2017 Speakers

The following speakers were at Princeton CUWiP in 2017. Check back later to see our speakers for 2023!

 Plenary Speakers (2017)


Prof. Nergis Mavalvala

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Keynote Speaker (Live Broadcast to all CUWiP sites)

Professor Nergis Mavalvala joined the Physics faculty at MIT in January 2002. Before that, she was a postdoctoral associate and then a research scientist at Caltech, working on the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). She has been involved with LIGO since her early years in graduate school at MIT and her primary research has been in instrument development for interferometric gravitational-wave detectors. Professor Mavalvala received a Ph.D. in Physics from MIT in 1997, and a B.A. in Physics and Astronomy from Wellesley College in 1990. She was appointed Associate Department Head of Physics, effective February 1, 2015.


Prof. Meg Urry

Yale University

Plenary Speaker

Meg Urry is the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics; she served as Chair of the Physics Department at Yale from 2007 to 2013. She is currently Past President of the American Astronomical Society (the last in a 4-year term).  Her scientific research focuses on active galaxies, which host accreting supermassive black holes in their centers. Professor Urry is also known for her efforts to increase the number of women in the physical sciences.


Prof. Katja Nowack

Cornell University

Plenary Speaker

Katja Nowack is an experimental condensed matter physicist. Her lab is fascinated by emergent phenomena in a diverse range of solid state systems. Her experimental approach combines low-temperature scanning probe microscopy and electronic transport measurements. Currently, her lab focuses on local magnetic probes such as superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) and Hall probes for magnetic imaging. Professor Nowack obtained a PhD at Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) in 2009. After postdoctoral research at Delft University of Technology and at Stanford University, she joined Cornell’s physics department as an assistant professor in January 2015.

 Workshop Speakers (2017)

Mel Abler

Columbia University

Out in STEM Workshop

Mel Abler is a 3rd year PhD student studying Experimental Plasma Physics in the Applied Physics Department at Columbia University, focusing on laboratory studies of feedback on turbulence in dipole magnetic geometries relevant to planetary magnetospheres and ionospheres. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2014 with degrees in Engineering Physics, Astronomy-Physics, and Applied Mathematics.   Mel has been a consistent, strong advocate for creating inclusive environments which foster diversity in STEM, co-founding chapters of oSTEM (Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at both Wisconsin and Columbia.  She is currently President of Graduate oSTEM at Columbia and runs a variety of graduate student events for her department.

Stevie Bergman

Princeton University

Everything No one Told You About Applying to Grad School Workshop

Stevie Bergman is a graduate student in physics at Princeton University with a focus on observation cosmology. Her research centers on measuring polarization in the cosmic microwave background with the Spider telescope collaboration. To achieve this, the six telescopes in the Spider instrument are brought down to temperatures just above absolute zero then launched on a weather balloon 36 km above Antarctica, to the edge of space. Before graduate school, Stevie was a Fulbright fellow in Indonesia and a science education Peace Corps Volunteer in Uganda. Prior to her time in Africa, she worked at the US Department of Justice as a vaccine litigation paralegal with the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Her research experiences span from weak gravitational lensing at Caltech to testing and commissioning the Pixel detector within ATLAS at CERN. She received her BA in physics at Smith College in 2009, with a minor in astrophysics. In addition to her graduate work, Stevie is the co-host of a science-centered radio show on WPRB Princeton 103.3 FM called These Vibes Are Too Cosmic.

Geraldine Cochran

Rutgers University

How to Be an Ally Workshop

Dr. Cochran is the current Dean of the Douglass Project for Rutgers Women in Science, Mathematics, & Engineering.  Cochran earned her bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics and her master’s degree in teaching with a specialization in secondary school physics from Chicago State University. Cochran earned her Ed.S. and her Ph.D. in science education and curriculum and instruction with a cognate in physics, respectively, from Florida International University. Cochran has taught science, mathematics, and education courses at the elementary, high school, and collegiate levels for a variety of student populations including prospective, preservice, and inservice physics teachers. Cochran’s research has been in the area of physics education.

Serena Dalena

American Physical Society

Career Workshop

Serena obtained her Ph.D. in the physics of plasma at the University of Calabria, Italy. Within a Marie Curie project, she worked as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Delaware. Her research involved the study of particle and field dynamics in space plasmas, such as the solar corona, the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetosphere. Since 2013, Serena is an Associate Editor for Physical Review Letters.


Jordan Dixon

Program Coordinator, Princeton University Women’s Center

Developing a Personal Work-Life Balance Plan Workshop

Jordan Dixon joined the Princeton Women’s Center staff at the beginning of January 2016. Though she grew up in New Jersey, she has lived all over the country in the past ten years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Vermont, and a Master’s degree in Student Affairs and Higher Education with a Women’s Studies Certificate from Colorado State University. After graduate school, she worked as a Residence Hall Director at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, and then as an Academic Advisor at the Boston Architectural College. In the past year, she’s been a stay-at-home parent to her daughter Jesse, and moved to Lawrenceville with her family.

Danna Hargett

Entrepreneurship: The Road to Success Workshop

Danna Hargett is a Healthcare Innovation Consultant at Alcimed, a French consulting firm that specializes in helping pharmaceutical and biotech companies realize what comes next.  Danna also serves as a mentor for early stage student run startups at the Keller Center’s eLab Summer Accelerator Program at Princeton University. Danna is active in the TIgerlabs startup community, and serves as the Managing Creative Director for the Mann Einstein Players, an inventive theater community exploring the distance between the actors and the audience. Danna has worked for and advised many startups in New Jersey and New York’s Silicon Alley, including serving as the Founder of Red Panda Insight Apps, which focuses using cognitive science to enhance end user experience.  Danna has a BA in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and an MA in Biotechnology from Boston University, as well as a PhD in Virology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was served as a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society fellow at Princeton University while teaching in the Global Health Policy Program for the Woodrow Wilson School.

Kef Kasdin

Princeton University

Entrepreneurship: The Road to Success Workshop

Kef Kasdin teaches the introductory “Foundations of Entrepreneurship” course at Princeton University and is one of three Executives in Residence for the University’s Office of Technology Licensing, where she advises faculty, post docs and graduate students about the potential commercialization of their technical breakthroughs in the physical sciences.  Kef is active in the nonprofit community.  She is President of Princeton AlumniCorps, which trains the next generation of social sector leaders; and Board Chair of Rachel’s Network, a vibrant community of women at the intersection of environmental advocacy, philanthropy and women’s leadership.  Kef led Battelle Ventures’ investments in clean energy and started several companies based on Department of Energy Lab technologies.  As Founder and CEO of Proterro, she was named among the top people in the bioeconomy for four years in a row.  Earlier in her career Kef worked in technology management in Silicon Valley and in management consulting.  Kef received her BSE degree from Princeton University in 1985 in Operations Research, with a certificate in Science and Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School; and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in 1989.

Christin Monroe

Princeton University

Science Communication Workshop

Christin Monroe is a PhD candidate in the Chemistry department in Princeton University. She is studying how enzymes, three-dimensional molecular machines, are able to perform environmentally friendly chemical reactions.


Allison Dorlen Pastor, Ph.D.

Anxiety and Depression Workshop

Allison Dorlen Pastor, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist with a private therapy practice in Princeton, NJ. She earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2001 from Fordham University and her BA in psychology from Tufts University in 1994. Dr. Dorlen Pastor conducted her dissertation research at Columbia University Medical Center, examining factors related to the vulnerability to alcohol abuse in young women. From 2001-2004, she worked at Columbia for three more years as a research scientist at the Substance Treatment and Research Service (STARS), delivering cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relapse prevention and motivational interviewing to participants in clinical trials. As Assistant Director of Training, she also provided training and supervision to the Columbia Presbyterian psychiatric residents and psychology interns. Dr. Dorlen Pastor operated private psychotherapy practices in New York City and Teaneck, NJ from 2002 until 2010, when she moved to Princeton. Her primary areas of expertise are in the assessment and treatment of anxiety, as well as alcohol and substance abuse issues. She has a particular interest in assisting women with mental health and life adjustment concerns.


Jonathan Pastor, Psy. D., CC-AASP

Anxiety and Depression Workshop

Jonathan Pastor, Psy. D., CC-AASP is the Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at Princeton University. Dr. Pastor also has a part-time private psychotherapy practice in Princeton, NJ. Dr. Pastor received his doctorate in clinical psychology from Rutgers in 2002, and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brown University in 1996. He completed his post-doctoral training and then continued on as a staff psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center from 2002-2010. As Associate Director at CPS, Dr. Pastor oversees general clinical and urgent care services, supervises clinicians, and coordinates the Alcohol and Other Drug team. He also founded and leads the TIGERSPAW (TIGER Student-Athlete Performance and Wellness) Team at University Health Services, which is a multidisciplinary team that addresses mental health and performance-related issues among student-athletes. Dr. Pastor became a Certified Consultant of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology in 2013 (CC-AASP). Along with helping student-athletes, Dr. Pastor’s other professional interests include diversity and inclusion, treatment of sleep issues, bereavement and loss, and interpersonal therapy for anxiety and depression.

Sara Rodriguez

Princeton University

Science Communication Workshop

is the Education Outreach Coordinator for PCCM. She helps manage all the educational programs for a wide range of audiences in materials science and greatly enjoys developing demos and closely working with scientists. Sara is originally from Barcelona, Spain.


Amada Sandoval

Director, Princeton University Women’s Center

Developing a Personal Work-Life Balance Plan Workshop

Amada Sandoval joined the Princeton Women’s Center as director in 2001, after a few years as a graduate student in the English Department. In her capacity as director she gets to learn from undergraduates, graduate students, other scholars, and staff; and occasionally teach undergraduates. In addition to her work at the Center she is a Faculty Fellow for the Women’s Track and Field Team, an Academic Adviser for Wilson College, and a founding sponsor of the Princeton Women’s Mentorship Program (PWMP). She grew up in Colorado and Missouri, and has been on the East Coast since college. Outside of work she enjoys cooking, practicing yoga, attending Princeton University sports events, and talking about film and contemporary fiction. Her doctoral work is on film noir, and hard-boiled detective fiction from the early 1940s.


Prof. Chandralekha Singh

University of Pittsburgh

How to Be an Ally Workshop

Chandralekha Singh is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh. She obtained her Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics from the University of California Santa Barbara and was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, before joining the University of Pittsburgh. She has been conducting research in physics education for two decades. She is a pioneer in conducting educational research related to the teaching and learning of quantum mechanics. She held the chair-line of the American Physical Society Forum on Education from 2009-2013 and was the chair of the editorial board of Physical Review Special Topics Physics Education Research from 2010-2013. She has co-organized two physics education research conferences in 2006 and 2007 and was the co-chair of the 2010 Gordon Conference on Physics Research and Education. She co-chaired the first conference which brought together physicists, chemists and engineers from various engineering departments to discuss the future of materials science and engineering education in 2008. She was the co-organizer of the first conference on graduate education in physics in 2008 and chaired the second conference on graduate education in physics in 2013. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and American Association of Physics Teachers. She is a team leader for the 2017 International Conference on Women in Physics in Birmingham, UK.

Daniel Steinberg

Princeton University

Science Communication Workshop

Daniel Steinberg is the Director of Education Outreach for PCCM. He received his PhD in Geophysics from Binghamton University in 1992 and has worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, where he remotely steered the Hubble Space Telescope. Dan currently runs many educational programs for students, teachers and the general public in materials science.


Prof. Josee Vedrine-Pauléus

University of Puerto Rico – Humacao

Professional Skills Workshop

Josee Vedrine-Pauléus is professor in the Department of Physics and
Electronics at the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao campus. Before joining
the faculty at UPRH, she held adjunct faculty positions at CUNY-Brooklyn
College in the Departments of Physics, and Business Administration. Professor
Vedrine received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Brown, and was a
postdoctoral fellow in the Block Copolymer Group at Princeton University. She
currently serves on the American Physical Society (APS) Committee on the
Status of Women in Physics, and is dedicated to mentoring undergraduate
research students in the physical sciences.


Prof. David S. Yeager

University of Texas at Austin

Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat, and Growth Mindset Workshop

David S. Yeager is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on motivation and adolescent development, and on the use of behavioral science to make improvements toward pressing social issues. He received his Ph. D. from Stanford University in 2011.

Prof. Craig Arnold

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“The TAG Lens:  Developing a New Technology from the Fundamental Physics to a Commercialized Product”

Craig Arnold received his undergraduate degree from Haverford College as a dual major in Physics and Math before earning his PhD in Physics from Harvard University.  He served as an NRC Post-doctoral fellow at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washinginton, DC before joining the faculty at Princeton.  He currently is a Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering and serves as the Director of the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials.  His research primarily focuses on laser processing and transport in materials with particular emphasis on laser-matter interactions and energy storage technologies. Professor Arnold’s research group strives to develop a deep understanding of the fundamental materials and optical physics, in order to have a direct impact on applications and engineering aspects in fields ranging from energy to biology or imaging to nanoscience.  Our research is primarily experimental in nature with a mix of fundamental and applied projects.


Prof. Jo Dunkley

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Back to The Big Bang”

Jo Dunkley is a Professor of Physics and Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. Her research is in cosmology, studying the origins and evolution of the Universe. Professor Dunkley’s main projects are the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, the Simons Observatory, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. She is also interested in and committed to engaging more young women to pursue physics.


Fatima Ebrahimi

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“How magnetic field is annihilated while being generated?”

Fatima Ebrahimi is a plasma physicist at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.  She conducts research in computational and theoretical plasma physics, with applications to both magnetic fusion and astrophysics. She has been inspired by inter-disciplinary problems of plasma physics and strived to find common ground between some of the major problems in magnetically confined laboratory plasmas and astrophysical plasmas. Studies of plasma stability, momentum transport, large-scale magnetic field generation (dynamo), and magnetic reconnection in fusion/laboratory and astrophysical plasmas constitute her main research interests.


Prof. Jenny Greene

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“The Hunt For Supermassive Black Hole Binaries”

Jenny Greene is a Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University. She studies supermassive black holes and the galaxies that they live in (see her Scientific American article for an introduction). Apart from her teaching and administrative duties as the Director of Graduate Studies in the Astronomy department, she also teaches algebra in NJ state prisons through the Prison Teaching Initiative. In her spare time she runs marathons and learns about beads.


Prof. Jessica C. E. Irving

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Normal modes oscillations: hearing the whole Earth shake”

Jessica C. E. Irving is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. Her research interests are in seismological studies of the deep Earth, with a strong focus on developing a better understanding of the structure and evolution of the core. Professor Irving uses body wave observations and normal mode oscillations to study the structure of Earth’s inner and outer cores, in particular the presence of both global and regional scale variations. She also is interested in the properties of Earth’s silicate mantle and in the internal structure of other rocky planets including Mars and Mercury. After getting a physics degree at the University of Cambridge, she moved into geophysics which allows her to apply physics to something tangible – the Earth! Professor Irving is interested in increasing diversity in the geosciences, and particularly in geophysics at the university level and beyond.


Prof. Mariangela Lisanti

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“The Hunt for Dark Matter”

Mariangela Lisanti is a theoretical particle physicist interested in models of dark matter and their experimental signatures.  Professor Lisanti received a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University in 2005 and a Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2010.  After completing her postdoctoral fellowship at the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science in 2013, she began her current position as an Assistant Professor in Princeton’s physics department.


Prof. Eve Ostriker

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Star Formation: Giving Back and Keeping it Hot”

Eve Ostriker’s research is in theoretical and computational astrophysics. Her work focuses on understanding the physics behind a wide range of astronomical systems involving gas dynamics, from the formation and collapse of clouds to create our own and other solar systems; to the cycle of energy and matter exchanges between the gaseous and stellar components in the Milky Way and other spiral galaxies; to the regulation of star formation in the cosmos over the last ten billion years. Professor Ostriker lives in Princeton with her husband and 17-year-old daughter, and a second daughter recently graduated from MIT. She is a strong advocate for increasing the representation of women in theoretical and computational areas of physics and astrophysics, and particularly enjoys acting as research advisor for talented women undergraduate and graduate students.


Mallika Randeria

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Imaging Electron Wavefunctions in High Magnetic Fields: from Landau Orbits to a Nematic Quantum Liquid”

Mallika Randeria is a fourth year experimental physics graduate student working with Professor Ali Yazdani at Princeton University. She is broadly interested in condensed matter physics; her research involves using a scanning tunneling microscope to image electronic properties of material surfaces on the atomic scale. Recent experiments in her lab have explored exciting new frontiers of nanoscale material research by probing the beautiful phenomena related to topology and superconductivity that arise at millikelvin temperatures and in high magnetic fields. Mallika received a B.S. in Physics from MIT in 2012. She is a strong advocate for creating an inclusive and diverse environment in physics and is co-leading the women in physics group at Princeton this year.

Frederick Simons

Prof. Frederik J Simons

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Geophysics: Not your grandpa’s physics, not your grandma’s geology”

The earth and planetary sciences together define a “subject”, not a “discipline”. If physics, chemistry and biology are the core disciplines, and mathematics the common language, then the application of any of these Sciences to the study of the earth system, or to the properties of moons, asteroids, and planets, broadly defines the geo-sciences. In the Department of Geosciences, all of us are engaged in observational, experimental, numerical and theoretical research pertaining to the System Earth (and many of us engage with the science of other planets). As a card-carrying geophysicist, I investigate the properties of Earth’s crust and mantle and of its waning ice-cover, and how those two interact to modulate sea-level change. My group has branched out to study the lithospheres of Venus and Mars (from their topography, gravity and magnetic signatures). We use seismology (mechanical waves, mostly from earthquakes), and potential fields: gravity (and its temporal variations measured by satellites), and magnetism (from observations obtained by satellites under non-ideal conditions). I specialize in the so-called “inverse problem”: we consider the physics of the “forward problem” to be (mostly) known, and instead, we figure out, via statistical inference from messy (noisy and incomplete) data, the properties of the Earth and planets that are likely (not always uniquely so!) to have given rise to the data as observed. If there’s one constant in my career, it’s been change! As a child, I really did want to be a paleontologist, and then a scholar of foreign literature. In college, I most loved physics, but it was geology that changed my life by, literally, grounding me.


Prof. Howard Stone

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Fluid Dynamics and Soft Condensed Matter Physics”

Howard Stone studies fluid mechanics problems, and often investigates related questions in soft condensed matter physics, using experiments, theory and numerical simulations. Many of the questions are at the intersections of engineering, biology, physics and applied mathematics. Professor Stone received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis in 1982 and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Caltech in 1988. From 1989-2009 he was a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard and now is Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. He is a Fellow of the American Physics Society and is past Chair of the Division of Fluid Dynamics.


Prof. Claire White

Princeton University

Hot Topics in Physics (And Related Fields) Workshop

“Why I Chose a Career in STEM”

As an Assistant Professor at Princeton University in the School of Applied Science and Engineering, Claire White is being regularly asked why she chose a career in STEM. When she was a senior in high school she was seriously contemplating a number of different career avenues including music performance and medicine, but ultimately followed her interests in mathematics and physics. In her talk, Professor White plans to discuss some of the research her group performs on sustainable construction materials, and how physics and mathematics crop up in our day-to-day activities. She will also discuss my personal motivations for following a career in STEM and how she wound up becoming an academic.