Dr. Christopher Atchison
Executive Director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity
More Speakers Coming Soon!
Dr. Temple GrandinKeynote Speaker
Professor of Animal Science
Renowned Autism Advocate
Dr. Grandin did not talk until she was three and a half years old. She was fortunate to get early speech therapy. Her teachers also taught her how to wait and take turns when playing board games. She was mainstreamed into a normal kindergarten at age five. Oliver Sacks wrote in the forward of Thinking in Pictures that her first book Emergence: Labeled Autistic was “unprecedented because there had never before been an inside narrative of autism.” Dr. Sacks profiled Dr. Grandin in his best selling book Anthropologist on Mars.
Dr. Grandin became a prominent author and speaker on both autism and animal behavior. Today she is a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. She also has a successful career consulting on both livestock handling equipment design and animal welfare. She has been featured on NPR (National Public Radio) and a BBC Special – "The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow". She has also appeared on National TV shows such as Larry King Live, 20/20, Sixty Minutes, Fox and Friends, and she has a 2010 TED talk. Articles about Dr. Grandin have appeared in Time Magazine, New York Times, Discover Magazine, Forbes and USA Today. HBO made an Emmy Award winning movie about her life and she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016.
When she was young, she was considered weird and teased and bullied in high school. The only place she had friends was activities where there was a shared interest such as horses, electronics, or model rockets. Mr. Carlock, her science teacher, was an important mentor who encouraged her interest in science. When she had a new goal of becoming a scientist, she had a reason for studying. Today half the cattle in the United States are handled in facilities she has designed.
Anousheh AnsariKeynote Speaker
First Female Private Space Explorer
Co-founder and CEO of Prodea Systems
On September 18, 2006, Anousheh Ansari captured headlines around the world as the first female private space explorer. Anousheh earned a place in history as the fourth private explorer to visit space, the first astronaut of Iranian descent, and the first Muslim woman in space.
Anousheh is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder and chairman of the technology company Prodea Systems. Prior to founding Prodea Systems, Anousheh served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of Telecom Technologies, Inc. The company successfully merged with Sonus Networks, Inc., in 2000. To help drive commercialization of the space industry, Anousheh and her family provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks.
Anousheh immigrated to the United States as a teenager who did not speak English. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University, followed by a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. She has an honorary doctorate from the International Space University. She is currently working toward a master’s degree in astronomy from Swinburne University. Anousheh believes that space should be accessible to all and is passionate about inspiring youth, especially girls, around the world to pursue their dreams.
GLAS President and Director of Education
Kate Meredith is the President and Co-founder of Geneva Lake Astrophysics and STEAM (GLAS) Education. Kate is the former Director of Yerkes Education Outreach (YEO) at Yerkes Observatory. She is passionate about making astronomy and STEAM accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or background, and keeping the Geneva Lake community engaged in former YEO programs. One of the key former YEO programs she brings with her to GLAS Education, Innovators Developing Accessible Tools for Astronomy (IDATA), is a software development grant that applies user-centered design to the creation of an accessible astronomy image processing software for blind and visually impaired (BVI) students and adults.
After many years of work to make the products of astronomy accessible to everyone, Kate points to IDATA as the first project she has participated in that addresses the process of astronomy. She and her coworkers also describe IDATA as an important part of the journey to normal, a destination where BVI participation in astronomy is so common that accomplishments are neither met with skepticism nor hero status. Normal is also a place where everyone is welcome to reside in any role they choose, from informed public to amateur, teacher or professional. Kate and her colleagues will share their journey and the innovative products and processes that were built along the way.
Ms. Wheelchair USA, Public Health Researcher
Heather Tomko is a Research Coordinator in the Health Policy and Management department of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, where she is also pursuing a Masters of Public Health. Tomko is an alumna of Carnegie Mellon University, where she studied Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering. In July 2018, Heather was crowned Ms. Wheelchair USA, and is spending the year promoting her platform, “Increasing Inclusion for People with Disabilities into their Communities.
As a woman with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a neuromuscular disease, Tomko is passionate about disability advocacy and access. She serves on the Board of Directors of CLASS, a local disability resources organization, and is the founder of Accessible YOUniverse, an organization focused on disability advocacy, education, and representation. Heather was the winner of the 2018 Dick Thornburgh Disability Service Award, which is awarded to a student at the University of Pittsburgh who has made a difference in the lives of children and adults with disabilities. She also blogs at The Heather Report (www.theheatherreport.com), where she talks about her life and what it’s like to live with a disability.
Associate Professor at Bowling Green State University
Sheri Wells-Jensen is an associate professor specializing in linguistics in the Department of English at Bowling Green State University. She is a member of the Advisory board of Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (MITI) International, and has given papers on the relationship between intelligence, perception and language at the SETI Institute, the International Space Development Conference, NASA sponsored colloquium, and the University of Washington. She spends a great deal of time thinking about science, disability, and the relationship between thought and language. She will be discussing The Right to Wonder: Access to the Workings and the Beauty of Science.
Lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University
Mr. Jive Lubbungu holds a Masters of Literature and a Bachelor of Arts (BA Ed) Degrees obtained at The University of Zambia; specialised in comparative Literature. He is currently a Lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, in the Department of Literature and Languages, in Zambia. He is also a PhD candidate in Literature at Africa Research University in Zambia.
He has contributed to the advancement of knowledge through teaching, research, administrative experience and paper presentations on local and international platforms. His research interest lies in Comparative Literature and Contemporary Issues. Mr. Lubbungu is also a coordinator of research paper presentation seminars in the Department of Literature and Languages within the University. He was Convener of Kwame Nkrumah University Golden Jubilee International Conference, which was successfully held from 19-20th September 2018 in Kabwe, Zambia. Mr. Lubbungu has published books as well as articles in international refereed journals. He has a strong passion for writing and is a supporter of inclusive education. He is a member of the senate of Africa Research University and a member of Zambia Textbook Academic and Non-fiction Writers Association.
Dr. Karen Koehler
Assistant Professor at Shawnee State University and Program Director of the Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) Consortium
Karen E. Koehler, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Shawnee State University and the Program Director of the TVI Consortium - a multi university collaborative for educator preparation in the area of visual impairments. She completed her Ph.D. at The Ohio State University, has a M.A. in Special Education and a B. S. in Science Education. Dr. Koehler spent over 27 years as the middle school and high school science educator at The Ohio State School for the Blind and is also a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired. She serves on the Boards of the Division on Visual Impairments and Deafblindness of the Council for Exceptional Children and of the Ohio Chapter of the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. She is also a member of the Ohio Deans Compact on Exceptional Children and a member of the advisory boards of the Ohio Center for Deafness and Blindness and the Ohio Center for Deafblind Education.
Dr. Koehler has multiple publications in special education journals and co-authored book chapters on science education for students with visual impairments and science assessment for students with special needs. She has presented at state, regional, national and international conferences on topics related to STEM education for students with visual impairments, 3D printing, standardized testing accommodations and accessibility, science instructional practices for students with visual impairments and collaborative university programs in low incidence sensory disabilities. Dr. Koehler’s research interests include improving instructional strategies in STEM education and accessibility to STEM for students with visual impairments.
Dr. Tiffany Wild
Associate Professor, Program in Visual Impairments at The Ohio State University
Dr. Tiffany Wild began her education career as a middle school science and math teacher. Her interest in visual impairment began when students with visual impairments were placed in her classroom without any support. Those students inspired Dr. Wild to become a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). As a TVI, she worked as a teacher’s aide for students with visual impairments in an early learning center and as an itinerant teacher for Project PAVE. Dr. Wild was awarded a prestigious doctoral fellowship with the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairments to pursue her doctoral degree and her dissertation was awarded the “Dissertation of the Year” by the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Visual impairment.
Currently Dr. Wild is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education and Human Ecology and is the lead faculty of the program in visual impairment. She also is the Past-President of the Ohio Chapter of AER, the Past-President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division on Visual Impairment and Deafblindness (DVIDB) and is on the committee for the CEC DVIDB visual impairment licensure standards. Dr. Wild’s research focuses on science education for students with visual impairments. Dr. Wild has published and presented both nationally and internationally. It is through her research endeavors that she has been asked to collaborate on numerous research projects and to present at national, state, and local conventions.
American Printing House for the Blind Software Engineer & Project Lead
Ken’s experience with electronics and programming began in high school and the US Air Force led him to pursue software engineering in college. He also realized from his own experience going through the Veterans Administration rehabilitation program, that technology, when properly designed, is immensely useful to individuals who are blind. Ken earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Software Engineering from Weber State University in Utah as well as a Certificate of Electronics and a Certificate of Digital Communications from the US Air Force.
Ken has worked in his current position at the American Printing House for the Blind for the last ten years, following his passion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and developing projects that allow students with blindness to use the same kind of technology that is used by their sighted peers.
Ken has worked on numerous projects, including the Braille Plus 18, the first Android-based note taker for those who are blind. He was also project lead on the TI-84 Plus Talking Graphing Calculator, an extraordinary device that makes it possible for high school and college students with visual impairments to use the same calculator that other students use in the classroom and on standardized tests. Most recently, he has been the project lead on the new Orbit Reader 20, a low-cost braille display that will finally bring braille to developing countries, and the Graphiti, which is the first multi-level tactile graphic display that allows individuals who are blind to see and manipulate graphics.
Dr. Rosanne Hoffmann
American Printing House for the Blind STEM Project Leader
Rosanne fell in love with biology in the seventh grade while learning about the parts of the cell and vertebrate anatomy. Her education in the life sciences culminated in a doctorate in biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She continues to pursue her passion for natural science at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), where she has worked for the past 15 years developing science products for K-12 students who are visually impaired. Her goal is to help level the playing field for this population of students by combining her scientific knowledge base with the principles of universal design. She spearheaded many projects including the DNA Twist, DNA-RNA Kit, Protein Synthesis Kit, as well as tactile graphics compilations in the Life and Earth Sciences. In addition to her position at APH, Dr. Hoffmann is an adjunct professor at the University of Louisville where she has been teaching introductory biology for 20 years.
Dr. Jason Nordhaus
Assistant Professor of Physics at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Jason Nordhaus, Ph.D. is a theoretical astrophysicist and Assistant Professor of Physics at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), one of the nine colleges that comprise Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and one of the premiere institutions for deaf education in the world. Professor Nordhaus is committed to increasing the participation of deaf individuals in physics and routinely involves deaf students in research work (11 undergraduate and 1 Ph.D. student to date). Dr. Nordhaus is currently serving on (and a founding member of) the executive committee for the American Astronomical Society’s Working Group on Accessibility and Disability. Before joining the RIT faculty, Professor Nordhaus was an NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellow and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rochester in 2008.
You Can Do Astronomy LLC President
Noreen Grice is President and Founder of You Can Do Astronomy LLC, an accessibility consulting company that makes astronomy and space science accessible, especially to people with disabilities. Her educational background includes a B.A. and M.S. in astronomy, an MBA and professional certificates in museum studies, non-profit management and assistive technology applications. She worked in the planetarium field for over 30 years, has taught student and teacher workshops and is author of five accessible astronomy books, including three tactile books with NASA. Learn more about Noreen’s work at www.youcandoastronomy.com.
Independence Science Curriculum Consultant
Ashley Neybert is interested in making science more fun and accessible for all people. Whether that be through physical access such as our Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest 2 or intellectual access through novel demonstrations and the relevant “real-life” usage of science, Ashley is passionate about helping people see why science is important for everyone, from business majors to career scientists alike! Ashley develops interactive demonstrations, such as the accessible version of the tornado in a bottle experiment and a flaming pumpkin that doesn’t burn. Ashley is also a member of the American Chemical Society's Chemists with Disabilities Committee and Vice-President of the National Federation of the Blind's Science and Engineering Division. Ashley got her Bachelor's in Chemistry at Rockhurst University in 2015 and is currently a doctoral candidate at Curtin University of Australia working on cross-cultural inclusive design research of talking laboratory equipment.
Dr. Hervens Jeannis
Dr. Hervens Jeannis received his bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering from Syracuse University and master's degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. While conducting his doctoral studies with a focus on rehabilitation engineering, at the University of Pittsburgh, he was recognized as an NSF IGERT fellow. In his work with the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, he spearheaded a nationwide survey of science and engineering laboratories aimed at enhancing the learning experience of students with physical disabilities. In addition to his academic contributions, Dr. Jeannis has also led Bethel Campus Fellowship as the Program Evaluator. In this role, he made significant contributions to the organization by developing, distributing and analyzing survey results for their annual National Conference - which has allowed them to fulfill their mission more effectively.
Special Education Teacher
Gina Tesoriero was a special education science teacher for ten years. She is now working towards a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences and Human Development at the University of Washington. Gina is interested in working with teachers to create flexible and equitable science and engineering learning environments.
PhD Candidate in the Department of Teaching and Learning
Ying-Ting Chiu is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the Ohio State University, Columbus. Chiu’s area of study is Language, Education and Society with an emphasis on science education for students with visual impairments. Prior to the pursuit of PhD, Chiu’s education, including her major in physics and master’s in science education, serves as the foundation of her area of study. Her current research interests focus on inclusive curriculum design, hands-on material adaptation, conceptual understanding, and science identity. Chiu had worked for three non-profit foundations that all serve students with special needs. Her work experience and the training in visual impairment that she had completed in the first two years of her PhD program has led her to better serve students with visual impairments in learning science.
Dr. Megan Aanstoos
Licensing Analyst at The Ohio State University Technology Commercialization Office
Dr. Megan Aanstoos has worked in the field of technology transfer for more than four years, first as a Student Ambassador at Colorado State University and now as a Licensing Analyst at The Ohio State University. She was interested in science and engineering from an early age, as someone with a hearing loss, and spent many years learning about medical innovations, culminating her studies with a PhD in biomedical engineering. Dr. Aanstoos focused her efforts on the fields of orthopedics and oncology after realizing she prefers wearing electrical circuits to creating them. With a background working as a Research Coordinator for a hospital and in the translational field of veterinary medicine with small and large animals, Dr. Aanstoos is comfortable with a wide breadth of topics related to medicine and health engineering and is passionate about using her knowledge to facilitate advances in healthcare for all those in need. Today, she uses her previous experiences and knowledge when engaging with inventors on a daily basis to facilitate advancements in treatments for all living creatures. In addition to Dr. Aanstoos's daily job, she enjoys educating people on technology transfer, finances, diversity, and all sorts of niche fields. If you have a few hours, she's happy to go into detail on the differences between diversity and inclusion, the ins and outs of technology transfer, and the best places to get a great meal in town.
Dr. Margo Izzo
Program Director of Transition Services, Nisonger Center
Dr. Margo Vreeburg Izzo is the Program Director of Transition Services at the Nisonger Center, a University Center of Excellence on Disabilities at the Ohio State University. With over 36 years of experience in the special education field, Margo has extensive experience with the transition from high school to college and careers. Currently, Margo is the Principal Investigator of six grants designed to improve the academic, transition and employment outcomes of students with disabilities at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. Margo has developed educational curricula for students with disabilities, conducted numerous trainings, focus groups, and interviews with teachers and students, and has published 25 peer-reviewed articles and five book chapters on disability and transition issues. In 1996, she was awarded the Mary E. Switzer Fellowship from the National Institute of Disability Rehabilitation Research. Margo served on the AUCD Board of Directors as Chair of the Council on Research and Evaluation (CORE). As Past President of the Division of Career Development and Transition, she provides leadership to national, state and regional committees to improve the quality of educational and transition services.
Margo’s most recent 2016 publication is a book she co-authored with LeDerick Horne entitled: Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success, published by Brookes Publishing Co. As professionals with hidden disabilities, the co-authors share their story of making peace with their own disability and developing disability pride. More information about Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities can be found here. For more information, please see Margo’s website at www.margoizzophd.com
Chief Technology Officer and Head of Engineering, Communication Service for the Deaf
Charles McFadden (or Chaz as his friends tend to call him) grew up in Akron, Ohio. His recognition of the value technology can bring to society began when he came across an interactive, computerized typewriter, his first experience with a fully accessible and responsive system. The experience stayed with him and eventually led him to study computer science in college. Chaz is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Computer Science and Villanova University with an MBA. He holds a Certified Information Privacy Technologist (CIPT) credential from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). He currently serves as Chair of the Board Directors for the Deaf Hearing Communication Centre (DHCC) in Philadelphia, as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf in Pittsburgh, and as member of the Board of Directors for the RIT/NTID Alumni Association in Rochester. He currently is the Chief Technology Officer at Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), and leads the CSD Engineering initiative, which designs and innovates technologies through a deaf-centered lens.
Disability Rights Advocate and Neuroscientist
Joey Ramp has been an advocate for disability services with a focus on people with service dogs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI) since 2012. She completed a degree in Biocognitive Neuroscience in the spring of 2019 which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between Behavioral Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Molecular and Cellular Biology. Joey joined the Rhodes’ Lab at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in the summer of 2017 to conduct a 2-year study to determine the effect of a service dog on rodent physiology and behavior.
She is accompanied everywhere by her service dog Sampson who was named the 2018 Service Dog of the Year by the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) for their dedication as advocates for service dog handlers in science. Their work as partners to develop access protocol for service dogs in laboratories has been recognized internationally. Joey is the Founder of Empower Ability Consulting, a consulting and mentoring firm that helps people with disabilities transition into academics.
Joey volunteers her time speaking to organizations like the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI), and advocating for people with service dogs, PTSD, TBI, and/or are victims of sexual or domestic violence. As a problem-solver Joey is passionate about developing innovative solutions for equal access to an education with a focus on science and research. She is passionate about securing equal opportunities and equal rights for all people with disabilities in academics and the workplace, and breaking down institutional, physical, and societal barriers that prevent people with disabilities from living their lives to the fullest. She is also the Vice President and Co-Founder of the not-for-profit organization International Alliance for Ability in Science that provides mentorship and scholarships to students with disabilities in science. Opportunities, not obstacles. Solutions, not situations. Breakthroughs, not barriers.
Disability Rights Advocate and Fulbright Scholar
Ishtiaq Ahmed is a Fulbright Scholar and fourth-year doctoral student at The Ohio State University. As a disability advocate, he is working on the mathematics education and inclusion of high school students with visual impairments. Based on his experiences as both a student and a teacher with a visual impairment, he believes that students with disabilities, including those with visual impairments, encounter a multitude of accessibility issues. As a consequence, these students are largely underrepresented in STEM majors. His dissertation research primarily focuses on the inclusion of students with visual impairments in mathematics education. He strongly believe that these students can succeed in mathematics when provided multisensory experiences and alternative instructional material. Stakeholders should acknowledge these students’ individual learning experiences and make sincere efforts to assimilate them into a regular school system. Mr. Ahmed hopes to contribute to this underexplored area of research as he continues to advocate for this vulnerable community.
Dr. Allison McGrath
Assistant Professor of Special Education at Otterbein University
Dr. Allison McGrath is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at Otterbein University and former special education teacher. She teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in the Intervention Specialist program. Dr. McGrath's research interests include inclusive education, students with learning disabilities, science instruction and middle school.
Assistive Technology Consultant
Heather Bridgman has been working in the field of Assistive Technology for more than 20 years. She currently works at the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI). She has a master’s degree in systems engineering as well as a teaching license in the area of high school mathematics. Current projects include the development of the Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) and the Student Inventory for Technology Support (SIFTS). She has presented at numerous state and regional conferences on a wide variety of AT tools and systems to build capacity at a local level. She is also an adjunct instructor in the area of assistive technology at Ashland University and co-author of the book, Show Me: A Teacher’s Guide to Video Modeling.
NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador, STEM/Arts Integration Educator
Adrienne Provenzano, J.D., B.S., B.A., is an innovative and accomplished STEM and Arts Integration educator as well as a professional musician and independent scholar, with a particular expertise in women’s history. As an informal educator, her volunteer affiliations include the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassadors Program and the CASIS Space Station Ambassadors Program. In 2017, at the UNOOSA and UN Women’s Space for Women Experts Meeting, Ms. Provenzano sang and spoke on the vital role of arts and humanities in leveraging STEM education and career opportunities for girls and women. Since 2013, she has presented annually at the SEEC (Space Exploration Educators Conference) at Space Center Houston to inspire and train K-12 educators to incorporate the arts and humanities into their teaching.
She presented on “The Women of the NACA: STEM Stories to Inspire Future Generations” at the 2015 NACA 100 Symposium held at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and sang and spoke on “Women Astronauts: Civil Rights Agents of Change for Gender Equity” at the 2017 NASA in the ‘Long’ Civil Rights Movement Conference hosted by Marshall Space Flight Center at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Ms. Provenzano holds degrees from Arcadia University, The University of Pennsylvania, and Indiana University and graduate education credits from Butler University.
Student and Founder of See3D
Caroline Karbowski is from Cincinnati, OH and will be a second-year biology major at The Ohio State University. Her passion for 3D printing for people who are blind started with her desire to learn braille in 6th grade so she could read books in the car without becoming dizzy. After seeing how 3D printing could be used to make telescope and microscope images tactile and accessible, she became inspired to create her own 3D printing organization, See3D, which prints and distributes 3D printed models for people who are blind. Caroline loves visiting schools for the blind, going to conventions, and sharing the ideas she has learned. She gave a TEDx talk on See3D, spoke at the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio State Convention, and most recently went to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting and met with the Foundation for Science and Disability. She hopes that by making labs, textbooks, and presentations more accessible, more people will be able to provide their unique perspective, which will benefit the learning of all.
Carnegie Science Center Program Development Coordinator
Ralph Crewe has been an informal science educator at Carnegie Science Center for 10 years. As Program Development Coordinator, he runs public astronomy sessions, the Café Sci lecture series, helps to develop outreach programs that travel across the US, hosts the SNaQ podcast, writes astronomical articles for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, makes frequent science news appearances on local TV and radio stations, plays a major role in planetarium operations, and brings his love of science to the community in as many ways as possible. He is a member of the accessibility task force at the science center and has been involved in ASL training for science center staff, sensory sensitive events for families as well as adults, sighted guide tours of PPG Science Pavilion, and the presentation of accessible astronomy. He is deeply committed to bringing the sense of curiosity, wonder and delight for which the science center is known to every member of the community.
Carnegie Science Center Operations Manager
Justin Tognarine is the Operations Manager at Carnegie Science Center. This includes overseeing Accessibility Initiatives. Under his direction, the museum has introduced the first sensory sensitive events, provided accessibility guidance with opening the new PPG Science Pavilion, and began internal and community accessibility groups.
Danielle Purtell is a medical student at Tulane University School of Medicine. She is proud to use her degree in evolutionary anthropology, certificate in gerontology, and her experience living with chronic illness to study and practice medicine from a unique and empathetic perspective. She intends to serve the geriatric population as a primary care physician, advocate, and leader.
Gabriela Serrato Marks
Oceanography PhD Candidate and Patient Advocate
Gabi is a PhD candidate in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography. Her research focuses on past climate change in Mexico using stalagmites. Outside of lab, she writes science articles for a public audience and advocates for disabled people in STEM. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @gserratomarks.
Dr. Kumiko Usuda-Sato
Outreach Scientist at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Dr. Kumiko Usuda-Sato is a PhD astronomer at the Public Relations Center of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). She works with visually impaired people to develop tactile models using a 3D printer and supervised the "Touch the Universe" special exhibit at the Tactile Museum of Japan Braille Library in 2018. She is also a member of "Astronomy Sign Language Working Group" in Japan, and was in charge of collecting the first 47 astronomy words of sign language in Japan, which are listed “Hands in the Stars” sign language project lead by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Dr. Christopher Atchison
Executive Director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity and Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati
Dr. Chris Atchison is an Associate Professor of Geoscience Education in the School of Education and Department of Geology at the University of Cincinnati. His research focuses on the engagement and active participation in the Earth sciences for students, instructors, and geoscience professionals with physical, sensory, and developmental disabilities. Dr. Atchison also trains K-20 educators to support students in the classroom through universal designed workshops and conducts accessible geoscience field courses for students and instructors with disabilities. Additionally, he is the Executive Director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD), a non-profit organization, founded in 2008, that is improving access to the geosciences for individuals with disabilities by implementing inclusive communities of research, instruction, and student support. The IAGD network extends to over 40 countries around the world with a formal chapter in the United Kingdom (DiG-UK).
Dr. Thomas Madura
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at San Jose State University
Dr. Thomas Madura is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at San Jose State University (SJSU). He is a theoretical and computational astrophysicist that specializes in the study of massive stars, and astronomy outreach and education for students with visual impairments (VI). Prior to his position at SJSU, he worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he developed a program to 3D print astrophysical objects to help teach astronomy to students with VI. He has expertise in various 3D printing technologies (Madura 2017), having produced the world’s first 3D print of a nebula based on astronomical observations (Steffen et al. 2014) and the first 3D prints of a supercomputer simulation of a dynamical astrophysical system (Madura et al. 2015a,b).
In cooperation with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind and the Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, Dr. Madura led the development and implementation of several STEM summer programs for high school students with VI. Dr. Madura is a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Commission C1 on Astronomy Education and Development, and the IAU Working Group for Astronomy for Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Madura also participates in and gives talks at national and international conferences that focus on serving the needs of individuals with VI, including National Council of State Agencies for the Blind Training Conferences, the Visual Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology Expo, Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation Conferences, and the IAU General Assemblies.
Aerospace Engineering Student and Outreach Advocate
Courtney Leverenz is a junior in aerospace engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She works at CU Aerospace as an Undergraduate Engineering Research Assistant and manages the 3D printers and laser cutter for her University’s Department of Aerospace. Courtney is a member of the executive board of the Illinois Space Society and has heavily participated in various technical projects including rocketry, mission design, and tool development initiatives. Courtney is the organizer of the S.O.L.A.R. Power Project (Space-Oriented Learning and EmPOWERment), an educational outreach event specifically designed for individuals with disabilities. This event was inspired by Courtney’s sister who is diagnosed with Autism. The S.O.L.A.R Power Project offers guidance and encouragement for all individuals to become involved with STEM and is hosted through the Illinois Space Society.
Dr. Peter Mecca
Biologist and High School Biology Teacher
Dr. Peter Mecca has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Ecology from Pennsylvania State University (PSU), an M.A. degree in Environmental Biology from Hood College, and a B.S. degree in Secondary Education – Biology from PSU. He has experience as a public school teacher (MD, NY, VA), administrator (NY), and a university faculty member (SUNY College at Oneonta, University of Wisconsin at La Crosse). Dr. Mecca has served as a science education consultant in New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He currently serves as a consultant in the Middle East for a major textbook publisher. Prior to his current position, Dr. Mecca served as the Instructional Systems Specialist for Science with the U. S. Department of Defense Schools. He is a member in the National Association of Biology Teachers, the Virginia Association of Science Teachers, the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, and the Council of State Science Supervisors.
Tactile Illustrator and PhD Candidate
Nicole Johnson is pursuing a PhD at the University of Colorado Boulder in the ATLAS (Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society) Institute. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in biophysics from Central Washington University and has five years of experience producing tactile graphics for higher education textbooks used by blind or visually impaired students nationwide. Research topics include accessible STEM content, tactile graphic usability, and innovations in technology that will improve alternative-media systems in education.
Social Work Graduate Student, Autistic Self-Advocate
Tema Krempley is an Autistic individual/woman who is completing her graduate degree at The Ohio State University College of Social Work. She is currently working as an intern, fulfilling her advanced field placement hours at the Nisonger Center. Her responsibilities include facilitating Aspirations group sessions, a 10-week social skills program, and mentoring students in the Ace! program to develop independent life skills, social communication skills, and employment skills. Additionally, she has a strong interest in Nisonger's Early Childhood Education Center. Tema has created a four-week curriculum on self-advocacy that will include the topics of self-awareness, communication, leadership, and knowledge of rights. The program will take place in June of 2019 at the Nisonger Center. Tema has extensive background in a variety of interventions for Autism from diverse fields; these include Special Education, Applied Behavioral Analysis, and Social Work. Furthermore, she is a speaker and panelist who has presented in classes, schools, county panels, and a statewide conference. Tema is a practiced self-advocate who has used her skills in school, work, political, and social venues.
Director of Theatre Education at Columbus Children’s Theatre
Courtney is the Director of Theatre Education at Columbus Children’s Theatre (CCT) and holds a MA in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities from New York University. While at NYU Courtney stage managed two seasons of Shakespeare to Go! (a company that tours abridged Shakespeare to K-12 students across NYC), studied community-engaged theatre in Dublin, Ireland, and worked in a Manhattan elementary school through America Reads. She also earned a BA in Theatre from the College of Wooster where, for her Senior Independent Study, Courtney created educational outreach programs for the mainstage season and was an education intern with The 52nd Street Project (NY, NY).
Her stage management credits at Wooster included Nocturne, which opened the 2007 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. Courtney has also worked as an after school and summer camp director for nonprofit organizations in both New York and Columbus, OH. Her work at CCT includes directing and facilitating the organization’s accessible programming including Sensory Friendly trainings and performances, Touch Tours, and the administration for Audio Described and ASL interpreted performances. Courtney currently serves on the CCT Strategic Planning Committee, the Kennedy Center’s 2019 LEAD Conference Content Committee, and the 2019 standards revisions working group for Ohio’s Learning Standards for Fine Arts- Drama.
Student Program Coordinator at Columbus Children’s Theatre
Jesika, Student Program Coordinator at Columbus Children’s Theatre (CCT), holds a dual degree in vocal music performance and musical theatre from Ohio Northern University. At CCT, in addition to managing various education programs, Jesika assists in the coordination and facilitation of the organization’s accessible programming, including Sensory Friendly Performances, Touch Tours, Audio Description, and ASL interpretation. She has been an active participant in Columbus theatre over the past several years. She has been seen in Short North Stage’s productions of Sunday in the Park with George and Mamma Mia, several productions with Evolution Theatre Company, Company with SRO Theatre Company and Sweeny Todd with Imagine, for which she won a Jebby Award for Best Lead Actress in a Local Musical. Jesika relishes the opportunity to see each young child grow and become all they can through theatre.
Dr. Christopher Orban
Physics Professor and Lead of the STEMCoding Project
Dr. Orban is a Professor of Physics at Ohio State. He has a background in computational astrophysics and he is using his expertise to develop innovative resources that integrate coding into high school physics and astronomy classrooms as part of the STEMcoding project. A key effort of the STEMcoding project is their youtube channel, which features women and underrepresented groups so that kids can see undergrads and grad students who look like them doing coding and science and having fun. Prof. Orban was also the lead advisor to the Ohio Department of Education on their astronomy science standards and resources for special education.
Dr. Richelle Teeling-Smith
Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Dr. Teeling-Smith is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Mount Union in Ohio. She is an active member of the STEMcoding Project and Director of STEMcoding camp for high school girls at Mount Union. Dr. Teeling Smith assists in implementing coding modules designed to integrate computational thinking and computer programming skills into introductory physics classrooms at the high school and college level.
Social Work Graduate Student, Nisonger Center LEND Trainee
Madison Piccinich received her Bachelor of Science in Social Work from The Ohio State University, May 2019. She will begin the Advanced Master's Program at OSU in June 2019 along with the Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disorders (LEND) Fellowship program at Nisonger Center. Madison has five years experience working with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and plans to continue working with this population throughout her career. Her ultimate goal is to obtain her PhD and open a private practice serving persons with disabilities. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and playing with her puppy, Orvis.
Tactile Design Specialist
Lindsay Yazzolino is an audio/tactile design consultant and air travel enthusiast who has worked in diverse fields ranging from brains to trains. Lindsay leverages both her professional background in cognitive neuroscience research and personal experience as a totally blind scientist to collaboratively develop products such as exhibits and educational materials which incorporate “hand-catching” tactile design and rich audio. She is enthusiastic about modern technologies such as 3D printing and interactive touch screens which are revolutionizing the design of multisensory interfaces, and with them she helps to create interactive tangible experiences which are intuitive and fun. She also coordinates research studies of how diverse types of life experience shape brain and cognitive processes. A firm believer that outreach makes for better science, she constantly strives to connect scientists with individuals whose experiences they are interested in studying so that they can mutually benefit from each other's expertise.
Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai
Head of Research and Chief Accessibility Officer
Dr. Mahadeo Sukhai is the Head of Research and Chief Accessibility Officer of the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB). Dr. Sukhai is Canada’s only congenitally blind biomedical research scientist, and the world’s first congenitally blind geneticist. Dr. Sukhai’s research program focuses on indicators of social inclusion – particularly education, employment and technology use – for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted, as well as measurement of healthcare outcomes for the blind or partially sighted population. Dr. Sukhai is passionate about accessibility, inclusion and universal design in education – particularly science education – and in the workplace.
Prior to accepting his current role at CNIB, Dr. Sukhai obtained his Ph.D. in cancer genetics from the University of Toronto, and completed two postdoctoral fellowships in cancer genomics and experimental therapeutics. Dr. Sukhai served as, first, Scientific Team Lead for the Advanced Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, and then as Head of the Variant Interpretation Group in the Division of Genome Diagnostics at the University Health Network. Dr. Sukhai also conducted a parallel research career in student experience and higher education, focusing on the experience of students with disabilities in STEM (science, technology, engineering and Mathematics), and in graduate and postdoctoral training. Dr. Sukhai is the principal investigator of nationwide initiatives in Canada to examine the student experience, culminating in his serving as the Principal Investigator and lead author of Creating a Culture of Accessibility in the Sciences, published in 2016. Dr. Sukhai brings a wealth of experience to the conversations around accessibility and inclusion in the STEM education, digital and online learning, and employment settings.
Dr. Kevin Galat
Dr. Kevin Galat was diagnosed with Autism in 1972 at the age of 5; though it was not until the age of 35 that Dr. Galat was told of his diagnosis. After being told their son was Autistic, Dr. Galat’s parents were encouraged to place him into an institution. Instead, they chose to find ways to set standards and instill in him a lifelong desire to learn and grow as an individual and professional. Others along the way challenged him in unique ways and/or opened up who they were to help fill in gaps dealing with interpersonal relationships where one on the spectrum is “blind”. Dr. Galat received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Akron and has begun to share his story to encourage others who are on the spectrum of Autism as well as their parents. Clearly, he has exceeded the expectations of those who originally diagnosed him in 1972. Dr. Galat currently volunteers with Aspirations, a program of The OSU Nisonger Center that provides social support for teens and young adults with Autism. He is also gainfully employed at Chemical Abstracts Service and works at building the world's largest scientific database.