Meet the Core Organizers

The Access Network is led by a team of Core Organizers (COs). The COs are responsible for maintaining all of the activities of the Network, in collaboration with the Assembly Fellows, Network Fellows, and the members of various Task Forces.

A portrait of Luis Miguel de Jesús Astacio

Luis Miguel de Jesús Astacio (he/him) is a senior Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His doctoral research focuses on how microbes recycle nutrients. Luis’ involvement with the Access Network started when he joined the leadership of Illinois GPS at UIUC. Since then, he has assumed different roles within the Network as part of the Access Assembly: Assembly Fellow (AF), AF mentor and now as Core Organizer (CO).  His primary interests as a CO are to help run and improve the Emergency Fund started as a response to the COVID pandemic and provide quantitative evaluation/research on the Network. In his free time, he enjoys camping, fishing, training and working on his life-long dream of living in an off-grid self-sustainable farm.  

Mackenzie Carlson (she/her) is a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. She is a part of the Sounding Rocket Group, where she co-leads the current rocket mission, OAxFORTIS, which is equipped with a far-UV spectroscopic and imaging telescope. Mackenzie first started in Access as an undergraduate student at University of Maryland, College Park where she became involved with the UMD Access site, Equity Constellation. In addition to being a leader of Equity Constellation, she also acted as an Assembly Fellow for two years. As an Assembly Fellow, she helped organize the Annual Access Assembly. In 2022, she acted as an Assembly Fellow mentor and became a Core Organizer. Experiencing each level of Access throughout a pivotal period of her career had a tremendous influence on her outlook on academia and supportive communities. In her free time, she enjoys painting and spending time in nature and with her partner and babies (furry and plant).

Noah Charles (he/him) is the Scholar in Residence in Physics at Reed College. His research focuses on the physics of electron localization in 2D materials. As a graduate student, Noah co-founded Ohio State’s Polaris Access site; in this capacity, he helped launch both a mentorship program and summer early-start opportunity for Physics and Astronomy undergrads. Within the broader Access Network, Noah has served as a task force member and now Core Organizer. Noah’s values Access both for its contributions to his own development and as he sees it creating change in many academic institutions.

A photo of Joel Corbo holding a box of one dozen assorted doughnutsJoel Corbo (he/him) is a senior research associate at the University of Colorado Boulder. He studies and implements structures for supporting institutional change in higher education at the department level (e.g., the DAT Project and the EP3 DALIs). He is an Access co-founder and Core Organizer, and he also helped to found and lead the Berkeley Compass Project (one of the original Access sites) back when he was a grad student in the Berkeley physics department. As a Core Organizer, Joel has worked on back-end logistics for the CO team and has co-mentored six teams of Assembly Fellows in planning Access Assemblies. He greatly values the relationships and community that he has formed by being part of Access.

A profile picture of Scott Franklin holding coffee

Scott Franklin (he/him) is a Professor of Physics at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His research interests include granular materials, particularly non-round particles that entangle, professional development of emerging education researchers, and how faculty change through their participation in diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice programming. He started RIT’s IMPRESS program, an original Access site, to explore student metacognition in the classroom and has been an Access CO since the Network’s formation. He is deeply appreciative of all he has learned from Access COs, AFs and NFs, and other participating students and truly values how Access centers the voices of students, an unfortunate rarity in academia. Scott’s hobbies include coffee and ultimate frisbee, and he continues to push his body to explore the limits of how much of both it can tolerate.

Brianne Gutmann (she/her) is currently an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, working with the HSI Program at the NSF, after which she will join San José State University as an Assistant Professor in 2022! She does physics education research, with interests in adaptive online learning tools, identity-responsive mentoring and community building, queer folks’ experiences in STEM, and conversations about ethics, science, and society in physics classrooms. She completed her doctoral work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was a co-founder and co-leader of Illinois GPS, which joined The Access Network in 2016. This was her introduction to the wonderful network of mentors, friends, and collaborators that is the Access Network, and she has been grateful for the chance to collectively learn, together and from each other while navigating academia and building her priorities in that space. In her role as a Core Organizer, she has co-mentored fellow cohorts and co-led task forces, in addition to ongoing ideation and logistics within the organizer team. She also enjoys knitting presents for friends, watching cheesy sci-fi, taking lots of pictures of her orange cats, and is well-known for giving the best hugs in Access.

Gloria Lee (she/her) is a full-time lecturer in the Department of Physics and Biophysics at the University of San Diego, with a background in experimental biophysics research. She has been part of the Access Network in various capacities, first as a student in the Compass Project at UC Berkeley, then as co-founder of Illinois GPS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and now as a Core Organizer. She has contributed to the Access Network via grant-writing and town-hall organizing, and hopes to help with documentation and evaluation in the near future. The supportive community and justice-oriented values that Access embodies has deeply influenced her views on physics research and education, and she is so grateful for the mentorship and friendship that she has gained from being part of the network. In her free time, she enjoys trying new recipes and admiring plants.

A headshot of Kristy Mardis

Kristy Mardis (she/her) is a Professor of Chemistry at Chicago State University on the south side of Chicago, Illinois where she has taught general and physical chemistry since 2004. She received her PhD in theoretical chemistry from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and was an NRC Post-doctoral fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Her current research interests are using density functional theory techniques to study electron transfer processes that are critical for improving solar energy driven devices. In addition to working with her undergraduate students in the classroom and lab, she is a faculty advisor for chemistry majors. As part of that role, she became involved in ACCESS and supports CSU students as they engage in ACCESS sponsored activities. Outside of work, she likes to read and grow tomatoes and laments the length of the growing season in northern Illinois.

A picture of Emily Mehlman with her arms outstretched in front of a waterfall

Emily Mehlman (she/her) is the Program Manager for the IMPRESS (Integrating Metacognitive Practices and Research to Enhance Student Success) and Learning Assistant Programs at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). In these roles, Emily teaches classes in pedagogy and metacognition, mentors students in best practices in teaching and learning, and supports student-faculty partnerships with the goal of transforming classes towards more active learning. Prior to working at RIT, she completed her PhD at Dartmouth College studying how serotonin impacts the physiology of neural circuits and then became a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Rochester studying human neurophysiology. Within Access, Emily has enjoyed mentoring students in the Network Fellow role, supporting students in making change in their home departments, and collaborating with others to make STEM a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive space. In her spare time, Emily enjoys reading (sci-fi, fantasy, zombie apocalypse… basically any fiction!), making Kombucha, and watching old episodes of Survivor with her husband, new baby, and two cats.

Yasmeen Musthafa (they/them) is a Junior Scientist at TAE Technologies, a nuclear fusion startup located in Southern California. They primarily work on spectroscopic plasma diagnostics for magnetically confined fusion plasmas. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Yasmeen first became involved with Access through Compass, and became a Core Organizer while getting their M.S. in plasma physics at UC Irvine. Yasmeen has always enjoyed teaching, mentorship, and collaboratively working to address equity issues in physics, and Access was a natural extension of their previous work advocating for marginalized physicists inside and outside of the classroom. Yasmeen’s hobbies include reading, cooking, spending time with loved ones, and engaging in a diverse array of fiber arts such as knitting, sewing, and weaving.

A photo of Ben Pollard

Ben Pollard (he/him)  is an Assistant Teaching Professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA. He is a physics education researcher whose research focuses on teaching and learning in physics laboratory courses. Before his current job, he was a graduate student and postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder. As a graduate student, Ben was a co-founder of CU-Prime, one of the original Access sites. As an Access Core Organizer, Ben has worked on the back-end logistics of the CO team, he has co-facilitated task forces, and he has co-mentored one round of Network Fellows. Ben is continually inspired by the Access community, and feels that Access has profoundly shaped his professional outlook and identity. When not doing physics, Ben enjoys making music as a bassoonist and as a singer. He met his partner, who works as an academic coach, in a music ensemble! 

A photo of Gina QuanGina Quan (she/her) is an Assistant Professor at San José State University in San José, CA. She is a co-founder of the Access Network and current co-mentor for the Network Fellows. Prior to coming to SJSU, she was a Research Associate at the University of Colorado Boulder where she studied institutional change. She received her Physics PhD from the University of Maryland, College Park Campus where she studied physics education research and was co-founder of the UMD Access Site (now called Equity Constellation). As an undergraduate student, she was a participant and leader in the Compass Project. As a current Core Organizer, Gina loves supporting student leaders in helping enact their goals and participating in consensus-based decisionmaking. Outside of work, Gina enjoys powerlifting and cooking with lots of butter.

Devyn Shafer (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Physics Education Research Group in the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on students transitions from high school to post-secondary engineering programs. Devyn has served in a leadership role in Illinois GPS since 2019. She participated in the Access Network as a Network Fellow and Assembly Fellow before joining the Core Organizer team in 2022. As a Core Organizer, she is currently working with the research and evaluation team. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her animals.

A photo of Chandra Turpen

Chandra Turpen (she/her) is a co-founder of the Access Network and collaboratively established the University of Maryland site, Equity Constellation, along with student leaders. Since the founding of the Network, she has served as a core organizer. Through this role, she has mentored multiple cohorts of Network Fellows and one cohort of Assembly Fellows (for the 2021 Access Assembly). She has led the Network’s evaluation activities and has mentored student leaders in conducting pilot research studies on the Network’s impacts on student leaders. She deeply values the opportunities to learn and grow that arise from relationships with Access student leaders and fellow COs. For her, Access Network is an essential space for learning to share power and to lean into critical feedback.  Dr. Chandra Turpen is also a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland. She has expertise in physics education research and engineering education research. Her work involves designing and researching contexts for learning (for students, educators, and faculty) within higher education. Her research draws from perspectives in anthropology, cultural psychology, and the learning sciences to focus on the role of culture and ideology in science learning and educational change. Her research interests include how to: (a) disrupt problematic cultural narratives in STEM (e.g. brilliance narratives, meritocracy, and individualistic competition); (b) cultivate equity-minded approaches in educational spheres, where educators take responsibility for racialized inequities in student success; and (c) cultivate more ethical future scientists and engineers by blending social, political and technological spheres. She prioritizes working on projects that seek to share power with students and orient to students as partners in educational transformation. She pursues projects that aim to advance social justice in undergraduate STEM programs and she makes these struggles for change a direct focus of her research. Chandra enjoys listening to live music, gardening, cycling, camping, reading books in a hammock, and taking adventures in her camper van.