From our volunteer Board of Directors to our team of passionate and motivated leaders in STEM, we work together to propel our mission and vision forward.

Board of Directors

Poh Tan

Poh Tan
Acting President, Vice President and Director Strategic Partnership Development & Fundraising

Maria Gyöngyössy-Issa

Maria Gyöngyössy-Issa
Treasurer

Lily Takeuchi

Lily Takeuchi
Director Business Development

Aska Patel

Aska Patel
Director Community Building

Saina Beitari

Saina Beitari
Secretary

JeAnn Watson

JeAnn Watson
Director Youth Engagement

Melanie Ratnam

Melanie Ratnam
Director Advocacy

Jasmine Parmar

Jasmine Parmar
Director Marketing

Ronel Alberts

Ronel Alberts
Director Women's Programs

Poh Tan

PhD
[email protected]

Poh Tan PhD ’08, PhD (ABD) is the CEO and Founder of STEMedge Academy Inc., where 1:1 personalized learning models are used to coach and mentor students to develop critical learning and thinking, and transferable life-long learning skills in STEM. Dr. Tan obtained her first PhD from the University of British Columbia in Experimental Medicine and is currently completing a PhD in science education, with a focus on Indigenous Hawaiian knowledge at Simon Fraser University.  She is SCWIST’s Vice-President and board of director in Strategic Partnerships Development and Fundraising where she manages the organization’s fundraising team to build and scale innovative partnerships and fundraising initiatives, to support and empower women and girls in STEM.

In addition she is a two-time TEDx speaker, a published author and scholar, and an entrepreneur. Poh’s entrepreneurial spirit and personality means she is never satisfied with the status quo, and her motivation and dedication means she always has the organization’s best interest in mind to continually strive for positive change. When she’s not managing projects, she spends her time with her two sons, dancing hula, playing ukulele, and looking for the best spots for tidal fishing.

Learn more:

Maria Gyöngyössy-Issa

PhD
[email protected]

Maria Gyongyossy-Issa is semi-retired from UBC’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and past Director of the Pathology Education Centre. Long ago, she did an Honours BSc in microbiology/immunology at UBC; a PhD in immunology in London, UK; and was first to describe T cell receptors. As post doc, Maria skied in Switzerland and France while doing biochemistry (complement) and blood (apoptosis). In Saskatchewan she raised a daughter while working on the biological warfare agent, T2 toxin. Moved to Vancouver and UBC, worked on platelets and developed several patents. In between, she taught at every level from kindergarten to CME, supervised graduate students, mounted biology and biochemistry courses for Douglas College, and for CIDA in Indonesia. She can’t seem to retire and still teaches medical students.

Maria served on the Board of Directors and was twice President of SCWIST and now she’s back as Treasurer. With SCWIST and Science World, she designed science outreach programs that address diversity and gender equality, three of which were funded by Women and Gender Equality, Canada.

Maria is a Rowing Canada National Umpire; an international 3rd Dan Black Belt TaeKwonDo instructor, an obsessive gardener, and most importantly – the model for the Chief Wizard in Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap books.

She doesn’t like paradigms: her motto is Emmanuel Kant’s dictum, “Dare to find out!”

Lily Takeuchi


[email protected]

Lily Takeuchi is a PhD Student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto who is researching the development of drug screening platforms and organ-on-a-chip devices. Prior to her PhD, Lily was a Business Development Specialist with Mitacs where she worked on fostering industry-academic relationships to further Canada’s knowledge and innovation-based economy.

Lily has been a SCWIST volunteer for the last 3 years under various committees in the Strategic Development Portfolio including serving as the Grants Committee Lead and as a Strategic Development and Finance Committee member. Lily is passionate about accessibility in STEM and has worked with organizations such as the Canadian Association for Girls in Science, Let’s Talk Science and the Centre for Blood Research to deliver educational workshops to young students. In her spare time, Lily enjoys staying active through hiking, powerlifting, and going on walks with her dog, Melly.

Aska Patel

PhD
[email protected]

Dr. Aska Patel is a pharmacist, entrepreneur, a patient advocate, and change agent in healthcare. She completed her Bachelors of Pharmacy from the University of Waterloo in 2012 and went back to the same to complete her Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2016.

Since then she has worked in community, hospital, government and home care settings, creating new roles for pharmacists’ involvement within our healthcare system. She recently launched her entrepreneurial venture providing healthcare consulting while joining a digital health venture as a startup advisor. Aska is passionate about creating opportunities for women in STEM and advocates to create networking and mentorship opportunities for women in pharmacy.

As a passionate advocate for equitable healthcare by breaking down barriers to care, Aska is part of various committees at various provincial, national and global organizations. In her spare time, Aska enjoys spending time with her family, travelling, keeping active and exploring new cuisines.

Saina Beitari

PhD
[email protected]

Saina (she/her) is a researcher at the National Research Council of Canada where she supports COVID-19 and other viral infection R&D efforts. She obtained her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from McGill University studying HIV/AIDS. Her passion for infectious diseases led her to work on a broad range of viruses of public health significance. Saina’s passion for HIV/AIDS research and community involvement motivated her to serve various AIDS organizations where she is focused on reducing stigma and barriers to services and advocates for 2SLGBTQQIA-inclusive sexual health education.

Moving forward, Saina is aiming to advocate for better inclusion of science in public policymaking and to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the research community and beyond. Saina is committed to empower and inspire more women and girls to pursue STEM-related fields.

JeAnn Watson

MPhil, PMP
[email protected]

JeAnn Watson is a Project Management Coordinator at Genome BC, supporting programs and processes that enable projects to achieve breakthroughs in genomics. Born and raised in Jamaica, JeAnn earned her Masters in Philosophy (MPhil) in Biochemistry studying natural and synthetics compounds and their effects on drug-metabolizing proteins at the  premier Anglophone university in the Caribbean (the University of the West Indies). Later, she achieved her Project Management Professional certification, and transitioned away from the bench.

Always passionate about helping those in need, she currently serves as Vice Chair for the Society for Scientific Advancement (SOSA), which mainly focuses on providing STEM workshops for youth in underrepresented populations and with low socioeconomic backgrounds. She is also a volunteer Project Manager for the Refood Filipino Food Bank, which provides food hampers for low-income Filipino families. She spends her spare time being with friends and family, and playing with her daughter.

Melanie Ratnam

BSc, PhD
[email protected]

Melanie Ratnam has a BSc and PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. Her research focused on cellular processes underlying brain inflammation after stroke. She is currently in the startup space having founded a software platform for lab management. Prior to joining SCWIST she provided one-on-one mentorship for more than 800 students from grades 1-8 for a local STEM program in Toronto called Ultimate Science. Melanie has been working with SCWIST’s Policy & Impact Committee since September 2020. The team’s focus has been to identify how government and workplace policies can be better shaped to improve EDI and representation for women in the field of STEM. Melanie is excited to continue her work with the P&I Committee as Interim Director.

Jasmine Parmar

MSc
[email protected]

Jasmine Parmar holds a Masters Degree in Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology from Simon Fraser University. She has built a career in Sales and Operations within the Life Science industry and is keen to help drive the innovation landscape in British Columbia. Jasmine is currently working in Operations at Stemcell Technologies since 2021.

Jasmine has been a SCWIST volunteer since summer of 2020 under the Business Development committee where she helped to revitalize the e-commerce capabilities to better align with their Strategic Priorities. She was elected to the Board of Directors in January 2022 and will be serving as an Interim Director. She is passionate to help raise the profile and empower Women of Colour to pursue careers in STEM and pursue leadership roles in a professional setting. Outside of work she has a keen interest in personal finance and health/wellness trends. Jasmine can be found hiking, trying out a new restaurant (or recipe these days!) or spending time with her husband and Huskador puppy, Luna.

Ronel Alberts

BSc
[email protected]

Ronel Alberts has a strong belief that the empowerment of girls and women, especially in STEAM fields, will lead to a more viable future. Ronel graduated from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, with a BSc in Computer Science, and quickly discovered she has a knack for synthesizing technology and business requirements. She has been a Business Analyst for over 20 years, and has held numerous leadership positions throughout her career. She has been running her own consulting company for over a decade, and has had the privilege of working around the globe on challenging and interesting projects. Ronel believes strongly that continuing education is the way to create a sustainable future, and has completed numerous online courses through Johns Hopkins University and the University of Amsterdam. In her spare time, Ronel and her wife can be found geocaching, motorcycling, and hiking with their adorable dogs. She is currently serving as SCWIST’s Director Women’s Programs.

Independent Contractors

Ashley van der Pouw Kraan

Ashley van der Pouw Kraan
Communications and Events Coordinator

Akanksha Chudgar

Akanksha Chudgar
North Indigenous Outreach Coordinator

 Cheryl Kristiansen, P. Eng.

Cheryl Kristiansen, P. Eng.
Make DIVERSITY Possible & SCALE Project Manager

Amanda Mack

Amanda Mack
Project Coordinator, Safe STEM Workplaces

Pooja Moorti

Pooja Moorti
msinfinity Coordinator

Jaqueline Ipina

Jaqueline Ipina
msinfinity Coordinator

Maryam Leclerc

Maryam Leclerc
Quebec Coordinator

Camila Castaneda

Camila Castaneda
Communications and Events Coordinator

Natasha Birdi

Natasha Birdi
Youth Engagement Indigenous Programs Liaison

Ashley van der Pouw Kraan


[email protected]

Ashley (she/her) has a BA in Environmentalism and Sustainability from the University of British Columbia. When she is not working to create a cleaner, greener future for the next generation, she can be found creating, storytelling and sharing in digital spaces.

Akanksha Chudgar


[email protected]

Akanksha completed her undergraduate degree in Economics in India and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in environmental studies from UNBC in Prince George. She has worked with education in various schools in India as well as North America. She is interested in the behavior of human beings – their interaction with each other as well as the natural environment. The aspect that involves changing people’s interaction with nature (and each other) for the better interests her. She believes this can be done through communication, by considering people’s needs and by giving them more information about their impact on nature.

Cheryl Kristiansen, P. Eng.


[email protected]

Cheryl brings diverse expertise in project management, engineering innovation and leading transformative change in STEM.  She has a degree in Mechanical Engineering, hands-on research experience in alternate fuels engine technology, and senior leadership success in the oil and gas sector.  Cheryl has worked in a variety of corporate cultures and organizational models with strategic agility, has effectively managed international engineering projects with multiple stakeholders, led diverse sales teams and created marketing strategies to deliver financial results.

As Managing Director of the Mitchell Odyssey Foundation, Cheryl developed a network of schools across BC with innovative programs that motivate and inspire high school students to pursue careers in STEM.  Cheryl is a certified facilitator and created the “Wild About Science” Odyssey Symposium for STEM educators in BC. She has delivered a variety of workshops across Canada, including SCWIST Diversity by Design workshops at post-secondary institutions, industry conferences and STEM organizations. As a WinSETT Facilitator, Cheryl has delivered seminars on Leading Change, Unconscious Bias, Allyship, and the Leadership Series in Alberta and BC. 

Cheryl led the SCWIST MakePossible mentoring project to advance women in STEM. She now leads the “Make DIVERSITY Possible” project – working with STEM companies to create diversity tools and build inclusive workplace cultures that embrace and advance a diverse workforce – as well as the new SCALE project to improve organizational effectiveness of SCWIST, develop partnerships and expand advocacy to advance gender equality. Cheryl is passionate about connecting and collaborating with others to create solutions, with a strong focus on continuous improvement and the belief that diversity drives innovation!

Amanda Mack


[email protected]

Amanda completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science with International Relations from the University of British Columbia and is currently pursuing her Master of Public Administration at the University of Victoria. She has spent a number of years working in project management at non-profit and higher education institutions such as the KidSafe Project Society and the College of New Caledonia. In addition to project management, Amanda specializes in evaluation and has recently completed an Evaluation Certificate at the University of Victoria. Her interests include education, women’s empowerment, and international development. She believes that meaningful change can be achieved through educating and empowering women around the world.

Pooja Moorti


[email protected]

Pooja has recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with a BSc in Computer Science and a minor in Psychology. She has a great passion for STEM in particular improving education and accessibility to STEM for younger women. She is also especially interested in the intersection of Arts with STEM (STEAM), and how it can be utilized to encourage more interest in STEM as it shows how large the capabilities within STEM are. She is excited to continue to advocate for women from all backgrounds and cultures to pursue and ignite their interests in STEM. Outside of work, she loves work with her hands whether it is cooking or creating creative projects.

Jaqueline Ipina


[email protected]

Jaqueline completed her undergraduate degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Wilfrid Laurier University. She is interested in the behavior of plants – specifically their interaction with the human body. Her past time includes foraging and learning about the environment surrounding her. She understands the need for a community, especially during these times. She loves to create opportunities that help people grow and learn from one another. As a STEM student, she knows the need for female STEM leaders that can help guide the young girls interested in STEM!

Fun Fact: She lives on a farm with a cow and sheep.

Maryam Leclerc


[email protected]

Maryam is an undergraduate student pursuing a specialization in Behavioural Neuroscience with a minor in Computer Science. She is interested in behavioural psychology and how computational models and research methods can help us understand and interpret human behaviour better. Her main career interests are in User Experience Research and human-computer interactions and she eventually plans on pursuing a higher degree in Engineering Psychology. Maryam has experienced first hand the importance of supportive female STEM models in a young girl’s life, and has made it her mission to ensure that the young girls of Quebec get the support and encouragement they need from SCWIST’s MS Infinity Program.

Camila Castaneda


[email protected]

Camila Castaneda (She/Her) has a BA in Graphic and Communication Design from the University of Leeds and a MA in Journalism from The University of British Columbia. One of her main driving goals is the creation of spaces for BIPOC communities. Camila has a passion for community building, finding untold stories and dedicating to projects that champion innovation and sustainability. At SCWIST she found a real motivator to advocate for equity and inclusion in STEAM.

Natasha Birdi


[email protected]

Natasha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Physics from Simon Fraser University where her favourite topics were electrodynamics and solid-state physics. As President of SFU’s Science Undergraduate Society, she built her expertise in community building and creating impactful, sustainable events for the science community. Since graduating, she has interned with organizations in climate tech marketing, ocean sustainability, and sustainable building developments. Natasha is passionate about clean energy projects, waste reduction, and other climate technology. She is excited to be working with SCWIST to share opportunities and pathways in STEM with the younger generation of students. In her spare time, Natasha enjoys motorcycling, exploring local trails, and is currently on the search for the best tacos in the lower mainland.