Meet our Team
Sandy Marshall, Founder/CEO
Sandy Marshall is the founder, CEO, and visionary of Project Scientist. She’s passionate about igniting girls’ confidence that a STEM career is obtainable for any girl. Sandy began Project Scientist in 2011 with six girls in her backyard, including her then 4-year-old daughter, Ellie. Marshall was founder and executive director of The NASCAR Foundation and not looking to launch a new non-profit. However, after not being able to find an adequate science program for Ellie, Sandy started her own. Sandy and Project Scientist were honored to receive an Acumen Civic Accelerator grant. The Accelerator invests in and supports social ventures that solve pressing social and environmental issues by engaging people. A national speaker and advocate for diversity in STEM, Sandy Marshall is a trusted advisor for companies, universities, foundations, and parents on how these groups can support diversity in STEM for everyone's benefit. Sandy's favorite woman in STEM is botanist, Ynes Mexia because she proves that you're never too old to dive into STEM.
Christy Anderson, Chief Mobilization and Development Officer
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.”
Susannah Barr, Chief Program and Impact Officer
Susannah has served in the education sector for over 15 years, including the last 7 years as an elementary school principal in Charlotte, NC. As a teacher, she taught 4th and 5th grade in a bilingual classroom in Denver, CO. She earned her undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado-Boulder and her J.D. from Loyola University-New Orleans. She is passionate about giving girls a voice and expanding access to high-quality STEM programs. Her favorite woman in STEM is Lydia Villa-Komaroff for breaking through gender and race barriers and for her contributions to insulin research.
Kierstin Barry, Chief of Staff
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 assisted Project Scientist staff in creating an enriching and exciting STEM environment. She is also a current teacher for Project Scientist's STEM Club. In addition to her role in STEM Club, Kierstin assists in program and special project development. 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.
Shana Benford, Vice President Education
Shana has 15 years of professional experience, including 13 years of teaching and leading in secondary and higher education. She started her career as a high school science teacher, teaching biology, physics, and chemistry. Shana joins Project Scientist following her service and leadership in teacher education at the university level. She earned an undergraduate degree in Biology from Purdue University and a Master of Science degree in Education from Northwestern University. Currently, she is pursuing a Doctorate in Education focused on Learning Design and Leadership at the University of Illinois. Her research interests include diversity & equity in education and culturally responsive STEM education. Shana aims to support girls and women by igniting their curiosity, developing their skills, and nurturing their confidence to succeed and lead in STEM. Her favorite woman in STEM is Jewel Plummer Cobb, for her contributions to cancer research as a biologist. Shana also appreciates Dr. Cobb’s accomplishments as a professor, dean, and college president, as well as her advocacy for including women and minorities in science.
Noeleen Acosta, Director of Programs
Noeleen Acosta holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from Emerson College. She spent a number of years working behind the scenes at Universal Studios and Warner Bros. overseeing various aspects of operations. After the birth of her first child, Noeleen became passionate about creating a world where all children can thrive, and has become a devoted advocate for students. She comes to Project Scientist from Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, where she served as a Product Program Manager for the largest Girl Lead business venture in the world, and carries her passion for the empowerment of girls and young women to her role here as Director of Programs. At the end of the workday, Noeleen might be found curled up with a good book, playing board games with her kids, or pushing furniture aside to make room for a little East Coast Swing dancing with her husband. She believes that small moments and persistence create lasting effects and can in fact change the world. That is why, Kati Kariko, whose groundbreaking work led to the development of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, is her favorite woman in STEM.
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.
Jonathan Ahrens, Systems Administrator and Operations Manager
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.
Autumn Keck, Development Specialist
Autumn Keck believes a child’s course in life should be determined not by the zip code she’s born in, but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams. With over 20 years of experience as a fundraiser specializing in grant management and major gift solicitation, Autumn has made an impact by connecting nonprofits to the philanthropic community. She holds a B. A. in Communications and a minor in Journalism from North Carolina State University. Autumn’s favorite woman in STEM is NASA research mathematician Katherine Johnson because of her tenacity and critical role in the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.
Sara Kobilka, Principal Specialist
Sara Kobilka is a dedicated lifelong learner and proudly refers to herself as a Renaissance Woman (which is also the name of the consulting company she started). She's passionate about education, communication, outreach, networking and issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, access, accessibility and justice especially as they relate to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Her winding career path has included stints as a broadcast journalist/meteorologist, non-profit executive director, museum program manager, camp director, university outreach specialist, group fitness instructor and professional development facilitator among other things.She shares her love of learning and curiously about the world with her two young daughters and scientist husband. Her favorite woman in STEM is Dr. Malika Jeffries-EL, chemistry professor at Boston University and associate dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and advocate for diversity in STEM who Sara became friends with when Dr. Jeffries-EL was her husband's PhD advisor.