Every year, female STEM professionals are invited to share their experiences and interest in science, technology, engineering, and math with the participants of the madiSTEM Conference.

The 2023 Morning speakers are Leslie Dutt and Erin Johnson from Merck. Leslie Dutt was born and raised in the area, graduating from Harrisonburg High School in 1985.  She attended Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, graduating with a BS in Chemical Engineering with a Law and Legal Studies Minor.  She started her career at Hoffmann-La Roche in New Jersey and moved to Texas to open a new manufacturing facility.  She earned an MBA at the University of Houston through a program catered to working employees, engaging different backgrounds including oil, gas and energy. After surviving the heat and humidity in Texas for 8 years, she moved back to the Valley and joined Merck in Elkton in 1997.  She held several roles starting with safety and environment, analyzing hazardous chemicals and reactions to ensure appropriate safety controls were in place. She moved to the technical organization, solving problems, implementing process improvements and investigating manufacturing deviations.  She won an award for her project to recover and reuse acetonitrile during a worldwide shortage of the solvent.   From 2016 to 2020, Ms. Dutt left Merck and the world of pharmaceuticals to teach an entry level statistics and data analysis course at JMU in the College of Business.  In 2020, mid-pandemic, she returned to Merck in a technical role supporting projects in manufacturing and coordinating with regulatory agencies around the world.   Fun fact: Old style calculators turned upside down will spell LESLIE using numbers! 

Ms. Erin Johnson grew up in upstate NY in a rural small town on Lake Champlain.  She attended Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, graduating with a BS in Chemical Engineering.  She then earned a Master of Engineering degree in Chemical Engineering with concentration in Bioprocess Engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.  During college, she completed several co-op and internships in both the semi-conductor field (IBM) and pharmaceuticals (Wyeth-Ayerst).  She started her career in 1995 at the Merck manufacturing site in Elkton, VA working in Environmental Engineering where she mathematically modeled air emissions, developed controls, and worked with the VA DEQ to approve permitting for new processes on site. Erin held many roles in both manufacturing operations and technical operations supporting fermentation, organic synthesis and other biotechnology areas.  These roles focused on ensuring processes continued to run safely and compliantly on a daily basis, and delivered our product supply as needed to the patients.  In 2013 she transitioned to capital project leadership roles where she led the successful construction, start up and validation of a biologic product, and most recently a vaccine manufacturing facility expansion.  Erin’s current role is Vaccine Technical Product Leader in Merck’s Global Large Molecule/Vaccine Manufacturing Science and Technology team. In this role, Erin is overseeing the technical performance of a vaccine made in North Carolina, as well as support for the new facility being built to manufacture this product.  Since 2018 Ms. Johnson has served on the JMU CISE Executive Advisory Committee, supporting JMU’s Science and Engineering programs.  She similarly supports engineering programs at GMU and Cornell.  She also has participated in several JMU Women in STEM activities with students.  Erin and her family live just outside of Harrisonburg, VA.


The 2023 Afternoon speaker is Dr. Ray Ann Havasy. Dr. Havasy has been a scientist, educator, and not-for-profit business executive for over 20 years. She received her Bachelor’s Degrees in zoology and education from Connecticut College and Davis and Elkins College, and her Masters and Doctorate Degrees in biology and education from Columbia University. She was a science teacher, a district wide science coordinator, and a middle school principal.  She is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL), a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging people in STEM learning. CSTL has done projects for NBC News, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and others. IN 2020, CSTL opened Dinosaurs! and Animal Adventure, two new attractions.  Dr. Havasy is a tireless advocate for students and she has been interviewed by NY Times, USA Today, and other media. She has traveled throughout the world, speaking about the importance of STEM and has been part of a national initiative to bring Project Based Learning into classrooms. She served as the STEM Education Specialist for the Singapore Board of Science and Technology and she is currently the STEM specialist for the government of the Grand Caymans.   

The 2022 Morning speaker was Dr. Anca Constantin, JMU Department of Physics and Astronomy (Ph.D. in Astrophysics).

The 2022 Afternoon speaker was Dr. Michelle Hesse, JMU Department of Health Professions (Registered Dietician and Ph.D. in Nutrition) 

Our planned speakers for the 2020 conference were Dr. Ray Ann Havasy, founder and director of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning in Rockville Center, NY, and Dr. Anca Constantin, an Associate Professor in JMU’s Physics and Astronomy Department.  Unfortunately, the 2020 conference was cancelled approximately 1 week before the conference due to COVID-19.

The 2019 Morning speaker was Dr. Jerri Alexiou, a board certified dermatologist practicing in Harrisonburg since 2001.

The 2019 Afternoon speaker was Dr. Linda Thomas, director of the School of Integrated Science at JMU (Ph.D. in Architecture and Building Construction, B.S. & M.A. in Civil Engineer, Law Degree)

The 2018 Morning speaker was Dr. Angela Jarrett, a Peter O'Donnell, Jr. postdoctoral fellow in the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

The 2018 Afternoon speaker was Ms. Marne Martin (Bachelor's degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, Masters degree in International Management from ESCP Europe in Paris France, and MBA from Krannert School of Management at Purdue University).

The 2017 Morning speaker was Dr. Cynthia Bauerle, JMU College of Science and Mathematics (Ph.D. Molecular Biology).

The 2017 Afternoon Speaker was Ms. Beth Mellott, Booz Allen Hamilton (B.S. Computer Science, M.A. Education).

The 2016 Morning speaker was Dr. Theresa Rutledge, Preston Memorial Hospital (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)

The 2016 Afternoon speaker was Dr. Morgan Steffen, JMU Department of Biology (Ph.D. Microbiology)

The 2015 Morning Speaker was Dr. Shalyn CrawfordFour Star Equine Veterinary Services (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine).

The 2015 Afternoon Speaker was Dr. Kimberly F. Sellers, Georgetown University (Ph.D. Statistics).

The 2014 Morning Speaker was Dr. Melyni Worth, Foxden Equine (Ph.D. Equine Nutrition and Exercise Physiology).

The 2014 Afternoon Speaker was Dr. Caroline Lubert, JMU Department of Mathematics and Statistics (Ph.D. Engineering).

The 2013 Opening Speaker was Dr. Elise Barrella, JMU Department of Engineering (Ph.D Civil Engineering).

The 2013 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Crystal Brogan, National Radio Astronomy Observatory (Ph.D. Physics and Astronomy).

The 2012 Opening Speaker was Dr. Debra Warne, JMU Department of Mathematics and Statistics (Ph.D. Mathematics).

The 2012 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Alissa S. Crans, Loyola Marymount University (Ph.D. Mathematics).

The 2011 Opening Speaker was Dr. Carla Martin,  JMU Department of Mathematics and Statistics (Ph.D. Applied Mathematics).

The 2011 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Rebecca Goldin, George Mason University (Ph.D. Mathematics).

The 2010 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Kyle Myers, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Ph.D. Optical Sciences).

The 2009 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Kathryn Thornton, former NASA astronaut (Ph.D. Physics).

The 2008 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Monica Neagoy (Ph.D. Mathematics Education).

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