Meet the Team

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
Melanie Ratnam President & Director of Policy and Advocacy
Saina Beitari
Saina Beitari Vice President & Director of Strategic Development
JeAnn Watson
JeAnn Watson Director of Finance
Tam Pham
Tam Pham Director of Youth Engagement
Nirali Rathwa
Nirali Rathwa Director of Marketing and Communications
Melisa DiPietro
Melisa DiPietro Director of Women’s Programs

Melanie Ratnam

BSc, PhD

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 Beitari


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

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.

Tam Pham

PhD Candidate

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.

Melisa DiPietro

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.

Independent Contractors

Cheryl Kristiansen
Cheryl Kristiansen Make DIVERSITY Possible & SCALE Project Manager
Ashley van der Pouw Kraan
Ashley van der Pouw Kraan Marketing Manager
Akanksha Chudgar
Akanksha Chudgar North Indigenous Outreach Coordinator
Pooja Moorti
Pooja Moorti Youth Engagement Lead
Yihan (Shirley) Liu
Yihan (Shirley) Liu STEM Explore Coordinator – BC
Keely Wallace
Keely Wallace Strategic Partnership Coordinator
Claudia Rivera
Claudia Rivera GBV Prevention Training and Resource Coordinator

Cheryl Kristiansen


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. As the Marketing Manager at SCWIST, she can be found creating, storytelling and sharing in digital spaces.

Akanksha Chudgar

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.

Yihan (Shirley) Liu

Shirley (she/her) is a recent Biology graduate from Trinity Western University. Her bachelor’s degree in science has inspired her to look at life through a new lens. She loves all aspects of biology, especially the intriguing and complex connection between humans and microbiomes and the related health implications.

As a former international student from China, Shirley really appreciates the diversity of cultures and languages. She also strongly believes in advocating for women, girls and underrepresented communities, and that education is fundamental to all aspects of positive change, including equality and inclusivity within the science community. She is thrilled to be a part of SCWIST as a STEM Explore Coordinator.

During her free time, Shirley loves going for walks in the neighborhood and saying hi to all the dogs she meets (and their owners too, but she has her priorities). In addition, she really enjoys creative cooking and experimenting with cuisines from different cultures. When she finishes making delicious meals, she loves inviting her friends over for bonding time over food.

Keely Wallace

Keely (she/her) has a BA in Political Science and a double minor in History and Religious Studies from McGill University. She is excited to be in her position as Strategic Partnership Coordinator to advocate for women in the STEM community across Canada.

Claudia Rivera

Claudia Rivera, an accomplished leader in diversity and inclusion with a PhD in Adult Learning and a master’s in Virtual Education, currently supports SCWIST groundbreaking Agency and Action to Prevent Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Project. This initiative aims to combat GBV in STEM workplaces by catalyzing systemic change through various strategies:

  • Conducting trauma-informed and intersectional workplace policy reviews, along with delivering GBV prevention training.
    Disseminating vital resources, tools, and knowledge-sharing strategies.
  • Conducting workshops to actively engage men in STEM fields, addressing hierarchical power dynamics and redefining masculinity.

Claudia’s commitment to equity is bolstered by prestigious credentials, including a Diploma in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University, a Women’s Leadership Certificate from Yale University, and certifications in Driving Change, Anti-Racism, Employee Engagement & Mental Health, among others. With over two decades of experience in senior management roles for leading Toronto charities and universities abroad, Claudia excels in learning and development, human resources, operations, governance, and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Her collaborative leadership approach emphasizes ethical problem resolution and leveraging diverse talents to drive positive change, reflecting her values of compassion, authenticity, transparency, integrity, and accountability. Claudia’s mission is to empower individuals and organizations, inspiring them to bravely pursue change and success, while providing the necessary tools to facilitate this journey.

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