Meet Our Team
HHMI’s Undergraduate and Graduate Programs, a division of the Science Education Department, thoughtfully invests in individuals, communities, programs, and initiatives, in ways that: 1) reflect our core values, 2) capitalize on our unique role within the scientific community, 3) set a high standard for excellence and scholarship, and 4) maximize our impact on science and science education.
David Asai, Senior Director for Science Education
As a rising high school senior, David Asai participated in an NSF-sponsored research experience at the University of Hawai’i, and he liked it. As an undergraduate, David engaged in independent research all twelve quarters and three summers, and he liked it. These opportunities were transformative because of the graduate students who mentored David. David’s current work as Senior Director for Science Education is guided by three beliefs: 1) the dynamic demographics of the U.S. population presents the greatest opportunity and the most compelling challenge for U.S. science, 2) all students—regardless of where they come from and where they’re going—deserve a meaningful, effective, and positive experience in science through which they will better understand the process of science, 3) making that experience meaningful, effective, and positive is the responsibility of the faculty and administrators who define the institution’s culture. David received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Stanford University; a PhD in biology from Caltech; completed postdocs at Caltech and University of California, Santa Barbara. He was a faculty member at Purdue University for 19 years, and spent several years as Head of Biological Sciences. He then spent 5 years at Harvey Mudd College as the Stuart Mudd Professor and Chair of Biology. Research in the "Asailum" focused on the structural and functional diversity of dyneins, and David has mentored 11 PhD and 77 undergraduate students. David came to HHMI in 2008.
William Biederman, Senior Program Assistant
Billy Biederman has more than 15 years of experience working with scientists who express an interest in science education. He supports the science education alliance's professional development efforts, endeavoring to broaden, facilitate, and support the implementation of innovative college-level biology laboratory courses across the country. He also supports the planning and conduct of numerous workshops, field tests, and evaluation projects that inform the ongoing program development. Before joining HHMI, Biederman studied computer science and engineering at the University of Maryland. Biederman keeps an eye on the landscape of the life science education community to find additional opportunities to develop new research-based courses.
Josephine Bynum, Program Assistant
Josephine Bynum's background involves twelve years of experience as the liaison of administrative services and human resources systems processing for a diverse group of editorial professionals in the media industry. Serving in this role has helped her develop a comprehensive approach to working effectively with all levels of staff and leaders. She joined HHMI as Program Assistant in December 2015, working in the Science Education- Undergraduate and Graduate Programs (UGP) group. She provides support to the UGP group by assisting in various aspects of grants initiatives and the HHMI Professors Program meetings and activities. Josephine cares about issues of health and wellness, and is excited about being a part of an organization such as HHMI whose mission involves making a difference in the betterment of public health and society through its support of science education and innovation.
Adriel Darby, Program Assistant
Adriel assists with the Fellowship Programs, including EXROP, Medical Fellows, International- Predoc, and Gilliam. She earned a BS in Communications from Bowie State University and is currently working towards completion of a Masters in Business Administration at the Jack Welch Institute of Management with Strayer University. Although her career path began in the fields of Banking and Finance, Adriel switched career paths and joined the UGP group to pursue her desire to help people from disadvantaged and URM backgrounds have access to HHMI support.
Melanie Daub, Program Officer
Melanie Daub has more than 28 years of experience in the administration of HHMI’s research training programs for medical, dental, and veterinary students. Since 2007 she has managed the HHMI Medical Research Fellows Program, which aims to encourage the development of future physician-, dentist-, and veterinarian-scientists. She has a strong interest in expanding the pipeline of physician-scientists and in creating mentoring and professional development opportunities for trainees. Daub earned an MBA from American University with a concentration in marketing. Prior to joining HHMI, she was an account specialist with a local advertising agency where she developed marketing and public relations campaigns and product development programs. She also served as a sales representative for Bristol Myers Products.
Monica Harrison, Program Assistant
Prior to joining UGP in 2016, Monica provided administrative support for the Director of the Counseling Center and the Chair of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland. Monica earned her BA in Broadcast Management at Howard University, and her career has included 20-plus years working in the media industry, including at WHUR-FM, W*USA-TV9, NBC4 and The Washington Post. After taking some time off to care for her two children, Monica shifted gears and re-entered the workforce as a library media assistant and focus-para educator for Montgomery County Public Schools before her work at University of Maryland. Within UGP, Monica provides support to our Medical Fellows Program.
Danielle Heller, Science Education Fellow
Danielle earned her BS in Microbiology from the University of Arizona and her PhD in Genetics and Genomics from Harvard University. Her dissertation research focused on characterizing a dual inhibitor of bacterial cell division and cell elongation. She did her postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School studying prion biology. During her time at Harvard, Danielle gained extensive experience in science education, working as a teaching assistant for several graduate-level courses and as an adjunct faculty member for several years at neighboring Emmanuel College. She was also co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Emerging Investigators, a graduate student-run organization that strives to teach middle and high school students from across the globe about science writing and the peer review process. At HHMI, Danielle will be working with the Science Education Alliance to develop new research-based curricula that will enable students from diverse backgrounds to engage in authentic scientific discovery.
Priscilla Kobi, Research Assistant
Priscilla Kobi is an interdisciplinary molecular and cell biologist. As an undergrad at the University of Maryland Eastern shore, Priscilla worked on identifying and validating proteins in the tissue of the Anopheles mosquito that could be targeted for control of the mosquito population, as a way to control the propagation of the malaria disease. Priscilla also focused on annotating and correcting the current Anopheles gambiae proteome database. As a graduate student at the University of Delaware, Priscilla studied the role of small GTPase ADP ribosylation factor 6 in embryogenesis using S. purpuratus, also known as the purple sea urchin, as her model organism and earned her MS in 2015. Priscilla brings over 7 year of experience in biomedical research and laboratory management to the Undergraduate and Graduate programs. She works closely with Science Education Alliance (SEA) team to coordinate and execute meetings, workshops, symposia, and the day-to-day operations of the SEA team. In addition, she works to implement new tools to improve laboratory function, orders supplies and equipment, and maintains accurate records of all experiments.
Megan Katz, Program and Special Projects Coordinator
Megan Lassig began working for the Institute in 2010. Prior to HHMI, she was a press assistant for three years in the communications office of former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-12). At HHMI, she manages the Gilliam Fellowships for Advanced Study and the International Student Research Fellowships, and oversees the graduate alumni network. Megan earned her BA in political science from the University of California, Davis, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She is currently obtaining her MPA from American University in Washington, DC, with an emphasis in non-profit management.
Joslynn Lee, Science Education Fellow
Joslynn is of the Diné (Navajo), K’awaika (Laguna Pueblo) and Haak’u (Acoma Pueblo) people. She earned a BS in Biochemistry and Cellular/Molecular Biology from Fort Lewis College, a PhD in Chemistry from Northeastern University and conducted a postdoctoral fellowship at University of Minnesota-Medical School, Duluth campus. Joslynn’s interest in science research started through the MARC program at FLC which led her to pursue a career in science. Prior to her current appointment at HHMI, she was a Data Science Educator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s DNA Learning Center. Her teaching experience in the areas of computational chemistry/biology and data science skills has encouraged her to train bench scientists to better analyze their data. Joslynn cares about training more American Indian/Alaskan Native students and their communities in genomics in a culturally appropriate way. She is active in the ACS, AISES and SACNAS communities. She is excited to be in the Science Education team and bring her expertise to fulfill the mission of HHMI.
Melvina Lewis, Senior Program Assistant
Melvina joined HHMI in 2008 as the Program Assistant working primarily with the Science Education Alliance (SEA), an HHMI undergraduate research-based course developed for students to engage in authentic research. In 2012, she transitioned from the SEA, and now serves as a Senior Program Assistant, responsible for assisting with grant management for special programs, such as the National Experiment in Undergraduate Science Education (NEXUS), Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences (PULSE), and Summer Institutes. She is also responsible for coordinating conferences and meetings hosted by Undergraduate and Graduate Programs. Prior to coming to HHMI, Melvina worked in adult education as a computer instructor/course coordinator. She taught basic software techniques at a private career college in northern Virginia that specialized in Allied heath career training, and she received the Director’s Award for Teaching Excellence. A native of Washington, DC, she received her BA in Communications from Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University).
Susan Musante, Program Officer
Susan is primarily responsible for the Inclusive Excellence undergraduate science education grants competition for four-year colleges and universities. She earned her BS in biology from Hofstra University and her MAEd in science education from Wake Forest University. Susan began her career as an instructor and naturalist at residential environmental and science education centers and as a middle school science teacher in northern Virginia. She shifted her career focus in 1998 to work with undergraduate faculty to improve biology education through professional societies. She worked in education and outreach for the Ecological Society of America and then faculty and curriculum programs for the American Society for Microbiology. Just prior to coming to HHMI, she served as the education director at the American Institute of Biological Sciences where she supported leaders of undergraduate education reform efforts and explored the role of societies and academic leadership in change.
Makeda Perry-Richardson, Programs and Special Project Coordinator
Prior to joining HHMI in 2010, Makeda provided support to Senior and Executive-Level Management in the financial industry and served as the State Alliance Coordinator in the Office of Government Relations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. At HHMI, she supports the Inclusive Excellence program and HHMI Constellation Studios. Makeda earned her BS in communications from Old Dominion University and her MBA from the University of Maryland.
Clifton Poodry, Senior Science Education Fellow
Prior to joining HHMI as a Senior Fellow, Clifton A. Poodry was the Director of the Training, Workforce Development and Diversity Division at the National Institute for General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), NIH. He was responsible for developing and implementing NIGMS's policies and plans for research training programs and capacity building programs that reflect NIGMS' long-standing commitment to research training and the development of a highly capable, diverse biomedical and behavioral research workforce. Dr. Poodry was a Professor of Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he also served in several administrative capacities. He served as the Vice Chair of the NRC Committee in High-School Biology Education that produced an HHMI-supported study on biology education in the nation’s schools. As a professor, Dr. Poodry was involved with NIH sponsored Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) and Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Programs and as a director of an HHMI Undergraduate Biological Sciences program. As a Program Director for Developmental Biology at the National Science Foundation, Poodry developed the minority supplement initiative that was copied widely at NSF and later at NIH. At NIH he developed the Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award in which postdocs, as part of mentored training, teach at minority serving institutions. He also developed a new research program designed to understand the efficacy of interventions and thus inform future planning of student development initiatives. Dr. Poodry is a native of Tonawanda Seneca Indian Reservation in Western New York. He earned both a BA and an MA in Biology at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and received a PhD in Biology from Case Western Reserve University. He has served on the advisory boards of both AISES and SACNAS.
Andrew Quon, Program Officer
Andrew Quon is primarily responsible for the management and development of undergraduate science educational grants to research universities. He also works on the EXceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP), an undergraduate research program placing students from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds into the labs of HHMI scientists. Andrew has extensive experience with and knowledge of science education programs in the United States and has performed analyses on issues in science education and training, with an emphasis on underrepresented minority issues. Andrew has a master's degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and a bachelor's degree in Biology from the Johns Hopkins University.He is currently pursuing a PhD in Education at George Mason University. Prior to joining HHMI, Andrew worked at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) as a Staff and Research Associate in the Division of Biomedical and Health Sciences Research.
Nadia Rueda, Operations Coordinator
Nadia Rueda worked at Children’s National Medical Center for 12 years before joining HHMI. During her last 7 years at Children’s she was the Manager, Patient Experience/Ombudsman. In that role, Nadia worked with patients, families, the medical team and the administration to address complaints and grievances as well as mitigate potential risks and lawsuits to the organization. In her role of Operations Coordinator here at HHMI, one of Nadia’s responsibilities will be to serve as the primary contact person for our local grantees. Nadia is excited to join the UGP team and to be an active participant in growing the diversity of scientists in the community.
Christy Schultz, Program and Special Projects Coordinator
Christy joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in 2008. At HHMI, Christy serves as a Program and Special Projects Coordinator responsible for leading the Exceptional Research Opportunities Program (EXROP) and EXROP Capstone program, science education fellowship initiatives focused on providing select undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds and groups underrepresented in the sciences with outstanding summer research experiences. In addition to her role within the Undergraduate and Graduate Programs group, Christy contributed to the successful launch of the Institute’s volunteer initiative with the goal of providing volunteer opportunities for ~300 potential employees across 11 departments to help neighbors in need. Prior to joining HHMI, Christy worked at The Healthwell Foundation, a group that provided financial assistance to under-insured patients living with chronic and life-altering illnesses - helping them afford their medical treatments. Christy's work focused on client-focused support to health care providers, pharmacies, insurance companies, and patients. Christy has a BA in Art History from Hood College and is currently pursuing a MBA from the University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith School of Business, where she is expected to graduate in December 2017.
Sarah Simmons, Assistant Director
Within the Undergraduate and Graduate programs of HHMI’s Science Education department, Sarah's portfolio encompasses several initiatives including the HHMI Professors program. Sarah joined HHMI in 2014 and prior to that held the position of Assistant Dean for Honors, Research and International Study in the College of Natural Sciences at The University of Texas at Austin where she administered multiple college initiatives, including honors programs, international science initiatives, and undergraduate research. Additionally, she was Director and PI of the HHMI- and NSF-funded Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) - a unique, large-scale program that engages undergraduates in research at The University of Texas at Austin.
Vic Sivanathan is primarily responsible for the Science Education Alliance, a program that offers educators across the country models of research-based curricula to engage college students in true scientific discovery as early as possible in their academic careers. Vic received a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford and was then a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. Vic gained extensive teaching experience at both Oxford and Harvard, and has applied his research as a tool for teaching college students.
Patricia Soochan, Program Officer
Since 1995 Patricia Soochan has served as a Program Officer with primary responsibility for HHMI grants to primarily undergraduate institutions. She served as a councilor for the Council on Undergraduate Research and is a contributing writer for the bimonthly newsletter for the American Women in Science. Prior to joining HHMI, she was a science assistant at the National Science Foundation, a science writer for a contractor to the National Cancer Institute, and a research and development scientist at Life Technologies. She received her BS and MS degrees in biology from George Washington University.
Sonia Zárate, Program Officer
Sonia Zárate, received her BS in Biology from Cal Poly Pomona and her PhD in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology from UC Riverside. Her graduate work looked at defense signaling in Arabidopsis and her postdoctoral studies in Chemical Ecology focused on tri-trophic interactions. Sonia credits the mentorship she received as part of the NIH-funded MBRS undergraduate research program for helping her identify as a scientist. Knowing first-hand the power of mentorship, she has devoted her career to giving back and fostering the next generation of scientific leaders. A long-standing champion for equity and access, she promotes populations traditionally underrepresented in science as a Program Officer for HHMI, as an Executive Board Member for the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and through her involvement with the NIH-funded National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). Prior to her current appointment at HHMI, Sonia was the Director for the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of San Diego (USD) and worked with USD’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity as a Research Analyst. Sonia also served as the Associate Director for the Undergraduate Research Center-Sciences at UCLA and was the founding Adviser for the SACNAS Chapter at UCLA.
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