Board 2021-2022

President

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.

Vice-President

Jac Fitzgerald, BA, BE, Web developTracy 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.

Secretary

Pauline Chane, BS Chemical Biology

Pauline is a B.S. Chemical Biology graduate from UC Berkeley who has made the transition into the tech industry after completing one year of studying full stack developer skills at Ada Developers Academy’s 14th cohort and one year of software development and design at UW Bothell as part of their 2020-2021 Graduate Certificate in Software Development and Design cohort. Previously, Pauline volunteered as a research technician at UW Bothell, worked as local Seattle brewery Stoup Brewing’s first lab technician, and recently volunteered as Student Engagement Coordinator for the OpenCOVID-19 Initiative. 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, and as Secretary starting in 2020. She is currently a software engineer at Uber Seattle who enjoys drawing, cooking/baking, and producing (amateur) music in her spare time.

Elizabeth Goodnight, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

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

Treasurer

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. Reitha also teaches at Edmonds Community College Creative Retirement Institute.  She has been a Seattle AWIS member since 1987 and has served in many capacities on the board, most recently as treasurer and Banquet & Awards Committee chair 

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, 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

Pauline is a B.S. Chemical Biology graduate from UC Berkeley who has made the transition into the tech industry after completing one year of studying full stack developer skills at Ada Developers Academy’s 14th cohort and one year of software development and design at UW Bothell as part of their 2020-2021 Graduate Certificate in Software Development and Design cohort. Previously, Pauline volunteered as a research technician at UW Bothell, worked as local Seattle brewery Stoup Brewing’s first lab technician, and recently volunteered as Student Engagement Coordinator for the OpenCOVID-19 Initiative. 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, and as Secretary starting in 2020. She is currently a software engineer at Uber Seattle who enjoys drawing, cooking/baking, and producing (amateur) music in her spare time.

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 Sr. 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 annd 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.

Natalie Merrill, MS,  Polymer science and engineering interdisciplinary, with Thesis

Natalie is a Polymer Engineer/Chemist with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry  (B.S., UC Irvine) and graduate work at the College of Polymer Science and Engineering (MS, The University of Akron, Ohio). Her career has focused on environmentally friendly product innovation, manufacturing & safety processes.  She led stage-gate development projects for ten years at Honeywell International, two years at Spartech International, worked four years at General Plastics of Tacoma, consulted, and more recently led a Manufacturing team at Metagenics in Gig Harbor.   Her initiatives have resulted in over 20 patents and 7 commercializations.  Natalie lives in Gig Harbor and is active in the Puget Sound ACS (2021 Chair of the Executive Committee), and has been on the AWIS Banquet & Awards committee for several years.  She is an avid hiker, rock climber, and cyclist, as well as a science fair volunteer judge for WSSEF and ISEF.  As Treasurer for the local high school Marching Band Boosters Club she supports her high school daughter’s musical interests and looks forward to her daughters future in a STEM career.   

Girls in Engineering, Science and Math (GEMS) Committee

Kimberly Belmes, MS Hardware Test Engineer at Microsoft

Kimberly Belmes received her BS in physics from Pacific Lutheran University (Go Lutes!) with minors in mathematics and computer science, and her MS in applied physics with an emphasis in optical materials and devices from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!). Towards the end of her undergraduate career, she spontaneously pivoted from pursuing a PhD in astronomy (after having spent two summers conducting solar physics research) to applying to and completing UO’s Masters Industrial Internship Program. Nowadays she works as a hardware test engineer for Surface products at Microsoft. When she’s not working or spending time with family and friends, she’s either exercising, attempting to learn how to cook, or watching scary movies on Netflix. Increasing female representation in male-dominated fields is a cause Kim has always been passionate about (and is one of the main reasons she majored in physics), so she is honored to be a GEMS co-chair and AWIS member!

Alice Mukora, BA Data Analyst I at Allen Institute 

Alice Mukora received her BA in Biology from the University of Chicago with a concentration in neuroscience. After graduating, she moved to Seattle to work at the Allen Institute and develop three-dimensional models of individual neurons. In her time there, she has transitioned to data analysis and exploring the interesting qualities of neuronal morphology in the context of health and disease. When she isn’t working, she volunteers with the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center, plays rugby, hikes and explores the local PNW music scene. She is dedicated to advocating for better representation of women in STEM, particularly WOC, and has loved being a part of AWIS and co-chairing GEMS to empower younger generations of scientists.