From our 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
Melanie Ratnam (she/her) is a neuroscientist with a PhD from the University of Toronto with a focus on cellular processes that regulate inflammation after stroke.
She is an entrepreneur, advocate, and passionate supporter of youth pursuing STEM.
Melanie has a passion for improving EDI and representation of women in STEM.
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 (she/her) has a background in biochemistry, specializing in natural and synthetic compounds in drug metabolism. After earning her PMP certification, she chose to transition away from the bench and is now a Project Management Coordinator at Genome BC.
JeAnn is also the vice chair for the Society for Scientific Advancement and is focused on providing STEM opportunities to underrepresented populations.
Maria Gyongyossy-Issa (she/her) 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 Secretary. 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!”
Tam Pham (they/she/chanh) is an AuDHD Viet protein researcher and PhD candidate at Rainey Lab from Dalhousie University. Their research interest is in characterizing and understanding small protein interactions. Tam is passionate about science communication, especially in making science accessible to the general public and members of historically excluded communities. Outside of research, they are an advocate for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in STEM.
Nirali Rathwa, PhD, (she/her) is a biochemist specializing in small-molecule therapies for diabetes management and regenerative medicine.
With a strong academic background from The M.S. University of Baroda, India, she has immersed herself in the dynamic world of biotech and digital health startups. As a key member of the Startup Team at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, Nirali actively contributes to the development and implementation of strategic programs that equip entrepreneurs with essential resources and invaluable insights to navigate the intricate business landscape.
Nirali is fueled by a passion for advocating innovative platforms and technologies that enrich human lives, with a special emphasis on empowering women founders. She is dedicated to reducing the barriers women face in accessing professional job opportunities and achieving career growth.
Joelle (she/her) is a Director of Quality in the pharmaceutical industry. Her experience spans drug development, research, and manufacturing across both academia and industry.
She obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Doctor of Veterinary Science from the University of Guelph, and conducted her PhD research in Cell & Gene therapy. Her area of expertise is change management and she is passionate about implementing smart and creative solutions, seeing big exciting changes, and driving even bigger wins.
Joelle has been involved in and is a supporter of many initiatives related to supporting women and girls in the STEM fields for over a decade and continues to be involved wherever possible.
Joelle is a mom to 3 girls – all are big STEM enthusiasts!
Melisa (she/her) is a life long learner with a decade of experience working in education and human resources with diverse people and organizations. She has a passion for STEM, fostering equitable and inclusive environments, enjoys sustainable living and having fun. She is thrilled to join SCWIST in support of its mission.
Cheryl (she/her) 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!
Ashley van der Pouw Kraan
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 (she/her) 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.
Pooja (she/her) 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.