Ben Dubin-Thaler, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, created the BioBus in 2008 after completing his Ph.D. in Biology as well as his B.A. in Physics and Mathematics at Columbia University. “Dr. Ben,” as he is known to students aboard the BioBus, started BioBus as an experiment to test his hypothesis that, given the opportunity to use research-microscopes to perform hands-on experiments, anyone would be excited about science and want to do more. Ben 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. Ben, now a recognized nonprofit and science education leader who is regularly invited to speak and consult for other organizations, hopes to create a future in which people from all cultures and backgrounds have equal opportunities to practice and understand science. Ben is a former Mobile Lab Coalition board member.
Contact Ben Dubin-Thaler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Weisberg, M.Sci., 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. Sarah’s 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). Sarah is the current Chair of the Board of the Mobile Lab Coalition.
Contact Sarah Weisberg at email@example.com
Latasha Wright, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, received her Ph.D. from NYU Langone Medical Center in cell and molecular biology. She continued her scientific training at Johns Hopkins University and Weill Cornell Medical Center. She has co-authored numerous publications, presented her work at international and national conferences, and has grantwriting experience. BioBus enables Latasha to share her love of science with a new generation of scientists. Latasha spearheaded the creation of the first BioBase community lab, the BioBus internship program, and our Harlem expansion. Everyday that Latasha 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.
Contact Latasha Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mollie Thurman, M.A., Lead Scientist, joined the BioBus team in 2014 after studying urban ecology for many years. She attended Mount Holyoke College, joined a research group at the Harvard School of Public Health, and then earned an M.A. from Columbia University. Along the way, Mollie found that she loved to teach about the ecosystems that she studied. She spent a year as a marine science educator in Massachusetts and then returned to NYC to work with a team of researchers studying New York Harbor. Since joining the BioBus, she has worked to involve students in furthering our understanding of the ecology of NYC’s shorelines and developed new programs and curriculum.
Contact Mollie Thurman at email@example.com
Francesca Anselmi, Ph.D., Community Scientist, completed her undergraduate education in Molecular Biology at the University of Padua in Italy and pursued graduate training at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Paris. There she learned how to build microscopes to investigate the mysteries of the brain. She received her Ph.D. 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. 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. Francesca is a co-created of the DIY (do-it-yourself) microscope which has been the basis of projects for BioBus interns and new curriculum.
Contact Francesca Anselmi at firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Frawley, Ph.D., Community Scientist, received a BS in Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University and a Ph.D. from Weill Cornell Medical College. He joined the BioBus team in 2016. As a graduate student he worked at the Hospital for Special Surgery as a research assistant studying chemical and cellular mechanisms governing mineralization in soft tissue. Rob is also an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College, teaching microbiology and epidemics and can often be found swimming, coaching swimming, making puns, and drawing comics.
Contact Rob Frawley at email@example.com
Sascha Russel, Ph.D., Community Scientist, has great adventures exploring the microsopic world and New York City schools at BioBus. 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 B.A. in Biology from Brown University, she earned an M.A. 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 Ph.D. in Genetics at Harvard University where she studied and published papers on molting in the roundworm C. elegans.
Contact Sascha Russel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler, M.A., Ph.D. (ABD), Community Scientist, graduated from Wesleyan University in 2007 with a B.A. in Neurobiology and Behavior. She was a research assistant in Eric Kandel’s Neuroscience lab at Columbia University before she entered the Ph.D. program in Cellular, Molecular, Biomedical Sciences at Columbia. Tessa earned an M.A. and M.Phil. researching neurodegenerative disorders and subsequently joined the lab of Mark Ansorge where she spent three years researching the role of the serotonin system in the development of anxiety and depression disorders in mouse models. She discovered a deep passion for science education through her volunteer teaching with Citizen Schools, Columbia Neuroscience Outreach and Science Discovery at Columbia University. Tessa strongly believes that science exploration should be exciting, inspiring, and accessible to students of all ages. At 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.
Contact Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler at email@example.com
Eric James, Ph.D., Community Scientist, completed his undergraduate degree in psychology at St. John's University. He then received his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Brown University. There, in the lab of Carlos Aizenman, he helped develop a novel model to study neurodevelopmental disorders using tadpoles. Eric then continued his postdoctoral training in the lab of Eve Marder were he used the crab nervous system to understand how neural circuits maintain functionality when faced with chronic diseases and disorders. In addition to bench science, Eric is an active advocate and mentor focused on making science more diverse. BioBus provides the perfect opportunity to inspire and support scientific exploration and increase diversity in science.
Contact Eric James at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seneca Lee, Support Scientist, graduated from Smith College with a B.A., in Biological Sciences. There, she completed a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and independent project studying the typical social behavior in male goldfish when exposed to a particular female pheromone. Since graduating she was a Sports Coach and a Camp Director where she learned the power and joy in educating children in a variety of subjects. Wanting to get into the challenging arena of biology, nature, and the environment, Seneca found BioBus. She loves engaging with students and witnessing the excitement when they discover something new. She finds value in introducing and bringing science to young students, striving to have a positive influence on any future scientist here in NYC.
Contact Seneca Lee at email@example.com
Sedef Tinaztepe, Ph.D., Community Scientist, first climbed aboard BioBus in 2014 as a New York Academy of Sciences STEM mentor, and continued as a volunteer scientist long after the mentoring program was over. She officially joined the BioBus staff in January 2018, upon completing her Ph.D. studies in Genetics and Development at Columbia University. An experienced molecular biologist, Sedef has worked at a number of research and clinical laboratories, studying molecular genetics of diverse organisms such as humans, viruses, mosquitoes, and grasses. She believes that hands-on experiences play a critical role in developing an appreciation of science, and she is excited to inspire and support young scientists of NYC at BioBus.
Contact Sedef Tinaztepe at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Contact David Yap at email@example.com
Li Murphy, Lab Manager first worked aboard the BioBus in the summer of 2012 and took the concept of being a mobile scientist very deeply to heart. Since her first experience with science advocacy through the BioBus in New York City, she has boarded countless planes, trains, boats, and bicycles pursuing a love for science communication. She traveled to Kyrgyzstan to work as a beekeeping instructor, to France to research chemical communication in native bees, and to Thailand to learn about beehive fences that deter farm-raiding wild elephants. Most recently, she spent a year of independent travel in Southeast Asia as a Michael C. Rockefeller Fellow. She returned to the US to work for the BioBus and is firmly convinced that she has finally re-boarded the best vessel of science education she has yet to find in the world. She graduated high honors with a B.A. degree in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Harvard University. There, she sat on the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders, the Life Sciences Undergraduate Advising Board, and established the College's first apiary. She loves bees and breakfast.
Contact Li Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Danny Valdes, Director of Program Operations, has been on the BioBus team since late 2012. 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.
Contact Danny Valdes at email@example.com
Amrika Sieunarine, Program Coordinator, boarded BioBus as a WHEELS student in 2011. She graduated from Hamilton College in 2016 with a B.A. in World Politics. After graduation, Amrika was awarded the prestigious Hamilton College Bristol Fellowship, a research grant that allowed her to travel to over five countries around the globe to pursue an independent project on Women’s Empowerment for twelve months. As a product of public education, Amrika is deeply committed to providing students with educational opportunities that will promote their confidence and help them reach their full potential. Amrika looks forward to her work with BioBus and is excited to support and spread the organization’s innovate approach to learning with the goal of creating lasting connections between the community and the organization.
Contact Amrika Sieunarine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Tofte, Program Coordinator, joined the BioBus team in 2018. He attended Pennsylvania State University and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology. Prior to joining BioBus, Keith worked for air nyc, a Bronx asthma services nonprofit, and was an AmeriCorps service member for three consecutive terms in New York and New Jersey, where he served at NYC sustainability organizations such as GrowNYC and the Lower East Side Ecology Center. He is excited to help BioBus expand science education and attainment at all levels of public education and generally likes science fiction, basketball, and punk rock music.
Contact Keith Tofte at email@example.com
Roya Heydari, MA, Director of Program Evaluation, graduated in 2011 from Binghamton University with a B.A. in Biology. It was her time teaching as an undergraduate that inspired her to pursue a masters degree in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Roya began teaching as a NYC public school science teacher until she found herself back at Teachers College, now pursuing her doctorate in science education. Roya has since been working on using research and data to evaluate science education programs. With the BioBus community she is thrilled to help take all the meaningful education programs at BioBus to the next level of science inquiry-based learning."
Contact Roya Heydari at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Contact Sasha Chait at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tori Von Ancken
Tori Von Ancken, Development Coordinator, assists in fundraising and development efforts to enable a five-year plan for BioBus growth to ignite the passion for science in even more students across New York for the years to come. Tori previously worked at Molecular NeuroImaging aiding research efforts across the world for Alzheimers, Parkinsons and Oncology patients. Her interest in science education began while working at the Wildlife Conservation Society through “Project True”, where she taught and led research on urban ecology to NYC high school students at the Prospect Park Zoo. Tori earned a B.A. from Fordham University majoring in Environmental Studies and with a minor in Bioethics.
Contact Tori Von Ancken at email@example.com
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.
Contact Raymond Wilkerson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rory Verga, A.S. , Facilities Specialist and BioBus Driver, joined the BioBus team in the spring of 2017 after working with NYC Parks urban forestry for 33 years. During his time at Parks he drove and operated many kinds of heavy equipment while maintaining NYC’s urban forest, so transitioning to driving the BioBus was easy. Rory attended Queensborough Community College where he earned an Associates degree in Environmental Science. Rory loves to learn about our living environment, learning new things and the BioBus mission of making science open and accessible to all our future scientists.
Contact Rory Verga at email@example.com
John Butler, J.D., 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 nonprofit management and operations as well as public sector consulting, including: director of fundraising and operations for Big Brothers Big Sisters, co-founding a nonprofit consulting firm offering communications and public relations services to small nonprofits, and co-founding the Iraq Legal Education Initiative at the American University of Iraq. He was also a design fellow at the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, has represented clients through the Stanford Criminal Defense Clinic, and serves as a Trustee at Frost Valley, YMCA. He is a graduate of Brown University, has a masters in comparative politics from the London School of Economics and a JD from Stanford Law School.
Quentin Van Dooselaere, Ph.D., is the Co-CEO of Bregal Investments, a global private equity firm. Quentin began his career at Drexel Burnham Lambert before joining Bankers Trust where he ran various capital markets businesses. He then held executive positions in a number of non-profits before moving to academia. He was affiliated with Columbia University and Oxford University when he returned to Bregal in 2008. He serves on the board of Laureate Education, IMG, Solar Reserve and Aurigen.
Sadia Halim, Ph.D., is a managing director at BNP Paribas in the Financial Institutions Coverage group based in New York. 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, she began a career on Wall Street. Sadia offers experience in research, banking, and asset management. 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 which the BioBus visits each year, 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, Ph.D., is the science department chair at 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 teacher 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 works as a Financial Services Management Consultant focused on delivering business and technology strategy and solutions to Insurance customers. Matt holds a BA 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.
Nicolas Biais, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in Biology at Brooklyn College. After earning his Ph.D. in France, he completed his postdoc in microbiology at Columbia University. Alongside his acclaimed research, his main interest is teaching science, having taught chemistry, physics, and biology to French medical students and people in his home-country, Haiti. He has been a supporter and visiting scientist to BioBus since 2008, and on the board since 2011.
Deval Desai, M.S., is an experienced IT professional focused on reference data technology at Barclays. He has worked for Lehman Brothers, Standard & Poor's, Goldman Sachs and IBM earlier in similar capacities. Deval supports a variety of nonprofit organizations including New York Cares, StreetWise Partners, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, Cause Strategy Partners, Hudson County Court Appointed Special Advocates, Green City Force, and Added Value Farms. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering and a Master of Science and joined the board in April 2016.
Josh Dormont, M.Ed., is the Director of Product of Development for the NYC Department of Education and a photographer who specializes in portrait and social documentary projects. Josh has more than a decade of experience in education leading teams, managing operations and development, building products, and launching new entrepreneurial initiatives. Josh has a Masters in Education from PACE University and BA from Cornell. Josh has been on the board since 2011, and led the Development Committee from 2013-2016.
Reva Gaur, M.B.A., works in News Partnerships at Facebook, where she leads the partner services team for the News vertical in the US, 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 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.
Mandë Holford, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in Chemistry at Hunter College and CUNY-Graduate Center, with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medical College. Her joint appointments reflect her Mollusks to Medicine interdisciplinary research, which combines chemistry and biology to discover, characterize, and deliver novel peptides from venomous marine snails as tools for manipulating cellular physiology in pain and cancer. She is a World Economic Forum New Champion Young Scientist, recipient of the prestigious Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, and an National Science Foundation CAREER awardee. Dr. Holford is actively involved in science education, advancing the public understanding of science, and science diplomacy. In this regard she co-founded several initiatives, including KillerSnails.com, an award-winning learning games company that uses extreme creatures as a conduit to advance scientific teaching and learning, and RAISEW.org, an NSF project to increase women in science. She is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the World Economic Forum Expert Network, and a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow. Dr. Holford joined BioBus’s board in 2018. Follow her on Twitter @Scimaven and visit her academic biography and lab website.
Stephen Jan, M.S., is a software engineer. His background includes communication applications at Google, e-commerce at Nook.com, digital advertising at Doubleclick.com, and several startups. Stephen has also founded a nonprofit that donates funding, medical equipment, and ambulances to hospitals in Africa, South America, and Asia. Stephen earned both his Masters and Bachelors degree in computer science and a Masters in bioengineering from Columbia University.
Joel Oppenheim, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus and Diversity Advisor to the Office of Science Research and serves on the admissions committees for the M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. programs at NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Oppenheim’s leadership has increased the participation of women and minorities in Ph.D. biomedical sciences. He ran an National Institutes of Health-funded research lab, was co-PI on an NIH training grant, served as the microbiology departmental graduate advisor, and served as Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Sciences and Director of the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. In these positions, Dr. Oppenheim oversaw approximately 350 students and over 700 postdoctoral trainees annually, as well as all twelve graduate research training programs. Dr. Oppenheim created the largest university-based career development programs for predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows in the country. He has served on many national advisory committees, on numerous grant study sections, and as a reviewer of National Research Council, National Science Foundation, and National Academy of Sciences reports involved with graduate education, pipeline issues, and the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students to graduate programs. He has spoken widely on topics ranging from how to prepare for and apply to graduate and professional schools to strategies for the recruitment and retention of students and career options. Dr. Oppenheim received the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences Lifetime Mentor Award. He is a founding member of the Leadership Alliance, which received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics. Dr. Oppenheim joined BioBus’s board of directors in Dec. 2018. See his academic biography.
- Columbia's Zuckerman Institute
- Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens
- Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC)
- Lower East Side Ecology Center
- NYU Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC)
- Billion Oyster Project
- BraiNY, Greater NYC Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience
- Dana Foundation’s Brain Awareness Week
- Columbia SEBS (Science and Engineers for a Better Society)
- Earth Day NYC
- Girls Prep
- Harlem Week
- Imagine Science Films
- Lowline Lab
- Maker Faire
- Math For America
- New York Hall of Science (NYSCI)
- New York City School District 1
- NYC Department of Education Citizen Science Program
- NYC Department of Youth and Community Development
- RockEdu (Rockefeller University Science Outreach)
- World Science Festival
- Simons Foundation Science Sandbox
- Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
- New York State Assembly
- Thompson Family Foundation
- Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute
- Bregal Investments
- Con Edison
- Lumenera Corporation
- Morell Instrument Company
- INDEC Medical Systems
- Pinkerton Foundation
- Heckscher Foundation for Children
- Richard Lounsbery Foundation
- NYU Materials Research Science and Engineering Center
- Society for Science & the Public
Learn more at donate.biobus.org.