Guest Speakers

2022 UPRC Keynote Speakers


Seminar title: A non-traditional journey thru energy, electronics, and STEM

Luisa Whittaker-Brooks is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Utah. Her research centers on the design of well-defined hybrid materials with controlled morphology and interfaces that serve as conduits for deterministic and coherent energy and charge transfer for applications in energy conversion, storage, and electronics. Dr. Whittaker-Brooks received her B.S. degree in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Panama. Under a Fulbright Fellowship, she received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Materials Chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She was a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Princeton University. She was the recipient of the 2013 L’Oréal Fellowship for Women in Science Award and the 2015 Marion Milligan Mason Award for Women in the Chemical Sciences administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Recently, she was named a Scialog and Cottrell Fellow by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA), a Talented 12 by C&En news, and a GERA Ovshinsky Energy Fellow by the American Physical Society (APS). She is also the recipient of a Department of Energy Early Career Award and a Sloan Fellowship in Chemistry.

Summary of Speech

Having been born and raised in Panama, I often witnessed how many communities at risk struggled to obtain clean water and electricity. I vividly remember how the “El Niño” climate pattern brought a lot of drought to the country back in 2003. The drought was so severe that the government had to make the tough decision to either restrict electricity or provide drinkable water to the nation. It is a no-brainer that the latter was the better alternative to keep. Amid adversity, I saw many opportunities and became interested in learning more about sustainable energy processes and clean water filtering technologies. I decided to major in chemistry, and as part of my thesis work, I investigated how the water quality in lakes and rivers was affected by massive maritime transport through the Panama Canal. My training in materials and physical chemistry has led me to develop fundamental research insights that could enable high-performing and low-cost solar cells and energy storage devices that could one day be deployable to communities at risk in different parts of the world. Through my science journey, I have been empowered to instill in my students the gift of utilizing their unlimited talent to solve some of our global energy challenges.


Seminar title: Identity Development in College: Core Concepts and Contextual Considerations for Understanding the Experiences of Ethnically-Diverse Students

Moin Syed, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He is a cultural developmental psychologist with interests in identity and personality development among adolescents and emerging adults from diverse ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds. Much of his current scholarly work focuses on methods, theories, and practices within the broad frameworks of open science and meta-psychology, with a particular emphasis on ethnic minority psychology, diversity within the field, and building bridges across the fractured sub-disciplines of psychology. He is currently the Editor of Infant and Child Development, is co-Editor (with Kate C. McLean) of the Oxford Handbook of Identity Development, the past Editor of Emerging Adulthood, the official journal of the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood, and is past President of the International Society for Research on Identity.

A primary strand of Dr. Syed’s research is to apply basic psychological theory and research on identity development to understand students’ educational experiences and career orientation. He has a long-standing program of research examining how identity issues play a central role in the experiences of racial/ethnic minority college students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This work seeks to link educational experiences within STEM majors (e.g., authentic research experience, mentoring) with psychological processes (i.e., identity, self-efficacy) to better understand participation and retention in STEM.

Previous Speakers

Marjorie A. Chan

Gabriel Bowen

Susan Manley

Evelyn Lamb, PhD

Sanlyn Buxner

Dr. Buxner has worked in space science education and public outreach since 1996. Over the last fifteen years she has worked in formal and informal education in science museums, outdoor schools and universities.

Between 2005 and 2009 she has worked as the Education and Public Outreach Specialist for the Mars Odyssey Gamma Ray Spectrometer and NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander. In these positions she conducted classroom outreach, curriculum development and teacher workshops, public tours, summer camps and public and research presentations in the US and abroad. In addition to her work at PSI, she teaches science and research methodology courses at the University of Arizona.

Her current research interests include examining issues related to scientific literacy; how to measure it and investigating how it is changed by education, outreach and online media. She also investigates how science research experiences can be used to improve both science understanding and empowerment of teachers and students.

Justin Furey

Justin Furey is the Director of Marketing Engineering at IM Flash, a joint venture between Intel and Micron. Based in Lehi, IM Flash makes the memory technology used in cellphones, laptops and the Data centers that power cloud computing. IM Flash is now embarking on an emerging memory technology that will revolutionize the way we store data and enable the next step forward in the “Internet of Things.”

Justin’s career in the semiconductor industry has spanned 20 years and he is proud to be part of a fast-moving, highly complex industry where change is a way of life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Production and Operations Management from Boise State University. Justin began his career with Micron overseeing production amp product lines before coming to IM Flash in 2006.

In his current role, Justin oversees a 24/7/365 manufacturing environment. He is especially focused on equipment maintenance and efficiency, product quality, and increasing labor efficiency through automation and remote operations. He also works to establish outreach relationships and programs with local universities to support the technical skillsets required for manufacturing operations.Justin and his wife Kelcy have 4 children. In his spare time he coaches basketball and enjoys skiing and golfing.

Kent Rominger

Kent Rominger is vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division. In this capacity he is responsible for supporting commercial, defense, and civil space customers with innovative and affordable propulsion solutions.

Rominger has also served as vice president of Orbital ATK Test and Research Operations. His responsibilities included the overall testing of rocket motors, warheads and components, and support for research and development operations that enable advances in aerospace and military capabilities. He joined Orbital ATK in October 2006 as vice president, Advanced Programs, following distinguished careers with NASA and the U.S. Navy.

Rominger was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1992. A veteran of five space shuttle flights, including two as the mission commander, he has logged over 1,600 hours and traveled almost 27 million miles in space. He culminated his NASA career as the chief of the Astronaut Office.

A native of Del Norte, Colorado, Rominger received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.

Dr. Tara Luke

Tara Harmer Luke is an Associate Professor of Biology at Stockton University, a public liberal arts college in New Jersey. She earned a B.A. in Biology with Specialization in Marine Science at Boston University, and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at Johns Hopkins University. She then studied deep-sea hydrothermal vents as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University. Currently her research focusses on invertebrate and microbial diversity at artificial reefs and shipwrecks off the coast of New Jersey.