Panel Discussions on Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

SCR Staff
 | Feb 25, 2019
Photograph 51 logo with Rosalind and Helen Sadler

Rosalind Franklin and Helen Sadler (portraying Rosalind Franklin).

March is Women’s History Month and as part of it, South Coast Repertory will be hosting two pre-show events for Photograph 51 (March 3-24, Julianne Argyros Stage).

Two panel discussions will focus on women and careers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). In Photograph 51, British science pioneer Rosalind Franklin is the only woman on an all-male research team; subsequently, her role in discovering the double-helix structure of DNA went unacknowledged.

Literary Associate Kat Zukaitis, who is the show’s dramaturg, will moderate both of the panels.

The guests for the Tuesday, March 5, 6:30 p.m., panel discussion include Mu-Chun Chen, theoretical particle physicist at UCI; Deanna Cheung, internal medicine physician; Celia Goulding, crystallographer in UCI’s department of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Kristine McCaffrey, manager of engineering at Calleguas Municipal Water District.

The guests for Thursday, March 7, 6:30 p.m., include Allyson Fry-Petit, crystallographer and solid-state chemist at CSU-Fullerton; Mona Nassimi, chemistry professor at Saddleback College and a former laboratory manager at Truesdail Labs; Afrah Salahuddin, biomedical engineer at Johnson & Johnson; and Virginia Trimble, astrophysicist and professor at UC-Irvine.

The panel discussions are free and open to everyone. To stay after the talks for performances of Photograph 51, purchase your tickets now.

Tuesday, March 5:

Mu-Chun Chen
Theoretical particle physicist
Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UCI
Mu-Chun Chen is a theoretical particle physicist, studying the properties of elementary particles and their interactions, which form the fundamental building blocks of the Universe. Her current research explores the origin of elementary particle masses, the genesis of matter-antimatter asymmetry, and the unification of all fundamental forces. She graduated from National Taiwan University and obtained her PhD in theoretical physics from University of Colorado at Boulder. She was a postdoctoral fellow at Brookhaven National Lab and Fermilab, and has been a Professor of Physics at UC Irvine since 2006. She has co-authored more than 100 articles and presented more than 200 invited lectures worldwide. She has received several awards for her research and teaching, include the Humboldt Research Fellowship in Germany and UCI's Excellence in Undergraduate Education Award. She co-created UCI Women in Physics and Astronomy and has assumed several leadership positions at UCI to work towards equity and inclusion both within physics and beyond.

Deanna Cheung, MD
Internal medicine physician
Long Beach Center for Clinical Research & UCI
Deanna Cheung is an internal medicine physician with a special interest in preventive medicine. She is the owner and director of Long Beach Center for Clinical Research, where she practices medicine and participates in clinical research. In partnerships with pharmaceutical developers, she has participated in the development of key medications used for treating hypertension, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol, while also pursuing non-pharmacological (lifestyle) approaches to these conditions. As a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, Irvine, she has been teaching medical students about hypertension and cardiovascular disease prevention for decades. Teaching patients how to live healthier lives is integral to her practice. Her love of teaching has also been fulfilled homeschooling her two children, and she also likes to spend time reading, hiking and practicing aerial fitness.

Celia Goulding
Crystallographer and biochemist
Professor & Vice Chair, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, UCI
Celia W. Goulding is a professor of molecular biology and biochemistry & pharmaceutical sciences at the University of California, Irvine. She received a B.Sc (Hons) in chemistry and mathematic and a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from King’s College, London. After leaving the UK for the US, she was a postdoctoral fellow with Professor Rowena Mathews at the University of Michigan studying metalloproteinenzymology. Moving further west, as research faculty at UCLA under the supervision of Professor David Eisenberg, she also spearheaded the Tuberculosis Structural Genomics Consortium and studied crystallography. Celia eventually accepted an independent position at UCI in 2007 and became a full professor by 2014, and is now Vice Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.  She is an X-ray-crystallographer and biochemist.

Kristine McCaffrey
Civil engineer
Manager of Engineering, Calleguas Municipal Water District
Kristine McCaffrey has more than 20 years of experience in the water and environmental fields and is currently the Manager of Engineering at Calleguas Municipal Water District in Thousand Oaks, where she oversees a $30 million per year capital project budget for water infrastructure, including large diameter pipelines, pump stations, reservoirs, renewable energy projects, and the Salinity Management Pipeline. McCaffrey has B.S. degrees in Environmental Engineering and in Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Masters in Construction Management from the University of Washington. McCaffrey is a licensed Civil Engineer in California and also holds a Grade 3 Water Treatment Plant Operator certification. 

Thursday, March 7:

Allyson Fry-Petit
Crystallographer and solid-state chemist
Assistant Professor, Analytical and Materials Chemistry, CSUF
Allyson Fry-Petit is a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at CSUF, where she runs a solid state chemistry research lab. Her research focuses on the rational design of new materials through the use of data mining, synthesis, structural characterization and optical and vibrational probes. Dr. Fry-Petit obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Critical Thought and Inquiry from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. She obtained her PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio advised by Dr. Patrick Woodward. She then went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland to be a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the lab of Dr. Tyrel McQueen. Her experimental and analysis development of inelastic neutron measurements of dynamic pair distribution function analysis at national lab facilities is another major research interest. This tool has the potential to show the motion of atoms in new ways.

Mona Nassimi
Environmental chemist
Former lab manager at Truesdail Labs and chemistry professor at Saddleback College
Mona Nassimi was born in Karaj, Iran, where her father was a music teacher and her mother was a homemaker. She received her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Tehran and taught chemistry at a local high school for several years. After the Iranian Revolution came to a close and women’s rights were being chipped away, Nassimi made the decision to migrate to the United States to obtain a graduate degree in chemistry. After she received her Master of Science from Texas Southern University, she moved to California and worked as an environmental chemist for about 29 years, and since 2015, has been teaching chemistry at Saddleback College.

Afrah Salahuddin
Biomedical engineer
Global marketing, strategy, and new product development for cardiac medical devices at Johnson & Johnson
Afrah Salahuddin holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in biomedical engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, she moved into the cardiac medical devices industry, working on implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. For the past 9 years, she has been in the electrophysiology space with Johnson & Johnson, where she treats different cardiac rhythm disorders—arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation—with various advanced technologies (in other words, she “fixes broken hearts”). As an engineer and scientist, her responsibilities at Johnson & Johnson include product development, clinical support, sales, commercial and global marketing, and global strategy. Outside of work, Salahuddin is an avid martial artist and spends a lot of time outdoors. She is also studying to be a minister in a non-denominational philosophy. Salahuddin describes her approach to life as “catering to my mind (through all of the fascinating elements of my work, and through overall intellectual curiosity of the world around us), body (through physical fitness) and spirit (through my non-denominational study of metaphysics).”

Virginia Trimble
Professor of Physics and Astronomy, UCI
Virginia Trimble is a native Californian and graduate of Hollywood High School, UCLA (BA Astronomy & Physics), and Caltech (MS Astronomy & Physics, PhD Astronomy, 1968) with honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge (MA 1969) and University of Valencia (dott h.c. 2010). Her research interests have gradually evolved from astrophysics (white dwarfs, supernovae, binary stars, and such) to history of science and scientometrics ("the science of science" for instance, the productivity and impact of various telescopes, and the moderate successes of decadal planning processes). She has held offices (typically topping out at about the level of vice president) in the American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union, the American Physical Society, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics and others). Her publication list just topped 890 items; asteroid 1978 VT08 was recently renamed 9271Trimble; and the American Astronomical Society and the American Association of Variable Star Astronomers gave her nice awards last year. Teaching for the spring will include a first year graduate course in astrophysics and an honors seminar on the impact of World War I on the sciences.