Fall 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 4

This issue of the Newsletter will be available as a PDF:


For archived versions of previous newsletters, go here.


Dear AWIS-SD Members & Friends,

The Association for Women in Science, San Diego chapter (AWIS-SD) Open House on Thursday, October 27th was a huge success, thanks to the committee members who organized it.  Food and drink were enjoyed by all.

Many new people attended to see what AWIS-SD is all about.  We welcome all those who have joined AWIS-SD as new members or renewed their membership.  If you have not yet joined AWIS-SD, please visit this page, and consider joining us. 

To work on a skill that you would like to develop, such as leadership, organizing, explaining science, or writing, consider becoming a part of an AWIS-SD committee.

For me the best part of the Open House was handing out the awards for our outstanding volunteers.  Here are the AWIS-SD outstanding volunteers for 2016.

Achievement in InnovationFor initiating the best new idea to advance and enhance the Chapter events, activities, and community service and for demonstrating initiative, promotion and follow-through with implementation of the idea:

  • Anne Kornahrens
  • Robyn Wygal
  • Joanna Redfern










Left to right:  Robyn Wygal, Anne Kornahrens, DeeAnn Visk, Dominique Lenoir, and Joanna Redfern

Photo credit:  Sophie Muscat-King and Elizabeth Jacobs

Anne and Robyn worked on updating the mission statement for the Outreach Committee to be more inclusive.  Joanna got a new Coffee Club, Academia to Industry, off the ground; she and her co-organizer, Juliati, have set up tours of local biotech companies.

Rookies of the Year.  For the new Chapter member who demonstrated a commitment to advancing the goals of the organization by volunteering efforts, providing ideas, and promoting the organization

outside of AWIS:

  • Elizabeth Jacobs
  • Ksenya Cohen-Katsenelson










Left to right:  Ksenya Cohen-Katsenelson, Elizabeth Jacobs, and DeeAnn Visk

Photo credit: Sophie Muscat-King

Elizabeth has worked hard on the Outreach Committee and was Co-Chair of the Open House Committee. Ksenya has worked on the Newsletter Committee with numerous submitted articles and the Strategy Sessions Committee.

Achievement in Outreach or Community Service. For making a contribution, on behalf of AWIS-SD, to the San Diego community to advance and promote the role of women working in science and technology

  • Kristin Bompiani-Myers
  • Miriam Cohen










Left to right:  Miriam Cohen, Kristin Bompiani-Myers, and DeeAnn Visk

Photo credit:  Elizabeth Jacobs and Sophie Muscat-King

Kristin and Miriam have volunteered many hours on the Outreach Committee; I attended the Awards Dinner in March for the winners of the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair and was very impressed.

Leadership Service. For the Chapter members who demonstrated leadership skills to encourage active participation of other members and for advancing the goals and visibility of the San Diego Chapter:

  • Corine Lau
  • Sophie Muscat-King










Left to right:  Corine Lau and Sophie Muscat-King

Photo credit:  Elizabeth Jacobs

Corine stepped up and took up a Newsletter Committee Co-Chair position; additionally, she has served several years on the AWIS-SD board. Sophie has served for two years on the Open House Committee; this year she also became Co-Chair of the Public Relations Committee, reviving the group.

Outstanding Volunteers. For being an active and enthusiastic member who continuously extends assistance with projects, promotes AWIS, offers creative ideas, and serves on committees

  • Juliati Rahajeng
  • Melissa Scranton

pres letter 5









Left to right:  Melissa Scranton, Juliati Rahajeng, and DeeAnn Visk

Photo credit:  Elizabeth Jacobs and Sophie Muscat-King

Juliati also volunteered to become a Co-Chair of the Newsletter Committee; she is the co-organizer of the Academia to Industry Coffee Club and has served on the Open House Committee for two years. Melissa stepped up and filled the need for a coordinator for the Family Fun event in July as well as becoming a Co-Chair of the Events Committee.

Board Special Awards.  Awarded to the Chapter member whom the AWIS-San Diego Board recognizes as exemplifying the AWIS-San Diego mission through excellence in leadership, community service, innovation, and promoting AWIS-San Diego:

  • Eva Goellner
  • Eileen Collyer
  • Risa Broyer










Left to right:  DeeAnn Visk, Eva Goellner, Risa Broyer,  Eileen Collyer

Photo credit:  Sophie Muscat-King and Elizabeth Jacobs

Eva, Eileen, and Risa served together as Co-Chairs of the Scholarship Committee, determining who received an AWIS-SD scholarship. Without flinching, they took on the added responsibility of organizing the High Tea Scholars Celebration event.

President's Award

  • Dorothy Sears
  • Dominique Lenoir

 pres letter 7








Left to right:  DeeAnn Visk, Dominique Lenoir.  Not pictured:  Dorothy Sears.

Photo credit:  Elizabeth Jacobs and Sophie Muscat-King

Dorothy (Dody) and Dominique have been long time members of AWIS-SD. Dody has served as president of the chapter and Dominique is always behind the registration table at numerous events.

A big thanks to our sponsors who attended: UCSD Extension with Shannon McDonald and WestPac Wealth Partners with Sheena Sahni. UCSD Extension/ AWIS-SD Back to Work Initiative recognized their scholarship winners: Kerstin Kirchsteiger and Tulin Evizi. Also, a big thanks to Qualcomm, which provided the venue at no charge. The silent auction raised $790 for our scholarship fund.

AWIS-SD is run completely by volunteers.  To all the persons who volunteer for AWIS-SD, heartfelt thanks for all your hard work.



DeeAnn Visk, President AWIS-SD

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

P.S. If you want to become more active in AWIS-SD, please consider joining the planning committee for the Women in Science and Technology (WIST) conference:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The International Space Station (ISS) R&D Conference

By Alex Clark

Institutes near the ocean in San Diego have some competition for “Best view from the lab window.” Research is taking place roughly 250 miles/400 km above our heads on the International Space Station, an orbital multinational research laboratory that treats its occupants to stunning views of the Earth and 16 sunsets per day. 

This past February, I submitted an application to join them, as did over 18,000 other would-be space travelers. My reason? I believe strongly in the space program and its mission to explore outward and to bring helpful technologies developed for space back to benefit life on Earth.  Therefore, when I learned that the ISS R&D Conference was to be held in San Diego this year and that the last day would be open to the public, I enthusiastically volunteered to attend. The ISS Research Conference turned out to be part scientific meeting and part public outreach event, featuring scientific talks and keynotes by astronauts, technology demonstrations for kids, a live chat (via HAM radio) with an astronaut on the space station, and an inspiring panel addressing gender barriers in STEM.

Anna-Sophia Boguraev, high school student and winner of the 2015 Genes in Space competition, answered the question of whether a PCR reaction could be performed in microgravity. Genes in Space is a STEM contest for students (grades 7-12) to solve problems related to genetics research in space.  As part of the broader goal of mapping epigenetic changes in immune system genes of astronauts during flight, Boguraev worked with a mentor to design a device to perform the first PCR reaction in space.  Attempting to do it the conventional way would result in tubes, pipets, and samples floating off, so Anna-Sophia presented her solution, a compact, enclosed device that launched to the space station in April.  It was used to perform PCR in space for the first time.  Following closely after the first PCR came the first DNA sequencing experiment, performed in August by NASA astronaut and UC San Diego alumna, Kate Rubins.

Outside the scientific talks, a show-and-tell to the public took place.  An amateur radio operator from ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) successfully made contact with the ISS, and a group of grinning kids lined up to ask questions and get responses from an astronaut.   One popular booth in the room allowed attendees’ photo to be displayed on a monitor aboard the space station for a few minutes while a camera aimed at this monitor transmitted the image of “you on the station” back to the booth.  This was a thrill to see and seemed equally impressive to both children and adults.

Boguraev and two other women in the space industry later sat on the panel “Breaking STEM Gender Barriers at 17,000 MPH: Women in STEM on the International Space Station.”  These three panelists discussed how they overcame barriers to their success. “You have to call people out,” said Anna-Sophia when asked about how to deal with subconscious gender bias.  Former NASA astronaut Dr. Millie Hughes-Fulford, who spent time on the space station, cited female role models on TV for her interest in science.

Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering and Engineered Systems Segment at Teledyne Technologies, said that parental encouragement was extremely important and recalled being told “You can do it.” 


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Caption: Panelists speaking about “Breaking STEM Gender Barriers at 17,000 MPH: Women in STEM on the International Space Station.” 


At the end of the Q&A section, a young girl was patiently waiting her turn at the microphone.  The session was ending, but someone stood up behind her and signaled to the moderator that her question must be taken.  It was inspiring to see the professionals attending the conference put their words into an action that showed a potential future scientist that yes, she is welcome.

“Space right now is this big question mark we’re filling in, and if we fill it in with girls as well, then there is nothing they won’t be able to do in the future”

-Anna-Sophia Boguraev, Genes in Space 2015 Winner




 AWIS-SD Outreach – Maker Faire 2016

By Miriam Cohen and Vanessa Langness

The second annual San Diego Maker Faire brought together technology enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” were in Balboa Park on October 1st and 2nd to show what they have made and to share what they have learned with thousands of spectators.

AWIS-SD Outreach Committee hosted a booth inside the Natural History Museum. Outreach Committee members Vanessa Langness and Miriam Cohen organized the booth, featuring a demonstration of the chemistry of batteries. The visitors to the booth were able to make copper-zinc batteries from potatoes, lemons, brussel sprouts and soda. Visitors measured and compared the voltage and current produced by each of these food items, and assembled a larger battery that could light a small LED light bulb. We also highlighted the contribution of women to key developments in battery science including the long cycle-life nickel-hydrogen batteries (Olga Gonzales-Sanabia) that are used in space station power systems, and small batteries for medical applications (Esther Takeuchi), such as an implantable defibrillator.


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Caption: AWIS-SD at the Maker Faire.

The Outreach Committee would like to extend a special thanks to the volunteers and organizers who made this event a truly successful and rewarding experience. Interested in participating next year? Stay posted on AWIS-SD events: http://www.awissd.org/index.php/all-events/events-calendar.
Interested in running this workshop for a different event? Check out http://www.awissd.org/index.php/page/outreach-resources.

 Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club - A Visit with Dr. Corine Lau

By Joanna Redfern

On August 5th, Corine Lau came to the Academia 2 Industry (A2I) coffee club’s monthly meeting to share with the group her experience of transitioning from academia to industry.

In 2004, Corine moved to San Diego for a post-doc position at UCSD in molecular/cellular biology, specifically in the area of eukaryotic cell biology and nuclear assembly. After completing her post-doc, she took time off from research to start and raise her family. During this time, she began exploring career paths that would help her transition into industry. This is where Corine’s advice to maintain the connections you make came to fruition for her.

 One of Corine’s colleagues from graduate school, who operated a scientific writing and editing company (BioMed Bridge), offered Corine a contract position as a scientific writer with the option of working from home.  This position enabled her to learn the ropes for scientific writing and editing while she wrote articles for the Nature Publishing Group website. Corine also worked from home for Pharmascouts as a scientific recruiter, and BIOBASE (now part of Qiagen) as a scientific curator. This latter job required reading and summarizing recent research articles for the BIOBASE knowledge database.

 In 2014, yet another colleague from graduate school helped Corine land an interview at Pathway Genomics, and eventually a position with the company. She worked as a scientific writer initially, but an opportunity arose and Corine moved into a position in product management. This was a position Corine really enjoyed because she understood the science behind the product, and that expertise helped with positioning the product for market. Corine let the A2I group know that the most challenging part of product management was coordinating with various teams of the company including: product development (R&D), software engineering, business development, marketing and sales teams, and also acting as the scientific expert when interacting with potential clients. Corine also made the distinction that Product management is different from Project management, which has a stronger focus on product development timelines and overseeing projects to completion.

 After a year plus with Pathway Genomics, Corine looked into a position at Human Longevity Inc. (HLI). Once again, a friend at HLI was the key to getting her foot in the door, and Corine landed her current position at HLI’s Oncology Department 8 months ago.  HLI is an exciting biotech start-up and aims to lead personalized healthcare through whole genome sequencing combined with phenotypic data analysis. HLI has expanded its workforce rapidly in the past year. In Corine’s current position as a cancer genomics scientist, she analyzes the genetic variations present in cancerous tumors. Together with her team, they plan to provide tumor profiling that can lead to individualized cancer treatments.

 After speaking to us about her experience moving into a career in industry, Corine also fielded a number of questions from A2I members including:

How easy is it to move up (within a company) as opposed to (moving) laterally?

  • Document everything you have accomplished, and let that be known during your performance reviews (usually done quarterly). Ultimately, it is your managers and colleagues who know you and your accomplishments that can help you move up.

What were the challenges of moving from scientific writer to product manager?

  • Talking to customers was the toughest thing to learn. Communication both within (the company) and to outside people (customers) is key. Always know what your audience wants.

Do people get published in industry jobs?

  • Primarily people in the R&D section get their results published, not really in other areas of the business. However, publishing in good journals help validates the scientific findings and help the company gain trust from the stakeholders.

What is job stability like in Industry?

  • There is not a lot of stability in start-up companies. You need to find what your special skill is and keep that in mind all the time. You need to be flexible and take on different hats/roles (even ones you might not be comfortable with). Look into working with other groups so they know you exist and are worthwhile to their group.

How flexible is HLI about working from home?

  • HLI has a flexible work environment and people can work from home.

 AWIS-SD Strategy Session: Projecting Your Time Management Skills

By Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

August’s AWIS-SD Strategy Session was presented by a special guest, Melanie Nelson.

Melanie is a project manager with a PhD in biochemistry, which she earned from the Scripps Research Institute in 1999. She was a scientist in several biotech companies. Melanie has a remarkable career in project management: she has been a department head in Ambrx, and up until early 2014, she was a group leader in scientific informatics at Dart Neuroscience. Since then, she has worked as an independent contractor and consultant providing services in scientific informatics and project management. Melanie has a blog about management, productivity, science, software… and the intersection of all those things. http://beyondmanaging.com/. You can also find information about the consulting services she provides on her blog. She also writes a monthly column for Chronicle Vitae.

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Caption: Melanie Nelson talking about time management. 

Melanie gave some useful advice on good time management:

  • The first step is to recognize that everyone has a work limit – over-working leads to mistakes and these mistakes cost time and money.
  • The good news is that you CAN improve your time management, but first you need to want to do so, and then discipline yourself.
  • The next step is to diagnose your time management challenges.. Sit down and write all the issues that can lead to your time problems such as easy distractions, over-committing, procrastination, etc. The best way to do so is to track your time during the day using either an app (such as Kanban board, Toggl) or just a notebook, or Excel spreadsheet. That way you can easily analyze your results, make the necessary changes, and then repeat and see if you solved the problem and earned more time. Remember to be honest with yourself, as no one else will see these results.
  • Analyzing the results from time tracking – If your time looks fragmented that can be suboptimal. Also try to make the best use of your most productive time. The goal of your time management is also to control the things that make you feel stressed.
  • Tools and strategies for your problems – This helps to avoid emergencies. You should always have a plan on how you will spend your time. Set intermediate deadline or goals. Have a to-do list based on your priorities, either on paper or electronically. Use your calendar. Improve your estimates to avoid over-scheduling. It is also very important to take real breaks to avoid overwork. Go for a walk during the day, take evenings and weekends off. Also, if you must bring work home, write an “only do this” list.

And one should always remember why time management is important. It is not just to be more productive, but also to make time for ALL the things that matter to you!


 Human Longevity Inc. Tour

By Juliati Rahajeng and Joanna Redfern

AWIS-SD members toured Human Longevity Inc. (HLI) on September 14, 2016. The tour was hosted by AWIS members Corine Lau and Ericka Anderson. Lau, who is also the co-chair of the Newsletter Committee for AWIS-SD, organized the tour with Joanna Redfern, co-chair of the Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club. HLI was co-founded by J. Craig Venter, Robert Hariri, and Peter H. Diamandis in 2013.

The tour began with a presentation by Ashley van Zeeland, the Chief Technology Officer at HLI. van Zeeland briefly described the trajectory of her career from academic research to industry, beginning with studying neuroscience at University of California, Los Angeles, a post-doc at Scripps Translational Science Institute, and earning her Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) at University of California, San Diego’s Rady School or Management. After earning her MBA, van Zeeland co-founded Cypher Genomics in 2011. In 2015, Cypher Genomics was acquired by HLI, and van Zeeland began working at HLI as the head of Pediatric Research. van Zeeland’s advice for women who want to transition from academia to industry is to think more practically. In industry, it is not possible to pursue all avenues of interest due to monetary constraints. It is very important to understand what the angle for development of a new product is from the business side. Value drives business, so it is important to identify avenues and applications that will produce successful products quickly.

van Zeeland is really interested in the area between discovery (from research) of something new and turning the discovery into a new product. In this area, there is a number of areas of expertise to work within, including early testing, validation, development, licensing and technology transfer, and programs. Business is interested in value. 

HLI’s mission is to generate the world’s most comprehensive genomic and phenotypic datasets in an effort to assist in fighting various diseases, such as cancer, dementia, obesity, and liver and heart diseases. HLI wants to change the practice of medicine, making it more preventative and genomics-based. HLI is focusing on four trends that have recently converged to drive their model of heath care. These four trends include reduced sequencing costs for whole genome sequencing, machine learning, computational power (and utilizing the cloud), and value-based care. HLI is focused on heath assessments for individuals who want to optimize their well being based on their genome and whole body scans. The company is also working in oncology and with children with rare diseases. For oncology, genome sequencing of tumors is utilized in an effort to identify mutations unique to the tumors, which may be useful in identifying treatments for the patients. For children with rare diseases, whole exome sequencing is currently being used to analyze patients with rare diseases. HLI currently collaborates with hospitals, academic institutions, and pharmaceutical industries, including Celgene and AstraZeneca.

After van Zeeland’s presentation, we went to the Health Nucleus facility, which combines whole genome data with metabolomic, microbiome, personal health history, and physical data of patients, such as ECG, full-body MRI, and bone density imaging, to provide a comprehensive health evaluation. CorTechs Labs assists HLI in providing advanced imaging analysis. Understanding the status of all microbes that live in our body is crucial in providing better therapeutic approaches in fighting diseases. In addition, the metabolome can be used as a measure of a patient phenotype since it shows the interaction between the patient genome and the environment. Currently, HLI is collaborating with Metabolon Inc. to identify changes in patient biochemicals linked to end points of disease and gene mutations.

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Caption: AWIS-SD Academic 2 Industry members touring the Health Nucleus at Human Longevity, Inc.

Our final stop was the sequencing facility, where we learned how patient samples are processed to generate whole genome data. DNA extraction of samples obtained from various sources, such as academic labs and pharmaceutical companies, are performed before going through library preparation and PCR. Once the PCR product passes quality control, it is subjected to sequencing. HLI owns 24 HiSeqX Ten Sequencing Systems (Illumina), which can generate 40,000 human genomes per year.

AWIS-SD attends the 96th AAAS Pacific Division Annual Meeting at USD

By Elizabeth Jacobs

AWIS-San Diego attended the 2016 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Pacific Division Annual Meeting themed ‘Engaging Science’ on June 14-16. This year’s events took place at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego. Established in 1949, the University of San Diego is a private Catholic university located in the beautiful Alcalá Park in Linda Vista. The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies opened in 2007 and offers degrees which support students wishing to bring peace, justice and safety to our world. The 2016 conference was both the centennial celebration of AAAS in the west, and also the 96th annual event. Conference goers were interested to hear that the event was cancelled for several years during the Second World War, accounting for the four year gap!  The inaugural AAAS Pacific Division Annual Conference also occurred in San Diego in 1916, with Albert Einstein as one of the most widely recognized participants.  On this occasion Einstein disclosed calculations, based on his theory of relativity, proposing the existence of gravitational waves. Exactly 100 years later, in February 2016, scientists working on the LIGO (Laser Inferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) project announced their observation of these tiny waves at a press conference in Washington D.C. What a wonderful event to have participated in!

Members of the AWIS San Diego Public Relations Committee (Robyn Wygal, Elizabeth Jacobs, Elena Rubio de la Torre, Lori Yang and AWIS SD president DeeAnn Visk) represented our local chapter each day of the conference. Our table featured information on local and national AWIS initiatives, and invited guests to participate in a raffle by providing an email address. The raffle prize included an AWIS-SD travel coffee tumbler, notebook, pen and DVD (National Geographic’s Mysteries of the Unseen World) provided by our sponsor FEI. Conference guests from the San Diego area were provided with information regarding local and national membership details and upcoming chapter events. In addition, we were able to supply information about chapters across the United States to those who travelled to San Diego for the conference. To our surprise, we learned about an affiliate chapter of AWIS in Greece featured on the AWIS National website! 


AAAS Jun2016

Caption:  Robyn Wygal (left) and Elizabeth Jacobs (right) during AAAS registration

News Ticker

By Alyson Smith

  •  TSRI chemist Jin-Quan Yu has been named as one of the 23 2016 MacArthur Fellows. His research focuses on the use of palladium catalysts as a more efficient method to break carbon-hydrogen bonds and synthesize new molecules. He hopes to use the MacArthur “genius grant” stipend to explore ways of using less expensive metals, such as copper or iron, as catalysts.

  •  San Diego-based AmpliPhi Biosciences Corporation is developing a bacteriophage therapy for Staphylococcus aureus infection. Use of this therapy, which consists of a cocktail of three viruses that infect S. aureus, could reduce dependence on antibiotics and treat infections by strains that have developed antibiotic resistance. AmpliPhi successfully completed a Phase I safety trial of this therapy and is also developing therapies to fight other drug-resistant species such as Clostridium difficile.

  • In late August, UCSD professor and recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry Roger Tsien passed away unexpectedly. Tsien shared the Nobel Prize with Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie for adapting the green fluorescent protein found in jellyfish as a research tool. Tsien used his knowledge of chemistry to make GFP glow more brightly and consistently, and to create fluorescent proteins in a broad range of colors. He will be remembered by scientists in San Diego and around the world for his important contributions to the study of protein function and for his keen intellect and creativity.

  •  Four UCSD neuroscience labs recently received $2.27 million from the NIH as part of the Obama administration’s BRAIN Initiative. The funded research will focus on neuronal connections in the brain stem and on new ways of imaging the brain. This grant will bring the total amount of BRAIN Initiative funding for UCSD scientists to over $6 million.

  •  San Diego-based Ventrix has conducted the first tests of a new treatment for heart attack-induced cardiac damage in people. The treatment, termed VentriGel, consists of matrix proteins from pig hearts that form a scaffold when injected into the site of damage in the heart.  Newly formed heart cells can migrate onto this scaffold and integrate with the rest of the tissue. VentriGel has shown promising signs of working in the first two people it was tested in.

  •  UC San Diego has launched a campus-wide collaborative initiative to fight climate change termed the Deep Decarbonization Initiative. This initiative aims to develop politically and economically practical methods to reduce global carbon emissions to as close to zero as possible. It will include new grants, courses, and research seminars.

  •  Neal Driscoll, Scripps Institution of Oceanography professor of geology and geophysics, has discovered a new fault line 120 miles east of San Diego. This new fault, termed the Salton Trough Fault, runs parallel to the San Andreas Fault. It appears geologically active and could be up to 25 miles long, enough to produce a large-magnitude earthquake.

  •  San Diego scientists Cheryl Ann Marie Anderson, James F. Sallis, Jr., and J. Craig Venter have been elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Anderson and Sallis are both professors of family medicine and public health at UCSD, where Anderson studies nutrition and chronic disease prevention and Sallis studies physical activity and obesity. Venter spearheaded efforts to sequence the first human genome and founded the J. Craig Venter Institute and Human Longevity, Inc. 

  •  Scripps Translational Science Institute researcher Ali Torkamani and colleagues recently published a study on mutations related to sudden death. In 68 percent of the cases studied, the researchers found mutations that they classified as likely, plausible, or speculative as causes of sudden death, thus providing more information and potential targets for genetic testing for the family members of the deceased.

Member News

Leslie Crews, Ph.D., co-chair of Strategy Sessions Committee, recently published an article titled “RNA Splicing Modulation Selectively Impairs Leukemia Stem Cell Maintenance in Secondary Human AML” in Cell Stem Cell. Click on the link for the article [http://www.sciencedirect.com/ science/article/pii/ S1934590916302508] and for the press release [https://health.ucsd.edu/news/ releases/Pages/2016-08-26-new- way-to-identify-and-target- malignant-aging-in-leukemia. aspx].

Laurel KeyesPh.D.,Corporate Sponsorship Committee Member, recently found her dream job as a Research Scientist at Quantum Applied Science and Research, Inc. (QUASAR) after taking a leave of absence to start her family.  The role includes performing original research, researching innovative applications for non-invasive electrophysiological measurement systems, and securing funding for development and commercialization through grant writing.

Elena Rubio de La Torre, Ph.D., Public Relations Committee member, is now an application scientist at NanoCellect Biomedical, Inc.


About the Authors


 Alex Clark ISSconf





Alex Clark is a postdoc at UCSD in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine studying host-viral interactions during Zika Virus and Human Cytomegalovirus infections. She became a member of AWIS-SD in 2014.   Alex has been Co-Chair of the Website Committee since 2015 and also served on the WIST 2015 Committee.

 mariam cohen





Miriam Cohen received a PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, and pursued postdoctoral training at UC San Diego. She has a passion for education and is a Medical Writer at Arbor Scientia Group in Carlsbad. Miriam is an active member of the AWIS-SD Outreach and Corporate Sponsorship committees, where she coordinates and executes fun science activities for the public. 

 Vanessa Langness






Vanessa Langness moved to San Diego after completing her BS at MSUDenver where she double majored in chemistry and biology. She is now a PhD candidate in the Biomedical Sciences Program at UC San Diego. She is using neurons derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to study the role of cholesterol in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis. Vanessa is an active member of the AWIS San Diego Outreach Committee.








Joanna Redfern studied molecular evolution of Ocotillo plants and their relatives during her doctoral studies at the University of New Mexico (UNM). As a post-doc at UNM, she employed next-generation sequencing of soil samples to search for novel ligase enzymes with potential applications in biofuels. Presently, she teaches Introductory Biology at both Miramar and Cuyamaca Colleges. Joanna also started the AWIS-SD Academia 2 Industry Coffee Club this past January.



Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. To further enhance her research career, she relocated to San Diego for a postdoc at UCSD. She has a strong background in signal transduction pathways, and a broad range of experience in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology techniques. Outside the lab she loves hiking and boogie boarding with her husband and daughter, and enjoys social events with friends.



Juliati Rahajeng received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska, Medical Center in 2011. She joined UCSD School of Medicine as a postdoctoral researcher one month after her graduation. Juliati has been a member of AWIS-SD for the past 3 years. She is currently an active member of the Scholarship and the Newsletter committees. She was also a member of the AWIS-SD Open House 2015 committee.










Elizabeth Jacobs is a postdoctoral research associate at The Scripps Research Institute, where she develops antibody-drug conjugates of Duocarmycin SA in collaboration with Bristol-Myers Squibb. She received her Bachelor’s degree through the College Scholars Program at The University of Tennessee in 2009 and completed her PhD at The University of East Anglia in 2014. She has been an AWIS member since 2015 and serves as the San Diego Chapter Outreach Committee Social Media Manager and Public Relations Committee Co-chair. She would like to use her experience in research to promote positive change in early STEM education.





Winter 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 1

This issue of the Newsletter is available as a PDF:


For archived versions of previous newsletters, go here. 

Letter from the President

Dear AWIS-SD Members & Friends,

Happy 2016. I hope the New Year finds you all well and looking forward to more professional growth. AWIS-SD offers many opportunities to assist you in attaining your goals. We offer many different committees to serve the local needs of members. These committees range from assembling this newsletter to reaching out to aspiring scientists.

Why join a committee? I found that my “soft skills,” those difficult to measure, such as the qualities of communication, leadership, and management, really grew once I joined a committee. Yes, it was, the Newsletter Committee, but now as president, I have to work on not having any favorite “children” by loving all the AWIS-SD committees equally.

One committee in need of members and co-chairs is the Public Relations Committee. Skills gained by work as the Co-Chair of this committee include the following:

  • Communication: send out periodic communication through Constant Contact of upcoming AWIS-SD events
  • Leadership: organize regular committee meetings to discuss business
  • Promotion: represent AWIS-SD at local science events

These skills are honed by coordinating volunteers to represent AWIS SD at local science events, scheduling monthly meetings to discuss committee business, monitoring promotional material supplies (ordering more when running low), emailing welcome notes to new AWIS SD members, and composing an event list to be mailed twice a month to members and interested non-members. Does this require a time commitment? Of course! I estimate that each co-chair will spend about 10 hours a month on these items.

Based on my own experience, I can attest that I really began building my soft skills—lab work is so often merely the technical skills of science—when I became more active in an AWIS-SD committee.

The other benefit of joining an AWIS-SD committee is the supportive environment that encourages committee members to learn something new.

This is a good place to try something that you have never done before.

With that thought, I invite you to look at all the committees that comprise AWIS-SD (http://www.awissd.org/index.php/about/committees), find one that interests you, and join it.

All the best,


DeeAnn Visk

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A Few Tips from the Career Development Programs at the ASCB Annual Meeting

By Juliati Rahajeng

Overwhelmed. That was the feeling that I had when I looked at daily schedule of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) Annual Meeting in December 2015. There were so many activities that include symposia, mini-symposia, micro-symposia and poster presentations that took place every single day. However, those are not the only activities available during the meeting. There were exhibitor tech talks, science discussion tables, table talks, workshops, CV review, immigration advice, career coaches and various career development programs.

Some of the career development programs that occurred during the ASCB meeting were organized by The Committee for Postdocs and Graduate Students (COMPASS), who represents young scientists within the ASCB community. One of programs that I attended was about “Delivering Science: Effective Communication Skills to Become a Successful Scientist”. A panel that consists of several faculty members and postdocs gave tips on how to make good presentations and chalk talks. They emphasized the importance on knowing your audience and presenting them with enough background. Convincing your audience on why your research is important and exciting is also crucial. Practicing your presentations with your peers is critical in polishing your presentation skills. An important note from one of the panelists was to attend as many seminars as you can, analyze them and think about what make them effective seminars. The panelists recommended several books to read, such as “How to Give a Talk” by David Stern, and “Houston, We Have a Narrative” by Randy Olson and “Don’t Be Such a Scientist,” which was also written by Randy Olson.

Another topic that was also organized by COMPASS was about “Making the Most of the Annual Meeting” presented by Natalie Lundsten, PhD, who is the Director of Career Development at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. When attending a meeting, she encouraged us to communicate with other attendees because sometimes having conversations with them can be more valuable than attending a session.

Conversations and connections created during scientific meetings can be the beginning of relationships that you can build upon. Therefore, communicating with other attendees needs to be considered as “net-friending” instead of “networking.” Talking about the weather with other attendees, asking their opinions about the meeting in general or on a certain talk or poster are great conversation starters. If you have a particular person in mind that you want to talk to, you can start by saying “I’ve been wanting to meet you.” In addition, she suggested practice talking with the exhibitors. You can practice introductions, greetings, eye contact with them and asking questions about their products that may be applicable to your current research. Natalie recommended a book to read called “Networking for Nerds: Find, Access and Hidden Game-Changing Career Opportunities Everywhere” by Alaina Levine.

November Focus Session

By DeeAnn Visk

The November strategy session was a special workshop aimed at developing a strong resume. Beginning with the basics, the speaker, Beth Cisar, recommended that your name and contact information appear in a large, bold font on top. This could be followed with a summary, which is useful if entering into a new field or making a career change. Next come section headings, e.g., Experience, Education, Awards, Sample publications, in bold or larger-point font. Cisar also recommended a simple 11- or 12-point font, a maximum of two pages, and keeping the content, clear, concise, and easy to read or skim.

Listing the do’s and don’ts, Cisar advised:

  • Do tailor your resume for each position to which you apply in order, highlighting the most relevant info.
  • Do get your resume reviewed by others.
  • Do promote yourself shamelessly, include all honors, awards, accolades, and highlight your biggest responsibilities and accomplishments.
  • Don’t include fun but irrelevant info such as hobbies and outside interests.
  • Don’t include a keyword section.
  • Don’t include anything that you are not prepared to answer questions about.

The workshop concluded with small group discussions of resumes that participants brought with them.

AWIS Outreach—Exploring Careers in STEM

A career exploration and networking luncheon for young women interested in STEM

By Anne Kornahrens

This past November, AWIS-SD Outreach had the opportunity to connect female students to local women in STEM careers. In the process, the Outreach Committee inspired and allowed the aspiring scientists to dream of themselves in such roles.

The AWIS Career Panel, held biannually for the first time last year, was created as a networking dinner by the AWIS Outreach Committee in 2009 to offer a focused and dynamic environment for young women to feel encouraged and supported in their pursuit of science careers. This event has grown to a full-day program, and this year included 35 students from 8 high schools and one community college. We also recruited an amazing panel of 12 women from a variety of STEM careers. The range of experiences spanned from a graduate student in climate science to a business development manager, and also included a postdoc, research scientist and clean energy company founder! The 5- minute introductions at the beginning of the day provided many inspirational quotes and encouraging advice such as “ignore your inner, doubtful voice” and the acknowledgment of the need to fight the “imposter syndrome” that can plague women in such careers.

“This inspirational and exciting day was definitely a hit of the fall AWIS Outreach calendar and we are looking forward to our spring panel in the spring!”

The event was hosted by the La Jolla Riford library, which features San Diego’s public biology lab. Our agenda included an introduction and tour of the lab space by Callan Hyland, an instrumental figure in the creation and running of the BioLab. Additionally, we were excited to have breakfast sponsored by Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) and its representatives, who were present to connect with the young women attending our networking event.

The highlight of the day, confirmed through our surveys of students and panelists, was the “speed mentoring” over lunch and the afternoon. This consisted of small groups of two-three students interacting with each of the panelists individually. The rotations were managed through the help of our stellar volunteers, who were also instrumental in food and material preparations.

The day ended with the distribution of door prizes, a collection which included a “mentorship certificate” to allow further interactions with a dedicated panelist. Offers included a tour of the scientist’s lab, a coffee meet- up, or networking correspondence, all in the interest of continuing the relationships built that day.


AWIS Strategy Session: Advance Your Success—ID Your Strengths

By Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

Attending the last AWIS-SD strategy session, titled “Advance Your Success: ID Your Strengths” changed my perspective of myself quite a lot. Up until then, I found myself mostly focusing on my weaknesses, trying to improve myself, rather than trying to identify my strengths and taking advantage of them to better succeed in my career. In this Strategy Session, AWIS-SD members gathered to discuss how to be more successful at work through learning strategies to identify what we love about our work, and therefore pinpointing what we are good at – our strengths.

Hanne Hoffmann, post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, started off the discussion by giving an example of how important it is to prioritize our strengths for being successful in our fields. Not only will it improve our performance at work, but it will also increase our motivation, increase the enjoyment of what we are doing, will make us happier and pleasant to work with, and will increase the quality of our lives! Also, before any of the negative self-image feelings of us will rise, Hanne reasoned that even if we think that none of our strengths is work- related, we should try to find a way to enjoy our job the most we can by thinking: 1. why did we choose the jobs we currently have? 2. What do we like to do at our jobs? 3. If we do dislike our job – it might be the time to find a new one!

Hanne then discussed different tools that can be used to identify our strengths: 1. using a personal career coach – provides the advantage of one-on-one training and other useful tools that will be personalized for our own needs. 2. SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. These types of analyses, although can be done without the help of a professional coach, might be too general and will require taking multiple tests to get a more complete picture. 3. Taking self-assessments tests. These types of tests I found to be very practical, at least for myself. We got the opportunity to practice some of these tests during the session, and then discussed them in small groups. Taking the time to think and answer some of the questions, even if only for 5 minutes, really helped me realize what I like and do not like about my job. Perhaps most important of all, the discussion with other group members made me realize that I am not alone, and many other members feel the same as I! 4. Ask- a- friend strategy – another helpful tool that can be used to challenge our view of ourselves. 5. Writing a skill-based CV – besides the actual advantage of preparing a CV, you will get the chance to think and express your skills in words, and outline your achievements in a precise way.

At the end of the Strategy Session, we discussed some strategies to improve our work satisfaction by using our strengths. Two main ways to do this include: 1. compiling all the tasks we enjoy to do at work, such as leading, organizing, finishing a particular task, etc. 2. Setting goals and prioritizing actions. What is a better way to build our strengths and use them to promote ourselves then by joining one of AWIS committees? I have joined one; how about you?


The 30-Second Elevator Speech—A Networking Essential

By Linda Manza

What is an elevator speech? It is a clear, concise message that communicates who you are, what you do, your goals, and what you have to offer that benefits a company or organization. Pitches, such as the elevator speech, are used a variety of situations, such as networking events, career fairs, or during an interview in response to the “Tell me about yourself” request. You never know when you’ll find yourself in an elevator standing next to that ideal contact.

Your elevator speech should be no longer 25 to 30 seconds or approximately 80 to 90 words. It should allow the listener to quickly become aware of specific, unique, and impressive attributes you have to offer. A good elevator speech will also provide the listener a summary of your background, strengths, and accomplishments. Practice your speech out loud with a friend or in front of the mirror. You should be comfortable with what you have to say so that it sounds natural and you are ready to deliver it when the opportunity comes.

When developing your elevator speech, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make a list of your strengths and select three or four that you want to include in your speech.
  • Briefly mention your education, work experience, special skills, and current career interests.
  • Use concise, memorable language, without too many details and no rambling.
  • Keep the listener in mind so they get a sense of what’s in it for them.
  • Have a closing statement with one solid reason why you would be a good fit for the targeted organization, company, or job.
  • You may need to modify your speech based on the situation and desired outcome.

Now, are you ready to practice your elevator speech? The “Meet the Board Networking Event” on March 21st (see Upcoming Events for details) would be the perfect place to try it out.


AWIS San Diego’s 2016—2017 Board

Introducing the new and continuing members of the AWIS San Diego Chapter Board

President – DeeAnn Visk                                      

Treasurer – Lori Yang                                            

Secretary – April Cresse                                        

Past-President - Grace Nakayama                                 

Past-Treasurer - Christina Niemeyer

Board Member at Large – Nellie Shaul

Board Member at Large - Kristina Henthorn

Board Member at Large - Supriya Gaitonde

Underlined positions and names indicate the newly elected members.

Member News

Nurith Amitai-Crawford had a particularly joyous start into 2016 with the birth of her son, Dayne Shimon.

DeeAnn Visk continues to build her repertoire of exclusive articles for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News (GEN) with the recent publication of her fourth article, about the return of the phenotypic screen.


Science News Ticker

  • International Day of Women and Girls in Science - The United Nations Member States adopted a resolution to establish an annual International Day to recognize the critical role women and girls play in science and technology communities, the  International Day of Women and Girls in Science will take place the 11th of February each year.
  • A new study led by Salk scientist Joanne Chory has shown that certain plant proteins can detect a lack of blue light and activate growth-promoting genes. The results of this study could be used to genetically modify crops to produce higher yields.
  • Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn will be starting as President of the Salk Institute early this year. Known for her discovery of telomeres and telomerase, Blackburn hopes to advocate for the importance of basic research and to expand the institute’s access to cutting-edge technologies.
  • Otomoy, a San Diego company that specializes in treatments of ear diseases, had its first drug approved by the FDA in December. The drug, named Otiprio, is an antibiotic to be used in children who are getting ear tubes and have fluid buildup behind the eardrum.
  • San Diego medical device company NuVasive plans to buy Aliso Viejo-based Ellipse Technologies for $380 million. Ellipse is known for magnetically adjustable implant systems, which NuVasive plans to introduce into more products.
  • Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists have shown that loss of microRNA miR-218 may be linked to ALS and spinal muscular atrophy. Mice lacking this microRNA have normal nervous system development, but motor neurons fail in adulthood indicating that miR-218 could be a potential target for RNA-based therapeutics for these diseases.
  • The Scripps Research Institute’s Andrew Su has spearheaded an online citizen science program called Mark2Cure. This program asks volunteers, no science background required, to read sections of scientific articles and identify key terms. Mark2Cure aims to help scientists keep track of new discoveries that could lead to new therapies.
  • UC San Diego Health and Sharp HealthCare have announced a partnership to improve care for San Diego patients with end-stage liver disease. The collaboration aims to lower the cost of care and to spearhead new academic and clinical research on treatments and liver transplantation.
  • Illumina announced the creation of a new spinoff company, Grail, that aims to develop biopsies that screen blood samples for DNA shed by tumors. Grail will be located in San Francisco and has numerous investors, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. The company plans to run clinical trials to evaluate its tests.
  • National University has hired David Andrews, recently dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, as its next president. Andrews looks forward to working at National University because of its commitment to adult learners and affordability, which he hopes to maintain as the San Diego-based system expands.


Upcoming AWIS-SD Events

Speed Mentoring Event

Date: March 2, 2016 6-8 pm

Venue: National University, 11255 North Torrey Pines Road, Room TPS 123

Join us for a night of speed mentoring. Mentees will have an opportunity to network and interact with several mentors throughout the night. Attendees will also be able to network with other individuals who share the same interests. This is a great forum to generate ideas and identify areas for personal career growth.   

Current topics include:

  • Academic job opportunities
  • Industry job opportunities
  • Non-bench job opportunities
  • How to survive graduate school and choosing a post-doc
  • How to volunteer and engage the community
  • Intersection between arts and sciences

Please register online and complete the survey (click here for link) to select your areas of interest.

AWIS Members: Free, register here

Non-Members: $15 - purchase tickets online here

Meet the Board Networking Event

Date: March 21, 2016, 6 to 8 PM

Venue: Hera Hub, 4010 Sorrento Valley Blvd, #400, San Diego

We will be offering brief introductions (30 seconds) per board member, followed by a 2 minute, 2 slide introduction to the various committees by their Co-Chairs.  The rest of the time will be spent with informal networking and mentoring.  Think about how you can help AWIS-SD achieve their goal of ensuring that all women in STEM can achieve their full potential. Don’t forget that we want to hear about how you will benefit from AWIS—think of it in terms of what committee you could join and how you could benefit from contributing to AWIS-SD.

This is a member’s only event. Food and drinks will be provided, so remember to RSVP.

San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering Expo Day
Our BIGGEST event of the year is Expo Day, which this year is the kickoff event for the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering. AWIS-SD will have a booth, with the goal of encouraging and inspiring students & community members of all ages and backgrounds to pursue or support STEM education and careers! The AWIS-SD booth will be demonstrating our famous "oobleck" activity. We will need volunteers for 2-hour shifts to work at our booth, play with an awesome non-Newtonian fluid and interact with the public! The festival is free to the public, attracts an amazing number of people!
-Where: Petco Park
-When: Saturday, March 5th, 9am - 5pm
-Register to Volunteer:  (10-15 volunteers needed) 

Expanding Your Horizons Workshop (AWIS-SD Booth): 
Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is an annual conference held at the University of San Diego (USD). Approximately 600 sixth- to tenth-grade girls from throughout San Diego County participate in three workshops throughout the day in small groups (approximately 10-15 students), escorted by two female college mentors. Since the first EYH conference in 2002, AWIS-SD Outreach Committee volunteers have developed and lead presentations of up to 5 separate hands-on science workshops.  
This year, AWIS-SD will again be putting on our popular Crime Scene Sleuths workshop, and we need volunteers to help run the different stations of the activity. The workshop will be run 3 times throughout the day, and the conference will provide you with yummy breakfast and lunch!
-Where: University of San Diego
-When: Saturday, March 5th; 9am - 3pm
Register to Volunteer:  (5-10 volunteers needed) 


Other Events of Interest

A Medical Writing Certificate is being offered again by UCSD Extension. "The program is not designed for those intending to communicate scientific information to lay audiences, e.g., science journalism, marketing communications or patient communications. This program is designed to equip scientists and others with a strong biomedical and/or life sciences background to write for scientific audiences in peer-reviewed journals, regulatory documents, medical education materials and/or research grant proposals."


About the Authors


DeeAnn Visk, PhD, is a medical writer living in the San Diego area with her husband, two kids, and one very spoiled hen.  High throughput screens, microscopy, immunohistochemistry, and genetics are her scientific passions.  She specializes in assistance with writing and editing scientific papers.  Please contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in her availability.


Anne Kornahrens is pursuing graduate studies at The Scripps Research Institute in a joint program with the University of Oxford.  Her field of study is organic chemistry and she is focused on developing electrophilic probes to investigate underexplored families of hydrolases. She is active in the Network for Women in Science (NWiS) at TSRI and serves as the Outreach Co-chair for AWISSD.  After completing her PhD she hopes to pursue a career in science policy.


Juliati Rahajeng received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska, Medical Center in 2011. She joined UCSD School of Medicine as a postdoctoral researcher one month after her graduation. Juliati has been a member of AWIS-SD for the past 3 years. She is currently an active member of the Scholarship and the Newsletter committees. She was also a member of the AWIS-SD Open House 2015 committee.


Linda Manza received a Ph.D. in Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona, a M.S. in Toxicology from San Diego State University, Graduate School of Public Health, and a B.A. inBiological Sciences and Chemistry from the University of California Santa Barbara. Linda works as an independent consultant in toxicologyand quality assurance.Lindaiscurrently servingas Co-Chair of the AWIS-SD Newsletter Committee and is a member of the National AWIS ChaptersCommittee.


Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. To further enhance her research career, she relocated to San Diego for a postdoc at UCSD. She has a strong background in signal transduction pathways, and a broad range of experience in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology techniques. Outside the lab she loves hiking and boogie boarding with her husband and daughter, and enjoys social events with friends.


Summer 2016 Newsletter Volume 24 Issue 3

This issue of the Newsletter is available as a PDF:

1stQtrAWISNewsletter2016 pg1

For archived versions of previous newsletters, go here.









Dear AWIS-SD Family and Friends,

I hope you have all been able to take some well-deserved time off this summer to relax. Unplugging and unwinding can be very renewing given the hectic pace of life in the modern world.

We had a wonderful family event on July 23rd at the Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park. Delicious food at the potluck and cool marine clouds from the ocean kept us content and comfortable. Kudos to the Events Committee for putting on such a wonderful event.










 Happy Family Event participants.


Also, a big thanks to the Scholarship and Scholars Celebration Committees that put on a fantastic high-tea event in May. AWIS-SD awarded nine scholarships to deserving young women. A panel of three female scientists in industry and academia shared their stories, wisdom, and insights to the challenges faced by women and answered questions from the audience. The event was enjoyed by all.











Some members of the Scholarship and Scholars Celebration Committees along with scholarship recipients at the Scholars Celebration in  May 2016.


Looking ahead to the fall, we have a Happy Hour on Wednesday, September 14th, at 5:30pm at Saint Archer Brewery with beer tasting and a tour.

You can also join us for another networking opportunity at the Meet the Board Event on Monday, September 19th, 2016 at 6:00pm at Hera Hub in Sorrento Valley. This is a great place to come and meet the leadership of AWIS-SD. Additionally, there will be brief presentations by each AWIS-SD Committee, so you can see how our wonderful volunteers work together to provide all of the AWIS-SD programming. If you have not joined a committee yet, I urge you to do so to get the most out of your membership.

At the end of October, we will have our annual Open House. Recruitment for the organizing committee is now open. Please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

Finally, we are also ready to gear up for our flagship event, the 2017 Women in Science and Technology (WIST) conference. This event will be held on May 20, 2017 at the UCSD Faculty Club. We can use your talents in the design and planning of this day-long event. Please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

I look forward to seeing you at upcoming AWIS-SD events.



DeeAnn Visk, AWIS-SD President

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

AWIS-SD Speed Mentoring

by Melissa Scranton

This past spring, AWIS-SD members joined in a night of mentorship and community at National University in Torrey Pines for the Annual Speed Mentoring Event. Mentors from various fields in academia and industry shared their insights and gave advice to AWIS-SD members looking to advance their careers. Topics of discussion included surviving grad school and how to transition to academic or industry careers.

Participants gathered in small groups of three to five mentees with a mentor for a Q&A session on a specific topic of interest. Each speed mentoring session consisted of a 20-minute block. A total of three sessions were completed in the evening. The night ended with an open networking session to exchange contact information and follow up with further questions. It was a great opportunity for all participants to interact with individuals with diverse background throughout the night. Some mentors even swapped places to become mentees in topics outside of their areas of expertise during different sessions, allowing them to benefit from both roles.

Both mentees and mentors found the experience very rewarding. Attendees enjoyed having honest conversations in a more personal setting. Mentees and mentors were also able to make meaningful connections with peers in the San Diego science community.

The next AWIS-SD Speed Networking Event is coming in March 2017 at National University. If you are interested in the 2017 Peer Mentoring Workshop, please take this 5 minute survey. Whether you would like to be a mentor, a mentee, or both, all AWIS-SD members can benefit and contribute to this enriching event.


AWIS-SD Strategy Session: Projecting Your Inner Businesswoman

by Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson

June’s AWIS-SD Strategy Session was presented by a special guest, Gioia Messinger. Gioia is the founder and CEO of LinkedObjects, Inc., a new firm specializing in wireless internet-enabled devices. She is a remarkable businesswoman who is both an entrepreneur and executive. Gioi’s passion is to create new things from just an idea into life-changing products. Behind her is a remarkable career that supports this premise.

She was the founder and CEO of Avaak, Inc., the leader in wire-free video home monitoring products, which was acquired by NETGEAR. Gioia was also a principal investigator and project manager for a program under a Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) grant. In addition, she was a major contributor in the development of PillCamᵀᴹ, a wireless endoscopic capsule for medical diagnostics. The products she created won numerous awards.

After graduating from UCSD with a BS/MS in electrical and computer engineering she worked as the only woman in a startup company as a project lead. This later became her first costumer as she became an independent consultant. The startup company not only gave her an opportunity to shine, but also a lot of freedom to create new ideas.

Gioia’s career path was fascinating, and she gave us some insights into her success.

“Always maintain good relationships with your current and former bosses because they can help you significantly in future career endeavors.”

“An important thing to remember is marketing. When becoming a lone consultant, if you don’t market yourself enough, you won’t get enough customers, and that is very important. Therefore, hiring more people and delegating some of your tasks to them helps you a lot. Sometimes you need to take risks.”

“Surround yourself with people that are in a similar situation as you, they might not always be helpful but at least they will be willing to listen.”

“Get out of the house every day and have lunch with a different person, do a lot of networking and talk about what you want to do. Most importantly, ask people to refer you.” All Gioia’s first customers were from word-of-mouth and extensive networking. In order to become a successful individual consultant you will need to be self-motivated, self-disciplined and focused.

“Put yourself in situations where you are uncomfortable because that will make you think the best and will challenge you the most.”

Commit to doing the best work possible. Recognize the patterns that occur in your life. Develop mutually beneficial relationships with leaders in your field, and you will eventually climb to the top of your profession!

Inspiring and Connecting NextGen STEM enthusiasts - AWIS Outreach Spring 2016 Career Panel

by Sigrid Katz

What inspired you to follow a career in a STEM field? What does a physical oceanographer do? If I’m not good at math, can I still become a scientist?

What better way to find answers to these questions than to talk to someone who has been in the same shoes? The Spring 2016 AWIS Career Panel in April provided such an opportunity. The AWIS Outreach Committee-run event was held at the School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at San Diego Mesa College, thanks to the generous support of Dean Saeid Eidgahy. We welcomed twelve exceptional women who held fascinating careers in STEM fields and 30 young women and guests from various San Diego County high schools, colleges and STEM organizations.

At check-in, our young women participants were able to pick up resource booklets (sponsored by Celgene, designed by Outreach Committee co-chair Robyn Wygal ), a career information packet (donated by Gloria Banuelos, Deputy Sector Navigator Life Sciences/Biotechnology San Diego and Imperial County Region), and a tasty breakfast provided by Expanding Your Horizons. The morning session opened with a mini-talk by a representative from our sponsor, Celgene: Laure Escoubet, Head of Epigenetic Drug Discovery at Celgene. Laure took us on a quick tour of epigenetics and her role as scientist at Celgene. This was followed by a whirlwind session of inspiring stories and life-lessons from our panelists who covered topics ranging from koalas to sea turtles, jumping continents for field work in Africa, deploying instruments to study ocean waves, and the highs and lows, the challenges and benefits of being a woman in STEM. Our panelists this spring were Camryn Allen, Biologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Kristin Bompiani-Myers, Postdoctoral Fellow UCSD Moores Cancer Center; Jennifer Carmichael, Associate Professor of Biology, San Diego Mesa College; Karyl Carmignani, Science Writer, San Diego Zoo Global; Sharon Hughes, Associate Professor of Mathematics San Diego Mesa College; Kamala Janiyani, Intellectual Property & Licensing Consultant, UCSD; Liza Porterfield, Quality Engineer, Solar Turbines Inc.; Victoria Raymond, Director of Medical and Scientific Affairs; Kelly Spoon, Assistant Professor Mathematics Miramar College; Iren Stojimirovic, Astronomer San Diego Mesa College; Lisa Tsai, Scientist, NAT Diagnostics; Amy Waterhouse, physical oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

outreach careermentoring

Though some panelists expressed concern over being able to talk for six minutes about her career path, this apprehension quickly dissipated. The opposite; namely, how to possibly fit all the events and influences shaping her career into the given time slot, became the true challenge. The morning session flew by as all present were immersed in twelve inspiring and entertaining stories. Each woman had her individual story, however, some common themes emerged:

- Find what interests you - it can take a while to find out what you are truly interested in and it can also change – and that’s OK!

- Communicate – with your peers, fellow STEM-nerds and friends with different interests and careers. Talking with your friends with the same interests will solidify your knowledge, inspire you and create opportunities in the future. This will expand your horizon and will keep you grounded.

- Choose a good mentor.

- Work with people you like. You will dedicate many hours to your career and spend many hours working with other people, whether you pursue a job in industry or in academia. While a love and passion for a subject are essential, working with people you get along with is probably equally essential. Nothing can take the fun out of work as quickly as difficult colleagues and an unsupportive environment.

outreach careerpanel1

outreach careerpanel2

Mentoring sessions during the AWIS Outreach Career Panel Event

During the well-deserved lunch break, the girls from Dragons 5229, a robotics team from The Boys and Girls Club of Greater San Diego, had a chance to demonstrate their solar-powered robot to the other attendees. The lunch break was also an opportunity for panelists to connect and network with each other before heading into the afternoon student mentoring session. Debra Kimberling, a mechanical engineer at Solar Turbines Inc., long-time member of the Society of Women Engineers San Diego, and a passionate advocate for empowering girls and for the creation of inclusive learning environments, kicked off the afternoon with an enthusiastic motivational speech. Her address to the girls on courageously defying the “good girl” stereotype and diligently pursuing their STEM interests resonated with all present, including the panelists, volunteers, and organizers, and sparked discussions which extended beyond the allotted time for the event. During the student mentoring session, girls had the chance to rotate through two rooms and speak to each of the panelists, with time keeping by Anne Kornahrens, Outreach Committee Co-chair. The girls also spoke to volunteers, organizers and representatives from EYH about additional opportunities and how to carry their passions forward from the event.

outreach robot











A busy day came to an end with a STEM prize drawing for gifts including tickets to the San Diego Zoo, a pass to join a turtle scientist in the field, and an invitation to a Star Night with a Mesa College professor. Thanks to the helping hands of volunteers Lorah Bodie, Liz Ferguson, Elizabeth Jacobs, and Charisse Winston, another successful AWIS Outreach Career Panel is in the books and many of those pressing questions were answered. Of course, we STEM enthusiasts always leave with more questions, but our young women left with a sense of belonging, feeling inspired, and ready to take on their own STEM career paths.

AWIS-SD 2016 Scholars Celebration

by Juliati Rahajeng

Association for Women in Science San Diego Chapter (AWIS-SD) held its biennial event to honor this year’s scholarship recipients on May 21, 2016. The Scholarship Committee selected nine scholars from a total of 93 eligible applicants. The 2016 AWIS-SD scholarship recipients are Alexia Consuelo Gee (Palomar College), Katya Echazarreta (San Diego Community College), Anika Ullah (UCSD), Anachristina Morino (San Diego State University), Vera Smirnova (UCSD), Jayd Blankenship (CSUSM), Tristin McHugh (SDSU), Michelle Dow (UCSD), and Jessica McCurley (SDSU/UCSD).

More than 40 people attended the high-tea style luncheon for the Scholars Celebration. Among the attendees were the scholarship recipients, the recipients’ families and friends, AWIS-SD members and volunteers, and invited panelists who shared their success stories in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) field. The panelists were Anna-Maria Hays Putnam, Ph.D. (Director of Analytics and Formulations at Halozyme), Alison Coil, P.hD. (Associate Professor of Physics Ingrid and Joseph W. Hibben Chair at UCSD), and Rebecca Broyer, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Chemistry at University of Southern California).

All three panelists have interesting paths throughout their careers. Putnam started hers as a joint postdoc in crystallography at The Scripps Research Institute and California Institute of Technology after receiving her PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California Riverside in 1999. She worked for Ambrx for nine years as the Associate Director for Analytical and Formulation Development. Then, she joined Halozyme in 2012 as the Director of Quality Control and Product Development. She advised us to always network and develop new skills. For example, through volunteering at AWIS-SD, one can build a viable network and develop communication and leadership skills.

Coil was a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Arizona after receiving her PhD in astrophysics in 2004 from the University of California at Berkeley. During her doctoral program, Coil served as a mentor to younger graduate students in her lab when her advisor had a stroke and had to find another professor to be her mentor. Coil said that we should not be afraid to ask for help when we need it. In addition, she said we should be tenacious in achieving your goals.

After receiving her BS in Biochemistry at UCSD, Broyer went to work for the biotechnology industry for several years before going for her Ph.D. at the University of California at Los Angeles. She was then awarded with an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she developed polymeric materials to preserve modern art works. Broyer learned the importance of acquiring communication skills while working for the museum, since she had to communicate with curators and art collectors. She also developed her communication skills through teaching organic chemistry at Glendale Community College. Broyer encourages young scientists to be persistent in reaching their goals and to think outside the box. For example, she called the Chair of the Chemistry Department at University of Southern California for an informal interview and as a result, she was hired as a teaching faculty in the department.

The 2016 Scholars Celebration event overall was a huge success. The attendants enjoyed the luncheon as well as the opportunity for networking. Nighat Ullah, Anika Ullah’s mother and a clinician at Stanford University, suggested inviting panelists from underrepresented minority groups to the next Scholars Celebration in two years. Her rationale was that they may face bigger challenges in their careers.

Meet Our 2016 Scholars

by Juliati Rahajeng

This year, Association for Women In Science San Diego Chapter (AWIS-SD) Scholarship Committee received 93 eligible applications for a total of 112 applications received competing for nine $1000 scholarships available for female students majoring in STEM field in San Diego County. The scholarships were divided into four major categories, Community College, Undergraduate, Masters, and PhD categories. On May 21, the scholarships were awarded during the Scholarship Celebrations Event that took place at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) Faculty Club. Each one of the recipients shows amazing achievements in her field.

Alexia Consuelo Gee is an AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipient for the community college student category. She majors in Biology at Palomar College. Alexia has great passion for wildlife and conservation biology. She is working in Dr. Thomas Spady laboratory at California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM) studying polar bears behavior that is crucial for its captive breeding program in collaboration with the Milwaukee Zoo in Wisconsin. Alexia is will transfer to CSUSM in the fall of 2016 to finish her BS in Ecology. She hopes that she will receive her PhD and become a research scientist in Wildlife Conservation.

Katya Echazarreta is another community college student scholarship recipient. She is majoring in Electrical Engineering at San Diego Community College. Katya is currently working with a Senior Engineer at Raytheon Company that specializes in defense, civil government, and cyber security solutions. Additionally, she has been involved in various activities, such as volunteering as the Commissioner of Academics and Scholarships and the Vice President of the Society of Women Engineers, and hosting demonstration labs at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to teach both children and adults about basic circuits, optics, friction, etc. Katya is going to begin her PhD program in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley in the fall of 2016.

Anika Ullah is an AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipient for the undergraduate category. She is majoring in Human Biology at UCSD. One of her research projects was to understand the difference between men and women in terms of their susceptibility in gastrointestinal (GI) diseases. She used mice as her animal model and found that female mice have significant less relaxatory neurons compared to male mice, which explains why females are more susceptible to GI motility diseases. She was awarded for the “Best High School Science Project by a Female Student” during the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science and Technology Championship Regional Science Fair in 2013. Anika is also a staff writer in UCSD’s scientific communication journal, Saltman Quarterly, and has written a few articles about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA) Healthcare. She believes that there are not enough research conducted on health issues that disparately affect women, and wishes to use the AWIS scholarship towards funding her research project on neuronal gender differences in the GI tract. Ultimately, Anika hopes that she will be able to create a novel, targeted clinical therapy for women who are afflicted with GI motility diseases.

Anachristina Morino is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University (SDSU), majoring in Aerospace Engineering. Inspired by her dream to work for NASA oneday, Anachristina decided tosecure an internship at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, where she was the Lead Operations Engineer for a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. In the summer of 2015, she also obtained an internship for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and worked on the Mars 2020 Rover Compute Element. Anachristina is also active as the President of SDSU’s Society of Automotive Engineers, where she oversees the design and build of off-road cars.

Vera Smirnova is another undergraduate scholarship recipient who majors in Chemical Engineering at UCSD. She did a research internship in the Stable Isotope Lab at UCSD to examine aerosols found on earth atmosphere and how it affects human health. She is the Outreach Chair of the student-run Chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. For one of the outreach events, Vera manufactured and designed the Zinc-Air Battery used in the ChemE car. She performed a demo of the ChemE car during a competition with other universities. Vera will pursue her PhD in renewable energy upon completion of her undergraduate study. Ultimately, she hopes to solve the problem of climate change by finding sustainable energy sources.

Jayd Blankenship is AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipient in the Masters program category. She is majoring in Psychology at CSUSM. For her thesis, she is looking at children’s ability to distinguish sources, and whether children allocate resources according to sources’ different traits. She is planning to use AWIS-SD scholarship to support her current project. Jayd has had numerous experiences working as research assistant. These included working at a military sexual trauma clinic and at the UCSD Social, Cognitive, and Developmental Neuroscience Laboratory. She also volunteers at a Children Discovery Museum to promote education and wellness in underprivileged populations. She wants to pursue her PhD in Developmental Psychology.

Another recipient in the MS category is Tristin McHugh. She is studying Marine Science at SDSU. For her MS thesis, she is characterizing the pre- and post-disturbance conditions of kelp forest communities to better understand how changes in temperature and irradiance alter species composition. Upon starting her graduate study, Tristin launched a community outreach program called the “Hometown Heroes.” This innovative program allows alumni to share their education and research experiences with high school students when they go back home for their winter or summer vacations. This program is useful not only in helping high school students in transitioning to college life, but also in inspiring them to pursue their future in STEM fields. For her PhD, Tristin is planning to study on how climate patterns affect species interactions in coastal ecosystems.

In the PhD category, Michelle Dow was selected as one of AWIS-SD 2016 scholarship recipients. She is currently working on her PhD at UCSD in Biomedical Informatics. Her passion for bioinformatics was developed while working as an intern in the Laboratory of Personalized Medicine at Harvard Medical School. She conducted comparative analysis of copy number variation detection methods from breast cancer patients. Additionally, she was involved in many volunteer activities. These included hosting bi-weekly lunch discussions on current research projects at the Focus on Women in Computing Society, volunteering as a physical therapist at the Vancouver Coastal Health, and hosting guest lectures for the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering.

Jessica McCurley is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program. For her dissertation, she is examining risk factors for type-2 diabetes in immigrants, deportees, and other low-income individuals on the US-Mexico border, where the prevalence of type-2 diabetes is 2-3 times higher than the Mexican or American national average. As a PhD student, Jessica has been involved in epidemiological study of Hispanics/Latinos’ health across the US to study the psychosocial and socioeconomic influences on Hispanic health. She also has worked for her doctoral program’s community mental health clinic and in the Integrated Primary Care Mental Health and Behavioral Medicine services at the Veterans Affairs Hospital. Jessica also volunteered for the United Women of East Africa Support Team to develop brief and culturally appropriate psychosocial interventions for refugee women. Additionally, she collaborated with the UCSD student-run free medical clinic program, where Jessica provided mental health evaluation and treatment services for two years to immigrants, deportees, sex-workers, and other individuals living in resource-poor areas of Tijuana’s Zona Norte. Jessica is planning to apply for postdoctoral fellowship at an academic institution to conduct research that focuses on diabetes, obesity prevention, and health disparities reduction in the US and Mexico.  

Vertex Tour

by Anne Kornahrens

The Corporate Sponsorship and Outreach Committees collaborated with one of AWIS-SD’s sponsors to provide an exciting new opportunity: A tour of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. This bronze-level sponsor has a prominent presence in the San Diego STEM community as an innovator creating new therapies for diseases such as cystic fibrosis and as an community partner offering internships, fellowships and participating in fundraising events.

Thanks to the help of the Vertex STEM and community outreach coordinator, Tracy Bychowski, and the scientists working at the La Jolla site, we were able to offer a tour to young women who attended some of the AWIS-SD outreach spring events. The tour was held on a nice June afternoon and involved an introduction of the company and facilities, a tour of the site including the cell core, biology, and chemistry centers and lots of insight and fascinating stories about the work performed by the scientists and engineers at Vertex. The core facility was a hit – an automated center containing a library of millions of chemicals, and robots that dispense precise amounts of compounds of interest through ultrasonic technology and send the plates to be tested by scientists on site or around the world! Talking with Vertex scientists and learning about their different career paths was inspiring to both the young and old(er) attendees. This helps to fulfill the AWIS-SD Outreach Committee’s mission of supporting young women as they expand their horizons and imagine their future in STEM.

It was a great experience that the Outreach Committee definitely hopes to repeat. We are also excited that the Back to Work committee will be utilizing this great sponsor resource – keep an eye out for details of their tour in the fall!

AAAS Forum

by Anne Kornahrens

Last spring, I excitedly boarded my flight out of San Diego, leaving the bench behind to head to Washington, DC and entered the world of science policy for a few days. I attended the AAAS Forum on Science and Technology Policy on April 14th-16th and left inspired to share what I had learned about the issues currently being debated, the great effort of scientists engaging in advocacy, and the exciting work that advocacy groups such as AWIS perform to advocate on scientists’ behalf on a national level. What is advocacy and what can it achieve? How are scientists involved in policy making on a national level? What can I do to contribute? These questions churned in my mind as I headed to DC to find the answers.

Before the forum, I was able to arrange an informal meeting with an AWIS National Intern, who helped me understand what our parent non-profit can do as an advocacy group to inform and shape the decision-makers in DC and support more inclusion in STEM careers. AWIS National shapes legislation about grant funding or pay equity, executes and disseminates analysis of relevant current statistics and provides workshops on unconscious bias for organizations and companies. Unlike lobby groups, AWIS does not directly fund or influence the outcome of policy through donations, but instead uses their research and analysis, public engagement, and advocacy to champion the interests of women in STEM. One theme I took from this meeting, and found repeated throughout my foray into science policy, was that change is not pursued during head-to-head, polarized fights, even though this is how some debates are reduced from a distance. Instead, working through allies who are willing to engage in scientific discourse and utilizing a quality network again and again allow for a step-by-step positive transformation.

The AAAS Forum held many more lessons. Speakers provided summaries of recent efforts, including a report of successful NIH and NSF budget increases and a review of the Obama administration presented by John Holdren from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). Other sessions discussed pressing policy questions such as the use of big data, the Moonshot cancer project and the increasing role of artificial intelligence in our communities. Many conversations revolved around the continued challenges – a desire to keep scientists in the debate at their current levels, regardless of the outcome of the next election, a continued push for increases in funding to return to pre-sequestration levels, and an awareness that predictions and preparations will be required to meet future science policy challenges.

One breakout session at the forum discussed whether advocacy could ever hurt the credibility of science. Discussions of how to get scientists involve always seem to balance the objectivity of the science and the difficulty of the true nuances of many of the problems and policies. A powerful example of this was debated in an engaging roundtable on gun violence research. Mark Rosenburg, a gun violence expert and former head of the CDC’s Injury Prevention Program, and Former Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas have formed an unlikely team to discuss the need for increasing levels of gun violence research. The former member of the House of Representatives was behind a measure in 1996 forbidding the CDC to spend funds “to advocate or promote gun control.” In the 20 years since, CDC directors have chosen to disengage from the entire field leading to a dearth in the understanding of the causes, effects and possible preventative measures of gun violence. It was amazing to hear that Former Rep. Dickey regrets part of the role he played in eliminating this research, and the lessons Mark Rosenburg says he learned from Rep. Dickey and from his involvement in this debate. Dickey claimed that “smart people aren’t always practical, but policy is about making science practical”. The live interplay between these two characters showed a lot of the excitement and the difficulty of creating results that support both the science and the desired policy.

I had immersed myself in this world and had seen some of the ways the government approaches issues related to science, and how scientists working at the federal level were shaping policy decisions. I still wondered: how can I help to promote evidence-based policy? How can I shape the policy that enables scientific research and the continued education of great scientists? How can I help others in San Diego to recognize their power to influence these issues? I turn to the lessons I learned from AWIS National and understanding the power we have as an organization on a national level to enact change. I think of the strength of the AWIS-SD chapter and our ability to start conversations, connect scientists and advocate for positive change.

Regardless of how each individual scientist feels about politics, we can agree that many specific policies are hugely influential. We need to keep “making science matter,” as keynote speaker Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan (NOAA Administrator) emphasized, and keep scientists in the conversation. When we think of the next wave of progress and innovation, discussed by Steve Case (AOL co-founder and former CEO), we recognize that we need broad awareness, representatives from many backgrounds, and vibrant conversations to solve the complex problems of tomorrow. This requires the participation of scientists in policy, the involvement of innovators and researchers from all STEM fields in scientific conversations, and the increased inclusion of women in the STEM pipeline. Increasing the voice of science in our society requires us to include and raise the voices of all scientists. I am more aware than ever before that the advocacy of AWIS and the support of AWIS-SD helps me to raise mine.

If you would like to learn more or engage in advocacy, I would recommend the great resources at www.awis.org including fact sheets sharing their data on the state of women in STEM, and their advocacy tool kit allowing scientists to call for members of congress to support funding for science research.

Member News

  1. Dorothy Sears, PhD (Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, UCSD) recently gave a presentation for the Doris Howell Foundation luncheon on May 20, 2016. The title of the presentation is “Simple Lifestyle Changes for Improving Women’s Health”. The event was featured in the La Jolla Light newspaper. Here is the link to the article:http://www.lajollalight.com/news/2016/jun/01/howell-speaker-touts-lifestyle-changes/
  2. Hanne Hoffman, PhD (Past co-chair of AWIS-SD Strategy Session and postdoc in Reproductive Medicine, UCSD) recently received the Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) from NICHD to study how disrupted rhythm generation in the brain affects reproductive function.
  3. Miriam Cohen, Ph.D (co-chair of AWIS-SD Outreach Committee) recently accepted a medical writer position at Arbor Scientia Group.

News Ticker

  1. The FDA has recently approved Absorb, a plastic, biodegradable cardiovascular stent developed by Abbott Vascular and tested at several San Diego medical centers. Unlike traditional metal stents, Absorb dissolves about three years after implantation, allowing for greater freedom of vessel movement and making it easier to re-treat affected areas. However, Absorb has not been as thoroughly tested as metal stents and may not be safe for certain patients.
  2. Scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have developed a new underwater microscope that can be operated by divers to observe microscopic marine organisms in their natural habitat. The researchers used the microscope, which is operated by an underwater, handheld computer, to capture micrometer-scale images of coral polyps, both in healthy and bleached reefs.
  3. A study conducted by BestColleges.com found that 33% of female students at UC San Diego choose majors related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), the highest percentage of the 100 schools included in the study. UCSD also has a relatively high number of student majoring in STEM fields overall, with 22% studying biology, 11% studying economics, and 9% studying computer engineering. UCSD admits more female than male students, but men outnumber women on campus 52 to 48 percent.
  4. Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, UCSD, and Stanford have identified the protein RBPJ as a master regulator of genes that control blood vessel growth in the adult heart. As a negative regulator of blood vessel growth, RBPJ could be a potential therapeutic target for drugs treating patients with cardiovascular disease. Having more blood vessels in the heart could help reduce the tissue damage from vessel blockage during a heart attack.
  5. In an effort to foster collaborations and partnerships with Japan’s life science industry, UC San Diego will open an office in Tokyo on July 26. The office will represent the entire campus and focus on digital health, bioengineering, computer science, pharmaceuticals, and biotech.
  6. Select San Diego schools have been testing new standards for K-12 science education known as the Next Generation Science Standards. These guidelines emphasize core ideas, practical applications, research practices, and relationships between disciplines. They suggest organizing courses around interdisciplinary concepts rather than discrete subjects such as biology and physics. The draft guidelines for California schools will be available for public comment until August 29.
  7. As part of the Obama administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative, the NIH has awarded $120 million to Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI). STSI will be responsible for recruiting 350,000 of the one million volunteers for the study. Participants will use a mobile app to record health information such as blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels, sleep, and exercise. They will also be asked for blood and urine samples for genomics, proteomics, and microbiome studies.
  8. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) will soon open an office in San Diego to foster collaborations with local scientists. CASIS, a nonprofit group that manages the US National Laboratory, is helping NASA to commercialize parts of the laboratory run by astronauts on the International Space Station. This will be the first CASIS office to open on the west coast.
  9. Astronomers from San Diego State helped identify the largest planet to orbit two stars identified to date, Kepler-1647b. This planet, a gas giant with similar mass and radius to Jupiter, takes three years to orbit its two stars, which made it difficult to identify. Current astrophysics theory suggests many more planets similar to Kepler-1647b exist.

AWIS-SD Upcoming Events

  1. Academia to Industry Coffee Club. Guest Speaker: Dr. Joanne McNellis (Cato Research). Time: September 2, 2016 4.30 pm. Location: Bella Vista Café (2880 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037).
  2. AWIS-SD Brewery tour and happy hour event. Time: Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 5:30 pm-8:00 pm. Location: Saint Archer Brewing, Co. (9550 Distribution Ave., San Diego, CA 92121). Free for AWIS-SD members, $15 for non-members.
  3. AWIS SD members have been invited to join the UC Riverside and LA/Ventura Chapters in an AWIS Summer Networking Brunch on the 21st of August, 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM. Location: Malibu Wines, 31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265. Cost $15 includes food and wine. RSVP through the secured PayPal checkout button. Add your name, title, and institution in the "special instructions" section.

Other Events of Interests

Qualcomm Women in Science and Engineering (QIWISE) conference. Time: Wednesday, Sep 21, 2016 8 am – Friday, Sep 23, 2016 8 pm.

About the Authors





Melissa Scranton received her PhD in Plant Biology from University of California, Riverside. In 2013, she moved back to her home town to study algal biotechnology at University of California, San Diego as postdoctoral researcher. She is currently a researcher at BASF Enzymes, LLC and a Co-Chair of the AWIS-SD Events committee.


Ksenya C K

Ksenya Cohen Katsenelson received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. To further enhance her research career, she relocated to San Diego for a postdoc at UCSD. She has a strong background in signal transduction pathways, and a broad range of experience in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology techniques. Outside the lab she loves hiking and boogie boarding with her husband and daughter, and enjoys social events with friends.


 Juliati R

Juliati Rahajeng received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska, Medical Center in 2011. She joined UCSD School of Medicine as a postdoctoral researcher one month after her graduation. Juliati has been a member of AWIS-SD for the past 3 years. She is currently an active member of the Scholarship and the Newsletter committees. She was also a member of the AWIS-SD Open House 2015 committee.



Anne Kornahrens is pursuing graduate studies at The Scripps Research Institute in a joint program with the University of Oxford.  Her field of study is organic chemistry and she is focused on developing electrophilic probes to investigate underexplored families of hydrolases. She is active in the Network for Women in Science (NWiS) at TSRI and serves as the Outreach Co-chair for AWISSD.  After completing her PhD she hopes to pursue a career in science policy.



Sigrid Katz completed her PhD and master’s degrees at the University of Vienna, Austria, studying invertebrate-bacterial symbioses in marine chemosynthetic environments. She moved to San Diego to pursue her research as a postdoc at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and at the Moores Cancer Center. Sigrid is an active member of the AWIS San Diego Outreach Committee.


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