APS Bridge Program

Speaker Bios

Erick Andrade

AndradeErick Andrade is a current Bridge Program participant at Columbia University. He earned his B.S. in physics from the University of Maryland, College Park and has recently accepted admission into the physics graduate program at Columbia University. His current research is in condensed matter physics, using scanning tunneling microscopy to study highly correlated systems including high temperature superconductors, graphene, and topological insulators.

Summer Ash

AshSummer Ash is the Assistant Director of Columbia University’s Bridge to the Ph.D. Program. She came to Columbia in 2008 as a Science Fellow for Frontiers of Science in the Core Curriculum and stayed on in 2011 to support the Bridge Program. She previously studied Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University and worked in the aerospace industry before switching to astrophysics. She did her doctorate research at the University of Cambridge on the evolution of radio galaxies and active galactic nuclei.

Alexander Moncion Baez

BaezAlexander Moncion Baez attended Florida International University where he acquired a Bachelor of Science in Physics, and he is currently a second year student at the University of Michigan pursuing a graduate degree in Applied Physics. His research interests include tissue engineering and ultrasound induced drug delivery. Baez works with fibrin scaffolds doped with perfluorocarbon (PFC) emulsions. These PFCs are ultrasound-triggered containers that release their payload when exposed to an acoustic pressure. The package may be anything from a simple fluorescent tag used to determine the packaging efficiency of the emulsions to crucial growth hormones for the proliferation of cells in vivo. Baez’s work consists of determining the physical conditions (i.e. droplet formulation, acoustic pressure, fibrin concentration) in which the payload contained in the PFCs can be released, allowing for better control of the environment specific cells need in order to grow.

Brian Beckford

BeckfordBrian Beckford is the Bridge Program Manager in the department of Education and Diversity for the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland. The program focuses on increasing the number of physics PhDs awarded to underrepresented minority (URM) students, including African American, Hispanic American, and Native American students.

Prior to coming to APS, Beckford was granted a Ph.D. in nuclear physics at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, and received M.S. and B.S. degrees in physics from Florida International University. He was awarded the Tohoku University Super Doctor Fellowship to study in Japan.

His research interests are strangeness nuclear physics, primarily in the photoproduction of neutral kaons and Λ, as well as hypernuclear physics.

Edmund Bertschinger

Edmund BertschingerEdmund Bertschinger is Professor and Department Head of Physics at MIT.  He is a theoretical astrophysicist whose research focuses on cosmology, gravitation, and relativistic astrophysics.  In addition, he prizes teaching, mentoring, and the promotion of equity and inclusion in science and engineering.

Bertschinger received his BS in physics from Caltech in 1979 and his PhD in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University in 1984.  Following postdoctoral positions at the University of Virginia and at UC Berkeley, he joined the MIT faculty in 1986 where he has been Physics Department Head since 2007.  He is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and Helen B. Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society as well as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award from MIT and the Luis Walter Alvarez Award for the Advancement of Latinos in Science from the SACNAS-SHPE-MAES STEM Consortium.

Brent Bridgeman

BridgemanBrent Bridgeman received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He joined ETS in 1974 after several years of college teaching; he is at present a distinguished presidential appointee in the Foundational and Validity Research area in the Research Division at Educational Testing Service in Princeton, NJ. He is research coordinator for the GRE and co-director of the validity initiative.

Sergio H. Cantu

CantuSergio Cantu graduated from The University of Texas at Brownsville in 2012 with a double major in Physics and Mathematics. He is currently a student in the bridge program in the Physics Department at MIT.

During his undergraduate studies, Cantu participated in the MIT Summer Research Program in 2010 in the LIGO laboratory at MIT under Prof. Nergis Mavalvala, and again in 2011 in the Space Propulsion Laboratory under Prof. Paulo Lozano. As a bridge student, he currently works under Prof. Vladan Vuletic in the Rydberg Quantum Optics experiment while taking upper-level undergraduate and entry-level graduate student courses in physics at MIT.

Desmond Campbell

Campbell DesmondDesmond Campbell is a second generation scientist originally from Nashville, TN. Currently a 5th year in the Physics and Astronomy department and a trainee in Vanderbilt's Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS), Campbell investigates novel imaging technologies and techniques to improve the visualization and characterization of disease in women with radiographically-dense breast tissue.


Peter Henderson

Peter H. Henderson became Senior Advisor to the President, University of Maryland Baltimore County in June 2013. Prior to joining UMBC, Dr. Henderson served since 1996 at the National Research Council of the National Academies, the last 12 years as Director of the NRC’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce (BHEW). His areas of specialization include higher education policy, labor markets for scientists and engineers, and federal science and technology research funding. His most recent study reports at the National Academies were Research Universities and the Future of America; Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America’s Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads, and Science Professionals: Master’s Education for a Competitive World, all three of which were follow-ups to the National Academies’ seminal work on competitiveness, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, to which he also contributed. He previously also worked, as study director or staff to a variety of education and workforce studies including: Enhancing the Community College Pathway to Engineering Careers; Policy Implications of International Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scholars in the United States; and Building a Workforce for the Information Economy. He also contributed to studies of the research enterprise, including: Measuring the Science and Engineering Enterprise, and Observations on the President's Federal Science and Technology Budget. Dr. Henderson holds a Master in Public Policy (1984) from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Ph.D. in American Political History from The Johns Hopkins University (1994). He is a former Presidential Management Intern (1984-1986). He is the recipient of the National Academies' Distinguished Service Award (2003).

Theodore Hodapp

HodappTheodore Hodapp is the Director of Education and Diversity for the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland. The APS Department of Education and Diversity runs programs that advocate issues relevant to minorities and women, and in areas of education and careers. Hodapp is also Principal Investigator of a large NSF and APS-funded national effort, the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, which seeks to improve the quality and quantity of physics and physical science K-12 teachers.

Before coming to the APS, Hodapp served as Program Director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Undergraduate Education, working with programs in curriculum development and implementation, teacher preparation, scholarships, and the National Science Digital Library (he is currently co-PI on the ComPADRE digital library project that is collecting physics education materials throughout the country).

Prior to coming to the NSF, Hodapp was professor and chair of the Hamline University Physics Department in St. Paul, Minnesota. He served as chair of the Physics and Astronomy Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research, and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society. His research interests include laser cooling, optical modeling, and physics education research.

Kate Kirby

KirbyKirby earned her bachelor's degree in chemistry and physics from Harvard/Radcliffe College in 1967 and her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1972. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard College Observatory (1972-73), she was appointed as Research Physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Lecturer in the Harvard University Department of Astronomy (1973-1986 and 2003-2009). She was also a Senior Research Fellow of the Harvard College Observatory. From 1988 to 2001, she served as an Associate Director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, heading the Atomic and Molecular Physics Division. In 2001, she was appointed Director of the National Science Foundation-funded Harvard-Smithsonian Institute for Theoretical Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP).

Her research interests lie in theoretical atomic and molecular physics, particularly the calculation of atomic and molecular processes important in astrophysics and atmospheric physics. In 1990, she was elected to Fellowship in the APS. Among her other activities: serving on the Department of Energy Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (2003-2008) and as co-chair of the BESAC Subcommittee on Theory and Computation. She has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Decadal Assessment Committee for Atomic, Molecular and Optical (AMO) Science (AMO2010), and Chair of the International Conference on Photonic, Electronic, and Atomic Collisions (2001-2003).

Arlene Modeste Knowles

KnowlesArlene Modeste Knowles is the Career and Diversity Administrator at the American Physical Society. She serves as the manager of the APS Scholarships for Minority Undergraduate Physics Majors, is in the Program Management Group of the APS Bridge Program, and manages most other diversity programs for the APS.In her capacity as the career administrator at APS, Knowles has organized and moderated career panels and tutorials at APS meetings, managed the APS job fairs and online career center, and worked on other career specific programs.

Before coming to APS, Knowles received her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development from Cornell University, on a pre-medical track.While at APS, Knowles first focused on programs aimed at recruiting and retaining minorities in physics, and later began working on programs to build awareness of career opportunities for all members of the physics community.Today, she works more exclusively on diversity initiatives, which include programs and activities that address the recruitment, retention, mentoring and careers of underrepresented groups.

Çagliyan Kurdak

KurdakÇagliyan Kurdak received his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey, in 1988, and the Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, in 1995. He joined the faculty with the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1998, after working as a post-doctoral scientist at the Physics Department, University of California, Berkeley. His current research interests include the study of electrical properties of low-dimensional electron systems. Prof. Kurdak is currently serving as the Director of the Applied Physics Program, University of Michigan, and he is the founder of the Imes-Moore Fellowship Program, a bridge program designed to prepare students for doctoral studies in Applied Physics.

Phil Kutzko

KutzkoPhil Kutzko was born and raised in New York City and is a product of the New York City public schools. He attended the City College of New York and received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Wisconsin. He joined the University of Iowa mathematics faculty in 1974. Kutzko’s research is in the area of pure mathematics known as the representation theory of p-adic groups, an area with applications to the theory of numbers. He is the author, with Colin Bushnell, of a monograph in the Annals of Mathematics Studies (Princeton) and has lectured widely on his work. He is presently a University of Iowa Collegiate Fellow and a Fellow of the AAAS. Kutzko is honored to have played a part in the University of Iowa Department of Mathematics’ activities in minority graduate education and in the extension of these activities to other mathematical sciences departments, including those of the the three Iowa Regents universities. In this context, he directs the departmental Sloan Foundation minority fellowship program as well as the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences, an NSF funded project which involves mathematical sciences departments at a variety of colleges and universities and whose
goal is to increase the number of doctoral degrees in the mathematical sciences awarded to students from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in those fields. Kutzko was honored for his work in this area with the 2008 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. This award was presented to him by President Obama in a White House ceremony in January, 2010.

Casey Miller

MillerCasey Miller is Associate Professor of Physics at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He is Associate Director of Physics Graduate Studies, and Director of the new APS-Bridge Site at USF. His research focuses on experimental spintronics and nanoscale magnetism.


Jonathan Pelz

PelzJonathan Pelz received his B.S. degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkely. After postdoctoral research at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Pelz joined the Ohio State University faculty in 1990. A recipient of an NSF Young Investigator Award, Pelz's experimental condensed matter research focusses on nanometer-scale electronic, magnetic, and optical properties of surfaces, interfaces, and device structures. Pelz is currently the Vice Chair of Graduate Studies and Research in the Ohio State University Physics Department, and is co-leader of Ohio State's new M.S-to-Ph.D. Physics Bridge Program.

Christine Pfund

PfundChristine Pfund is a researcher with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Pfund has a Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology and completed post-doctoral research in Plant Pathology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the past ten years, Dr. Pfund has been integrally involved in developing, implementing, documenting, and evaluating training for research mentors and mentees. She has helped write manuals for facilitators of mentor training, Entering Mentoring, and mentee training, Entering Research and co-authored papers documenting the effectiveness of these approaches. Over the past several years, Dr. Pfund has led a project to adapt and enhance Entering Mentoring for use across science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, including Physics. All of the original and STEM-adapted materials are now freely available on a project website (www.researchmentortraining.org), allowing users to select discussion topics, individual case studies, and activities for each of the core elements of mentoring to create their own training curricula. Dr. Pfund’s current research efforts are focused on evaluating the impact of research mentor training on the mentors themselves and the students with whom they work. Specifically, Dr. Pfund is involved in two NIH-supported research efforts: 1) a randomized trial to test the impact of research mentor training on mentors and mentees and 2) a study to better understanding of specific factors in mentoring relationships that account for positive student outcomes.

Geoff Potvin

PotvinGeoff Potvin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University, is the inaugural Graduate Coordinator of Clemson’s PhD in Engineering & Science Education, and is an APS-AAPT Member-at-Large of the Executive Committee of the APS Forum on Education. He teaches courses in undergraduate mathematics and physics as well as graduate STEM education. Previously, he completed a doctorate in theoretical physics focusing on gravitational aspects of string theory at the University of Toronto and held a postdoctoral position in science education at the University of Virginia. His research activities are focused on understanding the lack of diversity in the physical sciences and engineering at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Using an identity lens, he investigates how classroom practices and other experiences influence the attitudes and career intentions of students, especially those who are traditionally marginalized from STEM studies. He is working with the APS Bridge Program to understand the factors that affect student success in graduate physics, and how departmental practices can help to grow a more diverse body of future physicists.

Monica Plisch

PlischMonica Plisch serves as the Associate Director of Education and Diversity at the American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland. She is a co-PI on the Physics Teacher Education Coalition (PhysTEC) project and a member of the National Task Force on Teacher Education in Physics. She also leads initiatives to improve mentoring and ethics education and to develop high school lessons on contemporary physics.

Before coming to the APS, Plisch led education programs at a NSF funded center at Cornell University, where she developed programs on nanotechnology for undergraduate students and physics teachers. Plisch completed her doctoral studies in physics (nanomagnetics) at Cornell University. She enjoys competitive rowing and running.

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns

Purdie-Vaughns is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on racial and gender achievement gaps in academic and corporate institutions and how stigma undermines intellectual performance. She conducts research on other forms of stigma, including: stigma and LGCTQ groups, stigma of mental illness, and stigma based on multiple identities. Purdie-Vaughns’s numerous publications have appeared in journals such as Science, Psychological Science, and Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. She has been awarded grants from the National Science Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, and William T. Grant Foundation. Her most recent NSF grant examines how stigma may affect activation of the neuroendocrine and sympathetic nervous systems, systems implicated in immune responses that affect long-term health and cognitive performance.

Mandana Sassanfar

SassanfarMandana Sassanfar is a Biology Instructor and the Director of Diversity and Science Outreach in the Biology Department at MIT.

She holds a B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biochemistry from the University of Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Cornell University. She did her postdoctoral training at the Harvard School of Public Health, and in the department of Molecular Biology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She spent 4 years in a start up biotech company focusing on the discovery of novel anti-microbial molecular target. She has spent the last 10 years on education outreach and on increasing the diversity of the graduate student body at MIT. One of the programs she coordinates is the B-cubed program, a 2-year bridge program to graduate school in the biological sciences.

William Sedlacek

SedlacekWilliam E. Sedlacek is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Iowa State University and a Ph. D. from Kansas State University.

He is senior author of Racism in American education: A model for change (with Brooks), and a measure of racial attitudes, The Situational Attitude Scale (SAS). He authored Beyond the big test: Noncognitive assessment in higher education and has authored or coauthored more than 300 articles in professional journals on a wide range of topics including racism, sexism, college admissions, advising, educational measurement and employee selection.

He has served as editor of Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development. Also, he has consulted with more than 350 different organizations, colleges, and universities on interracial and intercultural issues, and has served as an expert witness in race and sex discrimination cases. He has served on research advisory committees for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the College Success Foundation.

He has received research awards from the American Counseling Association, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the American College Personnel Association, and a Campus Model of Excellence award from the Office of Multi-Ethnic Education at the University of Maryland for research "affecting the lives of African Americans." In 2010 he was made a Fellow of the American Counseling Association, and in 2011 he received the William R. "Bud" Thomas Jr. Mentoring Award for "excellence in sustained mentoring of graduate college student personnel students" from the University of Maryland.

Keivan Stassun

StassunAfter earning A.B. degrees in physics and in astronomy from UC Berkeley in 1994, Stassun earned the Ph.D. in astronomy from UW Madison in 2000 and was a NASA Hubble Space Telescope postdoctoral research fellow before joining the Vanderbilt faculty in 2003. Now a professor of physics and astronomy at Vanderbilt, Stassun is also adjunct professor of physics at Fisk University, and serves as co-director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program.

A recipient of a CAREER award from NSF and a Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation, Stassun’s research on the birth of stars and planetary systems has appeared in Nature, NPR’s Earth & Sky, and in more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. In 2007, the Vanderbilt Initiative in Data-intensive Astrophysics (VIDA) was launched with Stassun as its first director. He serves on the executive committees of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and the National Research Council’s Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 2012 he was named Fellow of the AAAS.

Since 2004, the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program has attracted 67 students, 60 of them underrepresented minorities, with a retention rate of 92%. In 2012, Vanderbilt became the top producer of PhDs to underrepresented minorities in physics, astronomy, and materials science. Stassun was recognized in 2009 by the Fletcher Foundation for “contributions advancing the spirit of Brown versus Board of Education.”

From 2003 to 2008, Stassun served as chair of the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Minorities. He has served on the Congressional Astronomy & Astrophysics Advisory Committee, and presently serves on the Congressional Committee for Equal Opportunity in Science and Engineering. In 2010, Stassun was invited to give expert testimony on “broadening participation in STEM” to the US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology.

Dina Myers Stroud

StroudDina Myers Stroud is the Executive Director of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s to PhD Bridge Program and Research Assistant Professor of Physics and Medicine at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Stroud provides considerable student mentoring support , oversees the day-to-day operations of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge Program and maintains an active research program. Her research is focused on the genetics of cardiovascular arrhythmias and uses molecular, electrophysiological and biophysical techniques.

Dr. Stroud received B.A. degrees in Zoology/Genetics and Women’s Studies from Ohio Wesleyan University and earned her PhD in Molecular Biology from Vanderbilt. After post-doctoral fellowships at UCLA and NYU, Stroud returned to Vanderbilt as a Research Instructor. She joined the Fisk-Vanderbilt executive team in 2012.