Get to Know Some of Our WEST Volunteers

Volunteering is an opportunity to develop a new skill, expand your career options, be part of your community, gain a stronger sense of achievement, develop new interests, problem solve, improve programs, make important networking contacts, have new experiences, teach others, build self-confidence, gain leadership experience, express gratitude for the help you have received, experience working on a team, and meet a diverse range of people.   

Profile photo of Leah Cole
Leah Cole
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - September 2020
Volunteering with WEST since 2012
Committees: Fundraising, Events

Leah has been involved with WEST since 2012.  She first became involved with WEST through the mentoring program.  The experience with the mentoring program was so positive, Leah decided to become a WEST volunteer and began serving on the grant writing committee.  The experience crafting grants with other dedicated WEST volunteers provided both a deep dive into the history of the WEST organization as well as insights into how much collective effort is involved in, not only maintaining but growing this amazing organization.  Leah subsequently became a volunteer with the WEST events committee.  This current volunteer role enables Leah to put her past experiences in high school and collegiate journalism to good use as she prepares up summaries of WEST events for the website.  Leah earned her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at UNC Chapel Hill and then did post graduate work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore before joining Sanofi Pasteur.  In addition to working in vaccine research, Leah is a faculty mentor for the MIT IMPACT program.   

Sherosi Ghosh
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - September 2020
Volunteering with WEST since 2020
Committees: Fundraising, General Support

After joining the industry, she still wanted to make connections with people working in the STEM community. On the personal ground, she was also looking for inspiration. After knowing what she was looking for, the internet presented WEST to her. She was amazed after reading the profiles of members associated with WEST! At that moment, she made the decision to be involved with the organization. Volunteering with WEST has been an exciting journey for her! She hopes to continue providing back to the community. Shreosi graduated with her Master’s degree in Medicinal Chemistry from Northeastern University. While there, her curiosity to study proteins helped her develop an interest in Proteomics and Analytical Chemistry. Currently, she is working at LifeMine Therapeutics, in the field of Natural Products. in her free time, she likes learning languages and playing tennis. :)

Phyllis Ottaviano
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - September 2020
Volunteering with WEST since 2014
Committee: Events

Phyllis heard of WEST while a postdoctoral research fellow and was exploring opportunities outside of academia. She was looking for a group of professional women and allies committed to supporting and empowering women to reach to beyond the glass ceiling in the life sciences. She started attending career panel discussions and networking events with senior female leaders. Inspired by the stories and journeys of these female leaders, Phyllis joined WEST. WEST supports women in STEM with the tools, resources, and role models to succeed. Phyllis greatly enjoyed the variety of WEST event types and decided to give back and contribute as a volunteer. Phyllis Ottaviano graduated with a PhD in Molecular Medicine with a focus in Cell and Molecular Biology from Boston University School of Medicine where she studied the translational regulation of the extracellular selenoprotein plasma glutathione peroxidase in thrombosis and stroke. She completed postdoctoral training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School on dilated cardiomyopathy. Phyllis successfully made the shift from academia to industry working as a Scientist performing monoclonal antibody purification and characterization of oncological targets. She also has industry experience in the small molecule and gene therapy spaces. She has supplemented her technical and scientific skill set with her experience in program management. In her free time, Phyllis enjoys traveling, latin and ballroom dancing, yoga, and biking. 

Alice (Chiyu) Zhang
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - September 2020
Volunteering with WEST since June 2019
Committee: Marketing

During her first summer in the United States, Alice was a graduate student at Boston University and decided to volunteer with WEST. She spent a productive summer as a communications volunteer and found WEST to be welcoming and supportive. Alice continues serving the organization by making events flyers, because she thinks WEST is helpful in providing resources to help advance women in STEM industries. Alice is a graduate student in the College of Communications at Boston University, earning her degree in public relations. Born and raised in China, she completed her undergraduate studies at the Communication University of China in Beijing majoring in media market studies. She then decided to further advance her career in communications by studying in the United States. She now aims at a career in investor relations, specifically helping Chinese companies that plan to go public in the US. Alice loves the Harry Potter series and enjoys cooking.

  Tatiana Demidova-Rice
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2019
Volunteering with WEST since 2014
Committees: Events, Programming

Tatiana joined WEST as a volunteer in 2014 as she was transitioning from her position in the lab into a role at the intersection of science and business. Tatiana works as a Manager of Research Contracts  and Collaborations at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Prior to joining Vertex Tatiana was a Project Manger at Boston Children's Technology Development Fund and a Business Development Manager at Harvard’s Office of Technology Development. There she was building and managing relations between investigators at Harvard Medical School and potential partners in the biotech/pharma industry. Earlier in her career, Tatiana was a Postdoctoral Scholar at Tufts University. During her postdoctoral training Tatiana completed a technology transfer internship at the Office for Technology Licensing and Industry Collaboration at Tufts. Prior to that Tatiana worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Tatiana earned her PhD from Tufts University and her bachelor degree in biology from Yaroslavl State University in Russia.

Dr. Stella Kafka (@stellakafka) | Twitter  Stella Kafka
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2019
Volunteering with WEST since 2018
Events, Social Media

Dr Kafka holds a PhD and MA in Astronomy and a BSc in Physics. She believes that science can be a unified factor for people of all cultural and socioeconomical backgrounds. Throughout her career, she worked towards empowering women and minorities in science through mentoring, team building and professional development, ensuring that equal opportunities are available to all. Stella Kafka is the executive Director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), an international non-profit with a mission to enable anyone, anywhere, to participate in scientific discovery through variable star astronomy. As such, and for more than 100 years now, the AAVSO’s role is to support cutting-edge science and help amateur observers to participate in projects that further out knowledge about some of the most dynamic phenomena in the universe. From crowdsourcing to acquiring data, citizens are leaving a notable mark in the science landscape, assisting professional astronomers with their work. Furthermore, the time domain enables a more active engagement of backyard observers in research. Citizen astronomers not only take data, but also reduce and analyze them and participate in scientific manuscripts. 

  Lee Lawton
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2018
Volunteering with WEST since 2017
Committees: Events, Ambassador

Lee became a WEST member as a participant in a year long training program at the Whitehead institute during her post-doc. She became an active WEST volunteer after returning to Boston after a year of travel sabbatical. Lee N. Lawton, PhD is currently a Senior Scientist in the Dr. Margaret Shipp’s group at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute focused on genetic basis of immune invasion and associated therapeutic strategies in lymphoid malignancies. Dr. Lawton performed pre-graduate work at the Columbia Genome Center where she was involved in the coordination of mapping and sequencing data with other genome centers. She holds a PhD in Human Genetics from the University of Michigan where she studied the epigenetic stability of genomic imprinting and X-inactivation in the lab of Dr. David Burke.  During her post-doctoral training with Dr. Rick Young at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research she made seminal discoveries on the epigenetic regulation of transcriptional networks in hematopoiesis and leukemogenesis. Dr. Lawton led a program project on the Molecular Mechanisms of T-cell Leukemogenesis joint between the Young Lab and Dana Farber Cancer Institute researchers, led by Dr. Tom Look. Subsequently she joined a drug discovery start-up, Quanticel Pharmaceuticals, to develop novel “epigenetic” small molecule inhibitors currently in phase I trials. 

   Anna Li
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2017
Volunteering with WEST since February 2016
Committees: Events and Membership

Anna was initially encouraged to attend one of the WEST panel discussions by Laurence Reid, CEO of Warp Drive along with some of her colleagues. She was thrilled to get to know so many amazingly kind, down to earth, intelligent and determined women in science and many other fields. She learned a lot from WEST and eventually decided to contribute as a volunteer. Anna volunteered for most of the events and book clubs of 2016. She met her mentor and has made many friends through the WEST events. WEST feels like a large, caring family for Anna and all of the continuous women’s success stories will keep her inspired far into her future. Dr. Anna Li received her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology in 2007 and went on to become an associate professor of Shandong agricultural University in China. Due to her academic achievements in extreme environments fungi she was offered a visiting scholar position with Harvard University where she spent eighteen months conducting research with the Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Department. Currently Anna is a microbiologist at Warp Drive Bio where she is a key player in the genome mining of novel antibiotics which has a major therapeutic potential for human medicine. She is proud and passionate about her career which can bring hope, cures and new life to patients and their families all over the globe.

Anne Thessen
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2017
Volunteering with WEST since 2011
Committee: Programming/Events

Anne joined WEST after attending a networking event in 2011. She had just moved to the Boston area from Cape Cod and was looking to transition from academia to industry. After a WEST workshop about value propositions, she decided that starting her own company was the best thing to do. In 2013, Anne started The Data Detektiv, a data management company. The shift from academia to industry was difficult, but the programming at WEST helped her to gain the knowledge and confidence she needed to move forward. Anne began volunteering at WEST events in order to contribute to an organization that had helped her career through a difficult transition and to develop a network of intelligent and driven women dedicated to STEM. Anne has a BS in Biology and a PhD in oceanography from the University of Maryland. She worked on biodiversity informatics and data sharing at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. Anne made the shift from academia to industry in 2013 and is pioneering an alternative career as an independent scientist through her company and her affiliation with the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship. She is passionate about science, helping other academics transition into industry, and animal rescue.

Elissa Hobert
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2016
Volunteering with WEST since November 2014

Committee: Programming/Events

During her postdoc, Elissa started attending WEST events to help her explore diverse career opportunities. The events she attended were instrumental in helping her realize her strengths and desires. She found the WEST environment to be very welcoming and values the relationships she has made with several fellow members. Elissa received a BS in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and then earned her Ph.D in chemistry from Yale University. She completed postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School and then took a position at Moderna Therapeutics. In her free time she likes to run, swim and travel.

Ricardo Medina
WEST Giving Back Award Recipient - January 2014
Volunteering with WEST since 2010

Committee: Signature Events - Photography

Volunteering for WEST came as quite a surprise when my wife asked me if I would be willing to take some pictures for the organization. Having some previous experience photographing events, this was the perfect opportunity for me to blend my two passions, science and photography. Witnessing how passionate and committed members of WEST are in helping other women to advance in their careers is inspiring, as it should be for everyone. Discovering new things was always something that drew Ricardo's curiosity so studying sciences came naturally. He graduated with a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Concepcion, in his native Chile. Then, he moved to the states and got postdoctoral training at UMass Medical School, where his work focused on understanding the cell cycle control in normal, cancer and embryonic stem cells. Currently, Ricardo is a Scientist at Agios Pharmaceuticals, a company that focuses on cancer metabolism. Working in the exploratory team, he hopes to make a difference in patients’ lives helping to develop innovative medicines. Photography was always a passion for Ricardo, but it took a big leap when he had the opportunity to take a semester of Photography in the School of Arts when he was undergrad (Biochemistry) student. It was quite a revealing experience for him to learn the basics of photography and how to process his own film and paper in a dark room.