Communication Lab

Diana-ChienDiana Chien
Program Director, Communication Lab

Dr. Diana Chien has worked with the MIT Communication Lab since its launch in 2013, and became program director in the spring of 2017, following the departure of founder Jaime Goldstein. From 2013-2015, Diana was a Biological Engineering (BE) Communication Fellow, while she was a PhD student in the Microbiology graduate program. From 2016-2017, she led the BE Communication Lab and taught the communication curricula for BE’s two communication-intensive undergraduate courses. During that time, she also led the launch of the Communication Lab’s suite of online resources, the CommKit, which she co-designed with BE Communication Fellow alumnus Dr. Scott Olesen.

Diana’s dedication to science communication grows out of her longtime passion for both biology and writing: as an undergraduate at Princeton University, she majored in ecology and evolutionary biology and minored in creative writing. Her poetry has received awards from and been published in major literary magazines. She is thrilled to be able to combine her two passions through her work with the Communication Lab.

Prerna Bhargava
Program Manager, Biological Engineering Communication Lab

Dr. Prerna Bhargava works with the Biological Engineering Communication Fellow team to innovate in the space of scientific communication. She is also an instructor in the Biological Engineering department teaching the communication components of 20.109 (Lab Fundamentals in Biological Engineering) and 20.380 (Biological Engineering Design).

Originally from Connecticut, she graduated from Brandeis University with a dual degree in biology and legal studies. She completed her PhD at Harvard University under Dr. Chih-Hao Lee, and her postdoc at MIT in Dr. Jim Collins’ lab. Her interdisciplinary research has encompassed molecular biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, and cellular biology. During this time, Prerna also mentored dozens of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. She has TA’d and taught several classes, from dance to medical microbiology, and was a Communication Fellow with the Broad Research Communication Lab. Through all these experiences, Prerna has developed a deep interest in supporting higher education and improving the classroom experience to make science more accessible, encourage more students to enter and stay in STEM fields, and support critical thinking beyond the classroom.

Svetlana Boriskina
Manager, Mechanical Engineering Communication Lab

Dr. Svetlana Boriskina works with a team of Mechanical Engineering Communication Fellows to provide resources and guidance to MechE students, post-docs, and faculty in communicating their research to the world and advancing their careers in technical fields. Svetlana is also a Research Scientist in MechE, leading research projects on solar energy harvesting, optical sensing, and smart materials design.

Originally from Ukraine, Svetlana holds a Ph.D. degree in Physics and Mathematics from the Kharkov National University, one of leading research universities in the former USSR. She worked at the University of Nottingham in UK and at Boston University prior to joining MIT in 2012. Her interdisciplinary research and teaching expertise ranges from optics and electrical engineering to solid state physics and thermodynamics. She has long been dedicated to student mentorship, and has guided dozens of middle-to-grad-school student mentees during her career in academia. She leverages her experience as an editor at the Journal of Optics and Optics Express, a symposia organizer for the Materials Research Society and the Optical Society of America, and a proposal reviewer for the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy to improve science communication in MechE.

Marina DangMarina Dang
Manager, Nuclear Science and Engineering Communication Lab

Dr. Marina Dang joined MIT in 2014 to launch the Communication Lab program in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Marina holds a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from Brandeis University where she studied protein structure, function, and dynamics. Upon graduating, she taught Principles of Chemistry at Emmanuel College before becoming a science curriculum developer at Ergopedia, now part of PASCO Scientific. Marina’s passion for teaching, both in formal and informal settings, stems from her belief that each individual holds great potential. Whether Marina taught thermodynamics at Emmanuel, coached underserved students through the Posse Foundation, or tutored immigrants for a nonprofit organization, her motivation has been to instill a sense of empowerment in all her students. She is excited to continue this work in her role at the Communication Lab.

Caitlin Stier
Manager, Chemical Engineering Communication Lab

Caitlin Stier serves as the ChemE Communication Lab manager. She brings over ten years of experience working as a science communicator and producer in publishing, broadcast, and education. She earned a B.A. in Biological Sciences from Smith College and an M.S. in Science Journalism from Boston University, where she also served as a graduate writing fellow.

From research briefs to a YouTube miniseries, Caitlin has designed science communication in a range of media, for a range of audiences. Prior to her role in ChemE, Caitlin developed educational resources for PBS LearningMedia that taught kindergarteners about topics like solar flares using NASA media. Her work as a reporter for New Scientist exposed her to the realities of distilling complex science for a broad audience, while her role at Nature Publishing Group taught her how to formulate content for other experts.

Caitlin is thrilled to use her experience to help chemical engineers expand the reach and impact of their research through effective communication. She sees good communication as a practice any engineer can master with the right tools and guidance.

Akshata Sonni
Program Manager, Broad Research Communication Lab

Akshata strives to create scientific narratives that are both informative and compelling, leveraging her professional training and overall love for science in doing so. She completed her graduate studies in the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience, and was struck by the extent to which scientific progress is reliant on effective communication within – and between – scientific and non-scientific communities. As the Manager of the Broad Research Communication Lab, she is committed to helping researchers at Broad articulate their science more effectively in order to engage a broader audience. In addition, as a Science Writer for the Office of Academic Affairs, she enjoys learning and writing about the Broad’s cutting-edge research, as well as the incredible scientists behind it.

Alison-TakemuraAlison Takemura
Manager, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Communication Lab

Dr. Alison Takemura loves wading into a good science story. Her first was her MIT doctoral thesis project, unlocking the gastronomical genome of a Vibrio bacterium. For some of the Vibrio‘s meals, she collected seaweed from the rocky, Atlantic coastline at low tide. (Occasionally, its waves swept her off her feet.) During grad school, Alison was also a fellow in MIT’s Biological Engineering Communication Lab. Helping students share their science with their instructors and peers, she began to crave the ability to tell the stories of other scientists, and the marvels they discover, to a broader audience. So after graduating in 2015 with a microbiology doctorate, she trekked to the Pacific coast to study science communication at the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, she learned how to interview people, write feature stories, create podcasts, shoot videos, and finally, drive. Her stories were about pesticide residues in children, HIV in South Africa, rainforests in Australia, calorie-burning brown fat, and what hide behind Jupiter’s clouds. Alison graduated in 2016, and like a homing pigeon, has migrated back to MIT. Now the EECS Communication Lab manager, she’s thrilled to support the learning and growing of early scientists — eager to share their own stories.

Gordon Engineering Leadership Program

Joel SchindallJoel Schindall
Faculty Director
Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, UPOP, Communication Lab

Professor Schindall re-joined the MIT faculty in June of 2002 after a 35 year career in the defense, aerospace and telecommunications industries. His research includes the invention and development of a nanotube-enhanced ultracapacitor which holds the promise of being superior to electrochemical batteries as a means of efficient regenerative electrical energy storage, and he has also supervised research on dynamic simulation and reliability analysis of complex safety-critical systems.He has co-developed and taught a required senior course in communication skills, including units on conceptual thinking, giving presentations, how to be effective in industry, cross-cultural skills, and engineering ethics, and he is developing a course on engineering design. As co-director of the Bernard M. Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program, Dr. Schindall is actively engaged in a program to enhance, expand, focus, and disseminate the teaching of engineering design and leadership within the MIT School of Engineering.

Prior to joining MIT, Dr. Schindall was VP and Chief Technology Officer of Loral Space and Communications (a manufacturer and operator of commercial satellites), Sr. VP and Chief Engineer for Globalstar (a 48 satellite LEO mobile phone system), and President of Loral Conic (a manufacturer of telemetry systems for missiles and satellites). Dr. Schindall received his B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from MIT in 1963, 1964 and 1967. During his graduate years he was lecturer and wrote the text for a 140 student introductory electronics course, he received an award for excellence in teaching, and he was chief engineer for WBCN, a commercial FM radio station.

Eliana RunyonEliana Runyon
Manager of Finance and Administration, Gordon Engineering Leadership Program

Eliana Marques Runyon is the Manager of Finance and Administration for the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program. Previously, she was an Area Officer in the Management Science Area and Assistant Director at the Office of External Relations at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Eliana has served in leadership roles for 25 years: prior to coming to MIT, she worked to establish a theological institute in the Portuguese language based in Malden, MA. Eliana also served as a regional superintendent of a group of churches in Massachusetts for many years, teaching leadership development and community engagement. She is a lecturer in the Master’s program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), and co-pastors the Lynn Foursquare Church with her husband.

Eliana earned the degrees of Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and holds a Bachelor Degree in Education from PUC-SP in Brazil. Actively involved in community organizing in Lynn and a board member in the Lynn Community Association, Eliana also enjoys playing the piano and keyboards, singing and reading.