Leadership 2019-2020

President – Jeniffer Masi, PhD


Jeniffer Masi, PhD

Jeni is the Geoscience Advisor to Geoex – MCG LLC . She is responsible for the generation of Oil and Gas Exploration Leads with focus on the Americas Region. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Geophysical Engineering from the Simon Bolivar University in Venezuela in June 2007 and her PhD in Earth Science with focus in Global seismology from Rice University in December 2013. After she finished her Ph.D. studies, she joined BP America Inc. as a Geophysicist for the Trinidad and Tobago Exploration Team, where she identified and evaluated lease opportunities within the Columbus Basin. This role included data processing, recommendations to improve data quality, volume calculations and risk assessments. After a year, she joined the Gulf of Mexico Reservoir Development team, more specifically the Mad Dog Team, supporting current operations, and aiding the design of new wells that could potentially minimize risk while drilling. She also did an internship within the Gulf of Mexico Exploration New Wells Delivery Team, identifying shallow geohazards for 4 prospects in the Gulf of Mexico. On a personal level, she enjoys dancing, long distance running, cooking and spending time with friends and family.

Vice President – Kristina Stemler, PhD

Portraits for social media networking event at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Kristina Stemler, PhD

Kristi is a Coordinator for Clinical Research Programs in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics (Phase I) at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. She recently made the career transition into regulatory following a postdoc studying the protective effects of fasting in mitigating the side effects of chemotherapy, specifically in adult tissue stem cells. She has trained fellow postdocs and graduate students and has been an advocate for and advocated by women throughout her scientific career. She believes in lifting while you climb, as she has benefited from wonderful mentorship. She received her PhD in Developmental, Regenerative and Stem Cell Biology from Washington University in St. Louis. Outside of work, Kristi enjoys volunteering, traveling, hiking, camping and spending time with family and friends.

Senior Chapter Trustee – Delphine Boulbes, PhD


Delphine Boulbes, PhD

Delphine is a Program Manager in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at MD Anderson. She received her PhD in Biological Sciences in France in 2005, followed by two postdoctoral fellowships at MD Anderson that allowed her to land a dual position of Research Scientist and Laboratory Manager within the institution in 2013. After 18 years of scientific research, Delphine chose to take on the path of Research Administration and is now in charge of developing the new Thyroid Cancer Program of the Head and Neck Surgery Department. Delphine loves traveling, discovering new cultures, and above anything else, her two adorable rescue dogs, Chloe and Wilson! In her free time, her favorite things to do are horseback riding, salsa dancing and spending time with her friends.

Treasurer – Dhwani Rupani 

Staff portrait

Dhwani Rupani

Dhwani is pursuing a PhD in Cancer Biology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center where she studies epigenetic modifications in RNAs in pancreatic cancer. She received her undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical sciences from India in 2014 and a masters in pharmacology from the University of Minnesota in 2016. In her free time, Dhwani enjoys cooking, hiking, travelling, playing soccer and ultimate frisbee and spending time with family and friends.

Secretary – Ashleigh McWilliams


Ashleigh McWilliams

Ashleigh is a Chemistry Ph.D. candidate at Rice University, where she studies the dispersion and diffusion dynamics of Boron Nitride Nanotubes in aqueous solution. She graduated with her B.S. in Chemistry from Texas Tech University. Outside of the lab, Ashleigh enjoys going out with friends, cheering on the Red Raider football team, and binge-watching Game of Thrones with her husband and cat, Tiger.

Chair, Membership – OPEN

If interested, please contact awisgch@gmail.com

Chair, Career Development – Varsha Pednekar, PhD


Varsha Pednekar, PhD

Varsha Pednekar is a Ph.D. trained scientist with a diverse technical background spanning chemistry to cancer biology. She recently switched career paths and now works as a Patent Agent with one of the top IP firms within the United States. In her non-scientist role she is still required to think and act like a scientist. Science has always motivated her, and she believes “once a scientist always a scientist”.

Varsha is a strong advocate of the mentoring process and believes all career paths must be nurtured via proper mentoring channels. She is looking forward to giving back to the scientific community via her leadership position as the career development chair.

Varsha strikes a perfect work-life balance and when not working she is spending time with her family and friends. She enjoys cooking and finds it therapeutic.

Chair, Liaison to Industry – Alyssa Johnston


Chair, Liaison to Academia – Jon Flynn, PhD


Jon Flynn, PhD

Jon is an assistant teaching professor in neuroscience at Rice University. He helps to build the new neuroscience major at Rice by instructing classes in basic experimental techniques, behavioral and molecular neuroscience, and science communication. He received his PhD at UTHealth in theoretical neuroscience, where he studied the computational underpinnings of perceptual phenomena. He has a particular interest in how noise in neuronal communication effects perception, as well as the neural correlates of timing. Besides teaching and research, he does a lot of work in science communication and outreach. Currently, he runs two organizations in the Houston area that bring science to the public. BrainSTEM is a multi-institutional organization (as well as a course at Rice – BIOC 129) that attempts to teach neuroscience subjects to local under-served high schools, with a particular emphasis on building connections to KIPP Sunnyside. He is also the City Coordinator for Taste of Science Houston, which focuses on connecting local scientists to the area through demonstrations and talks at various bars and restaurants.

Chair, Public Relations – Lisa Maria Mustachio, PhD 


Lisa Maria Mustachio, PhD

Lisa received her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Drew University in New Jersey.  In 2016, she earned her PhD in Experimental and Molecular Medicine from Dartmouth College where she trained under Ethan Dmitrovsky, MD, PhD studying post-translational modifications in non-small cell lung cancer. She is completing her postdoctoral studies under the mentorship of Dr. Sharon Dent, PhD at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis where her research focuses on targeting potential oncoproteins in the SAGA coactivator complex in lung cancer. Currently, Lisa is serving as the Chair of the Annual Postdoctoral Science Symposium (APSS) committee at MDACC. She also serves as the co-chair of the Meetings Committee for the National Postdoctoral Association. On her free time, Lisa enjoys to travel and volunteers for various organizations within the Houston area.

Chair, Fundraising – OPEN


Chair, Outstanding Women in Science –

Belkys Sanchez, PhD

Investing in Student Futures_Belkys Sanchez

Belkys Sanchez, PhD

Belkys Sánchez is a Biomedical Scientist from Caracas, Venezuela. She attended Universidad Central de Venezuela and earned a Bachelor of Science with honors with a major in Bioanalysis in 2010. For the next two years she worked as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist at Hospital de Clinicas Caracas and Policlinica Metropolitana in Caracas, Venezuela. In August of 2012 she joined the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York where she obtained a Master of Science degree in Microbiology and Immunology in 2014. In August 2014, she moved to Houston, Texas and joined the doctoral program in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, where she graduated in 2018. Throughout her PhD education Belkys cultivated an interest in technology and drug development. Belkys is passionate about applying science to develop innovative therapies that benefit patients and improve human health.

Chair, Community Outreach – Andria Carpenter

Carpenter, Andria

Andria Carpenter

Andria is a junior air quality engineer with an environmental and engineering consulting firm, GHD Services, Inc. She received her Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2017. In her work, she concentrates in air permitting and compliance for the oil and gas industry. In her spare time, Andria enjoys event planning, volunteering, reading fantasy novels and spending time with friends and family.

Chair, Science Communication – Garima Vyas


Garima Vyas

Garima is a Sr. Geographical Information Science (GIS) Developer who concentrates on Oil and Gas consulting. She holds a Master’s in Urban Spatial Analytics from the University of Pennsylvania. In her work, Garima blends technology and science for geospatial solutions. In her decade-long career, she has worked for a GIS software company and local government agency before switching her focus to the Oil and Gas industry for GIS Solutions. Garima appreciates any opportunity for problem solving, critical thinking, learning and mentoring. Outside of her work, Garima enjoys bike-riding, kayaking, reading fiction and biographies, practicing Krav Maga, attending Houston Symphony classical concerts and socializing at new breweries or coffee shops in Houston.

Chair, Scholarship – Caroline Cvetkovic, PhD

Caroline Cvetkovic

Caroline Cvetkovic, PhD

Caroline is a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Neuroregeneration at Houston Methodist Research Institute. She is developing human stem-cell derived 3D neuronal tissue cultures that can be used to study various aspects of development and degeneration, while determining their potential for regenerative clinical therapies. Prior to moving to Houston, Caroline earned her PhD in Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where her doctoral work was focused on building engineered cellular systems with the ability to sense and process information, respond to external stimuli, and produce force. Her research integrated neuromuscular tissue engineering, 3D printing, bio-robotics, and biomaterials, and she contributed to the first demonstrations of bio-inspired machines powered by electrically and optogenetically stimulated skeletal muscle. She enjoys outdoor activities, traveling, going to museums, reading, mentorship and outreach, and discovering new coffee shops.

Advisory Board

Patrice Yarbough, PhD

Patrice O. Yarbough, PhD

Patrice O. Yarbough, PhD is a senior scientist at NASA Johnson Space Center, a contractor to NASA’s Human Research Program employed by KBRwyle. She is principal investigator for the confined isolation human subject studies performed in the Human Exploration Research Analog habitat. Yarbough managed the NASA bed rest studies at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Previously, she did HIV clinical research at Tanox Inc. and hepatitis pre-clinical research at Genelabs Technologies. At Genelabs, she led the group to develop a hepatitis E virus sub-unit vaccine and received the international COPEV Association Award for Prevention of Viral Hepatitis.

A native Houstonian, her volunteer work includes serving as President of the Ashley Jadine Foundation, a charity that seeks to prevent suicide in youth. A long-standing member of the Association for Women in Science, she is the past Chair, Diversity Task Force, and currently serves on the Advisory Committee of the AWIS Gulf Coast Chapter.  Yarbough earned her BS and PhD in biochemistry from the University of Houston.  In 2017, the College of Natural Science and Mathematics honored her as a distinguished alumna; she now serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board.

Lory Santiago-Vazquez, PhD

Lory Santiago 2016 portrait

Lory Z. Santiago-Vazquez, PhD

Lory Z. Santiago-Vázquez is an Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. She earned her BS in Marine Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao campus. She moved to the University of California, Santa Barbara where she completed a Ph.D. in Marine Pharmacology. Afterwards, she obtained a postdoctoral position in Marine Natural Products Biotechnology at Florida Atlantic University.

In 2006 she helped secured federal funding for the start-up biotechnology company Nautilus Biosciences, where she also became the Principal Scientist.  In the fall of 2007 she joined the University of Houston-Clear Lake as an Assistant Professor of Biology and Biotechnology. Her research interests are on the microbiome or bacterial communities associated to marine soft coral and sponges to try to understand how these bacteria are related to the health of the organisms. She is also an active member of the Association of Women in Science Gulf Coast-Houston chapter. On her almost non-existent spare time, she likes to travel the world, run races where she is not the last one to cross the finish line, and spend time with her family.

Brittany C. Parker Kerrigan, PhD


Brittany C. Parker Kerrigan, PhD

Brittany C. Parker Kerrigan, PhD is the Scientific Manager in the Department of Neurosurgery at MD Anderson Cancer Center. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of California, Irvine, she performed research the industry sector for Allergan, Inc. She then earned her PhD in neuroscience from the UT Health MD Anderson Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She is currently responsible for managing the Glioblastoma Moon Shot, as well as other multi-investigators grants, maintaining donor relations, and assists in the overall scientific direction of the department. A strong proponent for the acquisition and retention of women and minorities in STEM, Brittany has served various leadership outreach positions, including serving as President of the Houston Chapter of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and Chair-elect of the AWIS National’s Chapter’s Committee, where she will oversee all 80 AWIS Chapters across the United States. She has a strong background in grant management and acquisition, with awards totaling $15,000,000+ brought into MD Anderson.

Maria Tort

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