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Student Pugwash USA
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Board of Directors

Ben Austin is Vice President, Marketing and Communications for the World Science Festival. The inaugural Festival in May 2008 in New York City featured three days of programs exploring the many ways in which scientific discovery and innovation are shaping modern life, attracting over 120,000 people . Previously, he was a public relations and marketing consultant at Beijing Med-Pharm, which links U.S. and Western pharmaceutical companies to the Chinese marketplace. Prior to his position at Beijing Med-Pharm, he managed marketing programs and developed business strategies for several technology and software companies. In 2004, Austin worked as the marketing and communications lead for Caroline Kennedy at the New York City Dept. of Education, highlighting the effort to raise private funds for the city’s public schools.  He began his career as a scientist.  He received a BS in Chemistry with honors and a BA from Stanford University, and worked as a molecular biologist at Rockefeller University and Genentech.

Kavita M. Berger is the Associate Director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Kavita's work encompasses scientific engagement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), security dialogues with U.S. universities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and work with transformative technologies. She has collaborated with a number of research institutions across the MENA region, the Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Academy of Science, and U.S. universities, such as George Mason University. Since she initially joined AAAS in 2005, Kavita has worked on complex biosecurity policy issues, such as personnel reliability and misuse of information, by actively interacting with the scientific community, facilitating open dialogue between the scientific and security communities, and providing a voice for the scientific community in timely biosecurity policy discussions. Through these projects and other activities, she and her colleagues have helped enable scientists to contribute to addressing biosecurity risks at the local, national, and international levels. In 2012, Kavita worked with the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues for seven months. There, she was the staff lead on the Commission's evaluation of the ethical issues associated with pediatric medical countermeasures research. Prior to joining AAAS in 2006, Kavita conducted her post-doctoral research at the Emory Vaccine Center. Her research was on pre-clinical research and development of HIV and smallpox vaccines. Kavita received her Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University. Her doctoral research was on nuclear transport of proteins and messenger RNA. She received her B.S. in molecular genetics at The Ohio State University and performed her undergraduate honors thesis on cell adhesion, which affects cancer metastasis and osteoclast development.

Cameron D. Bess is a post-doctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, where we studies the familial genetic protection against severe malaria in West Africans.  Dr. Bess received his Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University in Cellular Biophysics in 2009.  Dr. Bess was the Co-Coordinator of SPUSA's Rockefeller Chapter and served as Student Board Member to the National Office at that time.  He received his Bachelors of Science in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with honors from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2002.

Paul Billings, M.D., Ph.D., a board certified internist and clinical geneticist, was appointed as President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Cellpoint Diagnostics (CPD) in February, 2008. CPD, a Mohr, Davidow Ventures backed enterprise, seeks to revolutionize cancer care through the provision of products and services focused on circulating tumor cells. Dr. Billings is also Executive Chairman of Signature Genomics Laboratories LLC, and serves on the Board of Directors of BioScale Inc., Cyntellect Inc., Lipomics, Inc. and several not-for-profit public interest organizations. Until September 2007, he was Senior Vice President and Senior Geneticist at Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings Inc. He has been Professor of Anthropology (adjunct) at the University of California at Berkeley and has published extensively on topics in immunology, genetics and medicine. Dr. Billings has interest and expertise in diagnostics in medical care and genomic medicine.

Jason J Blackstock, PPhys, PhD, MPA is the Deputy Head of Department of University College London's new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP), an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the University of Oxford, and an Associate Professor (Adjunct) of the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) at the University of Waterloo. With a unique background incorporating research physics, technology development, public policy, and international affairs, Jason is emerging as a leading international scholar and policy adviser on the interface between science and global public policy. He has previously built and led research and policy engagement programmes from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (Canada) that examined the complex interactions between the scientific, political and global governance dimensions of our planetary climate and energy challenges.

Rita Colwell, Ph.D., Emeritus, is Distinguished University Professor both at the University of Maryland at College Park and at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Chairman of Canon US Life Sciences, Inc.. Her interests are focused on global infectious diseases, water, and health, and she is currently developing an international network to address emerging infectious diseases and water issues, including safe drinking water for both the developed and developing world. Previously, she served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation, 1998-2004. Before going to NSF, she was President of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute. She was also a member of the National Science Board from 1984 to 1990. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and she has also been awarded 47 honorary degrees from institutions of higher education. She holds a B.S. in Bacteriology and an M.S. in Genetics, from Purdue University, and a Ph.D. in Oceanography from the University of Washington.

Kyle Gracey, President is a Graduate Research Assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the Engineering and Public Policy Department at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Commissioned Officer Candidate in the Army National Guard. He is the former Executive Director and current Board Chair of SustainUS: U.S. Youth for Sustainable Development, and delegate to more than a dozen United Nations negotiations on climate, social development, and sustainable development. He was recently an Energy and Climate Fellow at the Worldwatch Institute and also recently worked in the Communications Office for U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, and was a consultant with the Gade Environmental Group. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with B.S. degrees in Ecological Economics and Biochemistry/Biophysics, where he is their only Harry S. Truman Scholarship recipient, and from the University of Chicago with an M.S. in the Physical Sciences Division and Harris Public Policy School, where he was a Harris Fellow. He also investigated international development and environment issues at The American University in Washington, DC and in Brazil, Israel, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates. Kyle worked in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Transportation as a Policy Analyst, and as an International Economist Graduate Intern in the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Western Hemisphere Affairs during the financial crisis, and was an Education Docent at the National Aquarium. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Truman Scholars Association, where is the President, on the board of Engineers for a Sustainable World, and is the Treaties Task Force Chair at the Society for Conservation Biology. He is a Life Member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. His publications, media interviews, and presentations number over 100.

Debra JH Mathews, Ph.D., M.A., Vice Chair, is the Assistant Director for Science Programs for the Phoebe R Berman Bioethics Institute at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Mathews earned her B.S. in Biology from the Pennsylvania State University and a PhD in genetics from Case Western Reserve University. Concurrent with her PhD, she earned a Master’s degree in bioethics, also from Case. She completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in genetics at Johns Hopkins, where she continued her work on human genetic variation and human population history. She also completed the Greenwall Fellowship in Bioethics and Health Policy, which is jointly administered by Johns Hopkins and Georgetown Universities. As a Greenwall Fellow, Dr. Mathews worked at the Genetics and Public Policy Center, researching the views of geneticists on their role(s) in science policy formation and public engagement. In addition, during a three-month internship at the Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of Science and Data Policy, she worked with the Privacy Advocate on issues related to large data systems. As the Assistant Director for Science Programs, Dr. Mathews is responsible for overseeing the Program in Cell Engineering, Ethics, and Public Policy and the Program in Ethics and Brain Sciences, as well as other bench research related endeavors in the BBI. Her research interests focus on the intersection of science, public policy and society.

Alan H. McGowan, Chair An executive editor of Environment magazine, he is chair of the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Eugene Lang College and of the science program in the University Liberal Studies Program, both of New School University. He is also the Founder and President of the Gene Media Forum, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing information on all aspects of the genetic revolution to journalists. For 20 years, he was president of the Scientists’ Institute for Public Information, which served as a bridge between the scientific community and the media. Mr. McGowan has written extensively on science policy and public understanding of science issues.

Kathryn McKeough, Secretary is an undergraduate B.S. student in Physics and Statistics and a Science and Humanities Scholar at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her research involves several projects under the cross-disciplinary study, Astrostatistics, in which advanced statistical modeling is applied to astrophysical goals. Currently she is working on determining which statistic performs best in galaxy cluster, the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe, detection. Kathryn first got involved in science, technology and ethics after attending a CMU Student Pugwash discussion. She is currently the President of the Carnegie Mellon Chapter of Student Pugwash. She also peer tutors introductory physics and is Vice President of CMU Club Tennis Team. Her favorite topic is how scientists and engineers communicate the importance of their work to the general public and fellow researchers and developers. Upon graduation in May 2015, she plans to attend graduate school. Kathryn was elected as a SPUSA Student Board Member for the 2014-2016 term.

Sharlissa Moore, Treasurer, is a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology program.  Her research explores the human and social aspects of energy innovation and renewable energy development, with a focus on the Mediterranean Region.  She connects research to application, having worked on energy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Science and Technology Policy Institute. From 2006-2008, she was the Program Manager in the national Student Pugwash USA office, serving as a liaison with student participants nationwide and increasing student participation.  She also works to bolster the network of science and technology policy by serving on the Governing Board of the student Journal of Science Policy and Governance and the STGlobal conference organizing committee.  Sharlissa received her B.A. in Astronomy from Smith College.

Jeff Porten is n SPUSA alumnus representative on the Board. He is an independent Internet consultant, entrepreneur, and freelance writer based out of Philadelphia and Washington, DC.  He focuses on Macintosh and open-source Internet technologies professional and out of personal interest. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he served two terms as a Student Pugwash board representative and Chapter Advisory Council co-chair from 1989-1993 and has attended Pugwash and ISODARCO meetings since graduating.  Jeff is fired up about organizing alumni to hold SPUSA-style events and maintain an active and vibrant network.

Rachel Svetanoff, Vice President is an undergraduate senior at Purdue University pursuing a major in American Chemical Society Accredited Chemistry/Biochemistry with a minor in Biology. She also is receiving a Purdue College of Science Learning Beyond the Classroom Certificate showing her dedication to professional development, service leadership, and cultural diversity. She was an intern at Eli Lilly Company as an analytical chemist working in the Quality Control Laboratories and an undergraduate researcher under Dr. Paul Shepson, former department head of Chemistry and professor of Analytical and Atmospheric Chemistry, and Dr. George Bodner, Author Kelly Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in Chemical Education. Under Dr. Paul Shepson, Rachel assisted in measuring greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere around the city of Indianapolis using various analytical techniques. Under Dr. George Bodner, she assisted in investigating how to overcome constraints instructors face that interfere with creating a classroom environment that is consistent with optimum methods for students to learn using both professor and student perspectives via interviews and surveys. Rachel is also extensively involved in extra-curricular activities and currently holds six officer positions. She is a mentor for the Women in Science Program learning community and is also one of seventeen Mae Lloyd Jandos scholars, the highest achievement awarded for the College of Science. She is a Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Purdue Student Government, Director of Public Relations for American Chemical Society – Student Affiliates and national American Chemical Society member, Community Outreach Head for Purdue Science Student Council, and Team Leader for the Emily Mauzy Vogel Leadership Development Retreat. However, Rachel’s involvement with Purdue Student Pugwash is what she is most notably known for at Purdue starting as Director of Public Relations and now its current President. She has been awarded the Betty Nelson Leadership Award and the Class of 1937 Scholarship for her excellence in demonstrating leadership at the university and plans on pursuing graduate school in the medical field after graduating. She was elected as a SPUSA Student Board Member for the 2014-2016 term.

Walter D. Valdivia is a fellow in the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. He studies innovation policy and inequality, and focuses on technology transfer and the governance of emerging technologies. Valdivia holds a B.S. in economics from Universidad Católica Boliviana, and an M.S. in economics and a Ph.D. in public administration from Arizona State University.