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.
Ashley Aagard, Chief Operations Officer
Ashley Aagaard is the founder and managing director of Talent Design Co., a Minneapolis-based Talent development company. Created to help companies optimize teams and empower women in the workplace. For more than 10 years, Ashley has specialized in developing, partnering and creating world class talent acquisition and development for both large corporations and integrated creative agency settings. She has a passion for leading organizations in areas of inclusion, diversity, and gender equality and works closely with her teams to bring talent that embodies all. Ashley is passionate about STEM and the impact it can have the world for generations to come. Her daughter and her love engineering things together, baking with new ingredients, and learning coding together. When not nurturing great talent, Ashley loves exploring new places with her husband and three kiddos.
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.
Monica Thompson, Director of Development
Monica Thompson graduated from Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business with an emphasis in Marketing. She has spent the majority of her career in outside sales: connecting small business owners with technology solutions to help alleviate the burden of compliance and administration. Monica has a passion for linking people to a purpose. She finds endless amounts of energy working to promote STEM learning by securing donors and contributions; to partner with, to fundraise, and ultimately, to encourage women in the workforce. When Monica is not behind her computer or phone, she is exercising at OrangeTheory, running carpool to dance (daughter is 8) or baseball practice (son, 6), learning to cook, reading a book, or making reservations for a night out with her husband. Monica is a ball of energy that usually comes out in desk chair dance moves, unchecked facial expressions on Zoom, and most importantly, finds the glass half full in all things. Her favorite woman in STEM is Sally Ride, American Astronaut & Physicist. She embodies the notion that women are made for so much more in the world; like SPACE.
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.
Rebecca Sims, Program 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.
Candy Alvarado, Program Manager
Candy Alvarado has served on the Project Scientist team as a teacher, Site Director, and currently a Program Coordinator. Candy holds a BA in Liberal Studies with a minor in English Literature; a Multiple Subject Credential from Cal State University, Long Beach and a lead teacher certification in Math and Science from the University of Irvine. Candy holds more than fifteen years of teaching experience working with grades K-8th. As a lead elementary school teacher she coordinated the application process to be recognized as CUSD first California Distinguished School Award. Candy also held a leadership role of mentoring student teachers from CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Long Beach. Candy is committed to closing the gender and diveristy gap in STEM careers by inspiring young scientists to believe in themselves and never be afraid to fail. Candy's favorite woman in STEM is renowned mathematician Katherine Johnson who despite segregation and discrimination, was recognized as a key component to NASA missions.
Maria Mundaden, Marketing Specialist
Maria Mundaden began a career as an Electronics Engineer after graduating with a Bachelors in Electronics Engineering from India. She then worked in the Telecom Industry for 3 years setting up mobile connection centers. There she was the single girl on a 9 member team and always wished there were more female engineers. Maria then moved to the United States to gain her MBA from Illinois State University and got a Digital Marketing Certification from the Univerity of Washington. For the past four years she has been working as a digitial marketer. She enjoys focusing on research-based and data-driven marketing to make decisions. Maria currently lives in Seatlle with her husband and two boys. In her free time, she enjoys travelling with her family, hiking, paddle-boarding and baking healthy goodies. Maria's favorite woman in STEM is 2020 TIME Kid of the Year, Gitanjali Rao.
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.
Grace Kennedy, Grants Specialist
Grace has worked in nonprofit communications and fundraising for over a decade. As a mom of two, she is especially proud to be part of the work Project Scientist is doing to support the next generation of STEM Superstars. Prior to launching a freelance writing business in 2016, Grace served in administrative and marketing roles at Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara in California. She holds a degree in Spanish from the University of New Mexico and a master's degree in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. In addition to her work with Project Scientist, she writes for Charlotte-area publications, co-leads her daughter's Girl Scout troop, and serves on a leadership team at her children's public school. Grace's favorite woman in STEM is Titi Shodiya.