Current Board Members

Maryam Majeed, Co-President

Maryam is a PhD student in Biological Sciences at Columbia. She’s researching on how the brain’s complex circuitry is set up during the development of an organism (in her case, microscopic worms!). She hopes this will help scientists better understand what happens, on a microscale, during normal development and in diseased states when this wiring goes awry. Apart from neuroscience, she is interested in education, teaching, and science outreach; she also loves watercolor painting and illustrating. Maryam has been a part of WISC for over a year. Coming from Pakistan, she has seen her fair share of unequal treatment and expectations due to societal gender biases which largely impact women, especially in science. When she moved to the US, she realized that this problem was prevalent everywhere, and she hopes to ameliorate it by promoting equality for both men and women in science, one step at a time.

Yaqiong Chen, Co-President

Yaqiong was born and raised in China. She went to Tsinghua University for undergraduate study, where she graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science. Later, she came to Columbia University to pursue her PhD degree in molecular biology and cancer research. She is passionate about solving life science mysteries with molecular biology techniques and genetic tools. Yaqiong has been serving on the WISC Board over two years, initially as the Fundraising Chair, and now as the Co-President. She oversees all the events held by WISC, including fundraising on/off campus, career workshops, discussion panels, and graduate scientific symposiums to support female scientists.

Bita Alaghebandan
Vice President and Graduate Symposium Chair

Bita is a PhD candidate in the department of Biological Sciences at Columbia. Her current research focuses on understanding the role of chromatin-remodeling complexes in mediating hormone-driven cancers, such as breast and prostate. She hopes that her work can provide insight into how genetic changes can lead to the issue of resistance and relapse in a vast majority of patients. Prior to attending Columbia, Bita earned her MS in Entrepreneurial Biotechnology from Georgetown University, where she focused on minimizing the gap between science and business by working with private and public sectors to transfer technological advances from bench to bedside. Bita is passionate about mentoring young women in STEM and joined WISC in an effort to build an empowering and interdisciplinary network of women in the sciences. She believes that a more diverse, collaborative, and gender-balanced network of scientific leaders is key to successfully addressing today’s global health challenges.

Elena Carazo, Communications Chair

Elena is a PhD student in the Biological Sciences department at Columbia. She is interested in understanding what happens to the brain of depressed patients when they take antidepressants, and how to develop better treatment strategies. She is passionate about science communication and is currently a volunteer for several outreach organizations specially dedicated to bring neuroscience to the Spanish-speaking community in NYC. She joined WISC with the hope of building a platform for young women in STEM to gather around and build a better, more inclusive science community.

Neha Savant, Networking Chair

Neha is a Master’s student in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology at Columbia. She enjoys conducting research in both the forest and the lab and is currently working on understanding the genomic connectivity of a threatened species of salamander. She’s also interested in how this type of research can be used to inform conservation action and policy. Alongside her research, Neha is passionate about outreach, education, and increasing inclusion and diversity in STEM.

Natasha Yamane, Digital Content Chair

Natasha is a Master’s student in Clinical Psychology at Columbia. She is interested in the dynamics of mother-child relationships, particularly among families of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Natasha currently works with Dr. Sylvie Goldman, studying the neuropathology correlates of ASD in relation to the sensorimotor functioning and cognitive profiles of children, and with Dr. Beatrice Beebe, PhD, using video microanalysis of mother-infant interactions to predict attachment outcomes. Outside of research, Natasha is passionate about mentoring disadvantaged minority youth and increasing mental health awareness for traditionally underserved populations.

Lorelei Curtin
Social Media and Graduate Symposium Chair

Lorelei is a PhD student in the department of Earth and Environmental Science, and works in the Organic Geochemistry group at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Her research focuses on reconstructing climate changes in the past using biomarkers and compound-specific isotopes in lake sediments. She is interested in how climate change impacts local environments, including changes in vegetation and glacier size, and how these changes affected ancient human communities. Lorelei is currently working on projects in the Faroe Islands, Arctic Norway, Iceland, and Easter Island. Lorelei is also co-chair of the DEES Graduate Student Committee and organizes a weekly seminar for the Biology and Paleoenvironment Division at LDEO. She has been an advocate for women at LDEO, and through her work with WISC, she hopes to help create a community for women in science within the broader Columbia community. Outside of science, Lorelei enjoys most outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing.

Megan Goldring, Graduate Symposium Chair

Megan is a PhD student in the Psychology department at Columbia. Her research interests pertain to interpersonal relationships and health, namely how social processes both help and hinder health outcomes. She hopes that her research can aid in the development of interventions that improve health and well-being. In her free time, Megan can be found enjoying nature (although in New York, this means public parks!), reading a book, and listening to live music. Megan joined WISC because she believes that women constitute a unique and important group for the sciences, and that by generating awareness about issues faced by women STEM, we can create a more equitable and harmonious space for both men and women in the sciences.

Yinglu Zhang, Graduate Symposium Chair

Yinglu is a PhD student in the department of Biological Sciences at Columbia. Her research is focused on the structural and molecular mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, hoping the findings will contribute to the development of novel therapeutic approaches to these neurodegenerative diseases. Besides science, Yinglu is also passionate about education, outreach, and animal rights. In her free time, she enjoys music, movies and reading.

Olivia Clifton, Fellowship Workshops Chair

Olivia is currently an NSF Graduate Research Fellow working with Dr. Arlene Fiore at Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science. Olivia completed her undergraduate studies in mathematics at University of Wisconsin-Madison where she worked with Dr. Tracey Holloway in the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. Olivia’s research aims to quantify how tropospheric ozone, an air pollutant and potent greenhouse gas, responds to changing precursor emissions, climate, and land use. In particular, her research focuses on how the vegetation sink of tropospheric ozone changes with meteorology and biophysics and how this modulates atmospheric composition. Olivia uses measurements and a hierarchy of models from the process level to the global scale in her research. Better constraints on spatiotemporal variability in this poorly understood sink and its impact on atmospheric chemistry will advance our ability to predict land-atmosphere interactions in a changing climate.

Siyu Liu, Professional Development Chair

Siyu is a MA student in Statistics at Columbia and an intern at JP Morgan ECS team. She obtained a BS degree in Physics at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She currently studies how to apply statistics theories and machine learning methods to engineering and business problems. In particular, she has been working on predictive models and object recognition in various projects. Siyu is passionate about providing more career opportunities and promoting career success to women in STEM careers.

Catherine O’Keeffe, Ask-a-Professor Series

Catherine is a PhD student in the Biological Sciences department. She is interested in developmental biology and is currently studying the nematode C. elegans. Using this model organism, she is dissecting pathways that govern cell fate regulation. Outside the lab, Catherine enjoys teaching and hopes to keep gaining teaching experience during her time in grad school. As the “Ask a Professor Series” Chair, Catherine organizes lunches to bring together WISC members and inspiring women faculty.

Maria Gnarra, Undergraduate Mentoring Chair

Maria is a MD, PhD, in the Dermatology department at Columbia. She is interested in the application of bioengineering techniques to provide effective alternatives to animal models through the development of 3D skin models. She also directs an educational program that aims to attract more clinicians to translational research. Maria works with several patients foundations to provide free medical treatments across the world for patients with disfiguring skin disorders.

Cassie Meeker, Science Saturday Starters

Cassie is a PhD candidate in the Mechanical Engineering department at Columbia. She studies how to make interactions between humans and machines more intuitive—both in the context of rehabilitation robotics and teleoperation. She is interested in how we can harvest the signals and movements of the human hand to control robotic hands. In her free time, Cassie loves to travel and swing dance. She is passionate about outreach, particularly in getting girls enthusiastic about science at a young age, because she believes visibility of female scientists is an important factor for young women choosing STEM careers.

Lenzie Ford
Manhattanville Postdoctoral Liaison

Lenzie is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Neuroscience department, having lab space at both the CUMC and Manhattanville campuses. Her research focuses on the structure-function relationship of amyloid-like proteins involved in healthy and diseased long-term memory. Lenzie is also the Society for Neuroscience’s Greater NYC Chapter (BraiNY) Advocacy Co-char. Lenzie received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Sussex, having worked with the gender equality group as their graduate student representative, and received her BS in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Alyssa Manz, Curiosity Machine Chair

Alyssa is pursuing a PhD in the Chemistry department at Columbia University. She specifically is studying “glassy materials,” which are compounds that have characteristics of both solids and of liquids. Despite being poorly understood, they are used quite frequently in our everyday lives. Alyssa has been mentoring young students virtually in the sciences for several years and hopes to get more students engaged in e-tutoring in her role as board member!

Dilek Coskun, Curiosity Machine Chair

Dilek is a PhD student in Chemical Physics at Columbia. She is working on the development and application of novel methods for ab initio electronic structure calculations. Besides, she is currently conducting research on drug discovery projects for viral infections, such as HIV, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and influenza. Dilek has been mentoring students virtually in their inventions and she is passionate about the science education for girls.

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