Meet our team

The Chicago Women in STEM Initiative is led by a diverse team of dedicated graduate student, postdoctoral and professional volunteers, as well as liasons from Chicago-area academic institutions and organizations who are committed to promoting equity and diversity in the local STEM community and beyond.

Barbara Szynal, Co-President, IWD Committee Member & Social Media Coordinator – Twitter, PhD Candidate, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

Barbara is a PhD Candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. She earned her Honors BS in Biochemistry from Loyola University Chicago, where she lead research focused on synthesizing and testing photodynamic therapy agents for cancer treatment. Her research interests lie in better understanding cellular mechanisms and signaling pathways in order to design better therapeutics. Her current research focuses on bioengineering antibiotic and light-activatable proteins. Barbara joined the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative in early 2020 as a Social Media Twitter Coordinator. She hopes that through this role she will be able to continue building a strong network of women in STEM.

Anna Di Staulo, Co-President, IWD Committee Member & Social Media Coordinator – Website, PhD Candidate, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

Anna Di Staulo is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. She earned her Bachelors of Science at Saint Louis University. After graduation she worked for a couple years as a clinical trial coordinator and research technician before pursuing her PhD. Her research interests lie in stem cell biology and tissue engineering. She is currently investigating the bone marrow microenvironment and its regulation of hematopoietic stem cells. Anna joined the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative in the spring of 2019 and serves as a member of the IWD Committee Member and Social Media Coordinator. By helping the Chicago Women in STEM initiative, Anna hopes to increase awareness about gender and ethnic bias to encourage equality in the field. Additionally, Anna serves as the Vice President of her graduate student association (GEMSSA) where she enjoys planning STEM outreach and social events. In her free time, Anna enjoys cooking, reading historical fiction, and camping.

Maya Walker, Treasurer, IWD Committee Member, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University

Maya Walker is a first year doctoral student in the biomedical sciences at northwestern university. She earned her Bachelors of Science from Iowa State University and worked as a research technician at UW-Madison for two years before beginning graduate school. Her research interests lie integrated computational and wet lab approaches to investigate the mechanisms governing cancer cell fate decisions.

Divya Joshi, IWD Committee Member, PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering, Northwestern University

Divya Joshi is a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Science at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Before pursuing her PhD, Divya earned her Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research develops and implements novel imaging and biomechanical measurement tools to quantify deficits in musculoskeletal structure following cerebral palsy. Divya is passionate about advancing pediatric rehabilitative medicine, as well as fostering community and involvement in communities affected by childhood-onset disabilities. Additionally, she is enthusiastic about STEM outreach and education, particularly with women and children. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and trying new restaurants, reading, painting, and yoga.

Erica Rosario, STEM Circuits Team Member, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University

Erica Rosario is currently a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Program (IBiS) at Northwestern University. Currently, Erica is leading several projects which investigate how membrane dynamics impact organelle distribution and membrane contact site formation. She received her bachelor’s with honors from CUNY Hunter College, where she developed her interest in science communication. Erica has taken part in several STEM outreach and DEI initiatives in the Chicago area, partnering with organizations such as Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Hispanics in Science (SACNAS), Girls4science and Diversity in Biological Sciences (DiBS). Erica joined the Chicago Women in STEM initiative board in the Fall of 2023.

Jazmin Galván Achi , STEM Circuits Team Member, PhD Candidate, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine

Jazmin Galván Achi is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), College of Medicine. She earned her BS in Microbiology and Immunology from Arizona State University, Tempe, where she performed undergraduate research focused on oncolytic virotherapy using Myxoma virus. Her research interests lie in virology, understanding viral pathogenesis, immunology and drug discovery. Currently, her research focuses on antiviral drug discovery. Specifically, her ongoing projects involve identifying small molecules that will inhibit SARS-CoV-2 and Ebola, among other viruses, as well as understanding and optimizing the mechanism of action of these small molecules. Jazmin joined the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative at the end of spring of 2022 as a STEM Circuits team member. Her goal as a team member in the Chicago Women in STEM initiative is to encourage and uplift like-minded women in STEM and to build a community of inspiring scientists, where they feel welcomed, safe, and valued. In addition to this, as a proud first-generation Latina, Jazmin is also an executive board member of the SACNAS Graduate chapter at UIC.

Carla Patricia Reyes Flores, PhD Candidate, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Carla is a PhD Candidate in Biomedical Sciences in the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She leads research focused on investigating epigenetic determinants of resolution and repair of acute lung inflammation and injury with a focus on regulatory T cells (Tregs) in the context of youth vs aging. Before pursuing her PhD, Carla earned a Bachelor of Applied Sciences (B.A.S.) in Animal Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez Campus. Carla joined the initiative in June 2022 as STEM Circuits co-coordinator.

Advisory Committee Team

Farners Amargant i Riera, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Farners is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University. Farners is passionate about women’s health and her research has always been tightly aligned with the study of the female reproductive system. Dr. Amargant’s current research is focused on understanding the molecular causes of reproductive aging with the long-term objective to find treatments to extend reproductive longevity and improve overall women’s health. Farners is originally from Catalonia, Spain, where she obtained her PhD in 2018 from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, where she studied the role of the sperm centrosome during fertilization and embryo early development. During her PhD, she also developed a novel system to be used as a gamete selection tool in Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART). In addition to her research, she is actively involved in teaching, serving as a co-chair of several conferences, editing scientific journals, serving on committees, among many other roles. Dr. Amargant’s work has been recognized by several awards such as the “Lewis Landsberg Research Day award for Excellence in Women’s Health Research” and the “Society for the Study of Reproduction trainee research award”. Farners received the Global Consortium for Reproductive Longevity and Equality (GCRLE) grant to develop new treatments and technologies to delay reproductive aging (2020-2022). Farners joined the Chicago Women in STEM initiative in May 2019 and served as the Administrative Coordinator. She then took a more senior role in the initiative and co-organized the 2020-2021 edition of the STEM Circuits together with Kacey Suvada and Caren Nassif. In 2021, Farners was elected as the new President of the initiative, and she currently works very closely with Kacey Suvada (Vice-President) and Colleen Zaccard (Advisory Committee Chair) to establish a strong community of women in STEM in the Chicago-area and helping other Women in STEM initiatives around US. One of the main objectives that Farners has during her role as President is to promote the growth of the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative and to welcome new members from all backgrounds, nationalities, genders, and orientations to make science a more inclusive environment.  
Twitter @FarnersRiera 

Kathleen (Kacey) Suvada, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University

Kathleen (Kacey) Suvada is the Vice President of the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative and has been with the initiative since 2018. She is a current PhD Candidate in Neuroscience with a BS in physics and mathematics. Her current research interests implement her interdisciplinary background to understand research questions post brain injury with Dr. Ana Maria Acosta and Dr. Julius Dewald. Her research lies at the boundaries of neuroscience, engineering, and neurorehabilitation in studying the impact of a stroke on reaching coordination with the trunk. The goal of her work is to further understand the consequences of altered neural control post stroke and its impact on postural control during a seated reach, and how reaching function may be affected beyond what we have observed with the limb in isolation. Kacey is also engaged in several different organizations inside and outside Northwestern. Kacey volunteers with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) educating the Chicago area and Chicago public schools about mental health, mental illness, and mental well-being. In addition, through the Northwestern University Brain Awareness Outreach and Science in Society, she educates K-12 students and science teachers about the basics of Neuroscience with multiple events held during the school year. The goal is to introduce and motivate students to pursue science at a young age. Kacey hopes to remain involved in these passions as she continues her career in research after her PhD. She is thrilled to be a part of the Chicago Women in STEM Initiative and to be a part of this community of amazingly inspiring individuals. 

Colleen Zaccard, PhD, Advisory Committee Chair, Research Assistant Professor, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University

Dr. Colleen Zaccard is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the rapidly evolving field of neuroimmunology. Dr. Zaccard’s long-standing interest in immunology, infectious diseases, and public health began with her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and continued with her predoctoral research on novel mechanisms of immune cell communication during HIV infection at the University of Pittsburgh. She currently utilizes enhanced-resolution, live-cell microscopy techniques to investigate dynamic neuro-immune cell cross-talk in health and neuro-psychiatric disorders, i.e., Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Zaccard was recently awarded the 2020-21 Northwestern Alzheimer’s Disease Pilot Grant to support her research. Dr. Zaccard is also a strong advocate for gender equity and diversity in STEM, where women are still under-represented at advanced career stages and in leadership. As Founder and Inaugural Chair of Chicago Women in STEM Initiative, she has led a large team of postdoc, grad student, and Chicago-area professional volunteers in implementing programs to support early career women. These efforts included the annual Chicago Women in STEM Symposium, established in March 2018, and STEM Circuits, a monthly interdisciplinary cross-career level mentoring program. The 2019 Daniel I. Linzer Grant for Innovation in Diversity and Equity was awarded to Dr. Zaccard and colleagues by the Provost Office to support these efforts. Dr. Zaccard was selected in 2019 for the Postdoctoral McBride Award for furthering the Graduate School’s strategic priorities of campus diversity, service, and engagement. In late 2019, she received the first Early Career-Motivator Award from the American Women in Science (AWIS)-Chicago Chapter for her service in providing new resources and opportunities for Chicago-area women pursuing a scientist career trajectory. Beginning in 2021, Dr. Zaccard has transitioned to an advisory role in the in Initiative, serving as Advisory Committee Chair.

Twitter @ColleenZaccard