STEM Speed Mentoring Event

November 2nd, 2023

UW Gateway Center

Laramie, WY


The speed mentoring event consists of about 30 STEM professionals from a variety of different fields and backgrounds. Mentors visit with students, where the event is set up in a "speed dating" style. Two or three students visit with a mentor for a few minutes, and then rotate to talk to a different individual. Mentors and students are grouped together based on their backgrounds. After an hour of speed mentoring, there is an informal dinner, with speaker Dr. Parag Chitnis, UW's Vice President for Research and Economic Development. 

WRSP students are joined at this event by undergrad researchers from programs such as INBRE, McNair Scholars, and NASA Space Grant.


Meet the Mentors


Lauren Baker

Lauren Baker received her BS from the University of Wyoming in 1992 and her MBA from Texas Tech University in 1993. She is a computer scientist who is co-founder and executive director of CyberWyoming. 


Rob Baker

Rob Baker has a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from CU Boulder and currently works as a data scientist with the National Park Service. He previously worked in academic spaces conducting research in the field of evolutionary developmental biology focuses on connections between genotypes and phenotypes at the microevolutionary level.


Gretchen Claude

Gretchen Claude received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Regis University in 2007. Prior to that, she earned a Bachelors’ of Science degrees in Neuroscience and Psychology. She has worked in multiple different PT settings including traveling, inpatient, skilled nursing and inpatient rehab. She spent the past 12 years in outpatient orthopedics with a specialty in pelvic floor Physical Therapy at High Country Physical Therapy in Laramie. She is also adjunct faculty for the Division of Kinesiology and WWAMI. 


Bobby Compton

Bobby Compton is the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Laramie Region Fisheries Supervisor overseeing all things aquatic in Southeast Wyoming. He previously held state-wide research crew and Green River fisheries biologist positions. He loves floating, fishing, and studying rivers throughout the West and completed his studies at Colorado State University (BS in Fisheries) and the University of Wyoming (MS in Zoology).  


Don Day

Don Day is a meteorologist and president of DayWeather, Inc. Wanting to combine his passion for radio and meteorology, he started DayWeather, Inc. soon after graduation from the University of Wyoming in 1992. Don loves the challenge of forecasting weather in the Rocky Mountain West and High Plains. His experience as a hot air balloon pilot and the world of lighter than air aviation has led to his involvement in many stratospheric projects such as Red Bull Stratos and Stratex.


Kristin Di Bona

Kristin Di Bona received her B.S. in Chemistry and Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Developmental Biology from the University of Alabama in 2014. Following Postdoctoral positions at the University of Texas at Austin and University of Wyoming, Dr. Di Bona co-founded Wyonics LLC in October of 2017 to develop sustainable technologies via ionic liquids, biopolymers, nanomaterials, and electrochemical technologies. Dr. Di Bona currently working on a DOE Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant awarded to Wyonics to generate a sustainable supply of critical elements via natural resources and waste streams.


Ella DeWolf

Ella DeWolf obtained both her BS (Molecular Biology and Microbiology) and MS (Botany) from the University of Wyoming and both her undergraduate and graduate research with Cynthia Weinig’s lab in the Department of Botany focused on characterization of microbial communities associated with plants (including water lilies). Ella now works at WEST, an environmental consulting company that focuses on interactions between wildlife and renewable energy. Her job lies somewhere between data science and software development as she develops dashboards and other interactive forms of data visualization for their clients.


Davona Douglass

Davona Douglass has spent the last six years as Intellectual Property Director for Plenty, an indoor controlled environment farming tech company spun out of the University of Wyoming, where her role involves managing the company's innovative assets and patent portfolio. Prior to this, she led the University of Wyoming Technology Transfer Office for a decade, assisting university inventors and entrepreneurs. Davona holds a bachelors of science in Molecular Biology and a law degree, both from the University of Wyoming. Her career focuses on the convergence of science and law as it relates to STEM research and business. 


Anna Finley

Anna J. Finley graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2013 with a BA in Psychology and a BS in Statistics, where she was a 2011 College of Arts & Sciences Summer Independent Study awardee, a 2012 INBRE Undergraduate Research Fellow, and a 2013 College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Graduate. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2019 with a PhD in Social & Personality Psychology and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow funded by the NIMH at the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she works on the longitudinal Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Affective Neuroscience Project. Anna uses a variety of neuroscientific and psychophysiological approaches, including multiple magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) modalities, electroencephalography (EEG), facial electromyography (EMG), and electrocardiography (ECG), to study how social, cognitive, and affective processes are connected and how they relate to well-being across the lifespan. Her research includes work on self-control, executive functioning, and emotion regulation, and has resulted in 18 peer-reviewed papers and one book chapter. Her postdoctoral fellowship focuses on the associations between loneliness, affect, and the brain.


Christoph Geisler

Christoph Geisler did his undergrad in Chemical Engineering in the Netherlands, and did his Bachelor's thesis research on the production of insect viruses for biopesticide applications at the University of Queensland in Australia. Next, he got his PhD at the University of Wyoming in Molecular Biology, working on improving recombinant vaccine and biotherapeutic production platforms. This led to his first startup, which focused on commercializing the results of his PhD research. In early 2020, Christoph started Unlocked Labs, which develops probiotics that are optimized to safely and effectively remove toxins from the human body through the GI tract. 


Thomas Grant

Thomas Grant is an Assistant Instructional Professor for the Honors College of UW and co-advises student capstone projects. He received his PhD in Ecology from Colorado State University in 2011 with research on understanding how invasive plants become successful weeds. His expertise includes ecology and environmental ethics.


Kelly Haigler-Cornish

Kelly Haigler-Cornish is a program manager for the Wyoming SBIR/STTR Initiative at the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network. She has experience in technology transfer, intellectual property, data rights, indirect cost calculations, federal SBIR and STTR grants and contracts, and other small business topics related to innovation and research. Kelly loves working with existing small businesses to help them discover their innovative edge and working with startups that are taking the next big thing to market. 


Tim Hall

Tim Hall earned his BS in Physics from the University of Wyoming in 2013. He has worked as a software developer and IT Engineer, and is currently a Solutions Architect at Apparatix Media Solutions.


Coby Hicks

Coby Hicks is an Integration Engineer for Plenty, an indoor vertical farming company, here in Laramie working in the R&D Department. After graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2020 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Coby took his agricultural background to Minnesota working with AGCO in their prototype and development lab. At the start of 2022 Coby continued his agricultural journey and moved indoors, starting work with Plenty. In his current role Coby works alongside other research engineers supporting over 40+ grow rooms here in Laramie; working across mechanical, electrical, and controls systems.


Rhiannon Jakopak

Rhiannon Jakopak is an assistant research scientist with the Monteith Shop in the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at UW, where her job is a blend of wildlife ecology research, coordinating outreach and engagement efforts, and helping to run a fellowship for undergraduate students pursuing careers in wildlife and fisheries management. She has a master's degree and undergraduate degree in wildlife from UW. When she's not at work, she enjoys hiking, romping with her dogs, dabbling in various forms of art, reading, and gardening. 


Kylee Johnston

Kylee Johnston graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Business Management in the Spring 2021. She hired on with Trihydro about a month after graduation and has been building her professional career with Trihydro ever since. She has been involved in a variety of different projects relating to environmental remediation, engineering design, and operation and maintenance programs, and has recently taken on multiple project manager roles.


Damian Kirkwood

Damian Kirkwood received his B.A. (2014) and M.A. (2016) in Anthropology from the University of Wyoming. He is the Cultural Records Office Manager for the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. While in the graduate program, his research focused on faunal remains and spatial patterning at bison jumps. Damian has eleven years of experience doing Cultural Resource Management (CRM) in various sectors, including private, state, and federal. He has field experience in Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.


Mark Lyford

Mark Lyford is the executive director of UW Science Initiative programs and a faculty member in the Department of Botany. 


Lyman McDonald

Lyman McDonald, biometrician/statistician, co-founded WEST, Inc. in 1990 after working 20 years for the University of Wyoming. His responsibilities included design and analysis for Natural Resource Damage Assessments, wildlife surveys, study of habitat selection by wildlife and fish populations, and monitoring abundance of wildlife and fish populations. Lyman retired in 2020.


Ivy McLeod

Ivy McLeod is originally from Basin, Wyoming and graduated from UW in 1998 with a B.Sc. in Physics.  She attended the University of Oklahoma, earning an M.Sc. in Physics/Meteorology based on research performed at the National Severe Storms Laboratory.  Since then she has worked at NASA Johnson Space Center as a Flight Controller for the International Space Station.


Gabe Miller

Gabe Miller is a recent graduate of the University of Wyoming, having received his Bachelor of Science in Physics in 2018. After graduation, he moved to California, spending the last four years working at Surface Optics Corporation as a software developer with the hyperspectral lab group. Most recently, he has moved back to Colorado, and is currently working at the Colorado State University College of Agriculture Sciences as a software developer in the Soil Carbon Solutions Center.


Cory Moss

Cory Moss, Pharm. D, class of 2000, University of Wyoming, as part of the first Pham D pharmacy class at UW. Cory has been a pharmacist for over 20 years with a background in retail and independent pharmacy specializing in rural and frontier medicine. She is currently a clinical pharmacist working for Optum for the State of Wyoming Medicaid program. Her greatest loves are her two children, her husband Terry and a crazy dachshund named McCrae.


Brittany Nelson

Brittany Nelson grew up in Laramie and then went to UW and got her bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering in 2019. Right after college, she moved to Massachusetts to work for Raytheon, a large defense contracting company, and she worked on radar system requirements there as a Systems Engineer. After COVID started, she moved back to Laramie to be closer to family and started her current job at Trihydro as an Environmental Engineer. She is also in the process of getting her P.E. license; she has passed the test and is working on getting all of her years of experience approved and signed.


Andy Ommen

Andy Ommen is a Laramie native who graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He continued his studies at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill where he earned a master’s degree in chemistry. After UNC he held 3 different jobs in small biotech companies in North Carolina before moving back to Laramie in the fall of 2011, after joining what is now MilliporeSigma. At MilliporeSigma he has been a scientist, supervisor and now manager of the Quality Control group, testing the reference standards manufactured at their site.


Zach Parsons

Zach Parsons earned his BS in Zoology from the University of Wyoming in 2019. He is a Programming Analyst at WEST, Inc.


Lorna Pehl

Lorna Pehl is director of systems engineering at Metrohm Raman (previously Snowy Range Instruments) in Laramie. Metrohm Raman designs handheld Raman spectrometers that are used for chemical identification in defense, security, and pharmaceutical applications around the world. Dr. Pehl oversees qualifying operating systems and software for the spectrometers as well desktop software applications. She has a team of interns that are students at the University of Wyoming. Prior to this position, Dr. Pehl was a faculty member at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington, WY where she taught General Chemistry, Introductory Chemistry, Organic Chemisty, and Biochemistry. She holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Wyoming.


Erin Phillips

Erin Phillips, PhD, is a geologist and program manager at the Center for Economic Geology Research at the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources, where she leads critical minerals related projects. Erin has worked on multiple other applied geology topics, including carbon capture and storage, and is also interested in workforce development in energy industries. Erin completed her PhD at the University of Wyoming, where she studied geochemistry and volcanology.


Penelope Shihab

Penelope Shihab is the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Wyoming.


Rachel Smullen

Rachel Smullen is a staff scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and is deputy director of the Center for Theoretical Astrophysics at LANL. Her interests broadly lie in finding ways to extract more information from simulations to help understand the physics at play. Rachel graduated from UWyo with degrees in physics and astronomy in 2014 before starting graduate school at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory. She defended her dissertation on star and planet formation in June 2020 before moving to Los Alamos as a Nicholas C. Metropolis Postdoctoral Fellow. She liked LANL so much that she decided to make a career of it and has been thriving as a computational physicist since December 2021.  Since moving to New Mexico, Rachel has been on a quest to cook or bake one new recipe a week, which has mostly been successful. 


Jim Stafford

Jim Stafford is a Geohydrologist for the Wyoming State Geological Survey. Jim was born and raised in southeast Wyoming, earned a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from University of Colorado Boulder and a Master’s degree in Water Resources and Geospatial Science from the University of Wyoming. Jim has worked on a variety of energy resource, water, and geology topics, and specializes in spatial analysis and GIS.


Dale Strickland

Dale Strickland is a Principal Ecologist at Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc (WEST) and consult on terrestrial and avian ecology issues. Dale is Co-Founder and Emeritus board member and formally CEO and President of WEST. Dale is also a Certified Senior Ecologist by the Ecological Society of America and a Certified Wildlife Biologist by The Wildlife Society.


Amanda Thimmayya

Amanda Thimmayya has been the Natural Resource Program Manager for the WY Military Department (the state agency that supports the WY National Guard) since 2012. She has also worked for the BLM, U.C. Berkeley, and the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. She has a B.A. in Environmental Science from Bard College and an M.S. in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming. Amanda lives in Laramie with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, and cat.


Lauren Throop

Laruen Throop is originally from Oregon and Lander, Wyoming; did her undergrad at Middlebury College in Vermont; spent several years as a seasonal field biology technician in North Dakota, Utah, California, and the Galapagos; and did her master's degree in Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming. She worked for a Laramie-based environmental consulting company for almost 10 years, working in regulatory compliance and conducting fieldwork for sensitive species and habitat. She now works for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in the Habitat Protection Program, implementing the state's wildlife policies and working with other state agencies and industrial developers to incorporate wildlife-oriented planning into project development. She has two young kids and is still figuring out how best to "have it all" as a working mom in STEM.


Amber Vidal

Amber Vidal received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 2006.  She previously worked at a chemical manufacturing facility and trona mine in southwest Wyoming fulfilling roles in process engineering, production coordinating, and production managing roles focused on managing operations, developing processes, and maximizing production.  She is currently working as an operational technology process controls engineer for a limestone quarry and manufacturing facility in Laramie.  Her current career efforts are centered around identifying, programming, and implementing safety and process controls for both new and existing processes and applications. 


Bradley Walgren

Bradley Walgren received his BS in Biology at the University of Wyoming in 1982, his DDS (doctor of dental surgery) degree from U of Nebraska College of Dentistry 1986, and did a 1 year General Practice Residency Sepulveda VA hospital in California 1987, 4 1/2 years as a dentist in the Air Force before buying a private practice in Laramie in 1991.


Kim Westbrook

Kim Westbrook, MD is a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology at Ivinson Memorial Hospital. She helps guide and support women through all stages of their lives; from adolescence through menopause and beyond. She dedicates her energy to providing superior healthcare by listening to patients about their concerns and offering education and appropriate management options. She believes the most successful physician-patient relationship is built on teamwork, respect, and trust. She received her BS from the University of Wyoming, her MD from the University of Washington School of Medicine, and did her residency at Creighton University. She has board certification from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


Sarah Wright

Sarah Wright has a BS in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the Mojave Desert Network as an intern in 2014, then served as Assistant Data Manager from 2016-2020. Now as a Data Scientist, her time is split between Mojave Desert Network and the rest of the Inventory and Monitoring networks in the Pacific West Region. Her focus is on reproducible data analysis, visualization, and reporting in R. 






This event was brought to you by the generous support of the following UW programs:


Science Initiative Logo INBRE logo
Wyoming Research Scholars Program Honors College logo
WiMSE logo McNair Logo
Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium logo