The BioInteractive Team
HHMI’s BioInteractive website provides a wide array of free science education resources for the classroom. They are produced by a core team of scientist educators, graphic artists, video producers, and outreach professionals working in close collaboration with science teachers and undergraduate educators, scientists, film producers, animators, and programmers
Director, Educational Media
Laura Bonetta brings over 20 years of experience as a science writer and editor to the educational media team. She works closely with teachers, scientists, graphic designers, and writers to produce a wide range of classroom resources, including two new virtual labs. She also manages the production of HHMI’s award-winning short films for the classroom and serves as the editorial manager for the team.
Bonetta earned a PhD from the University of Toronto, Canada, conducting research on the genetics of Wilms tumor, and then spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK). She left the bench to join the editorial team of Nature magazine in London and has since worked as an editor and writer for several scientific publications, both in print and online. Before joining HHMI, she was a regular contributor to Nature, Science, Cell, and various National Institutes of Health publications.
Director, Education Outreach & Operations
Jennifer Bricken has over a decade of experience working with science educators. She oversees the educational media team’s outreach and teacher professional development efforts focused on dissemination and adoption of BioInteractive resources by high school and college-level life science instructors in the U.S. and abroad. She also directs the teacher ambassador program and Spanish-language initiative.
Bricken studied biology and paleoprimatology at the University of New Mexico. Before joining HHMI, she worked as a consultant matching not-for-profit organizations with corporate partners to scale up public awareness campaigns about issues in healthcare and education. Bricken keeps her finger on the pulse of the life science education community and actively seeks strategic partnerships designed to support and improve science teaching.
Director of Evaluation
Marjee Chmiel is a researcher with expertise in science education, educational technology, and research and evaluation methods. She works with the BioInteractive staff and community on evaluation efforts across a variety of BioInteractive programs and initiatives.
Prior to HHMI, Marjee has worked as a high school chemistry and physics teacher and technology administrator. She left the classroom to work in editorial development award-winning, multi-media science education content, most recently with the Smithsonian Institution. Marjee earned her PhD at George Mason University in research and evaluation, and her MA and BS degrees at Marquette University. She was a Spencer Education Fellow and recently a Fulbright Specialist working in beautiful Bandung, Indonesia.
Senior Program Officer, Multimedia
Since 1997, Satoshi Amagai has been involved in producing the Holiday Lectures on Science and the BioInteractive website. Using his background as both a scientist and an educator, he works closely with a group of scientists, animators, and graphic designers to bring the complex world of biology to life, producing a variety of award-winning multimedia resources including animations, applications, virtual labs, click-and-learn interactive programs, and educational posters.
Before joining HHMI, Amagai studied zoology at the University of Oxford as an undergraduate, received his PhD from Cornell University, studying the brain mechanisms of perception in electric fish, and did postdoctoral research in the auditory physiology of birds at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has extensive teaching experience as both a teaching assistant and a lecturer, and has taught neurobiology, comparative physiology, and general biology.
Program Officer, High School Initiatives
Sydney Bergman worked in urban education prior to joining HHMI. At HHMI, her work involves outreach to high school teachers, particularly those in urban districts; she works with a team of BioInteractive Ambassadors to deliver tailored professional development in a variety of settings. She also helps manage BioInteractive’s social media and newsletter.
Bergman holds undergraduate degrees in biology and writing from the University of Pittsburgh, and a masters degree in teaching from American University. Prior to joining HHMI, she taught biology, AP Biology, and research at a public magnet school in Washington, DC, for almost 10 years. She also was deeply involved in DC public schools’ NGSS roll-out and in the AP Biology teacher community, as well as editing the Unity and Diversity teacher writing project.
Program Officer, Science Education
Bridget Conneely is a wildlife ecologist with over 12 years of experience working with conservation organizations on ecological research and communications. She works with the Educational Media team to produce a variety of classroom resources with a particular focus on environmental science and conservation topics, including the citizen science website WildCam Gorongosa.
Conneely earned her master’s degree in zoology from the University of British Columbia, where she researched the ecology of reintroduced buffalo and wildebeest in Mozambique. Prior to joining HHMI, she spent 9 years working with the Gorongosa Restoration Project, a non-profit organization working to restore Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. In this role, she gained considerable experience communicating science and conservation messages to the public through print, digital, and interactive media.
Program Officer, Higher Education Initiatives
Melissa Csikari has extensive experience in science education. She has taught and developed curriculum in informal as well as formal educational settings. Melissa has instructed biology and earth science courses for students ranging from elementary through college levels. Her focus at HHMI BioInteractive is outreach and content development for undergraduate introductory biology courses.
Csikari holds a master’s degree in Chemical and Life Sciences from the University of Maryland. Prior to joining HHMI BioInteractive, she was an educator for over 10 years in both high school and community college settings. Before she began teaching, Melissa managed a research lab in the cardiology department at the University of Pittsburgh.
Fabian de Kok-Mercado
Art Director, Educational Media and Outreach
Fabian de Kok-Mercado is an internationally recognized medical and scientific illustrator. He works closely with science education specialists to develop rich media for the classroom. He is responsible for managing the production of visual communication and interactive media products created by the Educational Media and Outreach group in HHMI’s Science Education Department.
de Kok-Mercado received his master’s degree in medical and biological illustration at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he researched and visualized the craniocervical anatomy of strigiform birds in relation to neck kinematics. He earned his certification from the Board of Certification of Medical Illustrators. His work has appeared in a myriad of publications and has received numerous awards and accolades from entities such as the Association of Medical Illustrators and the National Science Foundation.
Program Officer, Science Education
Mark Nielsen is an interdisciplinary earth scientist with experience in geology, oceanography, hydrology, microbial ecology, and engineering. He works with the Educational Media team to produce a wide range of classroom resources, including the Holiday Lectures on Science, the critically acclaimed EarthViewer app, and a variety of short films.
Nielsen earned a PhD in oceanography from Oregon State University. He was a National Science Foundation fellow and conducted research on using microbial fuel cells to harvest energy from marine sediments. Following his graduate program he was a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, working on microbial ecosystems at hydrothermal vents. Prior to focusing on scientific research and education, he was a consulting groundwater geologist for a water-resource consulting firm for five years.
Program Officer, Higher Education & Spanish Language Initiatives
Javier Robalino is a scientist and college educator with several years of experience teaching Biology and Molecular Genetics. His work with the Educational Media Group involves interacting with university and community college faculty to encourage the effective implementation of our educational materials in classrooms around the country. He also works with educators who serve Spanish-speaking communities in the US and abroad, to promote our new Spanish teaching resources and improve scientific teaching in these communities.
Robalino earned his MS in marine biotechnology from the University of Maryland, and his PhD in cell and molecular biology from the Medical University of South Carolina. His research interests include the molecular mechanisms and evolution of antiviral defense in arthropods. Before joining HHMI, he did post-doctoral research at the University of Maryland and Stonybrook University, while pursuing his passion for science education as a lecturer in Northern Virginia Community College.
Program Officer, Operations Manager
Chuck Schultz guides the daily operational activities that allow the BioInteractive team to create and disseminate their transformative educational media resources. He oversees all business affairs, including financial, legal, staffing, scheduling, process, control, and support matters.
Schultz utilizes a broad skillset acquired over decades as a scientist and science administrator. He received his PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from the University of Illinois Chicago and conducted research on neutral lipid metabolism at the National Institutes of Health for ten years prior to moving to HHMI in 1999. Schultz has an ongoing interest in science education and has served on instructional advisory committees for his local school board. After 14 years with the HHMI International and Investigator Programs, he welcomed the opportunity to join the BioInteractive team.
Program Officer, Video Production
Christopher Vargas combines his background in science with his experience in video and graphic arts production in his roles as videographer, video editor, DVD author, and streaming video producer for the educational media team. He also oversees technical and logistical aspects of the BioInteractive website, and has recently taken on the duties of postproduction editor for the team’s short films.
Vargas holds a dual BS in biochemistry and integrated science from Northwestern University, and an MS in biology from the University of Michigan. His tenure at an ad agency in Wilmington, Delaware, gave him a background in graphic arts, design, and print and video production. Before joining HHMI, he worked in the IT department of the National Institutes of Health, teaching classes in print and media production and website creation.
Senior Program Assistant
Kim Blanchard worked in the HHMI communications department from 1988 to 2003, rising from administrative assistant to manager of administration and special projects. Blanchard has returned to HHMI to join BioInteractive’s outreach team where she coordinates logistical support for educator meetings and events. She also provides administrative support to the whole BioInteractive team.
Blanchard earned a BS with honors from Frostburg State University and completed graduate coursework in business administration at Florida Institute of Technology and The Johns Hopkins University.
Amy Dinerman recently graduated from the University of Florida with her MS in Animal Sciences. She has assisted in teaching undergraduate courses in equine genetics, health, management and training. At HHMI, Dinerman executes evaluation data analysis in addition to providing support for both public and educational outreach events and performing administrative duties.
Dinerman graduated from Cornell University with her BS in Animal Science prior to obtaining her MS at the University of Florida. Her research focused on equine genetics and behavior, specifically investigating the startle response and associated genetic polymorphisms.