Association for Women in Science
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Hidden Strengths: Disabilities Make Better Scientists
Thursday, September 23, 2021, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
Category: National Webinars

Jesse Shanahan leads this panel as they share why disabilities are actually hidden strengths, how to check your own biases, ways you can support those around you, and how science can be more inclusive. Recommended for industry leaders wanting to support their employees and anyone who wants to become an advocate. Live captioning and a video recording will be available. 


Meet the Panelists

Emily Ackerman (she/her)

Emily E. Ackerman is recent PhD graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s chemical and petroleum engineering program. This September she begins her Postdoc in Systems Biology at Harvard. As a queer, disabled woman in STEM, she is passionate about the advancement of underrepresented populations in STEM. Emily had the opportunity to perform diversity and equity work in academia with Future of Research, the TAE Consortium, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as a Gilliam Fellow. She is also an active advocate in the disability community for equitable access to education and technology.

Meena Das (she/her) 

Meenakshi ‘Meena’ Das is a software engineer at Microsoft. Through her writing and speaking engagements, she has shared her accessibility expertise with several individuals and organizations on making software accessible to users with disabilities. She is the founder of  ‘Working with Disabilities’ support group for working professionals with disabilities which has over 2000+ members on social media. For her tech inclusion work, she was inducted into the National Susan M. Daniels National Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame.  She is also a member of the Accessibility Leadership Committee of a non-profit organization named Disability:IN, and has been quoted by Forbes, CNET, Salon and ABC News for her views on disability inclusion in tech.

Syreeta Nolan

Syreeta is a disability justice advocate. She serves as co-founder of Disabled in Higher Education on Twitter (@DisInHigherEd) and is the founder of JADE (Justice, Advocacy and Disability Education) as a holistic disabled justice platform focused on empowering disabled students, faculty, staff and alumni through community and support. Her lived experience as a Black, Disabled, bisexual woman have informed her advocacy goals along with her career goals. As a board member of HealthAdvocateX, she hopes to expand the reach of health advocacy in partnership with her organization while bringing disability advocacy and health advocacy together.
Syreeta graduated with her Bachelor’s in Human Health Psychology from the University of California San Diego and hopes to continue to obtain a PhD in Health Policy or Prevention Science toward her goal to transform the mental health field through comprehensive preventive systems similar to what we have in our physical health system.

Jesse Shanahan

Jesse Shanahan is a Disability rights activist and a co-founder of the Working Group in Accessibility and Disability in the American Astronomical Society. She is also a machine learning developer and lead data scientist, specializing in humanitarian applications for AI/ML and in utilizing data science for gaming analytics. She has built a wide variety of ML-enabled technologies, including software that makes use of reinforcement learning, deep learning, and ensemble models. Her work has covered a broad range of industries as well: cybersecurity, disaster response, remote sensing, and health.

Krystal Vasquez

Krystal Vasquez (she/her) is currently finishing up her PhD at the California Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on how air quality is impacted when urban pollution mixes with natural emissions from trees. Using her research background, she is also a freelance science writer who enjoys writing about Earth science research in fun and engaging ways. She also reports on environmental justice topics and advocates for increased inclusivity in STEM. 

Contact: [email protected]