Mi-Youn Brusniak, PhD, PMP, Principal Bioinformatics Scientist at Nautilus Biotechnology Inc.

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.


Tracy E. Popowics, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Oral Health Sciences at the University of Washington.

Dr. Popowics developed her interest in STEM studies as a biology major at Mount Holyoke College, and later earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Brown University. Following her graduate studies, she began studies of the biomechanics of mammalian teeth as a postdoctoral researcher at the Burke Museum and University of Washington School of Dentistry. This training led to her current position at the University of Washington School of Dentistry where she teaches embryology and histology to dental students and residents. Her research interests have expanded from the biomechanics of teeth to include other soft and hard tissues of the head and mouth. Outside of work, she is enjoys hiking in the nearby mountains and gardening. She is interested in working towards equity, diversity and inclusion within STEM fields and workplaces.


Elizabeth Goodnight, B.S.M.E, Project Engineer at DMC, Inc.

Elizabeth received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rice University and currently works as a systems engineer developing software for industrial automation applications across a wide variety of industries. As part of a large family of female scientists, she is a passionate advocate for women in STEM and has volunteered with Houston chapters of the Society of Women Engineers and the American Association of University Women. Her favorite volunteer projects have focused on educating and inspiring the next generation of women in science. In her spare time, Elizabeth enjoys cycling, baking and reading sci-fi novels


Reitha Weeks, PhD, Scientist and Educator. Currently, 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 camps 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.  She is on the boards of Seattle AAUW, ORCA, and UW WiSE Professional Advisory Board, as well as several Biotech Advisory Boards for high schools.

Mentoring Committee

Danielle Faivre, BS, Phd Candidate, University of Washington

Danielle received her B.S. in Biochemistry at the University of Notre Dame and is currently a UW Genome Sciences Ph.D. student. Her research focuses on developing quantitative proteomics approaches to study neurodegenerative diseases. As a UW Bioscience Careers Seminar Committee member and the VP of Finance for the Science & Engineering Business Association, Danielle encourages students to explore new opportunities and alternative careers in STEM. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, playing soccer, and dancing at Zumba and Oula classes.


Events and Programs Committee

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.

Membership Committee

Miriam L. R. Meister, PhD, User Researcher, Microsoft – 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.

Scholarship Committee

Fran Solomon, PhD, Environmental Biology Professor.

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

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 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.

Publicity and Website Committee

Laura Szkolar Sienkewicz, PhD, PMP, RAC Principal Privacy & Compliance Manager, Microsoft Health & Life Science.

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. There she managed research on MRI Theranostics for Clinical Imaging at Michigan State University. Now in Seattle Washington, Laura has held multiple roles, including working for Spacelabs Healthcare and Amazon in Regulatory and Compliance. Currently, Laura leads privacy and compliance for Microsoft Health & Life Sciences. An advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion, Laura has volunteered for Seattle AWIS since 2017, writes for AWIS national, and Chairs the board of Women In Bio, Seattle.

Banquet and Awards Committee

Alison Fitch, MBA,  Bristol-Myers Squibb Research Operations for the Immuno-Oncology and Cell Therapy Thematic Research Center

Alison is a manager-scientist with more than 20 years of experience working in novel biotherapeutics targeting cancer and infectious disease. In her current role at Bristol Myers Squibb, Alison leads Research Operations for the Immuno-Oncology and Cell Therapy Thematic Research Center and STEM educational outreach for BMS in Washington State.  Earlier in her career, Alison held scientific and lab management roles at Celgene, OncoResponse and Amgen.  Alison earned her MBA from Simon Fraser University with a specialization in the business of Biotech; a Bachelor’s degree in Cell Biology and Genetics from the University of British Columbia and holds a patent for a novel composition of an antibody.  In her spare time, she is learning to restore antique watches.

Ijeoma (IJ) Kalu, MSc. in Nutrition; grad student in Public Health; Data Analytic Research Coordinator, Fred Hutch

IJ has a unique set of experiences: data management, hypothesis testing, computational algorithms, and natural health interventions. She has decades of experience in teaching, research and development in bioactive and nutraceutical formulations. She is currently the Data Analytic Unit Research coordinator with SCHARP at Fred Hutch.  IJ earned her MSc. in Nutrition with an emphasis in scientific research from Bastyr University in 2015. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in Global Health and is a part-time faculty member at Bastyr University.  She has two teenage girls.  She works to make the world a better place by bridging the culture gap through mentoring and advocacy for minority black women in STEM

Girls in Engineering, Science and Math (GEMS) Committee

Vanessa Maldonado, Ph.D., EIT, Senior Staff Engineer at Geosyntec Consultants

Tia Low, B.A, Software Engineer at Carina

Tia has always had an interest in STEM but took a winding path to launch her career in technology. With a BA in International Business from Washington State University, her diverse work background includes teaching English abroad, client management in the financial services industry, and planning international tours in the travel industry. When the opportunity presented itself in 2020 to pivot professionally, she went back to school to pursue her curiosity in technology. Currently Tia is a Software Engineer at Carina, a non-profit with a mission to build online tools to bring good jobs to care workers, so care workers can provide the best possible care for those who need it. Tia is especially interested in the ways technology can be harnessed to build a more equitable future. With a firm belief that there is a place for everyone in STEM, she brings a strong desire to help encourage that interest at an early age and make it easier for underrepresented groups to envision themselves in STEM fields.