Inspiring Women in Science 2017 - Speaker Bios

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Huda Akil, Ph.D. is the Gardner Quarton Distinguished University Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry and the co-Director of the Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience Institute (MBNI) at the University of Michigan. 

Dr. Akil together with Dr. Stanley J. Watson and their colleagues have made seminal contributions to the understanding of the brain biology of emotions, including pain, stress, anxiety and substance abuse. Her current research investigates the genetic and neural mechanisms underlying addiction and mood disorders.

Among her contributions, Dr. Akil and her collaborators provided the first physiological evidence for a role of endorphins in the brain, and showed that endorphins are activated by stress and cause pain inhibition. Her laboratory has developed new genetic animal models of temperament and shown their relevance to human disorders, including addiction and depression. 

She is a member of the Pritzker Consortium, which is engaged in large-scale studies to discover new genes and proteins that cause vulnerability to major depression and bipolar illness. Her work has uncovered the role of the Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) family in depression, anxiety and established its functions in the development and control of emotions.  

Dr. Akil’s contributions have been recognized with numerous honors and awards. In 1994, she was elected to the membership of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM, previously the IOM). In 2004, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2011 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2013, she received Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Award for Distinguished Research in the Biomedical Sciences. In 2015, she was elected to the Lebanese Academy of Medicine and received the Kuwait Prize in Biomedical Research. 

 Dr. Akil has served on several national and international organizations to promote scientific and brain health awareness nationally and globally. She is the past President of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (1998) and the past President of the Society for Neuroscience (2004) the largest neuroscience organization in the world. She has served two terms on the Council of the National Academy of Medicine and currently serves on the National Research Council (NRC) review board. 

Title: Searching for the Molecules of Emotion


Marlene Behrmann received a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology and worked as a clinician for several years. She is currently a Professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Her research is primarily concerned with the psychological and neural bases of visual processing, with particular focus on the mechanisms by which the signals from the eye are transformed into meaningful and coherent percepts by the brain. She adopts an interdisciplinary approach using a combination of computational, neuropsychological and functional brain imaging studies with normal and brain-damaged individuals as well as with individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Dr Behrmann has received many awards including the Presidential Early Career Award for Engineering and Science and the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions, and she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.

Title: A broader vision of vision

Carol Espy-Wilson is a Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Institute for Systems Research at the University of Maryland (UMD). She received her B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and the M.S., E.E. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Dr. Espy-Wilson is the Director of the Speech Communication Laboratory where the integration of engineering, linguistics, speech acoustics, speech science and machine learning is used to conduct research in several areas including automatic speech/speaker recognition, speech inversion, speech segregation, and for emotion/mental health recognition. She founded OmniSpeech LLC to commercialize speech extraction technology to improve voice clarity of communication devices. 

Dr. Espy-Wilson is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She has been the recipient of a Clare Boothe Luce Professorship, a Career Award from the National Institutes of Health, a Radcliffe Fellowship, and the Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award at the University of Maryland. She is a past Chair of the Speech Communication Technical Committee of ASA and is currently serving as an Associate Editor of their journal. Dr. Espy-Wilson is on the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH.

Title: Acoustic to Articulatory Mapping of Speech

Karen M. Fischer joined the faculty at Brown in 1990, following a B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University, a Ph.D. in Geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Postdoctoral Fellowship at Columbia University.  Her research focuses on seismic wave imaging of the structure of the Earth's crust and mantle in order to better understand dynamic processes inside the Earth. 

Karen is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and was the 2016 AGU Beno Gutenberg Lecturer.  She has served as President-elect and President of the AGU Seismology Section and on the National Science Foundation Geosciences Advisory Committee.

At Brown Karen enjoys teaching courses that range from introductory physical geology to graduate level seismology.  She has served as the advisor for the Geology-Physics/Math Concentration since 1990.  She was in the inaugural class of Royce Family Professors of Teaching Excellence (2004-2007) and received the 2009 Karen T. Romer Award for Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring.

Title: When plates collide: Using earthquake waves to understand Earth’s interior

Bethany Jenkins, PhD, is an oceanographer who studies how tiny microrganisms in the ocean drive major nutrient cycles and fuel the marine food web. Her current research is focused on examining the relationship between ocean chemistry and the available inventories of essential nutrients in the ocean that support microbial growth. She also investigates how microbial metabolism in turn influences ocean chemistry. Her principle approach is to focus how the genes in the biochemical pathways for nutrient cycling are controlled and distributed in the environment. Her research involves fieldwork aboard oceanographic research vessels in regions including high latitude environments like the Southern Ocean near Antarctica as well as temperate and tropical oceans. Her research also encompasses laboratory studies of microbial physiology paired with genomic and proteomic methods to better understand their function in the environment.  She is particularly challenged and fascinated by the vast diversity of microorganisms in the ocean and has helped develop new methods for gaining a better understanding of function in these non-model systems.

Dr. Jenkins is Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology and Coordinator of the Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Program at the University of Rhode Island. She serves her broader scientific community as the Vice Chair and Chair elect of the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Steering committee, a scientific body that is one of the major activities of the interagency US Carbon Cycle Science Program.

Dr. Jenkins earned a BA in biochemistry from Mount Holyoke College. Her initial interest in oceanography was sparked when she joined a semester long program with the Sea Education Association, where she studied photosynthetic microorganisms from a research sailing vessel.  She then went on to share her passion for science as a high school science teacher at Pomfret Academy in Connecticut, where she also coached rowing and cross country. She subsequently earned her PhD at the University of Oregon in Chemistry, working in the Institute of Molecular Biology in the laboratory of Alice Barkan on the genetic control of chloroplast biogenesis in land plants. Returning to the sea, she conducted postdoctoral research in microbial oceanography in the laboratory of Jonathan Zehr at the University of California Santa Cruz. 

Title: Nutrient Metabolism in Diatoms: Linking Genomes to Ecosystems


Amanda Lynch obtained her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Melbourne in 1993, with a focus on polar climate modeling. She also conducts research on climate policy, environmental governance, and the role of Indigenous knowledges in adaptation to global change. Amanda Lynch has published more than 100 articles, policy briefs, book chapters and books, and developed the first Arctic regional climate system model in 1993. She is Chief Editor of the journal Weather, Climate and Society, Vice Chair of the World Climate Research Programme Joint Science Committee, a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. She won the Priestly Medal in 2008. Her favorite temperature is -20°C.

Title: Sea Ice and the Polar Vortex

Diane Samuels is a visual artist with both studio and public arts practices.

In 2006 she completed Lines of Sight, the permanent artwork in the two-level pedestrian bridge in the Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences at Brown University.

In 2013 Samuels was the recipient of a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency in Italy and an American Academy in Jerusalem Fellowship.  She holds both a bachelor's and master's degree in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, a diploma from the Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University and has received honorary doctorates from Seton Hill University and Chatham University. She is co-founder of City of Asylum, which provides sanctuary to writers in exile. Samuels is represented by the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City.