Our Team

/Our Team
Our Team2019-10-30T19:52:00+00:00

Meet Our WoC Team

The National Institutes of Health Worlds of Connections (WoC) Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) team combines experts who are committed to engaging youth with knowledge and careers in network science for health. Team members have training in a variety of disciplines (Sociology, Anthropology, Computer Science, Mathematics, Biology, Genetics, Public Health, Science Education, Learning Research, Psychology, Graphic Design, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Informal Science Education, Museum Curation, Educational Communication and Technology, and Discipline-based Education Research). In addition to focusing on their specific roles on the project, team members work synergistically to achieve project goals.

Julia McQuillan
Julia McQuillanWoC Principal Investigator (PI)
Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kirk Dombrowski
Kirk DombrowskiWoC Co-Investigator and Network Scientist
John G. Bruhn Professor of Sociology, Director of REACH Lab, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Bilal Khan
Bilal KhanWoC Co-Investigator and Network Scientist
Happold Professor of Sociology, Courtesy Appointment in Computer Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Christine Cutucache
Christine CutucacheWoC Co-Investigator and Director of UNO NE STEM 4U
Haddix Community Chair of Science and Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Trish Wonch-Hill
Trish Wonch-HillWoC Co-Investigator and Director of Learning Research
Sociologist and Research Assistant Professor, Interim Associate Director, Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Judy Diamond
Judy DiamondWoC Science Connector Coordinator
Curator and Professor of Informal Science Education at the University of Nebraska State Museum
Wendy Smith
Wendy SmithWoC Network Science Institute Coordinator
Research Associate Professor and Associate Director, Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Colleen Syron
Colleen SyronWoC Graphic Design and Communication Director
Assistant Professor of Art (Branding, Advertising, and Interactivity) with a focus on graphic design in the School of Art, Art History & Design, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Amy Spiegel
Amy SpiegelWoC Internal Evaluator
Research Associate Professor, Methodology and Evaluation Research Core, Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Consortium, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Michelle Phillips
Michelle PhillipsWoC External Evaluator
President and Senior Researcher at Phillips & Associates and Senior Researcher at Inverness Research
Megan Elliot
Megan ElliotWoC Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Coordinator
Founding Director of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Kim Gocchi Carrasco
Kim Gocchi CarrascoWoC Network Science Activities and UNL NE STEM 4U Director
Research Specialist at the REACH lab, University of Nebraska
Grace Stallworth
Grace StallworthWoC Project Coordinator
Project Associate, Bureau of Sociological Research, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Meghan Leadabrand
Meghan LeadabrandWoC Project Coordinator
Project Coordinator, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Meet Our WoC Undergraduate Mentors

Alvaro Moreno Lozano
Alvaro Moreno LozanoWoC Undergraduate Mentor
Alvaro Moreno Lozano is a junior Biological Systems Engineering major. He is particularly interested in biomedical research. He has played for the UNL tennis team and is currently a Learning Assistant for the Math Department.
Amy Klar
Amy KlarWoC Undergraduate Mentor
Amy Klar is a sophomore elementary education and special education major who enjoys working with and teaching students. In her free time, she volunteers at SCC in an ESL classroom.
Amjad Awlad Thani
Amjad Awlad ThaniWoC Undergraduate Mentor
Amjad Awlad Thani is a junior supply chain and analytics major. He is interested in business analytics and managing data using a variety of analyzing and organizing software. He is also interested in teaching students from different backgrounds, which he pursues by tutoring supply chain students in the College of Business and in Athletics. His upcoming goal is to get deeper into the data science and analytics field.

Mentors Emeriti

Shayla McNear
Shayla McNear
Nestor Hernandez
Nestor Hernandez
Luke Novack
Luke Novack
Grecia Macias
Grecia Macias

Meet Our WoC Advisory Committee Members

We are fortunate to have an advisory committee with extensive and diverse expertise. Some members are science advisors, helping to shape the activities by identifying research that addresses the gaps in public understanding about network science and evaluating the merits of proposed topics and ideas. Others focus on the education and diversity components of the project, providing input on audience needs, existing resources, and effective communications strategies for target constituencies. Still others guide the development and dissemination of project emerging media arts deliverables apps, podcasts, and the internet, and several current and former teachers provide input as to the appropriateness of the network science topics for middle school youth. We are particularly excited to involve two recent B.A.-degree alumni of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Department of Sociology – both whom were involved in UNL’s prior Biology of Human SEPA and are currently working in public health.

Regardless of their specialized expertise, all advisors provide advice regarding the program’s overall direction. They assess the program with respect to evaluation and learning research productivity, professional skill development, publications produced, and leadership demonstrated in the field. They also evaluate the program’s success in recruiting underrepresented minorities and women, ensuring that program activities and deliverables allow including of youth with disabilities, selecting appropriate deliverable content, and develop effective dissemination plans and partnerships.

James Blake

K-12 Science Curriculum Specialist, Lincoln Public Schools

Fourteen years of experience in science education, including 7-12 science teacher, state science supervisor, and now K-12 science curriculum specialist.

Nola Derby-Bennett

Lincoln 21st Century Community Learning Centers Director

Directs Lincoln’s 26 current CLCs located in schools and supports the development and implementation of safe, supervised before- and after-school programs, weekend and summer enrichment opportunities and other support services for children, families and neighborhoods.

Leslie Eastman

Director of Assessment and Evaluation, Lincoln Public Schools

Leads the creation of assessment and evaluation reports for the Lincoln Public Schools as well as collaborating on research to identify ways to improve educational outcomes for K-12 youth.

G. Robin Gauthier

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Uses social network analysis for health research; as a postdoctoral researcher in the Minority Health Disparities Initiative, led the conceptualization and analysis of a peer-reviewed social science publication using network data on middle school youth from the prior Biology of Human SEPA project.

Sara Gergen

Eighth Grade Science Teacher, Irving Middle School

Experienced middle school science teacher who specializes in hands-on, inquiry based education. Participated in a Biology of Human SEPA workshop on activating youth STEM identities.

Dr. Chittibabu (Babu) Guda

Professor, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology, and Anatomy and Director, Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Core, University of Nebraska Medical Center

Leads the Bioinformatics Core for the INBRE-Nebraska Research Network in Functional Genomics project; applies network science to measure cancer protein interactions.

Judi M gaiashkibos

Executive Director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs

Has served as the Executive Director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs since 1995.  She is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.  In 2006, Judi was elected as the President of the Governor’s Interstate Indian Council (GIIC), a national organization with the mission of improving and promoting cooperation between state and tribal governments.  She is also actively involved in non-profit service and won numerous service awards in Nebraska and nationally. She has served on the advisory board for prior SEPA grants and supports Native youth leadership and STEM summer camps.

Mary Herrington

Educator and CLC/UNL STEM/Engineering Curriculum Coordinator, Culler Middle School

Has more than 20 years of experience creating after-school programs for middle school youth. Programs include “Roads, Rails, and Race Cars” (developed with UNL and the Nebraska Transportation Center) and “Empire Builders” (developed with Southeast Community College and the Lincoln Public Schools Career Academy).

Molly Hoffmann

Science Educator, Irving Middle School

Experienced science educator; utilized curriculum materials developed as part of UNL’s previous SEPA projects; participated in a summer workshop on STEM identities from the BioHuman SEPA led by current Co-I Hill and PI McQuillan.

Grecia Macias

Masters Student, University of Michigan

As an undergraduate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and NE STEM 4U Afterschool Club mentor, helped draft and implement network science activities.  Currently a Master of Health Informatics student at the University of Michigan and continues to work on STEM activities and public museum exhibits at the U-M Museum of Natural History.

Jorge Ledesma

Post-Bachelor Fellow, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation  

Earned a B.A. in Sociology from UNL in 2017, collected and analyzed data on middle school youth focused on English language learners and health, and served as a collaborator on a social network analysis of Biology of Human SEPA-funded middle school youth data focused on the role of friends and science clubs in science identities among underrepresented minority youth. Holds a prestigious fellowship at the University of Washington in global health using “Big Data”.

Sara H. LeRoy-Toren

Lecturer, College of Education and Human Sciences and Research Associate, School of Natural Resources, UNL

Former science-focused high school science teacher; facilitator of former Biology of Human SEPA science club at a Community Learning Center; educator for secondary science pre-service teaching program

Camilla Matuk

Assistant Professor of Educational Communication and Technology, New York University

Designs and researches learning environments, particularly the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment; leads undergraduate and graduate studio courses on gaming for learning; valuable member of the Biology of Human SEPA advisory board who attended an annual SEPA meeting.

La’Risa McLennon

Injury Prevention Specialist, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center

As an undergraduate sociology major at UNL, led SEPA-funded afterschool science clubs, helped to create activities, provided feedback and provided the voice of the teacher for the Biology of Human “Occupied” comic app on gut microbes. Part of her master’s degree in public health was funded by the Biology of Human SEPA. Also designed public health messaging focused on increasing early detection of breast cancer among black women in Omaha, NE and now works in public health focused on youth.

Jeffrey Smith

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Sociology, UNL

Teachers undergraduate and graduate courses on social network analysis, publishes methodological articles in top social science journals that advance network science, and uses social network analysis to explain social class, race, and gender differences in health risk and outcomes.

Rebecca Smith

Co-Director, Science & Health Education Partnership, University of California, San Francisco 

Co-Director of the University of California, San Francisco’s SEPA to have high school students create health messaging for peers; co-author on Biology of Human SEPA book, close collaboration on learning research on youth STEM identities, partner in a SEPA conference workshop on measuring STEM identities.

Julie Thomas

Interim Associate Dean for Research and Research Professor in the College of Education, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education

Specializes in science education and using technology for education. Has an extensive research record on teacher training for science education and on-line education. Supports college wide research on education.

James B. Turpen

Professor Emeritus, Genetics, Cell Biology, and Anatomy; Associate Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs; Executive Associate Dean, Graduate Studies, UNMC  

Principal Investigator of the NIH-funded IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) program in Nebraska (NIH P20 GM103427)