Board Member Biosketches

Seattle AWIS 2020-2021 Board Members

Mi-Youn Brusniak, PhD, PMP, Bioinformatics Director at the Protein Drug Discovery Initiative at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Mi-Youn earned a Ph.D. in computer-assisted drug design from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research and career interests are in the development of biomarkers and therapeutics through creation of robust and analytical information platforms for various aspects of preclinical and clinical data in order to optimize the development path. She has worked projects in academia, biotech, government and nonprofit organizations. She is the mother of a young engineering major daughter and has been involved in volunteering as a career fair presenter and industry expert presenter at local high schools. She is interested in creating policies and workplace environments that can provide fair resources and opportunities for developing diverse and capable teams that can succeed in achieving various challenging and exciting STEM objectives.

Jac Fitzgerald, BA, BE, Web developer at Tableau

Jac majored in Software Engineering, French and Cognitive Science at the University of Queensland, moved to Seattle in 2009 to work for Microsoft and now works as a developer at Tableau. Along with board games and running, she is interested in broadening pathways into the computing profession, as well as improving the industry experience and career opportunities for existing diverse professionals.

Pauline Chane, BS, Chemical Biology graduate. Masters candidate Computer Science

Pauline Chane is a B.S. Chemical Biology graduate from UC Berkeley currently working towards a Master’s program in Computer Science. In the interim of defining her career path, Pauline volunteered as a research technician for Dr. Hyung Kim’s lab in UW Bothell, studying metalloproteins in bacteria as well as CO emissions in Pacific Northwest bull kelp, simultaneously getting involved with NAMI Eastside and helping manage their donor database. While transitioning to her work at Seattle Aquarium’s philanthropy department and Stoup Brewing as their first lab technician in 2019, Pauline started volunteering at Seattle AWIS’ monthly programs, eventually receiving the opportunity to serve as a Membership committee co-chair on the Seattle AWIS board. Currently, Pauline is also volunteering her time on several projects within the OpenCOVID19 Initiative, and is helping develop OpenCOVID19’s Student Engagement program to secure opportunities for students who have lost hands-on experience and summer opportunities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In her spare time she enjoys drawing, cooking/baking, and producing (amateur) music.

Reitha Weeks, PhD, Biotech Camp Program Coordinator at Shoreline Community College

Reitha received her BS from Oregon State University and her PhD in Genetics from the UW in 1987. She worked for 13 years in the biotech industry at multiple companies in Seattle, progressing from bench scientist to company director. Reitha was Program Manager for Science Outreach at Northwest Association for Biomedical Research from 2004-2013. She was responsible for curriculum development, workshops for teachers, educational conferences for researchers, and a variety of science outreach programs and collaborations. Currently, she is Program Coordinator for Shoreline Community College’s biotech summer camp for high school students. She has been a Seattle AWIS member since 1987 and has served in many capacities on the board, most recently as treasurer and Membership Committee co-chair.

Tracy Turo, BA, Technical Product Manager at Zillow

Tracy graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Economics, Biological Basis of Behavior and Chemistry in 2005. After several years building her data analysis and business management skills in the insurance industry she moved to Hong Kong in 2014 to co-found Green Queen, an online health & wellness resource covering sustainable living, and Ekowarehouse, a B2B platform for certified organic products. She arrived back in Seattle in 2018 and is working at Zillow on their new Lending product.

Andrea Brocato, MA, Program Operations Director, Post-Baccalaureate (Graduate) Programs, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Andrea received a BA in French and Political Studies from the University of Western Washington, including semesters in France and Quebec, and an MA in European Studies from the University of Dublin. She has worked at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, UW and Fred Hutch in various roles, currently at Fred Hutch managing the Graduate Program.

Danielle Faivre, BS, PhD Candidate, University of Washington School of Medicine

Danielle is a member of Dr. Michael J. MacCoss’s laboratory and a third year Genome Sciences graduate student at the University of Washington. She received her BS in Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame before moving to Seattle in 2017. Besides participating in the AWIS group mentoring program she is currently VP of Finance at the UW Science and Engineering Business Association.

Charu K. Midha, PhD, Data Science Consultant, Institute for Systems Biology

Charu Midha is a Post Doc in Moritz’s Lab at ISB in the proteomics group, analyzing large scale DIA proteomics data analysis. She earned a PhD in Biosciences from International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), New Delhi, India in 2013 where she carried out comprehensive genomic and proteomic computational analysis on malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum across three domains of life. Later, she researched on serin-theronine proteases inhibitors for insertions, interactions at the interface region and cavities of these complexes as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Department of Biosciences, JMI. She served the French Embassy, New Delhi, India as a Deputy Head of Section (Scientific Coordinator) for three years managing Indo-French bi-lateral scientific collaborations till 2017, when she started in Moritz’s lab. She is passionate about learning and teaching science by volunteering at Pacific Science Center and actively volunteering at Association for women in Science (AWIS) as an Event Committee Chair.

Isil Hamdemir, PhD, Head of Research and Development, Perlee Brands

Isil is currently working on formulation and product development of various beauty and skincare brands under Perlee Beauty Brands. She earned a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from Colorado State University working on nature and efficiency of industrial Ziegler-Natta hydrogenation catalysts. She worked as Postdoctoral Research Associate at Institute for Systems Biology working on biochemical aspects of proteomics analysis, before leading Research and Development Henkel AG&Company. She is a firm believer of combining the power of nature with science in products that touch people’s lives. Her passion is creating joyful products to empower women to be the best reflection of themselves.

Miriam L. R. Meister, Ph D, User Researcher, Xbox

Miriam is a neuroscientist working in user researcher at Xbox. Her postdoctoral work at the University of Washington focused on the neural basis of memory, and how memory influences where we decide to look when we move our eyes around the world. She received her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Texas at Austin, and her B.A. in psychology from Haverford College outside of Philadelphia, where she learned the science of how to carefully study human behavior. Miriam is a strong advocate of promoting women into leadership positions, and has been routinely attending intellectually stimulating AWIS events in Seattle since 2014, joining in 2016. She hopes to engage in service through AWIS that uplifts women professionally and creates access to science.

Pauline Chane, BS Chemical Biology graduate. Masters candidate Computer Science

See Secretary for Pauline’s bio.

Fran Solomon, PhD, Environmental Biology Professor

Fran earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY), and a master’s degree in environmental health and Ph.D. in fisheries from the University of Washington. She has 25 years of experience as an environmental agency biologist and is now bringing that experience to the classroom, specifically The Evergreen State College, Tacoma campus and Western Washington University, Huxley College of the Environment on the Peninsulas. She has also taught at universities in China and Canada. Her courses focus on impacts of pollution, especially toxic chemicals, on human health and aquatic species. Additionally, she teaches continuing education courses and gives lectures for environmental professionals, health care professionals, and the general public in Washington State, Idaho, Alaska, Canada, and Japan. Fran is a founder and past President of Seattle AWIS and founder of our scholarship program. Outside of teaching, mentoring, and women in science advocacy activities, she is an avid hiker and international traveler, and is pursuing a lifelong interest in singing.

Melissa Conerly, PhD, Postdoctoral Scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Melissa earned her BS in Biology from UC Riverside and her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Washington. During her undergraduate time, she investigated plant pathogens known as viroids and their potential use in the citrus industry. This work led to a job in the biotech sector working on nutrient sensing in plants and the genetic control of root development. Her graduate work focused on genome-wide changes in chromatin marks during cancer progression, particularly B-cell lymphoma. Her post-doctoral work is centered on investigating the mechanisms of transcriptional control during differentiation and how this contributes to disease states, such as muscular dystrophy. She enjoys both teaching and bench work and her hobbies outside of the lab include gardening, soccer, and global travel.

Laura Szkolar Sienkewicz, PhD, PMP, RAC, Sr Regulatory and Compliance Manager at Amazon

Laura earned her PhD in Biomedical Materials Science from a joint venture between Peptisyntha-Solvay and The University of Manchester, UK. After dedicating time to a biotech start-up in the UK, Laura moved to Lansing, Michigan, where she managed research on MRI Theranostics for Clinical Imaging at Michigan State University. Now in Seattle Washington, Laura has held multiple roles including Program Management, Clinical Coordination and Regulatory Management, most recently working in Regulatory and Compliance for Amazon. An advocate for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Laura has volunteered for Seattle AWIS since 2017, previously serving 2 years as the Programs and Events Chair. She writes for AWIS national (AWIS Insider/ Washington Wire), is a Community Champion for Amazon (AITC), and Chairs the board of Women In Bio, Seattle.