Presenter bios

Juliet Johnston

Juliet Johnston is an NSF-fellow working on her PhD in environmental engineering. When you flush the toilet, the microbes at a wastewater treatment plant eat the harmful remnants of your waste.  She investigates these wastewater microbes and their microbiome in relation to seasonal variation, specifically focusing on nitrification failure during cold temperatures. Additionally, she is the organizer for the nation’s first Queer Science Day to inspire upcoming LGBT scientists. She earned her bachelor’s in environmental engineering with a minor in women’s studies from Clemson University.  She is often found lounging in coffee shops, rock climbing, baking, and taking long walks in the bitter cold with her dog.

Kelly Wallin

Kelly Wallin is a third year PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her research focuses on finding ways to use enzymes (biomolecules that catalyze chemical reactions) to produce valuable chemicals such as medicines, fuels, and plastics. In college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Kelly studied botany and biochemistry, but these days you could really call her a "biomaterial engineer." She lives with her girlfriend (also a grad student), their cat, and several large, messy piles of scientific literature.

Taz Mueller

Taz Mueller is a first year PhD student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. Taz studies microbes called endophytes that live in nearly every plant's leaves. Their research explores how these microbes affect plant communities across geographic space. After earning a bachelor’s at Smith College, Taz discovered a deep love of plant science and horticulture. They have been excitedly explaining how cool it is to everyone who will listen ever since. In their spare time, Taz enjoys gardening, spending time in nature, illustration, and playing rugby with the Twin Cities Amazons.

Deirdre Manion-Fischer

Deirdre Manion-Fischer co-organizes Queer Science. She works as a writer for MnDRIVE Brain Conditions and the BioTechnology Institute. She earned her master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota in 2012 and her bachelor’s from Kent State University in 2010. She spends her free time reading fantasy and science fiction.

Ryan Daley

Ryan Daley is a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota. He is working to develop new methods to make important compounds in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. He is involved in the University’s Market Science program to help spread knowledge of science to children at farmer’s markets. When not in lab, he can be found running in the woods (and getting lost), camping (and getting lost), and reading too many books.

Morgan Esler

Morgan Esler is a graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics. Her research is mainly in the field of structural biology. Morgan obtains atomic resolution structures of enzymes to better understand the chemistry behind them. She lives with her husband Mark and their two cats. Her hobbies are kayaking, archery, and swimming.

Mohhamad Yakub

Mohamed Yakub is the Science Outreach and Education Coordinator within the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. His research has focused on plant biology, and for his PhD, Mohamed characterized plant responses to urban environments, which are warmer, drier, and more polluted than neighboring rural areas. While he enjoys research, Mohamed enjoys integrating science education in research, and now supports the UMN PlantEd group where he works with faculty to identify citizen science and outreach opportunities within plant research, and oversees the Minnesota Youth Institute Program, a program that challenges high school students to solve local and global hunger issues. When not working, Mohamed loves theatre, travel, and way more tv than he should watch! 

Grace Aysta

Grace Aysta is an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota studying Physiology. She currently works in the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center teaching students how to make their ideas into prototypes. Much of her work focuses on 3D printing and its applications in rapid prototyping. In her free time, she enjoys cooking with friends and knitting. 

Evan Tyler

Evan Tyler is a PhD student at the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics. His current research is in space plasma physics, but Evan’s true passion is physics/astronomy education and public outreach. He currently serves as the outreach coordinator for the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics where he works with the community to organize free events to educate and engage the public in the field of astrophysics. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering as a patient escort at a local women’s healthcare clinic, cooking delicious dinners, and spending time with his wife Chelsey and his cat Yell Machine.

Lee Penn

Lee Penn is a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and has taught chemistry courses, seminars about bikes and nanotechnology and more. Lee’s research group works with nanoparticles—their synthesis and characterization and how they behave in environmental systems. Lee has served as a chemistry advisor, faculty advisor to several student groups, direct mentor to undergraduates through research projects and mentoring programs, and has developed innovative teaching techniques.