Ben Dubin-Thaler, PhD, Founder and Executive Director created the BioBus in 2008 after completing his BA in Physics and Mathematics as well as his Ph.D. in Biology from Columbia University. “Dr. Ben,” as he is known to students aboard the BioBus, started the BioBus as an experiment to test his hypothesis that, given the opportunity to use research-microscopes to perform live experiments, anyone would be excited about science and want to do more. Dr. Dubin-Thaler and his team create a new kind of laboratory space that is empowering, accessible, un-intimidating, and that facilitates scientific engagement amongst populations historically underrepresented in science professions. Dr. Dubin-Thaler hopes to create a future in which people from all cultures and backgrounds have equal opportunities to practice and understand science.
Sarah Weisberg, MSci, Chief Scientist, climbed on board the BioBus in 2010 after completing a Master’s of Science degree in Cell Biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. There, she was trained as an independent research scientist; her work has been presented at a number of scientific conferences and published in several journals. Prior to moving to Israel, Sarah graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College with a degree in Biology and Linguistics. Sarah has been a teacher and social justice advocate since her youth, working at food pantries and tutoring programs from elementary school and running an in-prison education program in college. Sarah believes wholly in the BioBus mission and works on all aspects of the program -- from teaching and writing curricula to strategic planning and fundraising to learning how to drive and maintain a 1974 diesel bus (with no power steering).
Contact Sarah Weisberg at firstname.lastname@example.org
Latasha Wright, PhD, Chief Scientist, received her Ph.D. from NYU Langone Medical Center in cell and molecular biology. She went on to continue her scientific training at Johns Hopkins University and Weill Cornell Medical Center. She has co-authored numerous publications and presented her work at international and national conferences. She is an experienced grant writer. She received her training in development at the Park Avenue Armory under the direction of the Manager of Institutional Giving. The BioBus enables her to share her love of science with a new generation of potential scientists. The BioBus creates a setting that fosters innovation and creativity. Students are encouraged to ask questions, formulate hypotheses, and design experiments. Everyday that she spends teaching students about science in this transformative environment helps her remember that science is fun. She loves sharing the journey of discovery with students of all ages.
Sascha Russel, PhD, Staff Scientist, has been having great adventures exploring the microsopic world and New York City schools on board the BioBus since September 2014. She loves how students discover how fun biology is when they get a chance to use real equipment and do authentic experiments on the Biobus, and how easy the biobus is for teachers. After earning a BA in Biology from Brown University, she earned an MA in Science education from NYU-Steinhart while developing hands on curriculum and teaching high school biology in NYC public schools in the Bronx and Manhattan. She went on to earn a PhD in Genetics in Gary Ruvkun’s lab at Harvard University where she studied and published papers on molting in the roundworm C. elegans. Sascha started the Model Organism Zoo for SITN, a student organization, which has continued to produce it each year for the Cambridge Science Festival, and she also worked with the Life Sciences outreach program at Harvard. Besides doing fun experiments and fixing up old things, she loves mushroom hunting and bugs.
Mollie Thurman, MA, Lead Scientist, boarded the BioBus team in September of 2014. She began her scientific career as a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health and went on to get her MA in conservation biology from Columbia University. She is currently part of a team of researchers working to assess the ecological health of New York City’s coastlines. Along the way, Mollie found that she loved to teach about the ecosystems and organisms that she was studying by volunteering with various environmental education organizations across the northeast. She spent a year as an educator at Maritime Gloucester in Massachusetts, where she was able to teach marine science on boats and in the classroom. She has also been involved in growing their citizen science program, which involves the community in monitoring invasive species and water quality. Since joining the BioBus, she has found the process of crafting lessons around student’s questions rather than working from a syllabus incredibly rewarding.
Tiffany King, PhD, Staff Scientist, graduated from Spelman College in 2009 with a B.S. in Biology. After several undergraduate research experiences, including summers spent in labs at the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., Tiffany went on to pursue a doctoral degree from Rutgers University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She completed her Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology under the guidance of Dr. Sunita Kramer in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Her graduate work focused on understanding cardiac cell migration, and early heart formation using Drosophila melanogaster embryos as a model. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at numerous scientific meetings. Tiffany has long been interested in education and science outreach, volunteering with organizations both during her undergraduate and graduate studies. While volunteering with the organization Citizen Schools, she enjoyed communicating scientific concepts to students through hands-on learning. The BioBus was the perfect place to continue presenting science in this manner, making it relatable and accessible to all students. Tiffany joined the BioBus team in early 2015, and the experience of igniting a passion of scientific exploration, and changing the idea of what a typical scientist is in the minds of young people has been rewarding.
Francesca Anselmi, PhD, Staff Scientist, received her undergraduate education in Molecular Biology at the University of Padua in Italy. She then moved to Paris to pursue her graduate training at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research. There she learned how to build microscopes to investigate the mysteries of the brain. She received her PhD in Neuroscience and Optics at the University Paris Descartes, and then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island. Francesca loves sharing her enthusiasm about scientific discovery with people of all ages and backgrounds. She believes in a hands-on approach to science education as a means to inspire creativity. Her lab experience has taught her that everybody can have fun building microscopes, and use them to explore the invisible micro-universe around and within us. At BioBus, Francesca continues having fun, while unraveling the wonders of science together with students and teachers. She hopes to help shape the next generation of scientists and citizens, aware and proud of the environment they live in, eager to observe reality first hand, challenge common knowledge and formulate their own original ideas to shape the world around them into a better place for everyone to share.
Robert Frawley, PhD, Staff Scientist, is a 2016 addition to the BioBus team, coming straight out of his PhD program at Weill Cornell Graduate School where his research specialty was biomineralization and connective tissue. Having grown up on Long Island and studied Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, Rob has never been far from New York City. Realizing the importance and gratification of teaching, Rob began doing science outreach work during his doctoral studies, and he currently teaches MicroBiology as an Adjunct Professor as well as looking at microbes on the BioBus. When not doing science, Rob is often found coaching some of New York City’s coolest swimmers. His favorite conversation to have is about the biomechanics of swimming.
Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler, PhD (ABD), Staff Scientist graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a B.A. in Neurobiology and Behavior. After spending two years as a research assistant in Eric Kandel’s Neuroscience lab at Columbia University she entered the Ph.D. program in Cellular, Molecular, Biomedical Sciences at Columbia. She completed her M.A. and M.Phil. researching neurodegenerative disorders and subsequently joined the lab of Mark Ansorge where she spent 3 years researching the role of the serotonin system in the development of anxiety and depression disorders in mouse models. Throughout her graduate studies she discovered a deep passion for science education through her volunteer teaching with Citizen Schools, Columbia Neuroscience Outreach and Science Discovery at Columbia University. She strongly believes that science exploration should be exciting, inspiring and accessible to students of all ages. With the BioBus, she is excited to help bring hands-on learning to the next level and hopes to inspire a new generation of kids to become creative, curious young scientists.
Samantha Sheppard-Lahiji, PhD, Staff Scientist received her undergraduate degree in Forensic Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and went on to complete her PhD in Molecular Biology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Upon completion of her graduate degree she did a postdoctoral fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the department of Molecular Biology and Radiation Oncology. Samantha is a supporter of science outreach and spearheaded events to foster scientific discussion as a board member of the Minority Graduate Science Network and as president of the MSKCC postdoctoral association. Samantha joined Biobus in early 2017 and enjoys the daily opportunities to spark curiosity and excitement within individuals of all ages.
David Yap, Lab Manager joined the BioBus team December 2013. Born and raised in the Bay Area, California, he had a strong appreciation for the sciences instilled from his chemist father. After working part time as a lab assistant at the USDA while in high school, he attended McGill University in Montreal, studying Anthropology and Biology. Upon graduation, David spent a year teaching English in Japan and returned the United States, settling in Jersey City, NJ and freelancing as an editor of college biology textbooks. Later, he dove into the world of education reform and worked on staff at Teach For America. In 2011, David left to take part in the Occupy Wall Street protests and with a collective of artists he met at Zuccotti park, formed a worker-run screenprinting shop dedicated to creating art in public space and printing in support of social justice. David enjoys introducing students to science outside of textbooks and the classroom.
Danny Valdes, Director of Program Operations, has been on the BioBus team since late 2011. He is an experienced educator and is certified as a public school teacher in the states of Florida and New York. He has also taught in the private sector. Danny graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Philosophy in 2008. Like Dr. Ben, Danny was wary of getting ‘trapped’ in the world of academia and so moved to New York City in 2009 hoping to make a difference in the field of education. Danny is dedicated to spreading the BioBus’ mission of making education a fun and interactive experience accessible to all students. He handles logistics for the BioBus and is the main point of contact for schools and communities that are interested in having the bus visit.
Georgina Capetillo, Program Coordinator is originally from Managua, Nicaragua. She moved to the United States in 2004. She holds a B.A in Philosophy and Political Science from Howard University. In addition, she holds three graduate certificates: Community Care Coordination from The Silberman School of Social Work, Humanist Leadership from The Humanist Institute and Conflict Resolution Education from the University of Massachusetts. She has previously worked for Catapult; an online platform for gender equality and The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, an organization that promotes freedom of inquiry and science education.
Sasha Chait, Director of Development, is excited to help BioBus expand and bring the thrill of discovery and scientific opportunity to students in NYC. Prior to joining the BioBus team in summer 2015, she worked in the Office of Development at NYU Langone Medical Center, focusing on biomedical research and healthcare. Sasha’s nonprofit experience also includes the Willis Center, a minority-based social and human service agency in Massachusetts, and WomensTrust, a microfinance, healthcare, and education organization in Ghana, West Africa. Sasha earned a BA from Clark University in International Development and Social Change with a concentration in social entrepreneurship and nonprofit management. She is involved in volunteering and politics surrounding social, economic, and health justice. Sasha can be reached at email@example.com, 347-766-4974.
Amy Miller, PsyD, Development Manager joined the BioBus Team as Development Manager in 2016. Amy grew up in San Diego, and later lived in the Bay Area, graduating with a BA in Geography from UC Berkeley and Doctorate of Clinical Psychology, Psy.D., from California School of Professional Psychology. As a psychologist, Amy worked in educational, social service and health settings in New York City. Later, she worked as an organizer for political candidates and issues including health care reform and climate change. Amy is excited to help BioBus programs reach more young people throughout the city and support the place of science in society. She currently lives in Brooklyn and enjoys hosting parties, cooking and travel.
Raymond Wilkerson, Driver and Program Assistant, joined the BioBus team in 2015 to drive the BioBus all over New York City. Ray also assists day to day in the BioBus office and labs. Previously, Ray was a bus driver for the MTA.
John Butler is an attorney and a Fellow at the Center for Court Innovation, a criminal justice think tank based in midtown. He has extensive experience in non-profit management and operations as well as public sector consulting and technical assistance. He formerly served as the director of fundraising and operations for a newly opened chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, helping the organization grow to serve over 1,000 youth. He also co-founded and managed a non-profit consulting firm that offered communications and public relations services to small non-profits. He co-founded the Iraq Legal Education Initiative, helping develop a legal education program at the American University of Iraq and was a design fellow at the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies. He also represented clients through the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic where he successfully represented indigent clients facing misdemeanor charges and on federal appeal. John is also a Trustee at Frost Valley, YMCA where he is also a former summer camp director. He is a graduate of Brown University and has a masters in comparative politics from the London School of Economics and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Reva Gaur currently works in Global Media Operations at Facebook, where she leads operations for the News & Publishing vertical based out of Facebook's New York City offices. Prior to Facebook, she spent a decade in the fields of media, communications, marketing and digital strategy, including three years as Director of Communications for Educational Alliance, a 125-year old nonprofit organization serving over 50,000 New Yorkers per year through a range of education and social services programs. Reva holds a Masters in Business Administration from NYU's Stern School of Business and a Bachelors in Sociology from Brown University. Reva has been a BioBus volunteer since its inception, helping build the organization from a tiny startup to an internationally recognized model for science education. She has served on the board since 2010 and served as President from 2012 to 2014.
Upon completion of her doctorate in Virology in 2000 from SUNY Albany's School of Public Health, a collaboration between the NY Department of Health, SUNY Albany and Albany Medical College, Sadia Halim began a career on Wall Street. She offers experience in research, banking, and asset management. She is currently a managing director at BNP Paribas in the Financial Institutions Coverage group based in New York. She is a CFA Charterholder and a member of the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA). She is also an avid supporter of the Harlem Academy, an independent school serving grades one through eight, as well as being on the board of AVRI (AIDS Vaccine Research Institute), a 501(c)(3) non-profit research institute committed to the development of a vaccine to prevent HIV infection.
Jared Fox is a veteran science teacher at the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in Manhattan and has been recognized as a Math for America (MƒA) Master Teacher. Prior to teaching at WHEELS, Jared worked as a teaching fellow in Edinburgh, Scotland and served as a Teach for America corps member in the Bronx. Jared holds a Ph.D. in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University where he researched how mobile science labs influence student attitudes towards science.
Matthew Baldwin is based in the tri-state area and currently works in the Financial Services practice at Accenture, where he focuses on the delivery of business and technology strategy and solutions to Insurance and Reinsurance customers. Prior to joining Accenture, he spent several years working in the Insurance and Banking industries. Matt holds a B.A. in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross. Matt has been involved with BioBus activities since 2014 and was recently elected to the Board in 2016. In his free time Matt enjoys skiing and fly-fishing.
Nicolas Biais is an Assistant Professor in Biology at Brooklyn College. After a PhD from France at the interface between physics and biology, he delved into the wonders of microbiology as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. Along with performing internationally acclaimed research and having been awarded numerous grants and accolades, one of Nicolas' main interests is teaching science. Having taught chemistry, physics and biology in many places, venues and formats, from 300 medical students classes in France to hands-on experiments in his home-country, Haiti. Nicolas has been an enthusiastic supporter and visiting scientist aboard the BioBus since its inception in 2008, and is proud to have served on the board of directors since 2011.
Deval Desai is an experienced IT professional. He works in the Technology division at Barclays where he focuses on development and maintenance of the reference data systems for the firm. He has worked for Lehman Brothers, Standard & Poor's, Goldman Sachs and IBM earlier in similar capacities. He supports a variety of non-profit organizations including New York Cares, StreetWise Partners, Hudson County CASA, Green City Force, Added Value Farms through volunteering activities. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering (Information Technology) and a Master of Science (Computer Science). He joined the board in April 2016.
Josh Dormont is the Director of Product of Development for the Office of Research and Development at the NYC Department of Education. Josh has more than a decade of experience in education leading teams, managing operations and development, building products, and launching new and entrepreneurial initiatives in and out of organizations. Josh has is Masters in Education from PACE University and BA in History from Cornell. Josh has been on the Board of the BioBus since 2011 and has led the Development Committee since 2013.
Stephen Jan is a Software Engineer at Google. His professional background spans several companies and industries including communication applications at Google, E-commerce at Nook.com, digital advertising at Doubleclick.com, and mobile applications at several startups. On the non-profit side, Stephen has founded a non-profit that donates funding, medical equipment, and ambulances to hospitals in Africa, South America, and Asia. Stephen studied computer science at Columbia University earning both a Masters and Bachelors degree.
Naira Musallam is Clinical Assistant Professor at the Center for Global Affairs. She holds a Ph.D. in Social-Organizational Psychology (2011) and an M.A. in Psychology and Education (2005) from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Psychology and Communication (2001) from Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on key factors related to the effectiveness of organizations working in conflict zones, and more specifically, NGOs operating in the Palestinian territories. She also has conducted research related to the complex dynamical systems theory, intractable conflicts, power, identity, and peace processes, primarily in the Middle East. Musallam has academic appointments at Columbia University and has taught in its Eisenhower Leader Development Program (ELDP) at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. Her publications include articles in the Journal of Peace Psychology and the Israeli Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences. Fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, she served as the main editor for the Arabic version of the Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice. Musallam has over 10 years of experience working with government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations that address political, educational, humanitarian, and development issues related to the Middle East, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Amideast, International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), Adler Research Center, Mar Elias Educational Institutions, Amnesty International, and local NGOs. She is the recipient of awards and scholarships from the Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the U.S. Department of State.
Quentin Van Doosselaere is the Co-CEO of Bregal investment, a global private equity firm. Following his business school graduation in 1984, Quentin began his career at Drexel Burnham Lambert before joining Bankers Trust where he ran various capital markets businesses. In the mid-nineties, he held executive positions in a number of non-profit organizations before going into academia. He was affiliated with Columbia University and Oxford University when he returned to the financial industry and joined Bregal in 2008.
The BioBus research grade mobile science lab (a refurbished partially solar- and biofuel-powered 1974 transit bus with over $100,000 of microscopes) and the BioBase research grade community science lab give 30,000 students annually the chance to feel the excitement of making a scientific discovery. Through our STEM programs taught by PhD and Masters-level scientists, we help to generate interest among and empower New York City youth to create the next generation of scientists.
Since our first students boarded the BioBus in 2008, we have been on the road teaching for over 950 days, giving almost 150,000 people at more than 500 schools and community events the opportunity to work side-by-side with professional scientists and explore their environment using research-grade microscopes normally found only in top-tier laboratories. Almost every day of the school year, the BioBus parks in front of a school, giving students the chance to use a phase-contrast video microscope to make movies of crawling amoeba, use a scanning electron microscope to see a fly eye, and visualize glowing, streaming plant chloroplasts using a fluorescence microscope. Students work alongside research scientists that form the BioBus staff as well as volunteers ranging from students from local colleges and universities to Nobel Prize winner Martin Chalfie to Bill Nye “the Science Guy.” Students from even the most poorly-performing schools leave the bus with a new appreciation for how “cool” science is, encouraged by their positive interactions with diverse scientist role-models, with many students proclaiming, “I want to be a scientist!” after their experience. Quantitative data shows dramatic, positive changes in attitudes towards science amongst BioBus participants. Financial aid from our generous community of donors ensures the the BioBus is able to spend over 65% of its time cultivating science excitement in the most under-resourced, high-poverty communities in the NYC metropolitan area.
The BioBase open it’s doors in 2014, providing students with a space to conduct in-depth research projects using the same research-grade microscopes alongside PhD and Masters-level scientists. Students, typically grade four through high school, visit the BioBase weekly for a semester or longer or for a week long summer camp, with topics including local urban ecology, art and science, and research of the students’ choice. We offer after school, weekend, and school break classes, as well as internships, school trips, and community events. BioBase students receive individual mentorship from practicing research scientists as they develop their own hypothesis-driven experiments. These experiences act as the first steps along a student's path towards a STEM career and, together with the BioBus, create a positive science community that can foster and support desire for and commitment to long-term science practice. Many students return for multiple BioBase programs and bring their families to events.