Conference Workshops

Workshop I: Alternative Careers to Academia

Our goal for this meeting is to contemplate and discuss the role of scientists outside of academia – how do we bridge the gap between the insulated academic world and the general public? What kinds of careers exist outside tenure-track positions for individuals with science degrees? How are these individuals increasing education and scientific literacy? Join our panelists as they discuss their unique career pathways and bring your questions about how to pursue these alternative careers!

Richard Bergl, Ph.D.: Director of Conservation, Education, and Science Department at the North Carolina Zoo.

Dr. Rich Bergl has been involved with wildlife conservation and research in Africa for twenty years. His current work focuses on how a range of technologies and sources of data can be used to make conservation efforts in Africa more effective. Dr. Bergl is a member of the Executive Committee of the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group and the Scientific Commission of the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership, serves on the Field Conservation and Research and Technology Committees of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is a Conservation Fellow at the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is adjunct faculty in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University.

Jim Connor: Partner at Calhoun, Bhella, Sechrest 

Jim Conner graduated from Duke in 1979 with a degree in Botany.  After looking at graduate programs in the sciences, he decided to attend law school instead.  He has spent his career practicing environmental law, interacting with scientists and engineers.  His career includes time as a judge, at big law firms, and at small law firms, and includes recognition such as Super Lawyer and Legal Elite.

David M. DeMarini, Ph.D.: Genetic Toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. DeMarini is a Genetic Toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Research Triangle Park. Dr. DeMarini received his BS, MS, and PhD from Illinois State University, Normal, IL, in genetic toxicology.  After 3 years of postdoctoral work at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN; and another 2 years at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) here in RTP, NC, he began his current career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in RTP, NC in 1985.  He has published ~200 scientific papers, is the editor of Mutation Research—Reviews (for 20 years now), is the past-president of the local, national, and international Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS), and has been an adjunct professor at UNC-Chapel Hill for 30 years, where he has trained 10 PhD students and 11 postdoctoral investigators.  His area of specialty is to determine the types of mutations in DNA that are caused by polluted air and drinking water and how those mutations might cause cancer in humans.

Rebecca Guenard, Ph.D.: Science Reporter

Rebecca Guenard, Ph.D. writes features, research briefs and news segments as a science reporter for a variety of communications offices.  Her clients include the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the American Chemistry Society, to name a few.  In addition, she regularly contributes science slanted stories to mainstream magazines.  Her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Atlantic, and National Geographic.  Rebecca has a doctorate in analytical chemistry and began her career as a chemistry lecturer at Temple University before venturing into science writing.

Julie Horvath, Ph.D.: Head of the Genomics & Microbiology Research Lab, NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

Dr. Julie Horvath has a joint appointment as a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at NC Central University, serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University, and is a member of the Comparative Medicine Institute at NC State University. Additionally, she serves as an Associate Director of the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM). Her research explores how genetics (genes from the host and genes from their associated microbiota) impacts an individual’s health and influences behavior. She uses both comparative and evolutionary approaches to explore the genome sequences of humans and non-human primate species (eg. rhesus macaques) to understand how genetics shapes disease state and social behavior. More recently, she has become interested in how daily habits and host genetics influence the microorganisms living on the skin, and how the microorganisms, in turn, influence health and disease. She explores the skin microorganisms in humans and non-human primates as well as other mammals, and interacts with students and citizen scientists through her research. Dr. Horvath is passionate about engaging students and the public in scientific research that impacts their daily lives. 

Workshop II: Research at Community Colleges

David Beamer: Instructor, Biology, Nash Community College

Two-thirds of all US college students attend community college at some point in their academic careers. There is a growing need for implementing undergraduate research experiences that better train and prepare students for a STEM-related career. Join our panelists as they discuss some of the unique opportunities and challenges in developing UREs at community colleges.

Our research focuses on Dusky Salamanders, genus Desmognathus, one of the most diverse and abundant animals in the eastern forests of the United States. They are classic study organisms for ecology and behavior. Along with frogs and other salamanders worldwide, they are also disappearing at an alarming rate, possibly due to factors such as habitat loss, infectious diseases, and other environmental stresses. With an exhaustive "ecodrainage" sampling technique, this research will analyze >7,000 samples from nearly every known Desmognathus population. The study will use next-generation genomic sequencing of DNA to understand the true genetic diversity of the group. These data will allow researchers to understand the evolutionary history of divergence, hybridization, and species boundaries from a genetic perspective, using modern species-delimitation methods. This research will likely yield an increased number of Desmognathus species, while also showing a complex history of introgression, hybridization, and incomplete ecological speciation in the group.

Ashley Hagler, M.S., M.A.T.; Gaston College

At Gaston College, I led a team to partner with the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI) project, funded by the National Science Foundation, to work with faculty in the Arts and Sciences division, and across the nation to incorporate undergraduate research into the community college classroom. I currently supervise the STEM Persistence and Retention via C3 {Curricula, Centralization, and Cohorting} initiative, better known as SPARC3.  SPARC3 is a comprehensive academic and holistic student support program at Gaston College, of which undergraduate research is a main pillar.  The SPARC3 project has been honored nationally twice with certification by the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Science Education (PULSE) in 2015 and selection as the winner of the Bellwether Award in January 2016. These honors are a result of the impact the project has had on recruitment, retention, and graduation of students in the Associate of Science program. As a part of my leadership role in this project, in 2012, I established the SPARC3 Professional Development Conference for local educators to help promote inquiry-based learning and undergraduate research in the classroom.  Then, in 2015, I instituted the Gaston College Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium, which is held twice a year and allows students across multiple disciplines to exhibit the scholarly work that they have conducted during the previous semester. Thus far, over 200 students have exhibited their work at this event. I also travel with students to present their work at regional and national conferences.

Scott Nunez, Ph.D.: Instructor, Biology, Wake Technical Community College

The focus of our research program is antibiotic resistance in bacteria (ARB). ARB is a growing problem in both community and healthcare settings, and its study is therefore very important to society in general. ARB is at its base a genetics problem, as changes in the genome of susceptible bacteria can lead to new genes which confer resistance to one or more antibiotics. In many cases, once a bacterium has developed resistance to an antibiotic, it can share this resistance with other bacteria. Therefore, ARB is both a clinical and environmental phenomenon. We use the techniques of microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry to examine how ABR develops and propagates. These studies will benefit society, in no small part by benefiting the students who conduct the research.


Rachael Walsh, Ph.D.: Instructor, Biology, Wake Technical Community College

DNA barcoding is used in my class as a tool for students to experience an independent research project. The students work in pairs to use DNA barcoding to answer their own research question. Samples used previously include plants, fish, and insects. The students are responsible for the research project which includes sampling, DNA isolation, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and sequencing analysis. Once the project is complete, each pair of students presents their work as a poster.