Press Release: NSTMF redefining “STEM role model” with the Expert Connect Program

The NSTMF launches new expert community to inspire students and elevate equity in STEM.

News from National Science and Technology Medals Foundation
For release on Dec 04, 2020
Contact: Joanna Chou, [email protected], (202)743-1499

Washington, D.C. – What does a STEM professional look like? The NSTMF is flipping the script with its new Expert Connect Program, a hand-picked collective of STEM leaders ready to share their knowledge, experience, and passion for equity with students aspiring to begin STEM careers.

Too often students do not see broad representation in STEM leadership whether it is speakers, teachers, or role models, making it difficult for them to visualize careers in STEM. Through the Expert Connect Program, the NSTMF is connecting more students with experts with similar backgrounds and shared experiences.

This group of STEM leaders includes individuals whose voices are an essential part of improving their own STEM communities as well as the NSTMF’s efforts to set a new standard for inclusion and equity in STEM.

Expert Connect members participate in NSTMF programming and efforts to build networks, mentor students, and create more inclusive STEM communities. The founding class includes Bridgette Powell of Industrial Light and Magic; Carol O’Donnell of the Smithsonian Science Education Center; Ciku Karanja of Lucasfilm; Deborah Kariuki of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Diana Pankevich of Pfizer; Elaine Fuchs of the Rockefeller University; Fanta Traore of the Sadie Collective; Jean Bolte of Industrial Light and Magic; Jerrod Henderson of the University of Houston; Jim Gates of Brown University; John Spiro of Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative; José-Marie Griffiths of Dakota State University; Joseph DeSimone of Carbon, Inc.; Judith Klinman of the University of California, Berkeley; Julia Phillips of Sandia National Laboratories (retired); Loretta Cheeks of Strong TIES; May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Rita Colwell of the University of Maryland, College Park; Sangeeta Bhatia of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Steve Crocker of Shinkuro; Tarek Fadel of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine; and Warren Washington of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“The founding members of the Expert Connect Program constitute a network of STEM leaders that align with our efforts to build a more equitable STEM community. It is an honor that they have all accepted our invitation and we are excited to work with this prestigious group to build a brighter future in STEM” said Andy Rathmann-Noonan, the executive director of the NSTMF.

To learn more about the program or to learn about the invite process, visit

The National Science and Technology Medals Foundation is a DC-based, non-profit organization whose mission is to build inclusive STEM communities across the United States. Fundamental to these communities are the significant, inspirational connections we foster between the individuals who have received national recognition for excellence in STEM and today’s diverse generation of college and high school students. Together they will pave the way for a more equitable future in science and technology.

The National Science & Technology Medals Foundation is not affiliated with the United States Government.

Your contribution to the NSTMF not only serves to celebrate scientific advancement, ingenuity, and exploration, but also symbolizes your commitment to building a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive future in STEM.


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