Panel Discussion


Willie Miller Auditorium

Start Date

23-3-2017 12:45 PM

End Date

23-3-2017 1:30 PM

Panelist Info

Laura Adolfie, PhD

Laura is the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Chair for the American Association of University Women Florida (AAUW-FL). Prior to moving to Florida, she held senior-level positions in the executive and legislative branches of the Federal government. Much of her career was spent developing and managing programs ranging from increasing the number of highly qualified STEM talent to university research centers of excellence. Laura was 6ft tall and 23 years old when she started advocating for equity, access, and opportunities for girls and women, especially in STEM. Although she is presently 5ft tall, and well....older, until the goal is met, she will NEVER give up!

Meghan Burleigh (Engineering Physics Ph.D. student)

Meghan is an Engineering Physics Ph.D. student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach, FL. She received her B.S. in Space Physics, with concentrations in Astrophysics and Remote Sensing, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott, AZ. She will be the first person in her family to earn a Ph.D. when she graduates this December. As part of her doctoral studies, Meghan has developed a novel computer program used to simulate how the ionosphere, part of the near-Earth space environment, responds to auroral and atmospheric disturbances. Currently she is working on simulating the plasma flow due to aurora observed by a recent sounding rocket campaign and serving as a student representative on the CEDAR Science Steering Committee.

Sharmistha Chakrabarti, M.S.

Sharmistha Chakrabarti is an Associate Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). She received her first Master of Science in Pure Mathematics from University of Calcutta, India and her second Masters of Science in Applied Mathematics from Clemson University. She was the winner of the Clayton V. Aucoin Award for Outstanding Masters Student. During her time at ERAU, Sharmistha taught a broad spectrum of math courses to students in Engineering, Business, and Aviation, that includes advanced engineering courses, special topics, and honors level courses.

She is the winner of 2016 Tej Gupta Outstanding Teaching Award. Previously she has received Outstanding Mathematics Instructor Award presented by Delta-Chi Fraternity. In 2012, she was recognized by the Student Government Association of ERAU with Student First Award for her dedication to students. Sharmistha is actively involved in promoting and supporting female students in STEM programs. She, along with other colleagues, hosted the annual Women in Math event from 2005 to 2012, in an effort to motivate female high schools students of Volusia County to choose math and science as programs of choice for higher education. She had participated in STEM Teachers Professional Development Workshop for middle and high school teachers and had given presentations. Since 2010, she is the advisor of the organization Up ‘til Dawn – a nationwide student-led and student-run program to raise awareness and funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Karen Gaines. PhD ( Dean of COAS)

Dr. Gaines’ scientific career has spanned an array of disciplines. Starting as a wildlife biologist, Dr. Gaines quickly became interested in the emerging fields of Geographic Information Science (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). After earning her Master’s degree from Purdue University, Dr. Gaines went on to work with the Department of Energy modeling radionuclides in the environment. Her research then expanded to environmental toxicology and physiological stressors. Dr. Gaines pursued her PhD in Public Health and was awarded the doctoral achievement award from the University of South Carolina for her work on identifying risks to humans living near contaminated sites. Dr. Gaines joined the faculty at Eastern Illinois University where she started and co-directed a GISci Center and became Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. During that time period, she continued her research and consulted for the USEPA and USDOE on public health issues. Dr. Gaines took the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Embry-Riddle this past summer and has been collaborating on research focusing on sending experiments to the International Space Station that looks at exposure to radioactivity and other stressors on the body. She also worked very closely with the faculty to start a new major, Aerospace Physiology, that focuses on the medical sciences as they pertain to flight and space travel.

Elizabeth Lazzara, Ph.D (Human Factors)

I am an Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the Human Factors department. Prior the arriving at ERAU, I received my doctorate in Applied Experimental Human Factors Psychology from the University of Central Florida. Although I have had extensive experiences in military, academic, and commercial settings, my primary interests lie within improving the quality of patient care within the healthcare domain. I strive to make a long lasting and significant impact by examining and advancing the science and practice of clinical care and patient safety issues pertaining to human performance, teamwork, team training, and simulation-based training, and performance measurement.

Heidi Mundhenke (HF grad student)

I am a graduate student studying Human Factors and Systems at Embry-Riddle. I completed two undergraduate degrees in exercise science and human nutrition at Colorado State University, and my career goal is to apply human factors principles to assistive devices, particularly lower limb prosthetics. I am incredibly passionate about the human body, from the smallest spark of a neuron to the symphony of muscle and bone working together to create an infinite variety of movements. In my free time I enjoy the science of baking and the wonderful human capabilities pressed through running.

Katariina Nykyri,PhD (Space physics)

Dr. Nykyri obtained her Ph.D in 2002. In her thesis she demonstrated for the first time how Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability can produce significant plasma transport due to magnetic reconnection. She worked as post-doctoral research associate in Imperial College, London between 2002-2007. She is a co-investigator for the Flux Gate Magnetometer onboard 4 Cluster spacecraft and received in 2005 and 2015 European Space Agency awards for Cluster Exploration of Geospace. In January 2007 she started as an assistant professor of Physics in Embry-Riddle and was tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2010, and to a full professor of physics in 2016. Dr. Nykyri has an externally well-funded research program in magnetospheric physics and supervises ERAU undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D student research. Her major research interests involve understanding the physical mechanisms that transport and heat plasma in solar wind -magnetosphere system. Dr. Nykyri was awarded the NSF career award in 2009 and ERAU researcher of the year award in 2010. She is a Co-director of the ERAU's LASMIR laboratory. She is currently a Steering committee member of the National Science Foundation's GEM program. Since 2015, Dr. Nykyri is the Space Physics Program Coordinator at ERAU.

Sarena Robertson (Computational math, Space physics and , MA, Astronomy & Astrophysics senior)

I've lived in Florida most of my life, spending most of my time on my studies, at the beach, or looking up at the stars. I've always had a passion for space and am pursuing the lifelong goal of becoming an astronaut perhaps on the upcoming missions to Mars. My priorities in life revolve around my family, my faith, and my freedom. Being an "outdoorist", my hobbies include baseball, volleyball, water sports, and cycling, along with some pottery for the rainy days. I am in my final semesters as an undergraduate studying Astronomy & Astrophysics, Computational Mathematics, and Space Physics at ERAU. My research areas involve planetary science, physical oceanography, and astronomy, all of which summarize my passion in STEM. I plan on devoting my career to space studies, with a focus on STEM outreach as a professor or teacher in secondary education someday.


Mar 23rd, 12:45 PM Mar 23rd, 1:30 PM

Panel Discussion

Willie Miller Auditorium