2021 WIST Conference Committee Members
Shirley Ahn, PhD
Sameera Bilgrami, PhD
Svasti Haricharan, PhD
Anastasia (Stacy) Kurnikova, PhD
Angela Macia, PhD
Varykina (Kina) Thackray, PhD
Surl-Hee (Shirley) Ahn is a postdoctoral scholar advised under Prof. J. Andrew McCammon and Prof. Rommie Amaro in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCSD. She is a computational/theoretical chemist and focuses on developing methods for computer simulations and using them to study proteins and biomolecules. Prior to moving to UCSD, she was at Stanford working on her Ph.D. in Chemistry (Chemical Physics). In addition to research, she was a teaching assistant for eleven different classes at Stanford, ranging from undergraduate/graduate-level chemistry to parallel computing. She loves chemistry that enables her to study matter at the atomic level and math that enables her to know the language that describes phenomena. Outside of work, she enjoys training for marathons, visiting national parks, drawing, and trying out new restaurants in San Diego.
Anamaria Ancheta is a senior Biochemistry and Cell Biology undergraduate at the University of California San Diego.
She is passionate about conducting and leading projects on health disparities as the Director of Intersectional Health Project, participating in community health outreach efforts as a member of Chicanx/Latinx for Community Medicine, and hosting conferences focused on careers in health for underserved high school students throughout California.
She believes in providing for her South San Diego community by conducting science outreach for K - 12 students with the Association of Women for Science in San Diego and serving as a mentor on the Tia’s Committee for MANA de San Diego.
As she enters her last quarter, she is focused on preparing for the MCAT and completing her food insecurity research project as a Triton Research Experimental Learning Scholar, titled “Analyzing the Impact of CalFresh acceptance at Farmers Markets in San Diego".
Sameera Bilgrami, PhD. is a scientist at Aethlon Medical, a medical device company that specializes in extracorporeal devices that filter out viruses and cancer promoting exosomes. Her career as a cell biologist started in India at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, TIFR Bangalore, where she studied protein-lipid interactions in live cell membranes. She was a postdoctoral fellow in Late Dr. Gary Bokoch’s lab at The Scripps Research Institute before moving to UCSD. Her research focused on organelle movement, angiogenesis, and cancer cell movement. Sameera has a strong background in cell biology and expertise in imaging techniques, image analysis and programming. She likes to cook, spend time with kids and volunteer at AWIS-SD.
Dina Dehaini is an undergraduate student at UCSD studying Cognitive Science with a Specialization in Machine Learning and Neural Computation. Professional interests lie in the Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning fields. Currently researching biological neural networks with reservoir computing at The Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence and hopes to attend grad school in CSE with a focus on AI.
Dr. Haricharan obtained her BSc in Zoology from India, her MSc in Genetics from the University of Leicester, UK, and her PhD in Molecular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA. She has >10 years of research experience in breast cancer development and treatment response. She started her independent research program as an Assistant Professor at Sanford Burnham Prebys in 2018. Her research focus is on the non-repair related activities of DNA repair proteins in tumor initiation, progression and treatment response. Her work is funded by the NCI, Department of Defense and the Susan Komen Foundation. Her work has been published in well-respected journals in the field including Cancer Cell, Cancer Discovery, eLife and PNAS. She is currently an early career brand ambassador for Susan Komen.
Anastasia is an AI engineer based in San Diego. She works on building machine learning models for technology development. She is particularly passionate about development for scientific instrumentation and medical devices. From 2019-2021 she was a data scientist at Accenture. Anastasia received her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Diego, and BS in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University.
Cynthia Kuan, who is the new secretary to the AWIS-SD board, is Program Director at the ARM Foundation for Cell & Gene Medicine. She is passionate about the development of regenerative medicine therapies and advancing patient access solutions in a coherent and credible manner. She has over 13 years of experience in building/managing innovative programs and is seasoned in alliance management, strategic planning, program development, and financial oversight. From 2014 - 2021, she was the founding business operations manager of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego and helped secure over $70 million funding for stem cell research. Prior to her work at UCSD, she helped build a Chinese immersion charter school in Washington DC and a social service program in Los Angeles. Outside of work, she enjoys her role as the “crazy cat lady.” (She has three adorable feline troublemakers!) She also volunteers through ElderHelp San Diego, providing seniors with access to fresh produce and groceries to mitigate the impact of social confinement caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rachel McMillan is a first year Biomedical Sciences PhD student at the University of California San Diego. She is currently rotating in labs that study viral pathogenesis and host innate immune response, with a particular interest in flaviviruses and viral latency and reactivation. Rachel completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics from the University of California Los Angeles in 2019, where she developed a passion for community service, advocacy, and outreach. She is a member of the AWIS-SD Outreach Committee and is also participating in the planning of this year’s AWIS-SD Women in Science and Technology Conference. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys hiking, camping, yoga, cooking, and going to the beach.
Angela Macia is a Postdoctoral Researcher working at UC San Diego. She earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Granada, Spain in 2015. Angela has a strong background both in transposable elements and stem cells. Her research focuses on modeling neurological diseases, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, investigating how transposons contribute to the disease by using patient-derived neurons and 3D organoids. She is passionate about how AWIS-SD creates opportunities for women and girls in STEM and she has been part of the Corporate Sponsorship committee since 2017. Besides volunteering for AWIS-SD, Angela enjoys traveling, reading and cooking.
Varykina (Kina) Thackray, Ph.D. is a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at UC San Diego. She received a B.A. in biology at Middlebury College and then worked as a lab technician at Cornell Universityand Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals. She obtained her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and completed her post-doctoral training in reproductive endocrinology at UC San Diego. Her lab focuses on understanding the role of the gut microbiome in polycystic ovary syndrome. Kina is passionate about advocating for the equal participation of women in STEM. She has been a member of AWIS San Diego since 2005. She served on the Scholarship (2006-2016; Co-Chair 2006-2008) and Outreach Committees (2016-2020; Co-Chair 2017-2019). She also served as a Board Member-at-Large (2019-2020) and a Speaker/Workshop Organizer for the Women in Science and Technology conference in 2019.
Robyn Wygal is a Program Manager/Research Analyst with a BS in biology, a minor degree in business, and 10 + years of experience managing projects and data communication with multi-level & multi-departmental interfaces and collaborations in Healthcare IT. Her passions include the intersection of data science, research, genomics, and healthcare. Robyn’s early fascination began with “Junk DNA" and now includes the diverse layers of genetic and epigenetic influence on regulatory networks in the context of immunity, chronic disease, and cancer progression.
Robyn has held several roles within AWIS San Diego since 2014. Currently, she is a AWIS San Diego Board Member and the Public Relations Chair and works to highlight and expand our AWIS San Diego programming and network. Robyn attributes STEM advocacy to providing many opportunities to develop and deliver skills in strategic planning, leadership, program design, financial management, partnership development, mentorship, and community engagement, and she finds that it continues to foster a network of valuable resources. In her free time, she enjoys reading science papers, playing with data, running with her husband Robert and Dog Pacer, and hiking and biking all over San Diego.
Michelle Muldong is a Research Associate at the University of California San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center. She works in Dr. Christina Jamieson’s lab studying bone-metastatic prostate cancer performing in vivo and in vitro experiments utilizing patient derived samples. She obtained her B.S. from the University of California San Diego with a degree in General Biology. She has been involved in AWIS since September 2019 and is passionate about teaching the next generation about STEM. Outside of lab Michelle enjoys yoga, hiking, snowboarding, & hanging out with her French bulldog/Boston Terrier mix pup Stitch.
Jennifer Waters (Jenny) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the UCSD-SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Cell and Molecular Biology. She currently works in Dr. Carrie House’s lab at SDSU studying role of preadipocytes in the ovarian cancer tumor microenvironment, and seeks to understand the effect of preadipocyte-mediated expression of insulin-like growth factor binding proteins (IGFBPs). Prior to her return to graduate school, she completed her B.S. at SDSU in Biology, and spent several years working in biotech at Organovo as a member of the Tissue Testing Team, which focused on developing a 3D bioprinted liver tissue model for applications in drug discovery and disease modeling. She is an active member of AWIS-SD and furthers her passion for empowering women by coaching for Girls on the Run (GOTR) San Diego. Outside of the lab, she enjoys hiking with her dog, competing in triathlons and trying bean-to-bar chocolates and craft beer.