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Summer Science & Engineering Program

Our Faculty

Lou Ann Bierwert

Lou Ann Bierwert is the instruments and techniques instructor and technical director of the Center For Molecular Biology at Smith College. She received both her bachelor's and master's degrees from Smith and was a research associate for over 2 decades at Smith in molecular based projects in parasitology, and biomechanical engineering. She very much enjoys passing on her expertise in molecular techniques during SSEP, where she has taught Your Genes, Your Chromosomes for 10 years.

Thomas Burbine

Thomas Burbine is the director of the Mount Holyoke College Observatory. His research is on the mineralogy of asteroids. He has a B.S. in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, an M.S. in geology and planetary science and a Ph.D. in planetary science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a collaborator on the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft mission to asteroid “(101955) Bennu”. Asteroid “(5159) Burbine” is named in his honor.

Jessica Grant

Jessica Grant has a Bachelors Degree in Mathematics from the University of Washington and a Masters Degree in Biology from Smith College. She has worked at Smith since 2005 as a research associate in evolutionary biology and, more recently, as a lab instructor in computer science. She is a self-taught programmer and loves solving puzzles and problems through coding. When she isn't in front of her computer, Jessica raises goats and chickens in her suburban backyard.

Adam Hall

Adam Hall

Adam Hall earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Cambridge, U.K., and his doctorate in biochemistry from the Imperial College of Science and Technology at the University of London. His laboratory research investigates the molecular mechanisms of anesthetic action in the mammalian nervous system. For Smith's precollege program, Hall teaches the neurobiology course "Making Connections: An Exploration of the Nervous System." Using sophisticated microscopes, SSEP students get to examine the cells of the nervous system and the neuroanatomy of the brain. Through laboratory experiments, they explore how neurons function at multiple levels: molecular, cellular and in living organisms. Hall is Smith's director of the neuroscience program and an associate professor of biological sciences.

Leslie Jaffe

Leslie Jaffe is the director of Health Services and the college physician at Smith. In addition to providing care to students, he also teaches two courses: one looks broadly at women's health and the other focusing on women in India, including Tibetan women living there in exile. The latter is a small seminar of five students who travel to India with Jaffe for a month to learn experientially what they have already studied. Previously, Jaffe served as director of the Adolescent Health Center of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, the largest clinic for teens in the country. He is a board-certified pediatrician and did his fellowship training in adolescent medicine at Mount Sinai. Continuing his work and interest with adolescents, Jaffe has taught in the Smith Summer Science and Engineering program for many years.

Mona Kulp

Mohini (Mona) Kulp has bachelor's degrees in biochemistry and mathematics from Mount Holyoke College. Her doctorate is in biophysics from the University of California, San Francisco. She has worked at Smith in the Center for Proteomics and currently teaches in the chemistry department. Her teaching and research interests have focused on the use of analytical chemistry to answer questions that are of interest to biologists. For the precollege program, Kulp teaches "The Chemistry of Herbal Medicine: A Complex Molecular Story." SSEP students who take the course look at some examples of historical and modern practices in the use of herbal medicine. In this laboratory-based course, students study the molecular makeup of these complex plant samples and understand the process by which active ingredients are isolated. Students learn to communicate effectively as scientists through science writing assignments and oral presentations.

Denise Lello

Denise Lello has a B.A. in geography from the University of Chicago, and a B.S. and Ph.D. in botany from the University of Washington. She has taught plant ecology and plant biology at Smith and is currently the coordinator of the Four College Biomathematics Consortium and the HHMI-funded experiment in inquiry-based learning. Her current research focuses on plant vascular tissue patterning during phyllotaxis transitions. She also co-leads the Smith Coral Reef Ed-ventures program in Belize.

Naila Moreira

Naila Moreira

Naila Moreira is a writing counselor at Smith's Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching and Learning. She is also a lecturer in the English department, specializing in science writing. Her science and environmental journalism and nature essays have appeared in The Boston Globe, Science News, The Seattle Times, The Common Online and other venues. She earned her bachelor's degree from Amherst College and her doctorate in geology from the University of Michigan. For the precollege program, Moreira teaches "Narrative and Imagination in Science: a Workshop for Writers." Students learn how to look at the natural and research worlds as attentive observers, melding scientific knowledge with creative expression to create their own essays, newspaper articles and poems.

Katlin OkamotoKaitlin Okamoto

Katlin Okamoto has been teaching in the Smith College Exercise and Sport Studies Department since 2009. She teaches and assists with courses, including Applied Exercise Science, Introduction to Exercise and Sport Studies, Exercise Physiology, and Biomechanics for both undergraduate and graduate students. Okamoto received her master of science in exercise and sport studies from Smith College and her bachelor's in biology from Colorado College. In addition to her teaching role, she is an assistant women's soccer coach at Amherst College and is involved in youth development research, particularly in the sport for development field. In 2013, Katlin was hired as the assistant women's soccer coach for the University of Maine.

Joyce Palmer Fortune

Joyce Palmer Fortune has taught physics at Smith College since 2003, and has led the transition in the introductory physics classes at Smith from the traditional lecture/lab format to the current integrated "2-Cool" format. Prior to joining Smith, Fortune worked as a consultant on a wide variety of microelectronic and optoelectronic device technologies, as well as energy production and sensor systems. She earned a bachelor's in 1983 from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master's in 1985 and doctorate in 1989 from MIT. She lived in Japan for five years while working in NTT's optoelectronics labs in Tokai and the national consortium optoelectronics research lab in Tsukuba.

Lori Saunders

Lori Saunders is a Lecturer and Laboratory Instructor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Smith College. She earned a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Massachusetts in 2000. Her research and teaching interests include biotechnology and using molecular techniques in the field of diagnostics. In addition to her teaching responsibilities at Smith, she is currently a faculty member and laboratory director for the Molecular Biology Summer Workshops sponsored by New England Biolabs and held at Smith College each summer. This biotechnology workshop trains science and medical professionals in basic and advanced molecular techniques through hands-on laboratories and accompanying lectures.

Doreen Weinberger

Doreen Weinberger received her B.A. in physics and astronomy from Mount Holyoke College and her Ph.D. in optical sciences from the University of Arizona. Before arriving at Smith, she was a faculty member in electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, where she was instrumental in helping to develop a graduate program in optics, and did research studying nonlinear effects in optical fibers. Since 1991 she has been a professor in the physics department at Smith College, where her on-going research has been focused on using lasers to study a variety of physical systems, from ultra-cold atomic gases to micro-crystals in minerals. She has been an instructor in SSEP for almost her entire time at Smith, which proves that playing with LEGOs never gets old.

Meg Thacher

Meg Lysaght Thacher has worked as a laboratory instructor in the astronomy department at Smith College since 1999. She has also taught physics and writing at Smith. She received her bachelor's degree in physics from Carleton College and her master's in astrophysics from Iowa State University. Thacher taught astronomy for five years in Smith's Summer Science and Engineering Program before becoming its academic director. Her science articles for kids have been published in Odyssey and Ask magazines.