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.

Witnie Martinez, Chief Development Officer

Witnie’s passion for helping non-profit organizations fulfill their missions comes from growing up within a low-income community and seeing the need for positive change. For 15 years, her career and consultation services within the arts, culture, and education sectors have focused on strategic planning, expanding & diversifying revenue streams, multi-channel marketing and scaling program impact. As a former teacher, Martinez believes that children and families in under-served communities need to have access to quality and holistic educational experiences, along with essential resources from their communities to break cycles of generational poverty. She holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University, a B.A. in Theatre, and B.S in Health Sciences both from Florida International University; a M.S. in Psychology and Ed.S in Leadership, both from Nova Southeastern University. Witnie and her husband Ryan live in the Charlotte Metropolitan area with their two young children Brayden and Olivia. Favorite Woman in STEM: Madam C.J. Walker, inventor, entrepreneur, activist  and first female self-made millionaire in America 

Shana Benford, Chief Program and Impact Officer

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.

Christy Anderson, Vice President, Corporate Partnerships & Initiatives

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.” 

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.

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, 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. 

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.

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.

Board Members

Stephen Hagood, Chair

Steve Hagood is senior vice president and chief information officer at Trane Technologies and a member of the company’s Enterprise Leadership Team. Steve leads the company’s global information technology (IT) organization and is responsible for the development and execution of Trane Technologies' IT strategies. With more than 30 years of experience, he has held multiple executive and financial leadership roles in the aerospace and defense, manufacturing and service industries. Steve holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas and is a member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was recognized by the Charlotte Business Journal as ‘CIO of the Year’ in 2014 and 2019.

Errika Moore, Vice-Chair

Errika is the Executive Director for the STEM Funders Network which focuses on ensuring equitable access to STEM education and opportunities from cradle to career across the country.  She has over 25 years of industry experience and she’s served on several national and community boards focused on STEM education and advocacy, literacy, early learning, workforce development and women/girl’s empowerment.  Errika is a published co-author, magazine editor, and Forbes contributor.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.  And she’s been honored as an Outstanding Georgia Citizen by the Secretary of the State, a Woman of the Year by Atlanta’s Women in Technology, as an Ecosystem Builder by the Tech for All Alliance.

Julie St. John, Vice-Chair

Julie St. John was President of Investment Operations and Information Technology Group and was also the Chief Information Officer for The Capital Group Companies. She joined the management team of Capital in 2007 and retired in 2020. Ms. St. John holds an MBA in Finance from Florida State University and a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of Michigan. She is a CPA licensed in Florida. Ms. St. John was recognized as one of InfoWorld’s Most Influential CTOs and has received the Gartner CIO Choice Award and the Computerworld Premier 100 CIO Award. She was included in the Wall Street Journal & Technology's Gold Book. Julie continues to serve on several boards including the board of Harvey Mudd College, a college a part of the Claremont consortium of colleges. Julie was aslo recently inducted into the 2020 IDG CIO Hall of Fame.

Mary Izadi, Secretary

Mary Izadi is the Constitutional Policing Advisor for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. After graduating from UC Hastings College of Law, Mary spent over 11 years as a prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. She brings her extensive legal experience and leadership skills with her to the Project Scientist Board. After Mary’s daughter participated in the Summer STEM Academy, it was clear that Project Scientist was going to be a staple in her daughter’s summer programs. Mary hopes to provide other young girls the same opportunity to find their inner scientist.

Holly Trotter, Treasurer

Holly is a Tax Partner in the Financial Services practice, based in Charlotte, NC and has more than 15 years of professional experience. Holly is currently focused on financial institution clients in the Southeast market. Holly combines project execution experience with a strong tax technical background.

Holly spent six years in New York gaining extensive experience in consulting, tax accounting, and tax compliance. While in NY, Holly focused on global information reporting initiatives, and assisted money center banks with their global FATCA programs. In 2014 Holly participated in My Genesis Park, PwC’s global leadership development program, which included two weeks in Shanghai and five weeks in the Netherlands.

When not at work, Holly is most likely to be spending time with her two daughters, running with a good audio book or riding her Peloton bike.

Stephanie Head, Governance Committee Chair

Stephanie has over twenty years of experience in data analytics and reporting in a variety of industries across the country and has always had a passion for STEM subjects. Stephanie currently leads the customer success data analytics for PwC's cybersecurity and resiliency software, Terrain Insights. Her background also includes forensic consulting, and social and environmental analytics for PwC's Corporate Responsibility team. Stephanie holds a bachelor’s degree in Decision Sciences from Miami University in Ohio.

Lori Friedman, Scientific Advisory Council Chair

Lori is the Chief Scientific Officer at ORIC Pharmaceuticals in South San Francisco. After earning a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Lori completed postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge, U.K. and has been in biotech doing cancer research for over 20 years. A strong supporter of opportunities for women in STEM fields, Lori has served on the Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council for the American Association of Cancer Research and chaired Genentech's Women in Science and Engineering (gWISE) group. She has published 92 scientific papers and has 24 issued patents. Lori is married with two daughters and lives in California.

Chad Stephens, Member

Chad Stephens is the Chief Technology Officer at Graham Packaging and a member of the company’s Executive Leadership Team. Chad leads Graham Packaging's global engineering and design services organization and is responsible for creating sustainable bottling solutions for beverages, food, nutrition, home care, and industrial products. With more than 25 years of experience, he has held multiple executive leadership roles in the packaging industry supporting both the food and non-food packaging segments. Chad has a passion for emerging technology, innovation, and problem solving, and he is an engaged leader with experience managing multiple technical disciplines, culture transformation, and performance improvement. Chad is a graduate of Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in packaging science.

Stephen Jenvey, Member

Stephen is director/vice president and Head of Business Agility for the Capital Group Companies, based in Irvine, California. Stephen has a passion for emerging technology and innovation and the positive impact they have on businesses and individuals. He is a frequent public speaker on topics such as innovation in the enterprise, digital and fintech fields. A longtime advocate for educational opportunities, Stephen has served on the board of directors for a leading progressive private school and performing arts program for at risk communities and serves as a peer mentor at Capital Group for women in STEM. He currently resides in Orange County, California.

Betsy Grider, Member

As Chief Strategy Officer for Patron Technology, Betsy is building, acquiring, integrating, and growing businesses within live event technology. The integrated live event technology platform at Patron drives innovation with products ranging from augmented reality mobile wayfinding to timed-admission for limited capacity experiences. Prior to joining Patron, Betsy's career evolved across marketing, media, strategy, and technology, most recently building and leading the Technology Development and Integration division for NASCAR. Prior to NASCAR, Betsy started her career in sports at the Chicago White Sox and The Duke University Chronicle. Betsy is an investor in live content and entertainment properties and an advocate for women in tech.

Kathy Higgins, Member

As vice president, IT Business Management, Kathy Higgins is responsible for the development and delivery of Vendor Management, Software Asset Management, Resource & Demand Management, Immersive Technology Team Learning, Central Program/Project efforts that support transformational efforts within the Technology team. She has served in this role since 2018. A 25-year Lowe’s veteran, Kathy began her career in accounting, expanding into multiple financial areas with increasing levels of responsibility. She later transitioned to the operations side of the business, where she was charged with leading Special Order Sales, Store Selling tools and Merchandising Support functions. Since 2011, she has held several technology leadership positions, from Technology Solutions, Enterprise Program Delivery and IT Enterprise & Architecture Services. Kathy earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and computer information systems from Appalachian State University and holds a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.

Kristen Weirick, Member

Kristen Weirick is a developer of people and teams. For 20+ years she has partnered with company leadership across varying industries as a talent expert, to define and implement strategies that leverage talent resources to drive growth initiatives and create an enviable culture where all talent can thrive.

Currently she is Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Alcon, the global leader in eye care, dedicated to helping people see brilliantly. Kristen defines and delivers global strategies to ensure Alcon has the best talent at all levels. Similarly, she partners with leaders and associates across the organization to create a diverse and inclusive environment that fosters innovation and drives performance.

When she is not in the office, Kristen can be found training for distance swimming and running events and traveling the globe with her family. Kristen, her husband and their three dogs split their time between their homes in Fort Worth, Texas and Southwest Michigan.

Devi Thomas, Member

Devi is a leading cause branding and purpose marketer who oversees the social impact stories of and its nonprofit, education, and philanthropy community. Devi has over 20 years of experience leading corporate citizenship brands at the UN Foundation and Cone Communications, where she specialized in CSR and social impact strategies. She is a trained journalist who leverages words to tell the human stories behind world changing ideas.


Blair Bloomston, Member

As CEO of Game On Nation, Blair has spent the last 18 years working with the world’s most recognizable athletes, teams, executives, corporations, and brands. She is considered a leading expert on the use of game dynamics and gamification to improve communication, leadership, team building, and culture. 

Some of Blair’s clients include NASA, Hilton, Deloitte, NASCAR, Gatorade, Joint Special Operations Command, and the U.S. House of Representatives. Blair has been featured as a speaker for the United States Olympic Committee’s National Coaching Conference and the NCAA Alliance of Women Coaches, as well as the Deloitte Inclusion Summit and SHRM Inclusion Summit. Blair holds a BFA in Theater/Performance from Marymount Manhattan College, and resides in Bradenton, FL with her husband and two young sons.