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TEDxUF 2019 Speakers
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Akito Kawahara

Akito Y. Kawahara is a professor and curator of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) at the University of Florida. He has been fascinated by these insects ever since he was a child. His research group studies many aspects of moths and butterflies, from ultrasonic hearing in moths against bats, the genetics of silk production, and butterfly color patterns. He travels regularly to the deep jungles of the Amazon and Borneo study moths at night. As a curator of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, he is in charge of maintaining one of the largest collections of butterflies and moths in the world. He also regularly engages with the public and speaks about the importance of nature.

Maria Eugenia Zelaya

María Eugenia Zelaya is a gifted Spanish-language educator who uses her language courses as a tool for teaching peace-building at Eastside High School. She was a member of the Peace Teacher Program of the United States Institute of Peace for 2017-2018 and was one of the three finalists for the 2019 Teacher of the Year for Alachua County. She has been the faculty advisor several student organizations, such as Children Beyond Our Borders and Model UN. Maria is also involved in different non-profit organizations in her community as the secretary of the Latina Women’s League and Survivor Chair of Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk with American Cancer Society. 

Laurie Mintz

Dr. Laurie Mintz is a psychology professor at the University of Florida and a psychologist in private practice. Her work focuses on spreading scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information. She teaches a popular Psychology of Human Sexuality course, and is the author of two popular books aimed at enhancing women’s sexual pleasure. Laurie spreads scientifically-accurate, empowering, sex positive information to enhance women’s sexual pleasure.

Natalya Bannister

Natalya Bannister is a double gator, having earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees at the University of Florida. She is currently pursing her Doctorate in Educational & Organizational Leadership at the University of North Florida. In her role as Executive Director of Pace Center for Girls, Alachua, she provides life-saving holistic services to at-promise teenaged girls. Natalya has been recognized by Boys & Girls Clubs of America for winning their highest honor, the "National Honor Award for Program Excellence," "Top 40 under 40 Business Leader, " and the "Fierce Award" from Business in Greater Gainesville Magazine. Natalya envisions a world where love empowers everyone to find their passion and fulfill their purpose.

Daniela Seabra Oliveira

Dr. Daniela Seabra Oliveira is the IoT Term Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Florida. Her main research interest is interdisciplinary computer security, where she employs successful ideas from other fields to make computer systems more secure. Her current research interests include understanding and addressing cyber deception and phishing from a neuro-psychological perspective. She received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2012 for her innovative research into operating systems' defense against attacks using virtual machines, the 2014 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) from President Obama, and the 2017 Google Security, Privacy and Anti-Abuse Award.

Joey McGinn

Joey McGinn is an undergraduate student at the University of Florida studying Political Science and a student in the UFTeach Program. For the past two years he has worked with Housing at UF as a Resident Assistant, creating inclusive communities one group of residents at a time. He has spent much of his life performing, whether it was singing, dancing, or acting so hopefully speaking on TEDx stage won’t cause too much stress! He is a proud Queer Educator, serving as an Assistant Director for Gatorship, the social justice initiative for UF, and through teaching a course for the Honors Program called “LGBTQ+ Characters in Science Fiction”. When he isn’t in class, the library, or out to change the world he loves reading LGBTQ+ authors, riding as many roller coasters as possible, and dancing the night away!

Oliver Telusma

Oliver Telusma is a spoken word poet, public speaker and Juris Doctorate Candidate at the Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando, Florida. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida in 2018, where he worked as a research coordinator for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program for two years. His writing and work focus on critiquing legal and political systems of power that target marginalized communities, life as a member of the Black diaspora, Black male vulnerability, allyship from other marginalized identities and the occasional rap freestyle.

Lisa Merlo

Dr. Lisa Merlo is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine (UFCOM). A clinical psychologist by training, her research explores the prevention and treatment of potentially-impairing conditions among physicians and other health care professionals. Dr. Merlo currently serves as Director of Wellness Programs for UFCOM, focusing on the promotion of well-being and professional fulfillment among faculty and trainees. She works part-time to better balance her professional passions with her other dream jobs as wife and mother of four.

Anna-Lisa Paul

Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul is a Research Professor in the Horticultural Sciences department at the University of Florida, in the program of Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology. Paul is a plant molecular biologist with an interest in how plants respond to abiotic stress, particularly at the gene expression level. Venues associated with spaceflight provide an opportunity to explore plant genomic responses to a novel environment; one that is outside the evolutionary experience of terrestrial organisms. This unique platform presents a background by which adaptive strategies at the gene expression level can be observed as they are adopted to cope with a stress de novo. Paul and her colleague Robert Ferl have launched and analyzed ten spaceflight experiments between 1999 and 2018, which primarily explored the effects of the spaceflight environment on the patterns of gene expression and signal transduction in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.  Current research is focused on evaluating the epigenomic responses of Arabidopsis to the spaceflight environment. Paul has also served the space biology community as the Editor in Chief of the journal Gravitational and Space Research, as a member of the ISS Standing Review Board, on the GeneLab Science Council, and as the President of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Research.

Akil Reynolds

Akil Reynolds is an undergraduate senior, graduating this May with a Bachelor in Public Health and a minor in Health Disparities in Society from the University of Florida. He is originally from Cresco, Pennsylvania (located in the Pocono Mountain, PA) but graduated from Terry Parker High school in Jacksonville, FL. During his tenure at the University of Florida he has served various populations on and off campus through his involvement as a student intern at the Alachua County Health Department, Residential College Advisor in the Hume Hall Honors College, and a Wellness Educator with the GatorWell Health promotion. Akil also served as a Director of Gatorship, a social justice and diversity retreat, which he attributes to being the awakening for him on his justice-oriented advocacy journey. In Akil’s current role as the Black Student Union President he serves as a black student advocate where he also focuses on inter-community healing.

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