Meet Rodolfo Dirzo

Professor, Stanford University

Palo Alto, California, USA | website



Currently working on: ecology and conservation of biodiversity.

Talk with me about (San Francisco Bay Area connections preferred):

  • biodiversity
  • science education
  • global change

My STEM Story: An important project in my science career was my work on STEM for Latina girls. The program, coordinated by the Mexican Consulate of San Jose, introduces 9 to13-year-old Latina girls from low-income families to the professional world of STEM.

Other past projects that I’ve enjoyed working on have included studies on the impacts of people on animal life (defaunation) and its consequences for ecosystems and humans.

Meet Ruth Ann Swaney

Native American Natural Resource Program Coordinator, University of Montana

Montana, USA




Currently working on: developing more outreach by our college.

Talk with me about:

  • Effective and meaningful collaboration

My STEM story: a memorable STEM moment in my life was taking water quality samples on my reservation. It was important and relevant work to my people.

Meet Austin Ayer

Fulbright Research Scholar

Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Facebook |

Currently working on: assessing the efficacy of marine protected areas in the Mexican Caribbean

Talk with me about:

  • graduate school
  • working in Latin America

My STEM story: A combination of my interests in biology and food, my undergraduate thesis used genetic techniques to examine the species composition of the American shark fin market. Using DNA extracted from fins purchased in San Francisco and from shark fin soup sold in Las Vegas, I was able to identify CITES listed endangered shark species within the domestic market.

Meet Luis Abdala Roberts

Profesor Investigador, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán

Mérida, México

Facebook | Website |



Currently working on: understanding how tree species diversity in forestry plantations influences plant-insect and plant-insect-bird interactions.

Talk with me about:

  • funding options
  • methodological approaches to conducting and disseminating research

My STEM story: My interest in STEM mostly comes from conversations and information on other people’s research.

Remembering Cris Alvaro


Cris Alvaro will be greatly missed, they passed away in early 2018.

They had been based in San Francisco, California

Many people still share memories on Cris’s Facebook page.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing at age 29 of Cris Alvaro, an exceptionally bright and talented scientist and educator, and a beloved member of COPUS. Cris identified as a trans and non-binary person, using the preferred pronouns they/them/their.  Cris was a community builder wherever they went, and had friends all over the nation. A GoFundMe campaign, which was created to honor their memory, exceeded its $30,000 goal.

Cris completed their PhD in 2015 from the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Professor Jeremy Thorner had been their PI. Before their untimely death, they had been an IRACDA Fellow and postdoc in Allan Basbaum’s lab in the Department of Anatomy at UCSF, where they studied differentiation of itch and pain signals in the central nervous system. “Cris Alvaro was one of the brightest, most warm-hearted, deeply caring, and beautiful human beings I have ever known,” said Professor Thorner. “They had the amazing talent of being able to uplift the spirit of every other person with whom they came in contact.”

Cris was also a popular performance artist, participating in performance pieces and drag shows around the SF Bay Area. They believed strongly that scientists should be encouraged to be well-rounded people — that scientists should not only be encouraged to do great research, but also have opportunities to improve their emotional intelligence, mental health, and pursue interests outside of science. They were incredibly supportive of underrepresented individuals in the sciences and were an activitist for the STEM LGBTQ community, as well as students and scientists who were first in their family to attend university, and communities of color.

Cris became a member of the COPUS community when they attended the 2017 January COPUS Unconference in Mexico. They were particularly interested in STEM education/outreach to vulnerable and under-served populations in the US and around the world.

Donations in Cris’s honor may be made to the Cris Alvaro Memorial Fund, which will send proceeds to trans mental health services and racial justice organizations selected by their family.

Cris’s words: My memorable moments that piqued my interest in STEM come largely from my exposure to reach during my undergraduate experience. I did not come from an academic family, and upon entering college I wasn’t aware of STEM job opportunities outside of medicine. My first research experience at Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts college, opened my eyes to the world of research and there I was mentored by a faculty member and fell in love with the scientific process of experimentation and discovery. As an undergrad, I was fortunate to go to a conference where I was able to present my work and be a part of the scientific community. These experiences and the guidance and support I received through the faculty at my undergraduate institution were the memorable experiences I had and allowed me to believe I could be a part of the STEM community.


Meet William R. Swaney

Tribal Education Department Head, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Montana, USA


Currently working on: building partnerships with Flathead Reservation K-12 schools.

Talk with me about:

  • cross-cultural education
  • parental involvement
  • proposal writing

My STEM story: STEM has been a lifelong interest – teaching at Salish Kootenai College (tribal college) I had many moments of connecting with students about STEM.

Meet Monae Verbeke

Senior Research Associate, Institute for Learning Innovation

Portland, Oregon

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | 



Currently working on : a fantastic new science literacy tool, a Head Start program and National Park research.

Talk with me about:

  • collaboration in grant writing
  • initiating new STEM outreach programs
  • increasing existing STEM outreach programs

My STEM story: I suppose there’s no one memorable STEM moment in my life that steered my interests, I was just always the girl in the mud and dog sidekick. It wasn’t until college that I realized there were others like me!

Meet Kimberly Gibson

PhD student in Horticulture and Agronomy, University of California, Davis

Davis, California



Currently working on: studying crop evolution and the impact of domestication on biochemical defense mechanisms in beans.

Talk with me about:

  • outreach/finding an audience
  • curriculum
  • grant writing

My STEM story: One of the most memorable STEM experiences I have had was teaching ecology to sixth grade students from Eastside Preparatory School at Jasper Ridge Biological Reserve. Students were encouraged to ask questions and challenge themselves by thinking about advanced scientific concepts. Over the six week course, I was inspired by the enthusiasm and positive attitude with which my students learned material that is usually taught at the undergraduate level. I have tried to emulate them during my move from a social science background to a biological science PhD.

In 2016 I lived in Merida and worked with Proyecto Itzaes and Centro de Educación Ambiental de la Península Yucateca (CEAPY).

Meet David Ng

Director and Senior Instructor, Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory, University of British Columbia

Vancouver, Canada

email | Twitter


Currently working on: 

  1. research that looks at children’s impressions around creativity and how that fits within scientific contexts (as a way to bridge communities)
  2. exploring game base learning pedagogies (primarily via our Phylo Trading Card Game)
  3. a variety of lab outreach programs that focus on STEM gender equity content
  4. a new project about to start looking at how environmental games can influence advocacy behaviour.

Also, the lab I run is a fully functional science literacy facility with lots of different public programming

Talk with me about:

  • Whether there are any specific strategies worth pursuing to make science outreach more effective in the age where US culture is so factionalized
  • It would also be cool to check in with some of the teachers in the group and see if they have any thoughts about one of our upcoming Phylo decks (this one is on women scientists and engineers) – we have a beta version that we can play with.

My STEM Story: I’ll focus on a recent one that’s been dwelling on my mind: there’s been lots of discussion recently about whether being feisty or civil is the best course of action when trying to reach communities not normally associated with your value systems. Evidence would generally skew towards using civility, but science advocacy folks are generally passionate folks, and so getting outraged (and rightly so) feels more authentic. Is there a line we can toe to bring in the best of both elements?

Meet Jorge Carlos Berny Mier y Teran

Graduate student, University of California – Davis

Davis, California

Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | ResearchGate



Currently working on: improving drought tolerance and productivity of beans.

Talk to me about:

  • Outreach

My STEM Story: A key moment that got me interested in/connected me with science was when I corroborated that Mendelian ratios are true in a segregating population for fruit color in peppers.

Meet Russell Ledet

Ph.D. Candidate, NYU School of Medicine

Co-founder/Board of Directors/Mentor, Clear Direction Mentoring

New York City, New York


Currently working on: Prostate cancer proteomic characterization.

Talk with me about (New York connections preferred):

  • applying for non-profit status in the US
  • fundraising for STEM outreach efforts

My STEM story: While sitting in my very first chemistry course, I continuously answered questions without a calculator. Moments later, my chemistry professor told me, “You will better suited as a scientist or physician. You can do the social work you desire to do there too, but you are good enough to be a scientist.”

Meet Diana Daniela Moreno Santillán

Ph.D student, Instituto Politécnico Nacional

Mexico City, Mexico

Twitter | Facebook | Researchgate



Currently working on: research into the immune system of bats.

Talk with me about:

  • grant writing
  • meetings
  • collaboration research

My STEM story: I have been working in the evolution of the adaptive immune system in mammals for the last 4 years. During my masters I studied the variation of the MHC-II in blue whales from Baja California, Mexico. Now, for my PhD I am studying the transcripts of the MHC-I and the T cell receptors in five families of Bats from Yucatan. This is a huge challenge for me because for the first time I am learning and doing computing analysis.

A great experience for me was the first time I went to an international meeting and presented my thesis advances. I got many questions and I met a lot of researchers that were interested in my results and shared with me their knowledge and experience. That was the day I realized I wanted to do for the rest of my life.