60 Attend “Women in STEM Roundtable” at EnviroScience

November 17, 2017

STOW, OH (November 8, 2017) – EnviroScience hosted more than 60 people at its headquarters last week for a special roundtable event discussing the mentoring gap for women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).  Although the attendees were mostly local women from the Northeast Ohio region, they were from diverse disciplines—science, engineering, business, education, biomedical, etc.  Their professional experiences ranged from just starting out in high school to women with 50+ years of expertise in their fields.  Guests had the opportunity to mix and mingle before and after the panel discussion, sharing ideas and personal stories of inspiration and hurdles they have had to overcome during their careers.

The night started out with an introduction of the panelists by Mary-Jane Stanchina, Executive Director of the Six District Educational Compact.  Ms. Stanchina has been CEO of the Six District Educational Compact for 33 years.  She runs an educational program that has provided key services for over 25,000 students in Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Kent, Stow-Munroe Falls, Tallmadge City Schools, and Woodridge Local Schools.  The program allows students to earn college credits while preparing them for a higher readiness to enter college. 

The five panelists were women with exemplary resumes and brought decades of wisdom to the discussion.  The first panelist was Nikki Burt, Ph.D, Curator of Human Health and Evolutionary Medicine at Museum of Natural History.  As Curator, Dr. Burt is responsible for educating the community about health, designing the new health-focused gallery at the museum, and doing her own research. She is a Biological Anthropologist with a focus on understanding diet and health by combining quantitative (such as stable isotope analysis) and qualitative methods.

The second panelist was Laura Leff, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Biological Sciences Kent State University.  As a professor at KSU, Dr. Laura Leff seeks to integrate different fields of science and dovetail research and educational initiatives. Research in her lab focuses on uncovering factors that influence microbial community structure and how structure of the community influences important ecological functions. Her research has been funded by the NSF, DOE, NASA, and EPA. She has also received grants from NSF and foundations for programs that support research and training of students in all stages of their education. Dr. Leff has authored over 100 publications and advised 26 graduate students. Her total extramural funding is approximately 6.3 million dollars.

The third panelist was Pauli Overdorff, Managing Director at Acquest International.  Pauli Overdorff has more than 12 years experience as an investment banker and merchant banker with focused expertise in the staffing industry, technology, new-media, professional, and environmental services sectors. Ms. Overdorff also has 20+ years’ senior level operating experience in technology and business service Fortune 1000 companies. For example, she was Executive Vice President of TMP Worldwide and managed the integration of 17 IT staffing and professional services acquisitions that the company made from 1999 – 2001.   Prior to TMP, Ms. Overdorff worked for Spherion, AGS Computers, and Bear Stearns.

The fourth panelist was Judit Puskas, Ph.D., P. Eng., Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The University of Akron.  Dr. Puskas has been published in more than 350 publications and is the inventor or coinventor of 26 U.S. patents and applications. As a coinventor of the polymer used on the Taxus® coronary stent, Dr. Puskas helped the University of Akron generate more than $5 million in license fees. Dr. Puskas and her business partners founded Arbomatrix, LLC and Akron-Austin Monomers-Polymers, LLC to supply specialty monomers and polymers for biomedical and other applications. Dr. Puskas is the recipient of several awards, including the GE Healthymagination Breast Cancer Challenge Award.

The final panelist was Bonnie Teeuwen, P.E., Director of Municipal and Transportation Engineering Osborn Engineering.  Bonnie Teeuwen is a graduate of the University of Akron and a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Ohio. She has over 30 years of experience in public administration.   Ms. Teeuwen started her career as a bridge engineer. After 13 years with ODOT, she ventured into private consulting. She then returned to be ODOT’s Deputy Director of District 12. In 2011, Bonnie was appointed the first Public Works Director for the newly form Cuyahoga County government, where she was responsible for an operating budget of $92 million and 530 employees. In 2015 she returned to the world of consulting, joining Osborn Engineering.  She’s been inducted into the Cleveland Engineering Society’s Hall of Fame and was named a “Woman on the Rise” by the Hard Hatted Women Society.

The two-hour discussion flew by fast, and at the end of the night the group was already thinking about action items.  With such an overwhelmingly positive response to the event, EnviroScience organizers are underway with planning future events.  Several attendees inquired about collaborating with the EnviroScience Women in STEM team and hosting at their establishments.  If you are interested in receiving updates about future events, please email Jamie at to be added to our mailing list.

EnviroScience’s Women in STEM team was inspired to create this event by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s “Celebrating Women in Science” program, presented by KeyBank.  A part of this program is the “The Bearded Lady Project,” a documentary that celebrates the work of female scientists and asks the question: would women scientists who made monumental discoveries be better known if they had a beard? The film will be running at CMNH on select dates.