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 Operations 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.”
Virginia Keller, Senior Director of Development
Virginia Keller believes that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. Therefore, she has dedicated the last decade of her philanthropic career to organizations advocating for youth. Her career led her to obtain a Certified Fund Raising Executive credential to further help nonprofits propel their missions. Virginia holds a B.S. in Biology and Neuroscience from the University of California, Riverside and became a certified Project Manager through the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business. As a mother to a daughter and a STEM woman herself, she believes that girls have the potential to be a force for progress and positive social change. Her favorite women in STEM are the powerhouse duo of Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier who were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize for their pioneering work on CRISPR technology.
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 Barry, Chief of Staff
Kierstin Barry 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 summers, she has assisted Project Scientist camp 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, petting dogs, and reading historical fiction novels. Kierstin's favorite woman in STEM is animal physiologist and NASA Astronaut Jessica Meir.
Jennifer Jaqcues, Senior Program Manager
Jennifer has worked with Project Scientist for the past 5 years as a site director for many of our university locations throughout Southern California. She grew up in East Los Angeles and attended Cal Poly Pomona to study Zoology. Through her studies, she was able to travel to Africa and Thailand to perform research on wildlife conservation. After obtaining her Masters of Arts in Zoology, she dove into the education realm and taught in the classroom for over 8 years. Her favorite woman in STEM is Georgina Mace - the first woman to be the Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London and a great influencer of the IUCN parameters that help save species from extinction. Jennifer aspires to spread her love of science and spark confidence into our young scientists.
Rebecca Sims, Senior Development Manager
Rebecca is a STEM Girl, who received degrees in Natural Resource Conservation, Soil Science, and Plant Biology. Throughout college and graduate school, Rebecca coupled her coursework with outreach opportunities where she gained an expanded understanding on the issues that prevail in STEM education across all self-identifiers, particularly those related to gender.Rebecca is passionate about giving a young and diverse community an opportunity to explore their STEM curiosities and view a different future for themselves as she once had the opportunity to do. Rebecca is delighted at the opportunity to be a part of the amazing Project Scientist team where through advocacy, mentorship and education we can create a community where all children thrive! Rebecca's favorite woman in STEM is entomologist Dr. May Barenbaum.
Alicia Thunell, Operations Specialist
Alicia Thunell joined Project Scientist in 2019 as the St. Paul Market Coordinator and then transitioned to a full-time role in 2020 leading Project Scientist Program and Operations. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Criminal Justice and a Master’s in Business Administration with Technology Management. She understands the challenges girls face in STEM and believes Project Scientist is an amazing opportunity to inspire girls to succeed. As a mother of two girls, she has participated and led programs for youth academics and wellness programs to ensure all girls have the confidence to transform their goals into realities. Before coming to Project Scientist, Alicia worked in Healthcare Operations and Information Technology. She brings over 20 years of program and operational leadership that will contribute to the management and development of Project Scientist programs and opportunities for girls in STEM. Alicia's favorite woman in STEM is WWI Cryptanalyst Joan Clarke.
Kelly O'Brien, Business Office 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.