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Meet our Speakers!



Laurén Abdel-Razzaq

Digital Director for the Detroit News

Laurén Abdel-Razzaq coordinates the team behind the Detroit News' website and works to craft the digital experience at Laurén is also one of the voices behind Detroit News' Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. She has experience with reporting, photography, web editing, and producing and creating videos. Previously, Laurén worked for the Detroit News as a reporter and social media manager, and as a mobile editor for the Washington Post. 



John Besley, Ph.D.

Ellis N. Brandt Professor of Public Relations at Michigan State University

Dr. Besley studies public opinion about science and scientists' opinions about the public in the context of trying to help science communicators be more strategic. He has published more than 85 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. In addition to his regular research, Dr. Besley is the lead author for the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 (ongoing) National Board Chapters on public attitudes and knowledge about science and technology. As an instructor, Dr. Besley focuses on civic engagement and community relations, risk and crisis communication, science communication, and media relations. 


Bruno Takahashi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Environmental Journalism and Communication at Michigan State University 

Along with being an associate professor, Dr. Takahashi is the research director of the Knight Center in Environmental Journalism. He is also affiliated to the Health and Risk Communication Center, the Environmental Science and Policy Program, and the Center for Latin and Caribbean Studies at MSU. 

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Perry Parks, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Journalism at Michigan State University 

Dr. Parks' research focuses on how taken-for-granted news norms and values unnecessarily limit news content and people's perceptions of what is civically and personally possible. Parks applies historical, critical, cultural, and non-representational approaches to exploring these limits and post-normative alternatives, often through textual or discourse analysis. He is also interested in similar approaches to science journalism and science communication. Parks' research has been published in such journals such as Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly; Journalism & Mass Communication Educator; Journalism; Journalism Studies; Journalism Practice; Media, Culture & Society; and Science Communication. He is also the author of the book Making News Interesting: Reporting Public Affairs in the 21st Century


Erin O'Donnell

Graphic Designer for the MSU FRIB/NSCL

Erin O'Donnell majored in Environmental Studies and Applications at Michigan State University and has a strong background in marketing, graphic design, and content generation. As the Graphic Designer for MSU's Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, she uses her skills to explain complex ideas to people in ways they can easily understand. 


Zach Constan, Ph.D.

Outreach Coordinator for the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory at Michigan State University 

Dr. Constan has a PhD in Physics but his research field is psychoacoustics. He also works as a youth leader at University UMC. In his free time he gives presentations to students about careers in science and research. 


Robert Root-Bernstein, Ph.D.

Professor of Physiology at Michigan State University 

Dr. Root-Bernstein's research interests include Peptide-neurotransmitter-drug interactions; AIDS; molecular complementarity; chemical basis of physiological interactions between peptides, monoamines, and drugs; theoretical and experimental approaches to autoimmunity and its suppression; historical and philosophical perspectives on science and its methods. 


Dawn Opel, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Digital Media and User Experience at Michigan State University 

Dr. Opel is a community-enraged action researcher, and partners with non-profit, government, and healthcare organizations to improve the design of communication and coordination of patient care. 


Evelyne Cudel, Ph.D. 

Department of Family Medicine at Michigan State University 

Dr. Cudel focuses on community-based culinary excellence to enhance health. As a transdisciplinary scholar, she has been teaching courses in anthropology, philosophy of nature, human geography, art, and science. She collaborates with students and faculty on outreach projects and programs on the social aspect of Type 2 diabetes, her area of research for 30 years. 


Eleanor Louson, Ph.D. 

Academic Specialist at the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology

Along with being an Academic Specialist at the Hub, Dr. Louson is an instructor at Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State. She works on representations of wildlife in film, science communication, and STEM experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students. 


Elisabeth Anderson 

Director of Science Communication for the Center for Research on Ingredient Safety at Michigan State University 

Elisabeth Anderson focuses on translating dense content into engaging stories, and visuals that resonate with the greater community by implementing a human-based storytelling approach that meets individuals where they are, not where experts assume they should be. She specializes in digital media and digital tools. 


David Poulson

Senior Associate Director of MSU's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism 

David Poulson teaches environmental, investigative, computer-assisted, and public affairs reporting. He organizes workshops for professional journalists in the U.S. and abroad. He is the founder and editor of Great Lakes Echo, an award-winning news service covering regional environmental issues, and The Food Fix, a news service covering food security in the developing world. 


Dianna Cowern, aka "Physics Girl"

YouTube Educator 

Dianna Cowern is a graduate of MIT and was named one of Forbes' 30 Under 30 in 2019. She has over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and influences kids – especially girls – to pursue an interest and career in the STEM fields. 


Jeremy Reuter

Director for Statewide Advocacy at Michigan State University 

Jeremy Reuter has over 20 years of policy experience in a variety of organizations focused on improving outcomes for Michigan residents from early childhood through higher education. 


David Bertram 

Associate Vice President for State Relations at Michigan State University

David Bertram is responsible for all state relations activities with Michigan legislators, executives, and department directors, as well as provide analyses of legislation and legislative actions. He serves as the day-to-day point person representing MSU before the Michigan Legislature, Governor's Office, and state departments. His role also involves working in collaborative efforts on higher education and state issues with other state universities and other stakeholders. 


Sarah Walter 

Associate Vice President for Government Relations at Michigan State University

Sarah Walter is the Associate VP for Government Relations at Michigan State University's Washington D.C. office. MSU's D.C. office represents the priorities of the university in the nation's capitol. The Government Relations team works with federal policy makers by leveraging the expert resources on campus to impact federal legislation, regulations, and policies that could affect MSU. Current issues that impact the university in Washington range from agriculture research, funding for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), and graduate medical education to visa policies for international students and faculty.


Paul Thompson, Ph.D. 

Professor and W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food, and Community Ethics

Dr. Thompson's research has centered around ethical and philosophical questions associated with agriculture and food, and especially concerning the guidance and development of agricultural technoscience. This research has led him to undertake a series of projects on the application of recombinant DNA techniques to agricultural crops and food animals. His new work focuses on nanotechnology in the agrifood system. 


David Combs 

Midwest Outreach Coordinator for the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

David Combs builds coalitions and partnerships among Union of Concerned Scientists members and other groups to push for United States leadership on nuclear weapons issues. 


Alyssa Lokie 

Outreach Coordinator for the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) 

In Alyssa's role at the Union of Concerned Scientists, she engages and mobilizes experts and activists to support policies and practices that reduce transportation emissions and oil use in American vehicles. 

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