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The 6th edition of Muirlands

STEAM Career Day

was a HUGE success on Thursday, February 6!

Thank you to the co-chairs - Jackie Fisk and Anna De Angelis


Honored Guest Speakers from the Annual STEAM Career Day in February 2020

STEAM Career Day is designed to introduce students to potential career paths in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. During their 4th period class, all students hear from three knowledgeable and engaging presenters that work in a variety of STEAM-related occupations. Presenters share information about the content of their work, what they enjoy about it, what academic path they took and is required for their field, what kinds of skills and interdisciplinary thinking it requires, the impact of their industry in the world, and what they see as the future of their line of work. Presenters are also encouraged to share their personal stories of growth, challenge and success. Each speaker has 15 minutes of presentation time followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers. By the end of 8th grade, students will have been introduced to nine different STEAM-related potential career paths.   

2020 Presenter Biographies


Marcia Bookstein, Tutti Cellist

Practiced cello since age nine. Studied with some eminent cellists but the first one is usually the most important, only not on resumes! Played principal cellist in the Jerusalem Symphony (in Jerusalem, Israel!) 1975-76. Played in the San Diego Symphony since 1977 with a one year sabbatical in San Antonio.


Silvia Bortolotti, Manager Technical Services

Silvia Bortolotti is a mechanical engineer and works at Solar Turbines in San Diego. She studied engineering in her hometown in Italy, Bologna, which is the oldest university in Europe, dating back to the year 1088. She is the mom of Filippo Bonora, a Muirlands students and of Stefano, who is now at La Jolla High.

Ms. Bortolotti started her career in 1998 working for Solar Turbines in Switzerland and moved to San Diego in 2010 with her family. Her work experience shows that being an engineer doesn’t solely mean designing products but that that there are a lot of other possible roles, which all requires an engineering education. In addition to product development, she has worked in sales, project management, marketing and customer services. She is now the Manager of Technical Services, where with her team she supports all the units in the field, so that they can run smoothly and without interruption.

Solar Turbines is a big international company that is in the energy business, making gas turbines for producing electricity and for the Oil and Gas Industry.


Chelsie Byrnes, Pediatric Critical Care Doctor

Dr. Byrnes is a native of San Diego, California. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry and Cell Biology from the University of California, San Diego where she stayed on for her medical degree. Dr. Byrnes moved to Chicago for internship in Pediatrics at the University of Illinois, Chicago and then completed her residency at Tufts University in Boston at the New England Floating Hospital for Children. She chose Critical Care Medicine as her specialty and completed Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.

After fellowship, she became an instructor at Harvard University and worked at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is a Fellow Alumnus of the Harvard Macy Scholar Program on Teaching and Education as well as the Institute for Medical Simulation in Cambridge, MA. In 2010, she volunteered with Partners in Health and travelled to Haiti as part of the international earthquake relief effort. Since 2011, Dr. Byrnes has been on staff at Naval Medical Center, but continued to return to Boston and work as an intensivist. At NMCSD, she has been involved in numerous projects, most notably as the Director of Pediatric Simulation to ensure that pediatric residents graduate with proper skills and tools to care for sick children.

On a personal note, she has three boys ages 8 to 14. She likes to sing, travel, read and hang out with her family and two cats.


Amanda Caniglia, Owner & Connector BellaV Social Club & Caffé

Amanda Caniglia is the owner of the Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé, located at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine. Bella Vista serves as the social hub for the Innovation and Biotech community on the Mesa, and Ms. Caniglia is honored to be viewed as a true connector of people, ideas, and companies. When not serving up celebrated food and conversation, (“Great minds deserve great food,”) she spearheads Miracle Coast No Boundaries, a grass roots movement to collectively engage San Diego stakeholders in positioning our Smart City—and especially the Mesa cluster of high-tech, biotech and science--on a global scale, driving awareness and business to the region. Ms. Caniglia is past President of the board of Alliance4Empowerment. She is Small Business spokeswoman for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; and not least a writer/columnist for San Diego Magazine (“Life on the Mesa.”) A graduate of UCSD in political science, dance, and Spanish literature, Caniglia spent several productive years in Spain and Brazil. She also has a teacher credential from SDSU and instructed courses in Business English for foreign businessmen and women before establishing the Bella V. Her strengths in strategic planning, effective marketing, and the delicate art of social networking all serve to expand opportunities for business growth and profitability in San Diego and the burgeoning mega-region.


Kathy Cooperman, Writer

Kathy Cooperman has written two funny, frivolous books: CRIMES AGAINST A BOOK CLUB (about La Jolla!) and THE VERY PRINCIPLED MAGGIE MAYFIELD. She spent four years performing improv comedy, then decided to do something less fun by going to Yale Law School. Afterwards, she became a criminal lawyer, working both sides of the aisle--first defending "innocent" (rich) clients and later becoming a prosecutor. Now, she lives in Del Mar with her husband and four challenging children.


Laurs Crotty Alexander, Physician Scientist

Dr. Crotty Alexander was born on Guam and attended schools in many different places before obtaining her Bachelors’ and Medical degrees from Duke University. She spent three years in a Neurosurgical lab at Duke as well as one year at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) doing bench research. She completed her 3 year Internal Medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by a 4 year Pulmonary Critical Care fellowship at Harvard. Dr. Crotty Alexander has been studying the health effects of vaping for 7 years, and has found that e-cigarette use alters the immune system, injures the heart and kidneys, and causes inflammation in the brain and lungs. She loves seeing patients, running her lab, and teaching at the UCSD school of medicine.


Galia Debelouchina, Assistant Professor, UCSD

Galia was born in a small town in Bulgaria but as a teenager she moved to an even smaller town in Norway. There, she attended a high school called Red Cross Nordic United World College where she studied with students from over 80 different countries. After graduation, she came to the US where she obtained a B.A. in Chemistry and Mathematics from Colby College in Waterville, ME. Excited about the possibility to combine these two subjects, she then moved to Cambridge, MA where she earned a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from MIT. After her doctorate, Galia did postdoctoral studies at Princeton University where she worked in the field of chemical biology. She came to the University of California, San Diego in 2017 where she is now an assistant professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her lab studies the inner workings of cells and she teaches General Chemistry to first- and second-year college students.


Karen Deicas DePodesta, Artist

Karen Deicas DePodesta has been invited to show her award-winning work in galleries, museums and fine art fairs in Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Cyprus, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, the UK and United States. She has been published in numerous books, including “World’s Best 100 Contemporary Artists.”

Her style is abstract and her preferred medium is acrylic on canvas, though her love of art began as a child where her favorite approach was pencil on paper and her subjects tended to be human subjects. Along the way, she has dabbled in most mediums and continues to find the artistic journey a most exciting adventure in creativity and expression.


Eric Fletcher, Product Owner

Eric is a Product Owner for Solera. He designs mobile applications and software for the automotive repair industry. His applications are currently being used in North America, Europe and Asia.

Eric leads teams of engineers distributed throughout the U.S. and Europe. Prior to his current role, Eric spent 10 years in management with GEICO and created the claims workflow currently used on and the GEICO app.

Eric has an MBA from the University of San Diego and a BA in Psychology from the University of the Pacific. Eric enjoys the outdoors, fitness and spending time with his wife and three boys.


Cory Gasaway, Senior Director of Product- Playstation

Cory Gasaway is the Senior Director of Product at Sony Interactive Entertainment, more commonly known as PlayStation. At PlayStation, Cory leads several teams that are responsible for the creation and development of many of the PlayStation products used around the world including PS3, PS4 and PS VR. He currently is leading teams that are working on the upcoming PlayStation 5 console as well as the Mobile and Web experiences that customers will use alongside it. Cory has a daughter Reagan in 8th grade here and another daughter, Madison, at Bird Rock Elementary.


Sara Gianella Weibel, Assistant Professor

Sara Gianella Weibel was born in Switzerland. She is an infectious disease doctor, a researcher, and a professor at the University of California San Diego. She studies viruses, in particular HIV. She works in a lab with a team of researchers to discover new ways to cure HIV and address many other un-answered questions in her field.


Judd Landsberg, Pulmonary and Critical Care Physician

Dr. Landsberg is professor pulmonary and critical care medicine at UCSD and the head of the pulmonary critical care section at the veterans hospital in La Jolla. He is an academic doctor whose major focus is teaching pulmonary and critical care medicine to medical students and doctors in training. Most of his teaching occurs while supervising the care of patients at the bedside.  Dr. Landsberg has written his own textbook of pulmonary and critical care medicine which is rapidly gaining popularity.  


Karen Lossing, Executive Director/Owner Mathnasium

This is Karen Lossing. She has been a marketing rep, 3rd, 5th and special ed teacher, a math curriculum writer and now owns Mathnasium of La Jolla. She is here to talk about the role math plays in your future!


Chris McCann, Software Developer
Chris is a former Air Force test pilot who wanted to be an astronaut but realized he loved building software that helps people, so that's what he does now. And also because NASA rejected his astronaut application three times (but who's counting?).


Reid Meloy, Forensic Psychologist

Dr. Meloy is a board certified forensic psychologist who works in the areas of criminal investigation and the prevention of targeted violence. He is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Univ. of California, San Diego, and has been a consultant to the FBI Behavioral Analysis Units for the past 18 years. He has authored, co-authored or edited 13 books and numerous scientific studies. He lectures and teaches throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, and is most happy to live in Windansea and enjoy our beautiful community.


MJ Meloy, Clinical Psychologist

MJ Meloy received her Radiologic Technologist (x-ray, MRI) license in 1983 and then changed careers and earned a Masters degree in Psychology in 1991 and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1997. She worked as a forensic psychologist in San Diego conducting competency and psychiatric evaluations for the courts. Dr. Meloy also provided counseling in her private psychotherapy practice but her heart was in clinical research. She left private practice to pursue a neuroimaging (brain science) research career at UC San Diego in 1999 where she is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor. She combines her degree as a radiologic technologist and clinical psychologist to conduct studies using MRI as a means of understanding how the brain works. Dr. Meloy studies a range of topics including adolescent development, Alzheimer’s disease and adolescent psychopathy (juvenile criminals). She lives in La Jolla with her husband and daughter, Olivia, 10th grader at LJHS. They love to travel, ocean swim, scuba dive, snow ski, and attend Olivia’s theatre performances!


Daniele Micciancio, Professor (Cryptography, Computer Science)

Daniele Micciancio studied Computer Science at Scuola Normale and University of Pisa, Italy (BS 1994) and MIT (MS 1996, PhD 1998), and he has been a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at UC San Diego since 1999. He is broadly interested in theoretical computer science, and his main research area is Cryptography. He received numerous awards (NSF CAREER, Sloan Fellow, IACR Fellow, ...) for his pioneering work in "lattice-based cryptography", a new type of cryptographic constructions that is believed to be secure even against quantum computers. He is the proud parent of a child that attended Muirlands middle school and is now a student at LJHS.


Jay Minert, Director of Outreach and Academic Engagement

Jay Minert is currently Director of Outreach and Academic Engagement for Study Abroad UC San Diego, a position he has held since 2012. His work in International Education began when he studied abroad in Guatemala and Honduras as an undergraduate student at The Evergreen State College. Jay then served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize, Central America, where he ran a conservation corps for ‘at-risk’ youth. He then extended his Peace Corps service in Palau, Micronesia, where he worked in environmental education. He earned his Master's degree in Education at UC Santa Cruz, receiving an Inter-American Foundation Fellowship to conduct ethnographic research in primary schools in Belize.

Jay has worked as a Peace Corps Recruiter in Seattle, Washington, helping to send hundreds of people to serve overseas as Peace Corps Volunteers. He has been an Academic Advisor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and has held several Student Affairs positions at UC Santa Cruz. During his time at UC San Diego, Jay received a Fulbright International Administrators Award to the United Kingdom and is currently serving as a Leader for Equity Advancement and Diversity Fellow through the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.


Susan Muus, Registered Nurse

Susan Muus is a registered nurse at the UCSD Cardiovascular Center. She works in the cardio-thoracic surgery intensive care unit (ICU). She has been in this field for almost 18 years and loves her job. She cares for patients who have cardiac and/or respiratory failure, massive heart attacks, and open-heart surgery patients. She also cares for patients with mechanical heart devices, and those who require heart and/or lung transplants.

Susan received her bachelor’s degree in Physiological Sciences from UCLA and a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. She is currently in a Master’s program working on getting her Nurse Practitioner degree.


Katherine Nguyen Williams, Ph.D., Child/Teen Psychologist

Katherine Nguyen Williams is a licensed supervising child and adolescent psychologist, published author, and public speaker. She is the Director of Strategic Development and Clinical Innovations at Rady Children's Hospital–San Diego and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at University of California, San Diego.


Melissa Plaskonos, Assoc Director, Planning, Global Real Estate and Construction

Melissa Plaskonos started her career as a military officer. She was a lieutenant (LU-ten-ant) in the Navy, in a group called the Seabees, the ones responsible for all construction and maintenance for Navy and the Marine Corps bases worldwide. Then she went to graduate school and started working for a large construction company. After a few years, she took a job managing construction for Princeton University and moved on to a leadership role there. Then she was recruited to come to California to lead operations for the housing and dining department at UCSD. Following that, she became the head of all facilities at USD, where she stayed for over 5 years. About one year ago, Mrs. Plaskonos moved on to her current role, where she leads planning and design for a biotech company called Illumina.


Borsika Rabin, Public Health Researcher

Dr. Borsika Rabin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UCSD. She was trained as a pharmacist in a Central European country, Hungary. After finishing her degree, she soon became a researcher at the University. She moved to the United States to study more and received two degrees in Public Health, a Masters and a Doctoral degree. In her work, she is interested in thinking about how to help the people who are most in need using helpful public health and clinical programs. She mostly works with Veterans and community clinics that serve people who arrived from other countries and have less resources. She spends many hours on conference calls talking with her researcher and physician colleagues and think about how they create new programs. She also likes to meet with members of the community that they serve and learn from them what works. She believes preventing illnesses is better than waiting to get treatment when we are already ill. Her super strategies for this include frequent hand washing, walks in fresh air, and enough sleep at night. She often but not always follows these strategies herself.


Steven Schick, Distinguished Professor of Music

Percussionist, conductor, and author Steven Schick was born in Iowa and raised in a farming family. Hailed by Alex Ross in the New Yorker as, “one of our supreme living virtuosos, not just of percussion but of any instrument,” he has championed contemporary percussion music by commissioning or premiering more than one hundred-fifty new works. The most important of these have become core repertory for solo percussion.

Steven Schick is music director of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus and the artist director of the Breckenridge Music Festival. He is artistic director emeritus of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players.

As conductor, Schick has appeared with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, Ensemble Modern, the International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble. In 2018, he curated and was conductor and percussion soloist in, “It’s About Time,” a festival of the San Diego Symphony designed to highlight the musical dimensions of the cross-border area.

Schick’s publications include a book, “The Percussionist’s Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams,” and numerous recordings including the 2010 “Percussion Works of Iannis Xenakis,” and its companion, “The Complete Early Percussion Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen” in 2014 (Mode). For the latter, he received the Deutscheschallplattenkritikpreis for the best new music release of 2015. He was inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2014.

Steven Schick is Distinguished Professor of Music and is the inaugural holder of the Reed Family Presidential Chair at the University of California, San Diego.


Dave Schwab, Staff Writer

A lifelong journalist, Schwab graduated with a communications degree specializing in journalism from Michigan State University in 1981. He was born in the Chicago area. His father was in the auto industry doing tear-down studies of cars to make them more efficient and less expensive. He writes for several community weeklies under the umbrella of San Diego Community Newspaper Group. He also subs during holidays for City New Service, a regional wire service with a desk in San Diego and a bureau in LA covering the police/fire beat.


Jacques Verstraete, Professor of Mathematics

Jacques Verstraete received his PhD from Cambridge University, and is currently Professor of Mathematics at the University of California San Diego. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Combinatorial Theory Series A, and recently served as Program Director in the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the National Science Foundation in Washington. Professor Verstraete is a specialist in combinatorial mathematics, and the author of over fifty papers in mathematics and related sciences, and has given more than one hundred invited and plenary lectures over his career. He is also recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and is supported by awards from the National Science Foundation and National Security Agency.


Elizabeth Villa, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, UCSD

Elizabeth Villa grew up in Mexico, where she studied Physics. She completed her PhD in Biophysics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Fulbright Fellow. She was a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Munich. She joined UC San Diego as a faculty member in July 2014. In 2016, she was awarded an NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. She joined the Division of Biological Sciences faculty at UC San Diego in March 2017. Her laboratory builds new microscopes and tools to observe cells at the highest level of detail possible. In order to do that, they fast-freeze cells using liquid nitrogen so that they look exactly the same as when they are inside your body. Researchers in their lab image molecules, which are a billion times smaller than a person, who live inside cells, which are a million times smaller than a person, using multi-million dollars electron microscopes that are 14-feet tall!  They have used these technologies to see how virus infect bacteria, and how having a mutation in your DNA can lead to Parkinson’s disease.


Ray Vizcaino, Head cake decorator

Ray Miranda Vizcaino is the owner of MR Cakes and the head cake decorator for Sugar and Scribe Bakery. Ray served 5 years with the United States Marine Corps before following his dream in the pastry world. Ray has been on numerous Food Network Shows such as Halloween Baking Championship, Halloween Cake Off, Food Network Challenge and Big Time Bake. Ray also won Food Network Challenge with his husband this past month in January. Ray loves creating beautiful cakes for everyone to enjoy and make people’s day a little extra sweet.


Nadir Weibel, Associate Professor of Computer Science, UCSD

Nadir Weibel is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at UC San Diego. His work is at the intersection of technology and healthcare, and he spends his time figuring out how to make use of the coolest technology to help people in need. He has been working with Virtual and Augmented Reality, Depth Cameras, Social Media, Wearable Sensors, and other gadgets to help improve stroke diagnostics, HIV prevention, physical activity, remote surgery, telemedicine, and other aspects of health and healthcare. He is originally from Switzerland, has 3 wonderful kids, and speaks 5 languages.


Joshua Weinstein, Musician and Professor

Josh Weinstein is a working composer, arranger, producer, and touring pianist/organist/keyboard player originally from New York. His 2008 album "Love & Alcohol” received airplay on nearly 300 stations worldwide, CMJ charted, and was licensed by MTV. His previous album "Brooklyn Is Sinking" appeared on "Best of 2006" lists at both WFUV and Josh is active as both a sideman and featured performer in nightclubs, concert stages and recording studios. He appears on albums and in videos for artists in multiple genres, with mainstage appearances at festivals and show venues worldwide and an active freelance schedule of 150-200 dates per year. He did his Masters and doctoral work at UCSD, and teaches college courses on American popular music, Western classical music, and a variety of World Music practices. He also maintains a full private teaching studio out of his San Diego home.


Leah Welsing, HC Reimbursement Analyst 5

Leah Welsing has over 21 years experience working in Healthcare Finance, specializing in Government Reimbursement. She has a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and Master's Degree in Business Administration. She started her career as a Medicare Cost Report auditor, and has worked for hospital systems in Wisconsin, Northern CA, and is currently employed at UCSD Medical Center. Healthcare reimbursement is a specialized, dynamic field in the accounting profession, and Leah is excited to share her experiences with the Muirlands Students.


Jon Wilensky, Surgeon

Dr. Jon Wilensky, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, was born and raised in New York City. He attended The Stuyvesant High School, and at 17, Jon was 1 of just 9 high school seniors across the nation invited to attend both undergraduate and medical school at the University of Michigan as part of the 7-Year Integrated BS-MD program. At 24, he completed his MD degree, matching into the Integrated Plastic Surgery residency program at the University of Michigan. Currently, Dr. Wilensky is entrenched in the emerging world of implantable biotechnology and cellular therapeutics. He has been the Lead Surgeon on 3 clinical trials involving implantable sensors and implantable cell therapy, and consults for numerous other companies with such wearable and implantable technologies. While earning his MBA at the UC San Diego Rady School of Management, Dr. Wilensky Co-Founded Braykion, a digital health technology company tackling the preventable problem of hospital acquired infections tied to healthcare worker non-compliance with handwashing guidelines. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Wilensky has climbed Mt. Shasta twice, Mt. Rainier, and completed a grueling 24-hour endurance walk across-and-back the Grand Canyon 7 times. He is currently training to climb Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America.


Eva Wittenberg, Assistant Professor

Eva Wittenberg is a linguist (fancy title: Assistant Professor) at the University of California, San Diego, heading the Language Comprehension Lab. She works mostly on how the mind assembles meaning, doing experiments on people as an excuse to use and develop fancy instruments, and play with language, the brain, and computers. Eva has two sons and lives in Pacific Beach.


Debbie Yelon, Professor of Biological Sciences, UCSD

Debbie Yelon is a Professor of Biological Sciences at UCSD. She is a geneticist and a developmental biologist whose research investigates the genes that control the formation of the developing heart. Her laboratory is particularly interested in studying the heart of the zebrafish, since the translucent zebrafish embryo makes it easy to see heart formation in action. In addition to training undergraduate and graduate students to conduct research in her laboratory, Professor Yelon teaches undergraduate courses on genetics and genome editing.

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