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
President

Saina Beitari

Saina Beitari
Director of Finance

JeAnn Watson

JeAnn Watson
Director of Youth Engagement

Melanie Ratnam

Melanie Ratnam
Director of Policy and Advocacy & Vice President

Jasmine Parmar

Jasmine Parmar
Director of Marketing and Communications

Maria Gyongyossy-Issa

Maria Gyongyossy-Issa
Secretary

Erin DeBruin

Erin DeBruin
Director of Community Building

Poh Tan

PhD
[email protected]

Poh is an entrepreneur, stem cell scientist, educator, 2x TEDx speaker, and mother of two boys. With a Ph.D in stem cell biology, Poh is currently completing a second PhD with a focus in science education. She is the founder and CEO of STEMedge Academy where she creates programs to support high school students develop research capacity in STEM. She returns to the Board of Directors as SCWIST’s President.

Saina Beitari

PhD
[email protected]

Saina is a researcher at the National Researcher Council of Canada and supports COVID-19 and other viral infection R&D efforts. With a Ph.D. in microbiology, her passion lies in HIV/AIDS research. She is an advocate for policy reform for better inclusion of science in policy making. Saina joins the SCWIST Board as Director of Finance.

JeAnn Watson

MPhil, PMP
[email protected]

JeAnn is a Project Management Coordinator at Genome BC. With a background in Biochemistry, specializing in natural and synthetic compounds in drug metabolism, and a PMP certification, JeAnn chose to transition away from the bench. She is also the vice chair for the Society for Scientific Advancement and is focused on providing STEM opportunities to underrepresented populations. She is SCWIST’s Director of Youth Engagement.

Melanie Ratnam

BSc, PhD
[email protected]

Melanie Ratnam 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 joins the SCWIST Board as Director of Policy and Advocacy to focus on improving EDI and representation of women in STEM.

Jasmine Parmar

MSc
[email protected]

Jasmine Parmar has a background in Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology and built a career in sales and operations. Jasmine has been a volunteer with SCWIST in the Business Development committee, and she has a passion for raising the profile of women of colour who want to pursue a career in STEM. Jasmine joins the board as Director Marketing and Communications.

Maria Gyongyossy-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 Interim 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!”

Erin DeBruin


[email protected]

Erin is a Project Manager at Genome BC supporting genomics education for health care professionals and has a background in engineering and pre-clinical pharmaceutical development. Erin started volunteering with SCIWST as a steering committee member of the MakePossible mentoring project to advance women in STEM and now joins the board as the interim Director of Community Building.

Independent Contractors

 Cheryl Kristiansen

Cheryl Kristiansen
Make DIVERSITY Possible & SCALE Project Manager

Ashley van der Pouw Kraan

Ashley van der Pouw Kraan
Communications and Events Coordinator

Akanksha Chudgar

Akanksha Chudgar
North Indigenous Outreach Coordinator

Pooja Moorti

Pooja Moorti
msinfinity Coordinator

Jaqueline Ipina

Jaqueline Ipina
msinfinity Coordinator

Maryam Leclerc

Maryam Leclerc
Quebec Coordinator

Natasha Birdi

Natasha Birdi
Youth Engagement Indigenous Programs Liaison

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!

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. ashleypk.com

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.

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.

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.