STEM Speaker Series: 2017-2018

Fall 2018 Speaker Series: Journey


Journey Flyer

School…well, Life
It’s like a marathon
or like a long stretch of country road in the middle of nowhere.
Things are all around you,
some of them grab your attention,
some distract,
and others you ignore.
You pass people,
people pass you.
Sometimes you are out of gas and other times you are speeding through.
You stop for a second to see that you are so far from your starting point
that you really can’t see yourself turning back,
but you look ahead
and can’t even see the finish line.

My friend, you are on a Journey.
Others have been on similar adventures and have wisdom, experiences, and stories to share. Join us in this semester’s speaker series to hear how some STEM professionals have finished, or continue to strive, while on their own Journey.


Cohen Video Cover

Dr. Cohen is a native San Franciscan who earned her associate's degree from City College of San Francisco and her B.S. in biology from Howard University.  In 2010, she earned her doctorate in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology from the Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine.  Dr. Cohen is passionate about changing the stereotyped image of STEM professionals.  Having first-hand experience inside the STEM education pipeline, she understands the challenges and resources needed; she has devoted her career to creating inclusive communities for people of color to feel welcomed, respected, and supported to achieve their full potential.  Not you stereotyped science geek, Dr. Cohen is a vibrant advocate with a unique talent for generating synergy.

Click the photo to watch the video. 

 Johanna and Neftali

Dr. Johanna Rengifo is currently a neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow at UCSF / Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. She completed her lower division undergraduate courses at Chabot College before transferring to UC Berkeley where she obtained a B.A. in psychology. She completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Palo Alto University. She is a second generation Colombian-American.

Dr. Neftali Nevarez is currently in his first year as a rheumatologist at Sutter East Bay Medical Group in Berkeley. Born and raised in Concord, CA, he moved across the country to obtain his B.A. in human biology from Brown University and completed his M.D. at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He is a second generation Mexican-American.

They were both raised in the SF Bay Area and are both first in their immediate families to attend graduate school. They have been married 11 years, together 14 years, and have a 6 year old daughter named Andrea.

Click the photo to watch the video.

 Gabriela Profile Pic
Gabriela C. Monsalve, PhD is the Program Director for the Motivating INformed Decisions (MIND) Program at UCSF. Gabriela manages the development, execution, and evaluation of the MIND Program, which is an NIH-funded research study that assesses the effectiveness of early career exploration for biomedical PhDs. Ultimately, the goal of the MIND program is to transform institutional training, so that PhDs leave their training better equipped to enter diverse career trajectories that will enable them to solve the complex scientific problems of the future. Previously, she was a Damon Runyon Robert Black and UC Office of the President Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSF. She received her Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from UCLA, during which she was both a Ford and NSF Predoctoral Fellow. She is passionate about the mentorship of biomedical trainees, and for the advancement and advocacy for underrepresented groups in STEM. 


Reynoso Profile Pic

Robert Reynoso

Robert was born in San Mateo, raised in Hayward, and attended Hayward Schools from kindergarten through high school; he graduated from Hayward High School in 2011 and is a true product of Hayward. Robert is currently pursuing his bachelor degree in Aeronautics from San José State University. Along his academic path Robert has also had the opportunity to intern at the NASA Ames Research Center, most recently Robert has worked on the Google [X] project. After graduating from San Jose State Robert plans to pursue a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Click the photo to watch the video. 


Fall 2017 Speaker Series: Fail


Fall 2017 Speaker Series: Fail

Have you ever worked for so long on a math problem, you wanted to cry? Have you ever felt that you for sure would not be able to grasp a concept and needed to change your entire life plan? Have you ever fumbled when you were called out in class by your instructor, and you felt embarrassed and wanted to leave and never return again? Have you felt that you had a hundred voices in your head telling you that you should give up, move on, find something else to do because of that D you got on your math class? That you would never be cut out for this major? That you would continue on this downward slope with no place to land on your two feet? Do you know what if feels like to fail??

We do.

We also know that failure now doesn’t have to mean failure for the rest of your life. This fall, we are bringing in speakers in a four part event called Fail. Come hear professionals in STEM speak about times they failed and how they coped, regrouped, and overcame the looming fear of failure for the rest of their lives.



Dr. Liliana de la Paz

Dr. Liliana de la Paz is a chemical engineer who works as a research scientist at Gilead Sciences, a pharmaceutical company that develops therapeutics to address unmet medical needs. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, her advisers recommended Liliana pursue options other than graduate school. Despite being discouraged and the obstacles along the way, Liliana persevered and went on to be the first Latina to complete a PhD in chemical engineering at Stanford.

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Diane Tucker

Diane Tucker

When health problems caused Diane to drop out of college, she pursued a full-time career in human resource management. A few years later, brain surgery left her on disability unable to work full-time, so she tried being an entrepreneur. Diane failed at four different business ventures, but learned something new after each one and is now the Founder and CEO of DMMSI, a successful STEM Education Corporation.

Click the photo to watch the video.



 Aaron Hobson


Aaron Hobson began college at Northwestern University under a full ride scholarship through the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. He did very well his first year, staying up nearly every night in the library studying and getting A’s in almost all his classes (he got one A-). He never believed he was “smart”, hence his steadfast dedication to working hard and proving himself. Everything came crashing down his sophomore year. Severe anxiety got the best of him, and he was soon hospitalized for suicidal ideation. A little over a decade later, and you find Aaron holding two Master’s degrees, married with two children, owning a home, and enjoying his work as a computer science educator. Aaron might appear “successful”, but his path in life has been, and continues to be, fraught with personal struggle.

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Gabriel Chaparro is originally from the raisin-making heat of the San Joaquin Valley, born in the small town of Sanger, CA. At age nine he moved to Union City and attended Searles Elementary before moving to Hayward schools where he became a proud graduate of Strobridge, Bret Harte, Hayward High, and Cal State University, Hayward. Armed with a bachelor degree in Physics (and a minor in music) Gabriel worked in various fields including audio installation, radio engineering, and waste water treatment. It was not until his first experience as a substitute teacher that Gabriel found his true calling in education. Soon after this epiphany Gabriel was invited to teach Chemistry, Physics, and Leadership at his alma mater, Hayward High School. In his 4th year of teaching Gabriel was accepted into an Educational Administration master’s program at the University of the Pacific. After his master’s degree, Gabriel set his sights on Claremont Graduate University to focus on his PhD in Higher Education. For the past five years he has been chipping away at this goal, and looks forward to one day bringing honor to his family by being the first Chaparro to bear the title of “Doctor.”

Click the photo to watch the video.