APS CUWiP Keynote Speaker

Prof. Nergis Mavalvala, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Nergis Mavalvala, Marble Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a 2010 recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award, is a physicist whose research focuses on the detection of gravitational waves from violent events in the cosmos that warp and ripple the fabric of spacetime. Mavalvala is best known for her work on the detection of gravitational waves. She was a member of the scientific team that in February 2016 announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors. Mavalvala has also conducted pioneering experiments on generation and application of exotic squeezed states of light, and on laser cooling and trapping of macroscopic objects to enable observation of quantum phenomena in human-scale systems. Mavalvala received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. from MIT. She was a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at the California Institute of Technology before joining the Physics faculty at MIT in 2002. In her spare time, she loves to bicycle long distances, play squash, and spend time with her family.



Prof. Gail Dodge, Old Dominion University


Gail Dodge received her Ph.D. from Stanford University and joined the Old Dominion University (ODU) Department of Physics in 1995, where she is now a Full Professor and past chair. Her accomplishments in research, teaching and community service are truly impressive. Dr. Dodge has been leading a vigorous research program studying the fundamental structure of the neutron at Jefferson Lab. She has been an innovative and highly respected teacher for 20 years, as witnessed by her winning the State of Virginia’s “Outstanding Faculty Award”. And she has truly made her mark on her profession through her service. Dodge guided the ODU Physics department towards a new research direction in accelerator science while serving as chair. She distinguished her service at the National Science Foundation as a program manager and on the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee. Her achievements in that area were recognized in 2013 by the Francis Slack Award of the Southeastern Section of the APS. 



Prof. Kate Scholberg, Duke University 


Kate Scholberg is Professor of Physics and Bass Fellow at Duke University.  She received her B.Sc. in Physics from McGill University in 1989.  She then attended Caltech, receiving an M.S. in 1991 and a Ph.D. in 1997 for thesis research on the MACRO experiment at Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy.  As a research associate at Boston University, she joined the Super-Kamiokande collaboration.  She was Assistant Professor at MIT from 2000-2004 before moving to Duke University.  A recipient of the DOE Outstanding Junior Investigator and NSF CAREER awards, she is currently a member of the Super-Kamiokande and T2K collaborations and serves on the Executive Committee of the DUNE collaboration.  She is spokesperson of the COHERENT experiment, which does neutrino physics at the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  She coordinates the SuperNova Early Warning System, an international network of supernova neutrino detectors. She was elected as an APS Fellow in 2013.  Her recent service to the community includes HEPAP (2007-2010), Member at Large of the APS Division of Particles and Fields Executive Committee (2010-2012), Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (2013-2014), and the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee (2014-2016).  She is currently Chair of the APS Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics and serves as the APS Division of Particles and Fields Secretary/Treasurer.



Prof. Karen Daniels, North Carolina State University


Professor Daniels received her PhD from Cornell University and was a postdoctoral research associate at Duke University. She joined the faculty of North Carolina State University in 2005. She was a 2007 recipient of an NSF Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award, and a 2011 recipient of an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship which provided support for a sabbatical leave to the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, Germany.  Her main research interests center around experiments on the nonequilibrium and nonlinear dynamics of granular materials, fluids, and gels. These experiments have allowed her lab to address questions of how failure occurs, how non-trivial patterns arise, and what controls the transitions between different classes of behaviors. Several of these studies have used idealized systems to provide insight into biological and geological phenomena. 



Prof. Sabrina Stierwalt University of Virginia


Dr. Sabrina Stierwalt is an astrophysicist working as a staff scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and as adjunct faculty at the University of Virginia. Her research uses multi-wavelength surveys to study the cosmological assembly history of galaxies.  She uses nearby, interacting galaxies to understand how stars formed throughout the universe's history with a focus on radio and submillimeter wavelengths. She is also Macmillan Publishing's Everyday Einstein with a weekly science podcast with an international audience. In 2016, she was named a L'Oreal UNESCO International Rising Talent after being the first astronomer ever awarded the L'Oreal For Women in Science fellowship in 2014, a 15 year program run in partnership with the AAAS that both awards large monetary grants to postdocs to put toward their research and their mentoring activities and connects early career researchers with high level policy makers in the White House and Congress.




Prof. Laura Greene, Florida State University


Laura H. Greene is the Eppes professor of physics at Florida State University and Chief Scientist at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. She was previously a Swanlund and Center for Advanced Study professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is noted for her research on Andreev bound states and is an expert in strongly correlated electronic systems. During the discoveries of the first high transition temperature (Hi-Tc) superconductors, she and collaborators from Bellcore were amongst the first to report on the roles of oxygen and crystal structure on their superconductivity. Laura is a champion for diversity and is active in promoting equal rights for women and minorities. She is a member of the Department of State supported COACh team, an organization for assisting in the success and impact of women scientists and engineer. She is a member, National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, AAAS, and APS.  In 2017, Laura will be president of the APS, and her theme will be “Science Diplomacy."


Dr. Jeri Brunson, Navy


Jeri Brunson received her B.Sc in Physics from Utah State University in 2003, then continued at Utah State, receiving a PhD in 2009. Her graduate research was focused on electrical properties and charge transport in polymers, including the primary insulating materials chosen for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope. She was involved in the design and selection of a set of polymers tested on Materials International Space Station Experiment-6 (MISSE-6A/B). After receiving her PhD, she became a civilian scientist for the United States Department of the Navy at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. Since beginning her career at NSWCDD, she has worked across a broad variety of projects, encompassing corrosion and materials engineering, computing systems infrastructure, astronomy, geodesy, and finally coming full circle, material behavior in the space environment. In her spare time, she enjoys kayaking, yoga, oil painting, and attempting to knit with two cats who also love yarn. She is an avid collector of all things Captain America and runs the Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland every fall.


Kara Geisel, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office


Kara Geisel graduated with a degree in Physics from Virginia Tech in 2002.  Since then, she has been working at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office as a patent examiner in the field of optical testing and measuring.  During her time at the USPTO, she has helped many inventors obtain patent protection for their inventions in areas such as hyperspectral imaging, Raman scattering, and colorimetry.  She is currently involved in several programs within the patent office including the CPC transition group, the Worklife Committee, and the Diversity Group.   The CPC transition group is dedicated to improving the quality of searches during patent examination, while the work life committee and diversity group are dedicated to enriching the quality of an examiner’s work experience.  Last year she was promoted to the position of Supervisory Patent Examiner.  She currently lives in Woodbridge with her husband and two rescue dogs.



Dr. Bevlee WatfordVirginia Tech


Dr. Bevlee Watford is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity at Virginia Tech. Dean Watford earned all of her degrees from Virginia Tech's College of Engineering (BS Mining Engineering, MS and PhD in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research). She has worked at Virginia Tech since 1992, becoming associate dean in 1997. She has two children, Devon (BIT '15) and Leah (SBIO '18). Her professional interests are focused on ensuring that all students who desire an engineering degree are successful. She is particularly interested in helping under-represented students achieve their educational and professional goals.


Dr. Sara Gamble, Bennett Aerospace


Dr. Sara Gamble is currently a Senior Research Scientist for Bennett Aerospace in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.  Through Bennett Aerospace, she is working as a government contractor to the Army Research Office's Physics Division, an organization dedicated to funding aggressive basic physics research programs.  Within the Physics Division she primarily supports the Quantum Information Science program's research portfolio.  Prior to moving to North Carolina, Sara worked as an Applications Development Engineer at KLA-Tencor, a semiconductor equipment manufacturer based in Silicon Valley, in a group specializing in darkfield microscopy based inspections of patterned semiconductor wafers.  She completed her PhD in Applied Physics at Stanford University with a concentration in ultrafast magnetization dynamics in 2010, and previously graduated from the University of Florida with a BS in Physics in 2003. 


Dr. Connie Li, Naval Research Laboratory

Dr. Connie Li received her B.S. and Ph.D. in 1998 and 2002 from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), working on compound semiconductor surface reactions at an atomic scale in metal organic vapor phase epitaxy (MOVPE), during which she was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Fellowship.  She joined NRL as a National Research Council (NRC) Postdoctoral Research Associate in 2002, and became a staff research scientist in 2004 in the Magnetoelectronic Materials & Devices section in the Materials Science & Technology Division.  Her current research involves spin dependent transport and magneto-optical studies in magnetic semiconductors, ferromagnet/semiconductor heterostructures, and topological insulators for spintronic applications.  She has been an editor for the Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (MMM) Proceedings since 2015, and is currently serving on the program committees for SPIE, Intermag, and MMM. 



Anna-Marion Bieri, Virginia Tech

Anna-Marion Bieri is an Assistant Professor of Practice and the director of the Science, Technology, & Law program. Her main teaching and research interests are innovation policy and intellectual property law, with a special focus on intellectual property management at universities, international and comparative intellectual property law.

Before Anna-Marion came to Virginia Tech in 2010, she was partnet of an IP consulting company (based in Aarau, Switzerland) that she co-founded with her father, and associate partner at a small boutique executive search firm in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. From 2000 until 2006, Anna-Marion held various positions in the private banking industry in Zurich, Switzerland.

Anna-Marion is currently working on completing her dissertation at the University of Bayreuth, in Bayreuth, Germany, titled "Patents & Professors: On the Interdependence Between Patent Law, Science, & Universities in the US". She received an LL.M. in IP from the MIPLC in Munich, Germany (an IP Centre jointly run by the Max Plank Institute for IP Competition Law, University of Augsburg, TUM, and George Washington School of Law) and holds an LL.B. (hons) from University of Durham, UK.