More speakers coming soon! Check back to learn about our speakers, what they do, and the talks they will be leading the day of!

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Christine Denny

Christine Denny

Dr. Denny’s prolific research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory, specially in the context of aging. She was also the recipient of the NIH Early Independence Award and is currently an ELabNYC fellow,  a biology and health tech accelerator. Christine has also been a vocal advocate of women in science throughout her career, both through her in-lab mentoring of young women, and by speaking up about motherhood in academia.


“Improv for Scientists” Lunch Workshop

Over lunch, James Belarde and Bridgette Rizkalla will present on stage presence and confidence in presentation. 

James Belarde

James Belarde is a New York-based comedian and occasional MD/PhD student in the neurobiology program at Columbia University, with a clinical interest in pediatric neurology. He began performing standup comedy in college and has trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City in both improv and sketch comedy since 2010. James regularly performs stand-up and improv in the city and sometimes even at festivals around (a segment of) the country, including the Del Close Marathon, NC Comedy Arts Festival, and Steelstacks Improv Comedy Festival. Since beginning medical school, he has also developed an interest in exploring the intersection between humor and medicine. His creative writing has been included in The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine, as well as on the fronts of various refrigerators owned by his mom over the years.

Bridgette Rizkalla

Bridgette is a Brooklyn-born and based writer and comedian. She has studied improv and sketch at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, The Annoyance and NYU, since 2010Currently she can be found performing with her UCB Haroldteam Game 7 at UCBT Hell’s Kitchen and around the city with her teams FIRE FIRE FIRE and Bear Golf. She is the former host of the long running, weekly show, Kaleidoscope. Her sketch videos have been featured on Huffington Post, Funny or DieWhoHaha and Elite Daily. Bridgette has foreign parents, one brother, and twenty-one first cousins (on her mother’s side alone), all of whom she blames and credits for everything in her life.


“Self-advocacy in Science” Panel Discussion

This panel will be on the topic of self-advocacy in science with a group of Columbia professors with expertise in this area. We want everyone to leave the symposium with the skills to advocate for themselves in the scientific community.

Our panelists:

Adam Galinsky

Professor Galinsky is currently the chair of the Management Division and the Vikram S. Pandit Professor of Business at the Columbia Business School. He has published more than 200 scientific articles, chapters, and teaching cases in the fields of managment and social psychology. His research and teaching focus on leadership, power, negotiations, decision-making, diversity and ethics.

Cynthia Rush 

Dr. Rush is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Statistics at Columbia. She got her BS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Mathematics, and her PhD from Yale University.  Her research interests lie broadly in statistics and applied probability with a focus on statistical machine learning algorithms, such as message passing.

Joan C. Waters 

Joan Waters served as an Associate General Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel at The City University of New York. Since joining Columbia, Joan has become a member of the International Ombusmans Association.


Our Sponsors

Our Symposium this year is sponsored by some amazing companies! Come check them out at the symposium and at our networking event!





Teachers College Student Senate