2021 GSC Conference


Email vvp@mit.edu Email megan.he@yale.edu

Speaker Profiles

Cathy L. Drennan is a professor of biology and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a professor and investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She received an AB in chemistry from Vassar College, and after teaching high school science and drama for three years, she returned to graduate school. Drennan received a PhD in biological chemistry from the University of Michigan, working in the laboratory of the late Professor Martha L. Ludwig. She was also a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Douglas C. Rees at the California Institute of Technology. In 1999, Drennan joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she has risen through the ranks to full professor. Her research interests lie at the interface of chemistry and biology, combining X-ray crystallography with cryo-electron microscopy and other biophysical methods in order to “visualize” molecular processes by obtaining snapshots of metalloproteins in action.

Ian Haydon is the science communication manager at the University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design. He is also a freelance science writer and biotechnology consultant. Ian’s writing has appeared in Forbes, Scientific American, and more than 30 other outlets. His science visualizations have appeared in The New York Times, Science Magazine, and other technical outlets. Before becoming a science writer, he studied “junk” DNA, how to turn agricultural waste into carbon-neutral fuel, and used computers to design new genes. Ian was also a participant in the world’s first clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine and chronicled his experience on social media as well as in The Washington Post, CNN, and other outlets.

Summer Morrill (Goldwater Scholar ’14) earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Tufts University, and went on to complete her PhD in the same subject at MIT. During this time, she conducted research in the lab of Angelika Amon at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and served as a Teaching Development Fellow. After graduating in 2020, she began her new role in the Department of Biology at MIT as an Instructor for Teaching Assistant (TA) Training and Curriculum Development. She focuses on building a program to train and support graduate and undergraduate student TAs throughout their time at MIT. She also collaborates with others in the Teaching and Learning group to develop and carry out projects that promote and streamline best teaching practices.

Olivia Harper Wilkins is an astrochemist and artist passionate about sharing science through different media. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech, where she uses large radio telescopes to explore the chemistry in the Orion Kleinmann-Low Nebula and other star-forming regions. She also wrote and illustrated the e-book Astrochemistry, which was published in July 2021, for the American Chemical Society’s ACS In Focus Series. Before her time at Caltech, Olivia was a double major in chemistry and mathematics at Dickinson College, where she also did chemical ecology research. She was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in 2014 and graduated with her B.S. from Dickinson in 2015. Olivia then spent a year doing laboratory astrophysics at the Universität zu Köln in Germany as a Fulbright Research Fellow. At Caltech, she has been funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Student Observing Support Award. Outside her research, Olivia enjoys teaching scientific writing and learning about effective pedagogy, advocating for mental health support, using the local coffee shop as an office, acquiring more art supplies than she will ever use, and visiting National Parks with her husband Alex and their son Günther.

Steven Robinette is a principal at Atlas Ventures and focuses on the formation and operations of companies translating emerging biology into novel therapeutics.  Steven was a member of the founding teams of Kymera Therapeutics (NASDAQ: KYMR), Disarm Therapeutics (acquired by Eli Lilly), Disc Medicine, Korro Bio, and Vigil Neuroscience. Additionally, he was involved in Atlas’ investments in Vedere Bio (acquired by Novartis), Arkuda Therapeutics, and Accent Therapeutics. Steven serves as an advisor to several organizations, including Brown Biomedical Innovations, Brandeis SPROUT, and Alexandria’s Seed Capital advisory board. Prior to joining Atlas Venture in 2015, Steven was an engagement manager at McKinsey & Company, serving pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients in the R&D service line. Steven received his Ph.D. from Imperial College London, where he studied the biochemical genetics of rare disease in the laboratory of Jeremy Nicholson, and through a graduate partnership program with the laboratory of William Gahl at the National Human Genome Research Institute.  Steven’s graduate work was sponsored by the British Marshall Scholarship, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program.  Steven received his B.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Florida where he graduated summa cum laude, valedictorian and was a Barry Goldwater Scholar.  Outside of the office, Steven spends as much time as he can outdoors; hiking, skiing, sailing, and in his gardens and orchard.  He and his wife and daughter live in Fremont, NH.

Swati Sureka is a science policy and communications professional dedicated to promoting an equitable, collaborative, and innovative scientific enterprise. She received her undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry from Cornell University, where her research focused on environmental biotechnology, synthetic biology, and DNA engineering. As Swati gained experience in the lab, she began to think more and more about the political, social, economic, and environmental dimensions of science. By the time she graduated in 2015, she decided to pursue these interests through graduate study, as a Keasbey scholar in the UK. Over the next couple of years, she earned Master’s degrees in Management of Bioeconomy, Innovation and Governance at the University of Edinburgh and in Nature, Society, and Environmental Governance at the University of Oxford. Her graduate research allowed her to hone a deep interest in the governance practices of national scientific institutions in historical and international context. This interest led her to the National Science Foundation in 2018, where she continue to work today. The primary focus of her current role is to support the agency’s large research infrastructure portfolio.

Haley Varnum is a second-year MD-PhD student in the Harvard/MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program. A 2018 Goldwater Scholar, she completed degrees in chemistry and mathematics at Bryn Mawr College before spending a year as a Fulbright Scholar in the Berlin metropolitan region. Her research interests include using a diverse set of tools in chemical biology, biophysics and mathematics to probe questions relevant to infectious disease and human health.