSF GRFP pre-doc at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, VA.  She holds a Master's in Astrophysics from RIT and a BS in Physics with a minor in Math from West Virginia University. As a scientist, she is a member of the NANOGrav collaboration, working on firmware solutions to observational radio astronomy data bottlenecks and understanding how said observational data are changed on their path to us through the ISM. She is also the PI of an AAS special grant for the 2024 eclipse to build a low-frequency radio telescope in the path of totality. She is passionate about outreach, especially focused on mentoring students from rural backgrounds and community colleges. As a human, Olivia loves all kinds of critters, old Ford trucks, backpacking, and Appalachian culture and history.

Katy GoodrichKaty Goodrich

Katy received her Ph.D. in space physics from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2017. She worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California in Berkeley from 2018 to 2020. Her research interests include microphysics of collisionless shocks in space, structures that arise from plasma turbulence, and wave-particle interactions in various space environments. She also works to develop instrumentation and data analysis techniques to measure electric fields in space. She currently works with the NASA funded missions Magnetospheric Multi-scale (MMS) and Parker Solar Probe (PSP). Using the data from these missions, Katy can examine the smallest workings of space plasma from the Earth’s magnetosphere, to the solar wind, to Venus!

Deanna White  

Deanna White

Deana White is Director of West Virginia Alliance for STEM and the Arts and co-founder of a new small business – Planet STEAMWorks.  She has a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Kentucky and worked for 25 years at a refinery/petrochemical plant in various roles including in process design and environmental and safety compliance, and in various ways from full time to part time to contracting.  She also home educated her children, helped design a theme restaurant, and advocated for the Green Bank Observatory during recent NSF funding decisions with the public and key members of Congress.  She now dedicates her time and enthusiasm to education supportive work – including designing/facilitating a STEM and the Arts Film Festival attended by over 700 middle and high school students, co-developing an online learning game platform called STEAM Trek, and launching a small business to provide educational products and services that promote curiosity and engagement in STEM and the Arts.  She loves learning and hearing others’ life experiences, being in nature hiking and kayaking, playing games, and spending time with her family.