Beyond the PhD: Speakers

Moderator- Dr. Maytha Alhassen

Public Speaker

Dr. Maytha Alhassen is an artist, scholar and organizer. Her research focuses on historical encounters between Black internationalism and the Arab diaspora, social justice and the arts, gender, media, and narrative healing. Dr. Alhassen is a committed public scholar. Her writing for popular media has been featured in CNN, Huffington Post, Mic and Counterpunch. She has been featured on CNN, BET, Al Jazeera, Fusion Network, HuffPost Live, and more. She has completed a TED residency, conducts creative literacy workshops with incarcerated youth at Riker’s Island, and has written and performed for the internationally touring play “Hijabi Monologues.” While Alhassen was a doctoral student USC, she  assisted in the launch of the Middle East Studies Program, now a department. She has since established and designed the Social Justice Institute in collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs at Occidental College. Dr. Alhassen holds a PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from USC, received her master’s in Anthropology from Columbia University, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Arabic and Islamic Studies from UCLA.

Dr. Karon Jolna

Program Director Ms. Magazine in the Classroom and Researcher, UCLA Center for the Study of Women

Dr. Karon Jolna is a nationally-known lecturer and consultant on women and leadership. As a program director and scholar, Dr. Jolna is focused on building an innovative bridge between academia and top women executives and their organizations in every sector of the economy. She has been a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of WOmen since 2004. Dr. Jolna has helped manage and moderate Women and leadership Programs at UCLA and USC Annenberg and she has presented her work at dozens of universities and conferences across the nation. For the past several years, she has served as Director of Ms. in the Classroom, driving and expanding the program to hundreds of universities across the United States. She has also helped to build a strong committee of distinguished scholars to advise Ms. in the Classroom and provide a powerful academic underpinning for the program. Dr. Jolna earned her PhD in Women’s Studies from Emory University.

Dr. Rebecca Peabody

Head of Research Projects and Programs, The Getty

Rebecca Peabody is Head of Research Projects and Programs at The Getty Research Institute. She focuses her research on the representations of race, gender and nationality in twentieth century American art and culture. Dr. Peabody’s publications include single-authored, edited, and co-edited books, essays in journals, and writing for exhibition catalogs. Her two most recently published books are Consuming Stories: Kara Walker and the Imagining of American Race (2016), The Unruly PhD: Doubts, Detours, Departures, and Other Successes (2016), which focuses on the challenges and decisions faced by graduate students within and beyond the academy. Dr. Peabody earned a joint PhD from Yale University in the HIstory of Art and African American Studies, and has taught at both Yale University and the University of Southern California.

Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro

Professor, USC Department of Political Science, Chair, USC Gender Studies Program & Founder, RISIST

Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro is Professor and Chair of Gender Studies at the University of Southern California and a globally recognized scholar of intersectionality theory, the world’s leading analytical framework for analyzing and resolving inequality. She has written numerous articles and three books on the  intersections of categories of difference like race, gender, class, sexuality and citizenship and their impact on policy: the award-winning The Politics of Disgust and the Public Identity of the “Welfare Queen,” (2004), Solidarity Politics for Millennials: A Guide to Ending the Oppression Olympics (2011) and Intersectionality: An Intellectual History (2016). The applied forms of her research focus on diverse donors in philanthropy, partnerships between funders and nonprofits for social change, and cross-sector training of leaders to implement intersectionality through her organization, RISIST. Her recent collaborative work includes service on the Board of the Liberty Hill Foundation and work with both Hispanas Organized for Political Empowerment (HOPE) and the Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI). She sits on four boards: the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), Community Partners, LAAWPPI, and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Political Empowerment (SCOPE-LA). She received her PhD in POlitical Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. Sheila Tejada

Teaching Faculty Member, USC Department of Computer Science & Founder, CSavvy

Dr. Sheila Tejada is currently a professor in the Computer Science Department at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she teaches courses and performs research applying artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics in education. As the academic community leader for Anita Borg Institute LOCAL, she is passionate about empowering a diverse tech community in Los Angeles. Prof. Tejada has developed awarding-winning robots, such as the robot soccer team DreamTeam, that was the first world champions at the RoboCup International Robot Soccer Competition in Nagoya, Japan. She also chaired the RoboCup US Open 2004 in New Orleans, and is a speaker for the US State Department Speaker Program, delivering interactive presentations on artificial intelligence and robotics for young audiences around the world. Dr. Tejada received her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She was awarded her Master’s and Doctoral degrees in Computer Science from the University of Southern California in 1998 and 2002, respectively.

Dr. Christopher Stewart

Analytical Linguist, Google

Christopher Stewart earned a PhD in French Linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009. He spent four years as an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas-Arlington, then worked at Nuance Communications Text-to-Speech R&D in Belgium for 2 years. After two stints as a Senior Data Scientist, he is now at Google working as an Analytical Linguist in the Ads Human Evaluation and Experimental Design team.

Moderator- Dr. Damian Wang

Project Manager, 23andMe

Damian Wang is currently a Project Manager of Research Services at 23andMe. His work focuses on managing longitudinal research studies and clinical trial recruitment projects, overseeing external compensation programs, and coordinating a branch of 23andMe’s Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. In short, a lot of talking, cross-functional collaborations, and getting things done. Prior to his current position at 23andMe, Damian was a Business Development Consultant for an early-stage life sciences tech start-up while completing his PhD at the Keck School of Medicine of USC in structural biochemistry. During his tenure at USC, Damian was also the Director of Programming for the Graduate Student Government (GSG) and an intern with the USC Career Center, organizing the 1st and 2nd Beyond the PhD Career Conferences. Damian received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego where he’s held internships with The Scripps Research Institute and Pfizer.

Dr. Christopher Thornberg

Co-Founder, Beacon Economics Consulting

Christopher Thornberg is Founding Partner of Beacon Economics, LLC and widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading economists. He is also the Director of the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development and an Adjunct Professor at the School. An expert in economic forecasting, regional economics, labor markets, economic policy, and industry and real estate analysis, he was one of the earliest and most adamant predictors of the sub-prime mortgage market collapse and of the global economic recession that followed. In 2015, Dr. Thornberg was named to California State Treasurer John Chiang’s Council of Economic Advisors. He also serves on the advisory boards of Paulson & Co. Inc., one of Wall Street’s leading hedge funds, and of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Southern California’s largest not-for-profit business federation. Between 2008 and 2012, he served as chief economic advisor to the California State Controller’s Office and was Chair of then State Controller John Chiang’s Council of Economic Advisors. Dr. Thornberg holds a PhD in Business Economics from The Anderson School at UCLA, and a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Dr. Tiffany Raymond

Senior Manager of Experimentation & Optimization, PayPal

Tiffany Raymond received her PhD in English from USC in Fall 2009, and her award-winning dissertation focused on 1930’s social protest theater. Prior to that, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arkansas with her BA in English and also has her M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee. Tiffany has built her career in ecommerce and technology and now works for PayPal leading their global enterprise A/B testing and optimization program.

 

Dr. Farhan Baluch

Senior Data Scientist, Netflix

Farhan is a senior data scientist on the content science and algorithms team at Netflix, where he is responsible for predicting movie and show demand prior to release on the service. Prior to Netflix he worked at Opera Solutions where he used machine learning approaches to solve problems in various domains including telecommunications and the automobile industry. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science with distinction from the University of Western Sydney, he then went on to do an M.S. in Computer Science at the University of Houston. He obtained a PhD in Neuroscience at USC in 2013 focused on the study of the neural mechanisms of visual attention. A combined interest in artificial intelligence, original intelligence and data led him to pursue a career in data science.

Cyrus Arman

Director of Corporate Strategy, Amgen

Dr. Arman is currently a Director of Corporate Strategy at AMgen, which he joined in October 2014 to build out their Competitive Strategy function. Prior to joining Amgen, Cyrus was at Deallus Consulting, where he was an equity partner and principal strategy consultant working with to-40 pharmaceutical companies, as well as some small and mid-sized entities, performing competitive intelligence, scenario analysis, devising partnership strategy assessments, developing risk mitigation strategies, and creating competitive threat assessments for developing and launched therapeutics, medical devices, and diagnostics. Dr. Arman helped clients in completing major strategic projects involving multi-million dollar business development investments and partnerships in both the Biopharma and Diagnostics sectors. Through his time at Deallus, Dr. Arman became well known in the industry for designing and facilitating competitive simulations and wargames. Dr. Arman is also a cofounder and strategic advisor to a number of startups in the southern California area. He is also an accomplished academic having published in multiple peer-reviewed journals. He earned a B.S. in Biopsychology from UCSD, and M.S. in Biomedical Engineering from USC, and a PhD in Neuroscience from USC. He is currently completing an M.B.A. from UCLA.

Dr. Stanley Huey

Associate Professor of Psychology, USC Departments of Psychology and American Studies & Ethnicity

Dr. Huey received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1998, and joined the USC faculty in 2000. His research focuses on (1) psychotherapy effects with children and families, (2) cultural issues in psychotherapy, and (3) interventions in criminal justice settings. Dr. Huey teaches courses addressing mental health, therapy, and diversity. Recent courses include abnormal psychology, culture and mental health, the psychology of African Americans, the psychology of racial bias, and race and crime. He is also Director of Graduate Studies in the Psychology Department. As a licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. Huey has extensive experience treating trauma victims and youth with behavioral problems. He also provides clinical supervision to graduate students in clinical psychology. He consults in areas of diversity and cultural competence, evidence-based treatment, parenting and parent training, and program evaluation.

Dr. Sarah Madsen

Global Scientific Communications Manager, Amgen

Sarah joined Amgen in 2015 as Medical Communications Manager. She has supported the neuroscience and cardiovascular programs. . Sarah was a postdoctoral scholar at USC and a visiting scholar at UCLA, where she received her PhD in Neuroscience from UCLA in 2013. Her doctoral thesis focused on MRI biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease and aging in clinical populations Sarah has published over 50 peer reviewed journal articles in neuroscience and has presented over 25 congress abstracts at scientific congresses. She also has extensive leadership experience in science education and outreach.

Dr. Jordan Williams

 Principal Scientist, Diversified NANO Solutions Corporation

Jordan (Eboreime) Williams, Ph.D. is a Principal Scientist at Diversified Nano Solutions Corporation, a company specializing in digital ink formulation, where she is integrating biology and technology in innovative ways.  As a passionate, inventive scientist with over 10 years research experience, Jordan recognizes that research goes further with a multidisciplinary approach and is applying her background in novel and creative ways within a new field. Along with her scientific experience, Jordan is a skilled conference organizer, who has planned, from budget to execution, multiple conferences, including career conferences and annual department retreats. Jordan holds a B.S. in Biology/Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from University of Southern California.

Dr. Marta Kubala

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Dr. Marta Kubala is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She studies tumor microenvironment, specifically tumor associated macrophages and the role of plasminogen activation system in their migration and polarization. Marta did her PhD at the Queensland University in Australia where she studied protein structures and protein-protein interactions. After completing her PhD she was strongly motivated to apply cutting edge molecular biology approaches to develop methods to target cancer. She took a position at the CHLA to be closer to the “bench to bedside” research and the patients. Marta is a member of the USC Postdoctoral Association executive council was elected as the chair of the 2018 Gordon Research Seminar in Plasminogen Activation and Extracellular Proteolysis.

Dr. Claudia Aguirre

Neuroscientist & Mind-Body Expert, Dr. Claudia

Dr. Claudia Aguirre is a neuroscientist and mind-body expert, specializing in the connection between the brain and the skin. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from UCLA and earned her Doctorate degree from the University of Southern California, where she investigated hormonal interactions in the aging brain. In between her studies, she researched molecular mechanisms of schizophrenia at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). She has also completed a certificate course on Yoga, Mindfulness and Social Change at Loyola Marymount University (LMU). Dr. Aguirre is a TEDx speaker and consults internationally in the health and wellness industries. Her clients include Unilever, Samsung, Red Bull, Dyson, and Davines, and she has current projects with TED Ed, NASA and the Global Wellness Institute.

Dr. Parag Havaldar

Software R&D Lead, Blizzard Entertainment & Lecturer, Veterbi School of Engineering

Parag Havaldar received a PhD in Computer Vision and Graphics from the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the University of Southern California. He has been working in the industry to design/architect computational solutions in the areas of computer graphics, computer vision and multimedia compression/distribution for many years. Currently, Dr. Havaldar leads a group of research and development engineers at Blizzard Entertainment to enhance animation technologies used in the cinematics of games like Overwatch and World of Warcraft. Dr. Havaldar has served as a software supervisor at SONY Pictures Imageworks, where he led SONY’s proprietary efforts in the area of performance capture for creating digital human characters. The technology developed by him and his group has been used to create stylized and realistic character animations in a variety of movies including the Amazing Spiderman Series, Beowulf, Alice in Wonderland, Monster House, Hancock, Edge of Tomorrow, Green Lantern, Oz the Great and Powerful and many more. For his work on facial performance capture to create animated digital faces, he was awarded a Scientific and Technical Achievement Award by the Academy of Motion Pictures. While at SONY, Dr. Havaldar has also led the company’s stereoscopic 3D software technology initiative to create tools and pipelines for stereo 3D content.

Dr. Inna Arnaudova

Postdoctoral Research Associate, USC Department of Psychology

Inna Arnaudova is a second-year postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California. Her research is focused on the underlying processes in substance use disorders and anxiety disorders, as well as working mechanisms of therapeutic interventions for these disorders. Originally from Bulgaria, she received her PhD from the University of Amsterdam in 2015.

Dr. Chloe Bird

Senior Sociologist, RAND

Dr. Bird is a Senior Sociologist at RAND and Professor of Policy Analysis at Pardee RAND Graduate School. Her work focuses on assessing and addressing sex and gender differences in health and health care and working to improve the science on women’s health by increasing women’s representation as subjects in research and increasing the use of gender-based analysis to assess the extent to which research findings apply to women as well as men.  Much of her research examines social and biological determinants of differences in men’s and women’s health and health care, including neighborhood effects.  Her current work focuses on assessing and mapping gender differences in health and mortality and in quality of care for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Her book, Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choice and Social Policies integrates social and biological models to improve understanding of how differences in men’s and women’s lives contribute to differences in their health. This work expands the study of health and health disparities by shedding light on the how decision makers including employers and policy makers shape men’s and women’s opportunities to pursue a healthy life, and emphasizes the need for research to inform these decisions. She recently served as a Senior Advisor in the NIH Office for Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) and as Editor of the journal Women’s Health Issues.  Dr. Bird also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (FAAAS) and the American Academy of Health Behavior (FAAHB).

Dr. Raffaele Asquer

Associate Project Manager- SEO, Internet Brands

Dr. Asquer works as a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Project Manager at Internet Brands, an online media company based in El Segundo, CA. He manages marketing and content operations at Foodiamo.com, an online guide to Italian food in Los Angeles, which he created in 2015. He holds a BA and MA in History from Scuola Normale Superiore and Università di Pisa, Italy, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from UCLA. Since leaving academia, he has been filling the void with pasta.

Dr. Kathryn Edwards

Curriculum Support, LA County School District

Dr. Kathryn Edwards serves as Consultant for the Curriculum Support and Assessment Unit of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. In this role, she is responsible for providing leadership for the 80 school districts in Los Angeles County in the implementation of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). She also serves as the evaluator for countywide specially funded programs.  In addition to work in public education, Kathryn Edwards has a fifteen year career in the private sector where she worked in management positions for leading information technology companies including Apple Computers, IBM, and Sun Microsystems. Strongly committed to community service and policy change, Dr. Edwards works with organizations and government agencies to promote equity in educational opportunity. Over the past 20 years, she has served as a board member of organizations focused on improved educational, financial and social opportunities for underserved individuals and communities. Kathryn Edwards has taught graduate level courses at UCLA and California State University Dominguez Hills in the teacher credentialing program. She has also taught courses at California State University Northridge and has served as a guest lecturer for USC and Pepperdine University. Kathryn Edwards earned a B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles (English Literature), a M.A. in Education from UCLA (Curriculum and Instruction), and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University (Applied Linguistics- Reading and Language Development).

Dr. David Levitus

Founder, LA Forward and Climate Cents

David Levitus directs LA Forward, a campaign to activate a new generation of Angeleno leaders to create a fair, vibrant, and sustainable Los Angeles. He also co-founded the nonprofit tech startup, Climate Cents, so people can back local projects that fight global warming. David earned a PhD in History at the University of Southern California. His essay, “All Policy, No Power” on progressives’ failure to build political power for the long-haul was just published in the LA Review of Books. He’s grateful to be part of the 2016 Ashoka Emerging Social Innovator cohort. He’s served in leadership of his local neighborhood council and Democratic committees, as well as in social change organizations such as Liberty Hill Foundation and LA Voice.

Dr. Philip Butler

Core Ethical Team Member, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

Philip Butler is an interdisciplinary scholar in neuroscience, technology, race, and spirituality. He earned his B.A. in religion from Morehouse College, and his M.Div. from Candler School of Theology with a dual concentration in Ethics and Church history. He is a recent graduate of Claremont School of Theology, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. His dissertation was entitled, “Black Transhuman Liberation Theology.” His passion for social justice, technological advancement and embodiment fuels his interdisciplinary approach. He serves on Hyperloop Transportation Technologies core ethical team, and is the author of, “Technocratic Automation & Contemplative Overlays in Artificially Intelligent Criminal Sentencing,” which appears in part one of Transdisciplinary Foundations for the Social and Economic Transformation of the Present.

Dr. Dominique Duncan

Assistant Professor, USC Laboratory of Neuro Imaging

Dominique is an assistant professor of Neurology at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at USC. She double majored in Mathematics and Polish Literature as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and minored in Computational Neuroscience. Her PhD was in Electrical Engineering at Yale University. After graduation, she was a professor of Mathematics at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China for a summer program for undergraduate students. She then took a postdoc position in Neurology at the Stanford University School of Medicine and one in Mathematics at UC Davis, where she developed an algorithm based on diffusion maps to classify Alzheimer’s patients using MRI data. Her current projects include combining machine learning and crowdsourcing manual validation of algorithmically segmented brain volumes through gamification and virtual reality, identifying biomarkers of epileptogenesis after traumatic brain injury, and studying the effects of high intensity exercise on the brain.

Dr. Zoe Pettway Unno

Head Librarian, USC Science and Engineering Library

Dr. Zoe Pettway Unno is the Head of the Science & Engineering Library at USC. She was an American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Fellow while pursuing her doctorate and continues to promote science understanding for all. Her work promotes open science initiatives and sharing research outcomes with a wider audience – including the public — particularly underserved communities. She currently represents the USC Libraries on the SCELC Scholarly Communication Committee and chairs the USC Libraries Scholarly Communication Interest Group. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Yale, Ph.D. in Biological Science from University of California, Irvine, and MLIS from San Jose State University. Prior to earning her library degree, she taught college biology and environmental science classes and participated in bench research.

Dr. Jennifer Dinalo

Medical Librarian, USC Keck School of Medicine Norris Medical Library

Jennifer E. Dinalo is the librarian liaison for the Keck School of Medicine at the University of California. She provides support for students and faculty in the medical school, physician assistant program, and other departments in Keck. Prior to becoming a librarian, Dr. Dinalo earned a Ph.D. in molecular microbiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2007. She then moved to a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University investigating the effects of antibiotics on the human microbiome.

Dr. Megan McCain

Gabilan Assistant Professor, USC Department of Biomedical Engineering

Megan L. McCain, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and the Chonette Early Career Chair in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC). Megan earned her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and her Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences at Harvard University. As a graduate student, she engineered cardiac cells and tissues to investigate mechanotransduction in the context of cardiac development and disease. Megan continued as a post-doctoral researcher at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, where she engineered microscale human cardiac tissues on platforms with integrated functional assays, known as “Heart on a Chip”, for patient-specific disease modeling and medium- throughput drug screening. In 2014, Megan joined USC and established the Laboratory for Living Systems Engineering to engineer and implement novel “Organ on Chip” platforms for human disease modeling and drug screening, with a focus on cardiac and skeletal muscle. Megan is a recipient of a Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association and a Starter Grant from the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. She has also been recognized as a Top Innovator Under 35 by MIT Technology Review and a Rising Star by the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering sub- group of the Biomedical Engineering Society.

Dr. Keyue Shen

Assistant Professor, USC Department of Biomedical Engineering

Keyue Shen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He is also an Associate Member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and a Principle Investigator of USC Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (courtesy). Dr. Shen received his Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering (2001) and M.S. in Biophysics from Tsinghua University of China. He earned his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University in 2010. He completed his postdoctoral training in the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, from 2010-2014. He joined the USC faculty in 2015. He received the Broad Innovation Award from USC in 2016, Marni Levine Memorial Research Career Development Award from STOP CANCER and Trailblazer Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2017. Dr. Shen’s research has been focused on creating tumor- and bone marrow-on- a chip models to understand cancer disease and stem cell biology, and explore novel cancer treatments and cell therapies.

Stacey Finley

Assistant Professor, USC Department of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, & Materials Science

Stacey D. Finley is the Gordon S. Marshall Early Career Chair and Assistant Professor of
Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. Dr. Finley joined the faculty at USC in 2013, and she directs the Computational Systems Biology Laboratory. Her research group develops mechanistic models of biological processes and applies the models to investigate tumor angiogenesis, tumor metabolism, and cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Finley received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Florida A & M University and obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern University. She completed postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins University, in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Finley was named a 2015 Emerging Scholar and a 2016 Keystone Symposia Fellow. Also in 2016, Dr. Finley was awarded an NSF Faculty Early CAREER Award and was selected as a Young Innovator by the Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering journal. She was invited to attend the National Academy of Engineering’s 2016 Frontiers of Engineering Symposium. In 2017, Dr. Finley was named the inaugural recipient of the Leah Edelstein-Keshet Prize from the Society of Mathematical Biology. Most recently, Dr. Finley was awarded the Junior Research Award from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the Hanna Reisler Mentorship Award from the Women in Science and Engineering Program at USC. Dr. Finley has a joint appointment in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and is a member of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Chelsea Johnson

PhD Candidate, USC Department of Sociology

Chelsea is a PhD candidate and Provost’s Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California. Broadly, her research projects theorize bodies as mediums of culture, or the physical and symbolic form through which race, class, and gender hierarchies, social control, and social etiquette are played out. Chelsea’s overarching goal is to inform the development of feminist and anti-racist scholarship, artwork, and popular media that reflect the situated needs of women of color. In that pursuit, she co-founded CLC Collective, LLC, an organization for publishing feminist children’s books and has published versions of her work for Teen Vogue, The Conversation, and CRWN Magazine. Chelsea also currently serves as a coordinator for the “Beyond the PhD” Conference at the USC Career Center. She earned her B.A. in Sociology summa cum laude from Spelman College in 2012 and her M.A. in Sociology from USC in 2015.

Dr. Ryon Cobb

Postdoctoral Fellow, USC Davis School of Gerontology

Dr. Ryon J. Cobb is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the USC/UCLA Center for Biodemography and Population Health. His program of research contributes to ongoing efforts to create a more integrated science that better elucidates how one’s racial identification combines with individual risk and resilience factors to affect health throughout the lifecourse. Specifically, Dr. Cobb’s work draws on data from large population based datasets to: (a) examine how racial identification influences the social determinants of health, and (b) illuminate the psychological and biological pathways that link interpersonal forms of discrimination to cardiometabolic disease among older Whites, Blacks, and Latinos. Dr. Cobb also teaches in the Department of Sociology at USC, and is an active mentor to undergraduate and graduate students in sociology. Dr. Cobb earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from Florida State University and a B.S. in Education from Indiana University.

Dr. Allen Weiss

Professor, USC Marshall School of Business & Co-Chair, Mindful USC

Allen Weiss is a professor of marketing in the Marshall School of Business and co-chair of Mindful USC. He is also a senior teacher of mindfulness meditation at InsightLA. In 2011, his Basics of Mindfulness class at InsightLA was noted the Best in Los Angeles by LA Magazine. He also also teaches a class in the business school called Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion and has taught mindfulness in companies and organizations, including NBC4, ThinkLA, Wonderful, Ron Herman, and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Dr. Teshia Roby

Associate Dean, California State University- Fullerton College of Education

Dr. Roby is the new Associate Dean of the College of Education at CSU-Fullerton. Prior to her most recent appointment, she was Interim Associate Dean of the College of Education and Integrative Studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and Department Chair of the university’s Education Department. While at Cal Poly Pomona, Dr. Roby taught doctoral studies courses in Equity and Advocacy, graduate courses in multimedia development and instructional design, and undergraduate courses in culture, identity, and technology in the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department. Her research interests focus on the inclusion of culture and whole-student involvement as a pedagogical philosophy, as well as digital storytelling from both the instructor and student perspectives. Dr. Roby earned a Ph.D. in Instructional Design, a M.S. in Education with an emphasis in Instructional Design, and M.B.A. from Georgia State University. She earned her BA in Computer Science from Clemson University.

Dr. Katya Armistead

Dean, University of California-Santa Barbara Student Services

Katya Armistead is the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life at UC Santa Barbara. She is the control point for the Student Life Cluster that includes 10 Student Affairs departments: Office of Student Life; Orientation Programs and Parent Services; Campus Advocacy Resources and Education; Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity; Women, Gender and Sexual Equity; MultiCultural Center; Career Services; First Year and Graduate Student Initiatives; Veteran and Military Services; and the Dean of Students Office. She has lead responsibility for campus protests and demonstrations, campus crisis response and campus compliance in areas of policy related to sexual violence response, voter registration efforts, campus-based elections compliance and federal and state mandates impacting student life, as well as Isla Vista safety issues. She is a certified trainer for The Leadership Challenge, teaches a leadership course in the Girvertz Graduate School of Education with other student life colleagues, and works on special projects, especially around campus climate and diversity. Katya is an alum from UCSB having earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 1988 and her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership in 2012. She is a member of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs’ executive committee and a member of the Chancellor’s Senior Officers’ group.

Dr. Nathaniel Burke

Coordinator, University of California-Santa Barbara Campus Climate and Inclusion Initiatives

Nathaniel Burke is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at the University of Southern California. He has a M.A. in Sociology from USC, and a B.A. in Sociology and LGBTQ Studies from UC Santa Barbara. Before obtaining his Master’s and Ph.D., Nathaniel worked as a Project Manager and Curriculum Designer for several Southern California corporations. Nathaniel is currently the Coordinator for Campus Climate and Inclusion Initiatives in the Dean of Students Office at UC Santa Barbara. In this position, he manages programs and policy initiatives to ensure that all UCSB students experience an inclusive college environment.

Dr. Lara Rann

Lecturer, Scripps College Writing Program

A North Carolina native, Dr. Lara Diane Rann completed her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, and earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Davidson College with a music minor. Rann’s academic and professional background reflects a long-standing interest in race and ethnicity within the contexts of music and dance. Her dissertation, “Soul Healing in Music and Dance Performance Courses at the University of California, Los Angeles,” illuminated students’ experiences of “soul healing” through the cultivation of spirituality, self-love/ self-knowledge, mentorship, and community in the context of African and African descended performing arts. The pianist and vocalist has researched African music and dance traditions in Senegal, Ghana, and Brazil, in addition to studying Afro-Caribbean movement styles in the Los Angeles dance community.

Dr. A. James McKeever

Chair, Los Angeles Pierce College Department of History, Philosophy, and Sociology

James has a long history of involvement in social justice work. He has worked for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, where he was involved with the design and implementation of prevention and intervention programs for detained youth. He has also worked with the National Committee for Community and Justice (NCCJ), a group that is dedicated to fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia. He received his bachelor degree from California State University Los Angeles where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. James is a former American Sociological Association and National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Fellow and Minority Fellowship Fellow. His dissertation focuses on African-American men’s mentorship in majority Latina/o communities. His interests lie in the areas of the intersection of race, gender, and class as well as issues that have to do with negative outcomes for minority youth. Currently he is an Assistant Professor and Chair of the History, Humanities, Philosophy, and Sociology Department at Los Angeles Pierce College.

Dr. Lee Daniel Gibbs

Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Keck School of Medicine

Dr. Lee D. Gibbs is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Translational Genomics at Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. His research focuses on clinical validation of important molecular determinants of triple negative breast cancer in patients of African descent, as well as other rare and aggressive cancers that affect minorities and medically underserved populations. He works with a multi-disciplinary team to evaluate genomic alterations acquired during tumor development and understand the functional significance of these events. This research can assist in the identification of diagnostic biomarkers and contribute to the evolution of precision medicine.

Ritesh Mehta

Film/TV Script Reader and Freelance Story Consultant


Dr. Ritesh Mehta occupies a hybrid post-academic identity in LA’s film/TV industries. Currently, he is a Reader for the Sundance Institute and the Disney Channel. He has worked as the Nominations Coordinator for the Film Independent Independent Spirit Awards, Programming Coordinator for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Reader for Fox, Screener for Sundance, and Programmer for the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival. In additional to the occasional teaching gig and publishing in peer-reviewed journals, Ritesh contributes articles to MovieMaker Magazine. He majored in Marketing and Management at the University of Pennsylvania, which led to stints in advertising and spearheading campaigns in luxury branding. He went on to obtain his MA in Philosophy from University of Missouri-St Louis, and in 2015, received his PhD in Communication from the Annenberg School at USC.

Dr. Raymond Stevens

Provost Professor of Biological Sciences & Director, The Bridge Institute

Dr. Raymond Stevens is a pioneer in the area of high throughput structural biology and structure based drug discovery. His work has helped lead to 6 marketed drugs to treat conditions ranging from influenza to rare childhood diseases to diabetes. He has authored more than 400 peer-reviewed publications and patents in the area of drug discovery and disease diagnosis. His laboratory has launched four successful biotech startups. Thomson Reuters has named Stevens one of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” every year since 2014. The honor recognizes the authors of the top 1 percent most-cited articles in their field. His research accolades include the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Young Investigator Award, Beckman Foundation’s Young Investigator Award, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Outstanding Performance Award, Jouan Robotics Award, Sidhu Award, Chinese Academy of Sciences Distinguished Professorship, Qian Ren Award, Zhao Chenggu SIMM Award for International Drug Discovery, Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and USC Alumnus of the Year. He has founded two research institutes, and held faculty positions at The Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, Berkeley. Stevens earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Southern Maine and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Stevens then conducted postdoctoral research in structural biology at Harvard University.