Speakers

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Marta Dark McNeese – Associate Professor of Physics at Spelman College

Dr. Marta Dark McNeese is an Associate Professor of Physics at Spelman College. She attended the University of Virginia, where she received a BS in Physics. She received the Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working in Laser Biomedical Research Center. She completed a postdoctoral appointment at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Her research interests are in laser interactions with biological tissues and electro-optical effects in biomolecules. She has advised more than 30 undergraduate research students in experimental and computational biophysics research. She is a member of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers. She has also co-chaired the Chemical and Biological Physics section of the National Society of Black Physicists. She has a passion for educational outreach, having volunteered for AAAS STEM Talks and sharing the physics of light, color and sound with local Atlanta elementary school students.

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Gabriela González – Physicist at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory

Dr. Gabriela González is a physicist working on the discovery of gravitational waves with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) team. She was born in Córdoba, Argentina, studied physics at the University of Córdoba, and pursued her Ph.D. in Syracuse University, obtained in 1995. She worked as a staff scientist in the LIGO group at MIT until 1997, when she joined the faculty at Penn State. In 2001 she joined the faculty at LSU, where she is a professor of physics and astronomy. She has received awards from the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society and the National Academy of Sciences, and is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. She has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since it was funded in 1997, served as the elected LSC spokesperson in 2011-2017, and is known for participating in the announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves in 2016. Her work has focused on LIGO instrument development (especially reducing noise sources and tuning alignment systems) and LIGO data calibration and diagnostics, critical to increasing the astrophysical reach of data analysis methods.

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Talat Rahman – Pegasus Professor of Physics at University of Central Florida

Dr. Talat Rahman is the Pegasus Professor of Physics at University of Central Florida. She leads a research group focused on theoretical and computational modeling of complex materials including nanostructured surfaces and biomaterials such as peptides and proteins. The importance of this field is both technological (thin-film growth, nanotechnology for drug delivery, novel materials, catalysis, corrosion, lubrication, etc.) and fundamental. It raises questions about the nature of the bonding between atoms and molecules. As chair of UCF’s physics department, Dr. Rahman led the implementation of new physics education strategies at UCF, enhancing retention and graduation rates of students from historically underrepresented groups. She received a BS in Physics with Honors from Karachi University, her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Rochester, and completed a postdoc in surface physics at the University of California, Irvine, before joining the faculty at Kansas State University. Dr. Rahman joined the Physics Department at UCF as chair in 2006.

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Taeyjuana Curry – Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Taeyjuana Curry received her B.Sc in Physics from the Florida State University in 2006, and her M.Sc degree and Ph.D degree in Physics from the University of Michigan in 2007 and 2012, respectively. Dr. Curry’s thesis research involved the utilization of polymeric and metal nanoparticles for targeted imaging, diagnosis, and therapy of deleterious diseases with an emphasis in cancer research. Dr. Curry joined UMBC as a postdoctoral research fellow in Dr. Zeev Rosenzweig’s lab in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in January 2014. Dr. Curry’s research seeks to understand and mediate the toxicity associated cadmium based, luminescent nanoparticles (“Q-dots”) using both in vitro, in vivo models coupled with various imaging modalities including fluorescent, fluorescent lifetime, and transmission electron microscopy.

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Jasmine Oliver – Medical Physics Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center

Dr. Jasmine Oliver is a native of Valrico, FL. She currently lives in Orlando Florida and works as a medical physics resident at Orlando Health UF Health Cancer Center. Dr. Oliver attended a Historically Black University (HBCU) in Orangeburg, SC. South Carolina State University, to study physics. Dr. Oliver was always interested in the medical field and started her studies as a biology major. However, after the introduction of medical physics, Dr. Oliver changed her major to physics. In May 2011, Dr. Oliver graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics. In August of 2011, she began graduate school at the University of South Florida (USF) to pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Physics with Medical Physics Concentration. In December of 2014 Dr. Oliver received her Master of Science in Physics from the University of South Florida. During her graduate studies, in June of 2014, Dr. Oliver attended the 64th annual Lindau meeting of the Nobel Laureates in Physiology/Medicine in Lindau, Germany. She was one of 20 US participants fully funded by ORAU and Mars, Incorporated. At this meeting Jasmine received mentoring from some of the most distinguished scientists worldwide and interacted with 600 other top graduate students in medicine from the US and 80 other countries. Jasmine chose a career in medicine because she wanted to do impactful work that positively affected the lives of others. In May of 2016 Dr. Oliver became the first black woman to receive a PhD in Applied Physics from USF. Dr. Oliver’s PhD degree program was a joint effort between the Department of Physics at USF and the Department of Radiation Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. Her Dissertation research was, “Increasing 18F-FDG PET/CT Capabilities in Radiotherapy for Lung and Esophageal Cancer via Image Feature Analysis”. This work was conducted under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Zhang and Dr. Eduardo Moros at Moffitt Cancer Center. Dr. Oliver also worked under the direction of Dr. Sarah Hoffe (MD) and Dr. Kujtim Latifi on a study comparing endoscopically-placed fiducial markers versus PET/CT MTVs as routine treatment for esophageal cancer. She pursued medical physics because she finds the physics of radiation therapy fascinating and the application of fundamental physical principles to imaging and treatment of disease relevant and life-changing for numerous patients. Dr. Oliver could not have become accomplished without the help, support, and funding of many people, in particular, her parents, fiancée, family, church family, countless mentors and advisors at both USF and SCSU. Dr. Oliver’s motto is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”.

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Liz Brown – Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of North Florida

Dr. Liz Brown is a social psychologist at the University of North Florida. Her research includes understanding group differences, goals and motivation, system justification, social change, educational psychology, and political psychology in the STEM fields. Dr. Brown received her Ph.D. in social psychology from Miami University in 2011. She was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at Montana State University from 2012-2014 working on Project Cure (The Culture of Undergraduate Research Experiences) before coming to UNF in 2015. She is a co-recipient of the Graduate Student Research Award at the Midwestern Psychological Association (May 2011), a recipient of the Graduate School Dissertation Award, Miami University (November 2010), the co-recipient of the Unger-Freize Poster Award at the Association for Women in Psychology (February 2010), and the recipient of the Love of Learning Award, Phi Kappa Phi (August 2007).

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Erika E. Alexander Brown – Bridge Program Manager at the American Physical Society

Dr. Erika Brown is the Bridge Program Manager at the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland. In this capacity, Brown works with members of the physics community to promote diversity by helping underrepresented minorities successfully transition into physics Ph.D. programs.

Prior to coming to APS, Dr. Brown completed her postdoctoral training at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, studying the importance of specific genetic factors on mammalian inner ear development. During her time at Emory, Dr. Brown was an NIH-funded fellow within the Fellowships in Research and Science Teaching (FIRST) program, developing and teaching several new courses on hearing at the all women’s HBCU, Spelman College. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Brown University, while studying the behavioral and central effects of lateral-line sensory deprivation in bullfrog tadpoles. She is also a proud alum of Spelman College.

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Jami Valentine – Patent Examiner at United States Patent and Trademark Office

Dr. Jami Valentine was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Johns Hopkins University. She engages in many outreach activities, including speaking to young physicists, future scientists and engineers and those interested in non-academic physics careers, especially intellectual property. Dr. Jami founded a website dedicated to African-American women in physics, AAWiP.com. The goal of the website is to honor the women who paved the way, to inspire future physicists, and to connect with all people interested in promoting diversity in Physics and other STEM fields. Jami earned a master’s at Brown University, then went to Johns Hopkins University, where she studied the spin properties of rare earth metals under Professor C.L. Chien. In 2006 she joined the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. She examines patent applications for a wide variety of semiconductor devices. An outstanding primary examiner, she is also a full time telecommuter.

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