President Varykina Thackray, PhD
Past President Courtney Benson, PhD
Secretary Juliati Rahajeng, PhD
Treasurer Katherine (Kat) Chang, PhD
Member at Large Wendy Ochoa, PhD
Member at Large Sigrid Katz, PhD
Member at Large Kamala Janiyani, PhD
Member at Large Robyn Wygal
Member at Large Angela Macia, PhD.

President: Varykina (Kina) Thackray, PhD

kinaVarykina (Kina) Thackray, Ph.D. is a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Diego. She received a B.A. in biology at Middlebury College and then worked as a lab technician at Cornell University and Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals. She obtained her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and completed her post-doctoral training in reproductive endocrinology at UC San Diego. Her lab focuses on understanding the role of the gut microbiome in polycystic ovary syndrome. Kina is passionate about advocating for the equal participation of women in STEM. She has been a member of AWIS San Diego since 2005. She served on the Scholarship (2006-2016; Co-Chair 2006-2008) and Outreach Committees (2016-2020; Co-Chair 2017-2019). She also served as a Board Member-at-Large (2019-2020) and a Speaker/Workshop Organizer for the Women in Science and Technology conference in 2019. As president of AWIS-SD, you can reach her This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..







Past President: Courtney Benson, PhD

CBensonCourtney Benson, Ph.D. earned her B.S. and M.S. at SDSU in cell and molecular biology, and her Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University at Buffalo. Courtney is currently working at BlueNalu, Inc. as a scientist and is excited to help generate a sustainable food product that will be of value to humans and for our oceans. When Courtney joined AWIS San Diego in October of 2017, she immediately joined the Outreach Committee and then joined the AWIS San Diego Board as a Member at Large. She then served as the President of AWIS-SD from February 2018 through January 2020. Courtney is currently the Past President and co-chair of the new committee, Career Advancement (Early to Mid-Career), you can reach her This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..








Secretary: Juliati Rahajeng


Juliati Rahajeng, Ph.D., R.A.C. is a Clinical Strategy Scientist at Cato Research. She earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2011. Then, she went on to obtain postdoctoral training from the University of California San Diego in cancer cell biology. She received her Regulatory Affairs Certification from the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS) in July 2019. Juliati has been a member of AWIS-SD since 2012. Previously, she served as a co-chair of the Newsletter Committee and the Academia to Industry Coffee Club of AWIS-SD.

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




Treasurer: Katherine (Kat) Chang, PhD

Kat Chang, PhD, is an Alliances and Partnerships Manager at Illumina. She earned her BS in Biosystems Engineering at University of Hawaii-Manoa, MS in Biological & Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, and PhD in Biology at University of California, San Diego/Salk Institute for Biological Studies. She is currently the treasurer for AWIS San Diego. Kat’s passion is to enable underserved communities and groups by increasing their access to STEAM educational/career opportunities. To play outside of work, Kat enjoys surfing, Polynesian dance, and traveling.

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




Member at Large: Wendy Ochoa

52018 abstract art 285173Wendy Ochoa has worked as an Assistant Professor at Grossmont and National University and UCSD Extension. She is about to embark in a new professional adventure as a Scientific Solutions Consultant at Benchling. She worked as a Senior Marketing Communications Manager at MO BIO Laboratories, now Qiagen. MO BIO researchers and manufactures DNA & RNA Isolation Kits that support Microbiology Research all over the world.

She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Barcelona in the field of Structural Virology. She continued her academic research at The Scripps Research Institute, UCSD and The Sandford-Burnham Institute in San Diego.









Member at Large: Robyn Wygal


robyn Robyn Wygal, joined AWIS San Diego in 2011. She is the current Public Relations Chair and Outreach Community Engagement Chair and works to highlight and expand our AWIS San Diego network. She has also held positions such as the AWIS SD Outreach Co-Chair and STEM Career Conference Co-Director. In her professional career Robyn is a research data analyst with a BS in biology and a minor degree in business and 10 + years of experience managing projects and data communication with multi-level & multi-departmental interfaces and collaborations. She brings both a scientific & business mindset to the discovery and communication of data insight in attaining strategic outcomes. Her passions include the intersection of data science, research, genomics, and healthcare, and she enjoys the challenge of communicating insight through the lens of human perception, behavior, and connection. Fundamentally, she is a biologist, captivated by discovery and novel data play. Her scientific research interests (and challenges) include understanding and interpreting the diverse layers of genetic and epigenetic influence on regulatory networks in the context of immunity, chronic disease, and cancer progression through bioinformatics and data visualization. When not exploring the latest data tools and techniques, or reading publications by amazing STEM innovators, she can be found running, hiking, or biking all over San Diego.




Member at Large: Kamala Janiyani, PhD

kamala Dr. Janiyani has been working at UCSD for the last few years. In addition to this, she is an adjunct Biology Instructor at Grossmont Community College. She was a Instructor at UCSD Extension, where she had organized and conducted educational workshops in the area of life sciences (Microbiome and Health workshop, Technology Licensing workshop, Vaccine workshop). Dr. Janiyani has a Ph.D in Microbiology and research experience from UCSD, She has been actively involved with AWIS San Diego for last few years and participates in STEM events conducted by AWIS.









Member at Large: Sigrid Katz, PhD

sigridDr. Katz's bio is forthcoming.








Member at Large: Angela Macia, PhD

Angela Macia is a Postdoctoral Researcher working at UC San Diego. She earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Granada, Spain in 2015. Angela has a strong background both in transposable elements and stem cells. Her research focuses on modeling neurological diseases, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, investigating how transposons contribute to the disease by using patient-derived neurons and 3D organoids. She is passionate about how AWIS-SD creates opportunities for women and girls in STEM and she has been part of the Corporate Sponsorship committee since 2017. Besides volunteering for AWIS-SD, Angela enjoys traveling, reading and cooking.











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