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Mills College

Department of Chemistry and Physics


The Chan-Norris Conversations in Science series

Spring 2016


Seminars held on Wednesdays in room NSB 213 at noon.

Lunch provided!


Co-sponsored by the Environmental Sciences Program, Career Services and the Provost’s Office.


Advocating the Chan-Norris endowment goal of enhancing and expanding the Mills College Natural Science curriculum.


Come join us for fun and enlightening conversations with some of the Bay Area’s most interesting science-based professionals. In addition to talking about what they do and why, they are here to clue you in on some of the rewards and challenges of life after college in a science and tech-minded world.


Students in all majors invited. Not your typical seminar talk!


Feb. 3

Mrs. Melanie Adams

Microbiologist, Food Safety Laboratory

Mrs. Adams has more than 12 years experience in the biotech industry on both the East and West coasts. She has worked in microbiology R&D, validation, and food safety laboratories, in positions ranging from analyst to supervisor. After moving to the Bay Area 7 years ago, she explored many of the complicated and exciting avenues for science careers in the rich and active local environment of technological growth. She will talk about the trials and tribulations of securing work as a science professional and potentially about balancing life outside and inside the lab. She has been a food safety microbiologist in her current position for 5 years. Currently, she is part of the team that keeps our food safe; a round the clock job! She has a B.S. in Environmental and Forest Biology from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry and a M.S. in Medical Microbiology from Long Island University, C.W. Post campus. Mrs. Adams is married and lives with her husband and daughter in Alameda joined by their lovable dog.


Feb. 17

Ms. Marisa Taylor

Winemaker, Rutherford Hills Winery

Ms. Taylor is a highly recognized winemaker at the forefront of her field, who has been crafting fine wines since she was 23 years old.  She has been at Rutherford Hill Winery, part of the Terlato Wine Group, for more than 11 years where she heads the winemaking team and directs one of the largest wineries in the famed Napa Valley. She has also worked at a number of other well regarded wineries in the area including Williams Selyem and J Wine Co.  She will discuss her interest in and passion for enology which includes the disciplines of microbiology, chemistry, plant and sensory sciences.  In addition, she will share her insights into a very competitive and mythological industry in the heart of one of the world’s best-known wine regions. She received her B.S. in Chemistry and her M.S. in Food Science and Enology both from University of California, Davis. She lives with her son in Santa Rosa.


March 2

Dr. Jill Fuss, Ph.D.

CTO and Co-Founder of CinderBio and Research Scientist, LBNL

Dr. Fuss is one of the rising stars in molecular biology whose research encompasses understanding the molecular basis of cancer and aging. She uses some of the largest instruments to measure the smallest and most intricate machines ever evolved, or in other words Dr. Fuss uses the synchrotron to look at the X-ray crystal structure of DNA repair protein complexes. Not to be siloed into purely health-related research, she is also one of the founders of the award-winning and highly recognized biotech startup CinderBio where she has pioneered the characterization and development of novel ultra-stable enzymes derived from the most extreme microbes on Earth for a wide variety of “green technology” applications. She will walk us through what life is like for a research scientist jointly at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, one of the world’s finest research centers, as well as a CTO of a rapidly growing biotech company with a bright future. She continues to win awards and publish academic papers while balancing all that life has to offer! Dr. Fuss earned her B.A. in Environmental Science from Wesleyan University and her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of California, Berkeley. She lives with her husband and their two children in Oakland.


March 30

Dr. April Fredian, M.D.

Founder/Principal, Lake Merritt Family Practice

Dr. Fredian is helping to blaze a new pathway in the practice and provision of medicine. After years of experience including working in biotech and in a traditional medical practice office, she developed a healthcare approach that focuses on providing as much time as possible for patient-doctor interaction and emphasizing prevention for the whole individual and family. To this end, she founded a medical practice where patients have nearly unlimited access to the doctor while also allowing for her, as the doctor, to maintain a healthy work/life balance. She uses disruptive technology to facilitate her practice as well as old fashioned options including house calls! Dr. Fredian’s approach has been wildly successful and her practice continues to grow. Her conversation will no doubt enlighten on how her upbringing influenced her penchant and vision for change as well as how to navigate life decisions in such a complicated world. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and following a brief interlude working in biotech and seeing the country by train, she finished her M.D. from St. George’s University School of Medicine, doing her clinical at the Brooklyn Hospital with Cornell students followed by a residency in Family Practice at Brown University. She lives in Oakland.


April 13

Dr. Jane Macfarlane, Ph.D.

Chief Scientist and Head of Research, HERE

Dr. Macfarlane has had a wildly productive and inspiring career. Initially trained as an engineer she received her B.A. in Math/System Sciences from UCLA and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering both from the University of Minnesota. She has worked in wide ranging settings from the early days of Hewlett Packard and Hughes Aircraft Company to DOE National Laboratories including Berkeley Labs and Livermore National Laboratory. She may enlighten us on what the early days of “high performance computing” were like at LBNL or her efforts designing and supporting the first digital systems to handle genome sequencing data. She has been Principal Investigator on federally funded grants in government settings as well as Chief Technical Officer and other high level management positions in major industrial organizations such as General Motors, AT&T and Nokia. She lives in Oakland with her partner and their dogs.


April 27

Dr. Jill Tarter, Ph.D.

Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI, SETI Institute

To say that Dr. Tarter needs no introduction may be cliche, but in this case it is overwhelmingly true. Dr. Tarter has blazed a path not just as a scientist, not just as a woman, but as a humble Earthling towards the pursuit and understanding of our place in the Universe. Trained as an astronomer, she has done more to promote our understanding of both just how vast space is but also how critical science education is to continue our exploration and unraveling of the mysteries around us. She is perpetually asking the question “Are we alone?” and seeking the answer to this profound and old inquiry through compelling work in radio astronomy and other astronomical projects. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio observatories worldwide. Dr. Tarter maintains her scientific endeavors while balancing life with her family. Dr. Tarter has a remarkably active travel schedule, publication list and speaking engagements ranging from public forums like TED to the U.S. National Academies. She is a Fellow of the AAAS, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Explorers Club, she was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004, and one of the Time 25 in Space in 2012, received a TED prize in 2009, two public service awards from NASA, multiple awards for communicating science to the public, and has been honored as a woman in technology. She was the 2014 Jansky Lecturer. In 2015 she became President of the California Academy of Sciences. Asteroid 74824 Tarter (1999 TJ16) has been named in her honor. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993, she has served in a leadership role to design and build the Allen Telescope Array and to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science of SETI. Many people are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact. She can speak to a wide range of scientific concepts as well as how she made her choices in career and life. Dr. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics degree with Distinction from Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. She lives with her family in the Berkeley Hills.


Questions? Contact Dr. Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Chan-Norris Visiting Professor,


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