Meet our Team
Sandy Marshall, Founder/CEO
Sandy Marshall is the founder, CEO, and visionary of Project Scientist, a national nonprofit that ignites girls’ confidence in their abilities in STEM. Project Scientist began with six girls in Sandy’s’s backyard, including her then 4-year-old daughter, Ellie. Sandy was founder and executive director of The NASCAR Foundation at the time and couldn’t find a program like Project Scientist for her daughter. From that humble beginning, Project Scientist now seeks to empower 500,000 girls, women, and non-binary individuals through STEM programs by 2040, inspiring the STEM workforce of the future in the United States, Mexico and beyond. A national speaker and advocate for diversity in STEM, Sandy has developed partnerships with leading universities and strong relationships with top STEM companies who believe in Project Scientist’s mission. Project Scientist was selected for the American Express Leadership Academy and has received an Acumen Civic Accelerator grant. Sandy's favorite woman in STEM is botanist Ynes Mexia because she proves that you're never too old to dive into STEM.
Shana Benford, Chief Program and Impact Officer, Head of DEIB
Shana is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Illinois with 16 years of STEM and education experience. Her studies focus on Education Policy and Organizational Leadership and include advanced certificates in Diversity & Equity and Technology. As a former public high school teacher and leader, she led, supported, and implemented initiatives that improved outcomes for marginalized students. She later extended her service and leadership to teacher education at the university level. Shana served as a STEM Teacher Mentor, University Supervisor, Professor, and a National Science Foundation Noyce Scholars Faculty member. Among other accomplishments, she developed college courses for graduates and undergraduates, established department guidelines, and initiated strategic district partnerships. Shana earned a B.S. in Biology from Purdue University and a M.S. in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University. She joined Project Scientist because she wants increase representation in STEM for all women and girls, especially Black, Indigenous, and other Women of Color. Shana most values spending time traveling and volunteering with her children and husband. Her favorite woman in STEM is Jewel Plummer Cobb, for her university leadership and contributions to cancer research as a biologist.
Nick Boerum, Chief Advancement Officer
Nick has over 12 years of experience leading fundraising and communication efforts for state, regional and national nonprofit organizations. Most recently, Nick was the Chief Advancement Officer for The Arc Minnesota where he helped launch critical partnerships with companies, foundations and individuals to transform communities towards disability justice. He has successfully grown revenue across multiple funding streams to address critical needs for organizations and community. And Nick has led several successful multi-million dollar capital campaigns leading to stronger and better-resourced organizations. He has an undergraduate degree from The University of Minnesota and a Master of Science degree from Bournemouth University (U.K.). As a major history buff, Nick’s favorite woman in STEM is the cryptanalyst Joan Clarke who helped break the code for the Enigma machine for England during WWII.
Christy Anderson, Senior Vice President, Partnerships & Marketing
Christy Anderson brings more than 20 years of communication and operations experience in for-profit and non-profit enterprises to Project Scientist. As a product of girls programs, including athletics and afterschool, she is passionate about providing encouragement, support, and practical skills to girls to help them achieve their goals. Christy holds a Communication degree from Chapman University. Her favorite woman in STEM is Amelia Earhart because of her undeterred passion for aviation. She pushed against early barriers and paved the way for other women in commercial flight as well as shifted the public's perception of commercial aviation. She is also attributed to Christy’s favorite quote “Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.”
Farah Faruqi, Director of STEAM Education
Farah Faruqi is a Ph.D. candidate in STEM education. She holds a BSc. and MSc. in Physiology and Genetics. She is a STEM education scholar committed to STEM education and educational equity. She has published her research in the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and produced two policy reports designed to help policymakers, administrators, and teachers implement remote learning effectively and equitably with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has served as a STEM educator, facilitator, teacher mentor, and curriculum developer in San Francisco Bay Area. She believes every child is a scientist because they are curious about the world around them. Often, students lose their sense of curiosity. Sustaining this sense of wonder, educators, parents, and others close to children have a tremendous responsibility.
Kierstin Rudy, Senior Program Manager
Kierstin holds a B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience with a minor in Education Studies from U.C. San Diego. Kierstin joined the staff of Project Scientist because she’s seen firsthand how life-changing STEM role models can be to young women. For the past several years, she has helped Project Scientist in creating an enriching and exciting STEM environment for all of its programs including STEM Club, STEM Lab, and Scholars. Not only does Kierstin manage Project Scientist programs, she also teaches in them from time to time. She enjoys interacting with students and helping them to learn new knowledge and skills. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dog Maggie and reading historical fiction novels. Kierstin's favorite woman in STEM is animal physiologist and NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir.
Jonathan Ahrens, Senior System Administrator
Jonathan Ahrens attended Berklee College of Music and spent many years writing, recording, producing and licensing music for Television and film. The applications he used in the music industry sparked a desire for a deeper understanding of how applications work. After marrying his wife and the birth of their two children, he became a Certified Salesforce Administrator and pursued his degree in Information Systems & Business Analytics. Determined to make the world a better place, Jonathan found a deep passion for working in the nonprofit world. Prior to joining the Project Scientist team, Jonathan was the Salesforce Administrator for the non-profit L.A. Works, where he oversaw various integrations and provided best practices to end users. His favorite woman in STEM is Rosalind Franklin for her discovery of key properties of DNA which laid the groundwork for the correct description of the double helix structure of DNA. She is a great example of someone who does not let their surrounding circumstances dictate their future.
Jacki Lane, Program Manager
Jacki Lane is passionate about STEM education and believes that every child is born a scientist, filled with curiosity and a desire to learn. With over 15 years of experience in STEM and education, Jacki has worked with a wide range of children from age two through 4th grade. She has served as an educator, STEM facilitator, teacher mentor, curriculum director, and assistant principal. Jacki earned her B.A. in Early Childhood Education and Reading from Ohio University, and holds her M.Ed in Gifted Education from the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Jacki also minored in Spanish as she is passionate about global education and empowering diverse students to pursue their dreams in STEM. Jacki’s favorite woman in STEM is engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut MaeJemison as she is not only an inspiring scientist, but also works to support youth in STEM education.
Sarah White, Chief of Staff
Sarah has over seven years of nonprofit experience across the country working in Atlanta, Kansas City, Louisiana and is currently based in Las Vegas.For the past several years, Sarah has worked in a variety of operational roles within nonprofits working with marginalized communities and being an advocate for the populations she has worked with including those impacted by natural disasters, spinal cord injuries, and mental health crisis' with teenage girls. One of the reasons Sarah joined the Project Scientist is because of her own passion to ensure that girls know from an early age, careers do not have to follow gender norms. Project Scientist's goal of cultivating an environment for confident girls aligns with Sarah's personal belief that confidence is vital to living a successful and fulfilled life. She holds a Bachelor's in Organizational Leadership from Arizona State University and a Master's in Nonprofit Administration. Sarah’s favorite scientist is Grace Hopper who enlisted during WWII in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service) and later went on to co-develop one of the earliest standardized computer languages.
Kelly O'Brien, Finance Specialist
Kelly O'Brien has served on the Project Scientist team since 2016. Working in education for more than 10 years, Kelly has taught Kindergarten, 4th grade, 6th grade and 8th grade. A Northern California native, Kelly moved to Southern California to pursue tertiary education. Kelly holds a single subject and multiple subject teaching credential; an MA in Education involving post graduate work in English Literature; and a BA in English Literature with a minor in Deaf Education. A passionate athlete, Kelly believes deeply in fostering an active lifestyle from childhood. Kelly's favorite woman in STEM is computer programmer and network engineer, Radia Perlman.
Lupe Suarez, Resident Lead Teacher & Spanish Programs Coordinator
Lupe is a first-gen Latina college graduate. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Language Acquisition from the University of Nevada, Reno. She believes in the importance of connecting storytelling and a child’s personal experiences to their learning journey. Lupe has worked with a wide range of children, from grades K-6. For the past several years she has served as a Spanish Immersion educator. Suarez joins Project Scientist because she believes in providing girls from under-represented and underserved communities with the tools and skills needed to succeed in any career opportunity they pursue. Her favorite woman in STEM is archeologist and botanist, Zelia Nuttall who helped restore the story of the ancient indigenous people of Mexico and advocated for the revival of native traditions, all while blazing the trail for future women in STEM.
Nicolette Pollock, Volunteer Coordinator
Nicolette holds a B.S. degree from California State University, Los Angeles in Biology and is a current Ph.D. Candidate at Irell and Manella School of Biological Sciences at City of Hope in the Center for RNA Biology and Therapeutics. While studying for her Ph.D. Nicolette found a deep passion working in the non-profit world, where she worked with several non-profits in Los Angeles with the goal of fostering science and biotech in the Los Angeles area. In addition, she is pasionate about fostering a supportive community for women and girls in STEM, while promosting diversity, equity, and inclusion. One of the reasons why Nicolette joined Project Scientist is because she she strongly believes in advocating for young girls to have the tools to choose a career in STEM through the help of a supportive, immersive community. Nicolette’s favorite scientist is Marie Curie who’s research led to the development of nuclear energy that had a huge contribution to finding treatments for cancer. She was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize and opened the way for many women to enter the field of science.
Robin Declerq, Virtual Site Director & STEM Teacher
Robin is a science educator who teaches High School Chemistry and Physical Science. She holds a B.A. in Chemistry and a certification in secondary education from Michigan State University. She currently teaches in Austin, MN, where she has lived for the past three years. She has been a part of Project Scientist for five years, and started as a college fellow for the summer program in Irvine, CA. Currently, she serves as the Site Director for the virtual STEM Club program, as well as the Site Director for the Scholars program. She loves Project Scientist because of the wonderful young scientists she gets to work with and learn from! She also loves working with an amazing team that all share the same goal: to provide quality STEM education to those who might otherwise not have the opportunity.
Zarett Ramirez, Site Director & Virtual STEM Teacher
Zarett Ramirez is a third grade teacher in North Carolina. She is a first generation latina college student and holds a B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies as well as a Masters in Arts of Teaching from UNC Chapel Hill. GO Heels! She is bilingual in Spanish and has Mexican and Honduran roots. She is passionate about upholding an inclusive and equitable education for all students. She has worked with Project Scientist for about a year and has enjoyed forming part of the Project Scientist team! She first learned about Project Scientist when one of the programs would be offered fully in Spanish in her school. As a native Spanish speaker she loved the opportunity to teach young Latina girls like herself about the amazing world of science. She loves Project Scientist's mission to empower youth from the age of 4 to be curious, make mistakes and share their learning!
Scarlett Webb, Site Director & Virtual STEM Teacher
Scarlett Webb is a native to NY, she grew up in the Adirondacks, and moved to Rochester, NY to attend the Rochester Institute of Technology for Biotechnology. Scarlett has been involved with children’s STEM Enrichment and leadership programs for over 20 years. This includes Clubs, STEM Hubs, Girl Scouts, and Project Scientist. Scarlett has been a Site Director for Project Scientist since 2021. Scarlett has a passion to ignite a love and confidence of STEM in children, with a focus on girls and young women
Lizette Daniel, Virtual STEM Teacher & Site Director
Lizette is an educator with over 13 years of experience from St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands which is where her love of chemistry was sparked. She holds a B.S in Chemistry from the University of the Virgin Islands and a M.S in Educational Technology from Boise State University. She joins Project Scientist because she sees it as an exceptional opportunity for creating a support structure where girls feel comfortable experimenting and learning in a safe space.
Halee Gibson, Rising Star Site Director & Assistant Site Director
Halee has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in Spanish. She began with Project Scientist as a Fellow for the Scholars program. She now works as a Site Director & Assistant Site Director for virtual STEM clubs, and helps as a Rising Star for the Scholars program. Halee is passionate about Project Scientist’s mission to foster an inclusive and compassionate space for young scientists to learn STEM!
Michelle Cregger, Virtual STEM Teacher
Michelle has been a K-12 science educator for over 20 years, with the majority of that time spent in the middle school science classroom teaching Life, Earth, and Physical Sciences in addition to STEM related electives. She calls the great Pacific Northwest her home and has spent her life between Oregon and Washington. Michelle holds a M.S. in Science Education from Montana State University, as well as a B.S. and B.A.E. in Biology and a B.A.E. in Earth Science from Eastern Washington University. Since 2021 Michelle has been teaching with Project Scientist for both virtual STEM Club and summer STEM Lab. She believes wholeheartedly in the mission of Project Scientist and feels extremely fortunate to be involved as both a teacher and a parent of two participating daughters! Getting to share the joy of scientific discovery with so many young and curious minds is incredibly rewarding and inspiring.
Frederica Smith, Virtual STEM Teacher
Frederica Smith is a native of Louisiana and now resides in the Big State of Texas. She holds a Masters degree in Science from Louisiana Tech University and a second Masters degree in STEM Educational Leadership with a concentration in minorities in STEM from University of North Texas-Dallas. Frederica comes to us with over 16 years of experience as a science educator serving Title 1 schools in low socioeconomic communities in the heart of Oak Cliff, Texas. She has a great passion for equality and diversity within the educational system with emphasis in the field of STEM. Frederica joins Project Scientist because she believes that no matter a student’s gender, race, or economic status, ALL students deserve the opportunity to navigate and explore the world around them through the lens of STEM. She feels very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside Project Scientist where the mission is to ignite and cultivate STEM confidence in ALL girls.
Deon Pennyman, Virtual STEM Teacher
Deon Pennyman, lives in McDonough Georgia. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Georgia College & State University and a Master of Public Health from Mercer University School of Medicine. She received her Ed.S. Degree in Educational Leadership from Columbus State University. She is a certified science and STEM-endorsed teacher. With a passion for science, she has taught 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade science.
Laura Sanchez, STEM Teacher
Laura Sanchez lives in Santa Ana, CA. She has her Bachelors in Mathematics:Education from California State University Dominguez Hills and wants to pursue teaching secondary mathematics. She currently works at El Sol Science and Arts Academy in which she also attended. She learned about Project Scientist and started off as a facilitator. She took interest in Project Scientist during the fall to teach it herself to help her community of Spanish speaking students. Getting to be an impact on these girls lives has taught her that to be more involved with the young scientist and help them achieve an interest in STEM related Fields.
Devon Vojtech, Virtual STEM Teacher
Devon Vojtech loves to be outside and study the natural environment. She earned a B.S. in Geology at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls and M.S. in Geological Sciences at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Devon worked as a research scientist before earning a M.S. degree in education. Devon has been teaching science in grades 6-12 for over ten years and currently teaches middle school science. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat.