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Women in SciTech

Women have long been overlooked in the science and technology field despite their incredible contributions. OPEN will highlight women in sci-tech by providing a platform to discuss their research and work. This informative and entertaining series will feature impressive women who could inspire anyone considering a career in science or technology. 


Interview with Mwende Njiraini

Women in Sci-Tech Host Syra Mehdi Interviews Megan Brown, Researcher, University of Maryland, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

Host Syra Mehdi interviews Megan Brown, researcher in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Maryland.  Ms. Brown’s research advisor is Professor Ning Zeng.   Megan and fellow student researchers and Professor Zeng will be studying climate change for OPEN’s two-year research project on CO2 and Greenhouse Gas in a select area in a Liberia rainforest.  Megan, her fellow students, and advisor Professor Zeng will be setting up IoT sensor network arrays with OPEN technical teams, to analyze and report their findings on carbon sequestration in native tree and flora species.  Hope you enjoy hearing about Ms. Brown’s exciting and important leading edge science research work and what it can mean for our future.


Episode 10 welcomes the accomplished and enthusiastic Haley Kragness, who is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University. She is interested in how we learn musical patterns implicitly as we grow and has published numerous papers with a focus on children psychology and music. In this episode, we discuss what the term “musicality” means, how children perceive music, and a baby opera! Watch this informative and exciting episode to find out more. 

The Singing Brain - EPISODE 9

What a pleasure it was to speak with Dr. Srishti Nayak this week! As a postdoctoral research fellow at the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab, she is studying what human musical rhythm and language traits have in common at the biological level. She is also working on understanding how we interpret and use rhythms in speech input in meaningful ways for communication. We discuss the connections between music and language, how to define musical ability, and whether music can help someone learn a language. 

The Singing Brain - EPISODE 7

We are thrilled to have Swathi Swaminathan join us on episode 7 of Singing Brain. As a postdoctoral associate, her work involves studying artistic (especially musical) engagement and cognitive development and change across one’s lifespan. Swathi informs me of how time can change our perception of music, the educational and cultural relevance of music, and her favorite findings from her work in research. Ultimately, Swathi hopes her research will provide a better understanding of how the arts, mind and brain together contribute to how we live our lives.

Interview with Nicole Musimbi

Nicole Musimbi is a UI/UX designer and analyst at Dimitra, an international company with a mission to deliver AgTech globally to farmers. She is involved in translating requirements into attractive user interface by understanding business requirements, and user perspective. As Quality Analyst and Researcher at Blockchain Guru, she was involved in developing and performing quality test processes for Tamvoes mobile app, reporting bugs found in the app and leading Live testing with developers and technical team.  She also participated in creating content for Blockchain, AI and robotics courses Prior to her roles in Blockchain and Agritech.  Nicole has successfully managed Eskke, a mobile money application in the DRC where she was involved in project management and
business development.  Nicole Musimbi has a Bachelor Degree in Computer Engineering from the Christian Bilingual University of Congo.

The Singing Brain - Episode 6

Episode 6 takes a deep dive into rhythm, speech, and how music can affect both. Anna Fiveash is a cognitive psychologist interested in the diverse connections between music and language, and how we can use these connections to uncover underlying cognitive processes in the brain. She enlightened me on the diverse ways that music can affect the brain, the positive effects it can have, and how it is related to language. Watch this episode of Singing Brain to find out more.

Interview with Dr. Sara Seager

OPEN was honored to host Dr. Sara Seager, a world-renowned expert in the search for life beyond earth.  Co-hosted by Ashley Ruiz and Syra Mehdi of OPEN’s Women in Sci-Tech Series, Dr. Seager updated us on her and her colleagues’ potentially civilization-altering work since our last interview in 2016.  

In the conversation we discussed the recent unexpected but tantalizing findings of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus (possibly signaling microbial life), and the search for life within our own solar system on Mars and in the subsurface seas of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.  We also discussed new telescopes and technologies about to be commissioned and launched deep into space as well as future probes to Venus, and a fleet of small lightsails (microchip ships) to our nearest stars.  


We got an update on a starshade system Dr. Seager and her team have designed and recently proposed.  With such a starshade system they would be able to actually image other planets (Exoplanets) around distant stars that are less luminous than our sun.  Many of these new technologies will be searching for Earth-like rocky worlds as well as a new class of planets called sub-Neptune planets, and even Exo-moons.  


The James Webb space telescope slated for launch in October of 2021 will be measuring the gases in the atmospheres of some of these planets to determine if life somewhat akin to ours exists out there.  We also discussed SETI and the recent mysterious shiny visitor from another solar system Oumuamua (which is the Hawaiian word for “scout”).  


Please give a watch, as young apprentice astronomers will find lots of inspiration from Professor Seager’s words to hopefully come up with novel next generation technologies to further advance this ground-breaking research.

Join us in this interview with the wonderful Mwende! Mwende Njiraini is a Telecommunication Engineer by profession and is currently the African Initiative Coordinator at DiploFoundation. In this episode, we discuss her work with diplomacy, how she came into the engineering field, and our shared love of baking! 

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