One of my favorite activities is to float in a well-crafted canoe on a beautiful lake or river. I love feeling the motion of the water and the wind, seeing the surrounding landscapes and knowing the organisms and processes that form those landscapes. My fascination with the sciences comes from wanting to better understand things like why water is able to support a canoe, how organisms and ecosystems work, and what processes form landscapes. I have a passion for sharing this understanding with others.
My educational path in pursuing these questions has taken me through an undergraduate degree in Chemistry (North Park University), time as a technician in a cell biology laboratory, and a Ph.D. in Plant Biology (University of Minnesota). I have been on the NEIU Biology faculty since 2002, and I have also enjoyed working with science students at other places like Carnegie Mellon Univerisity’s Doha, Qatar, campus, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and at Institut Mbenga High School in the Democratic Republic of Congo. My current research interests in plant conservation genetics take me and my students to populations of rare plants and their relatives in places like Minnesota, Maine and Newfoundland.
As director of the Student Center for Science Engagement (SCSE) it is my goal to facilitate positive and transformative experiences for Northeastern students in the STEM disciplines. We in the SCSE office work with Northeastern's STEM departments to help students successfully chart their paths to careers in the sciences. We offer advising, tutoring, connections to research opportunities, connections to internship opportunities and much more! Please come to see what we do.
Academic Success STEM Coach
I developed a passion for science, research and education through an academic journey beginning with a single question: why do animals behave the way they do? While pursuing my undergraduate degree at San Diego State University, I became fascinated with animal behavior when I took my first biology class, and wanted to understand the mechanisms and development of behavior. This led me to find a laboratory where I carried out independent field research on the functional organization of anti-predator behaviors in prey, and consequently how they assess the risk posed by predators. After earning my B.S. in biology, I continued my research program in behavioral ecology and completed an M.S in evolutionary biology from the University of Chicago. Here, I investigated the implications of perceived predation risk on the behavioral and physiological development of prey to tease apart developmental differences in behavior and stress hormones stemming from differential maternal environments.
As a first-generation college student and scientist, pursuing biology was an opportunity to surpass learning curves and preconceptions in science, and to carve my own journey through academia. I discovered an ambition to advance that journey for others by advising students in research opportunities, leading workshops to advance students in their science careers, joining student organizations aimed at promoting the engagement and success of underrepresented minorities in academia and becoming president of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) Chapter at the University of Chicago. My work with the SACNAS community culminated in the formation of the SACNAS Chicago Symposium offering professional development and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate minorities from various Chicago-area institutions to present their research. I have devoted a significant amount of time to advising prospective and first/second-year students throughout their academic careers, and I bring this insight and experience with me as the Academic Success STEM Coach at Northeastern Illinois University’s Student Center for Science Engagement. I am committed to fostering academic success and leadership in Northeastern’s student communities, help them attain advanced degrees, and aid in paving the way for meaningful careers towards a broader goal of promoting cultural and economic diversity in positions of leadership.
STEM Transfer Advisor
I am the STEM transfer advisor who works with students transferring from Chicago-area community colleges into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors at Northeastern Illinois University. I assist and support prospective, incoming and current students in the following majors: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology.
Before I came to Northeastern, I worked with prospective and incoming transfer and first-year students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I also have experience as a science teacher at the middle and high school levels and as a science educator for the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I received my bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in environmental science and a Master’s of Education in Secondary Education and Biology. In my free time, I volunteer as a canoe guide with the Friends of the Chicago River and enjoy cooking and traveling.
The Student Center for Science Engagement (SCSE) mission of supporting student success in the sciences is an extension of mission of NEIU’s STEM departments. Its work is overseen and facilitated by the SCSE Executive Board. This board is made up of the director, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (or designee), and an elected faculty representative from the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Mathematics, and Physics, and an advisory representative from the department of Psychology.
Membership of the current Executive Board: Dr. Joel Olfelt (director), Dr. Sudha Srinivas (acting associate dean, CAS), Dr. Cindy Voisine (Biology), Dr. Samantha Brown-Xu (Chemistry), Dr. Francisco Iacobelli (Computer Science), Dr. Elisabet Head (Earth Science), Dr. Lidia Filius (Mathematics), Dr. Gregory Anderson (Physics) and Dr. Ruth Church (Psychology).