Meet Our Team

Michi Tobler - President

Who Are You?: I am a biologist at K-State, and I can get pretty nerdy when it comes to fish, food, and must-see travel destinations.
Why do you care about Science?: Science is a way to discover and understand the world around me. I love the "tinkering aspect" that allows you to try out different approaches and figure out how something works. I firmly believe that science will help us solve the major problems faced by our society, as long as we make sure that all have an opportunity to contribute to and leverage the insights of new discoveries.
Science Fact that blew your mind away: There are hundreds of thousands of species on the planet. If you stuck each species in a car, you'd have a traffic jam from Earth to the moon! Sadly, we'll never get to know some species, as they are going extinct before we had a chance to discover them…

Jared Bixby - Secretary

Who Are You?: I work at Sunset Zoo as the Curator of Education, and I'm a husband and father of two kids who love swimming.
Why do you care about science?: Science serves as a foundational piece in the fight against extinction. Thus, scientific literacy is critically important to save endangered wildlife and wild places.
Science fact that blew your mind away?: Sloth bears defend themselves from tigers by attacking, even if a mom has cubs hanging on her back. The impressive thing is that they can win!

Hannah VanLaanen - Treasurer

Who Are You?: I am a biochemist and neuropharmacologist working as a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry. I’m also a cave diver, trail runner, and knitter.
Why do you care about Science?: I see science as a way to look at the world. Always questioning, always striving. It is a system on which we can build our understanding of ourselves and everything that surrounds us.
Science Fact that blew your mind away: We are made of star stuff. Humans and their galaxy have about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms, and the elements of life appear to be more prevalent toward the galaxy's center.

Alina De La Mota-Peynado, Ph.D. - Board Member

Who Are You?: I am a trained microbiologist/cell biologist, untrained mother of two boys, amateur baker, newly minted runner, and proud latina.
Why do you care about Science?: Because it’s awesome! I believe that an understanding of science, and the process of science, allows you to develop critical thinking skills that can be applied to every aspect of your life.

Dewey Leierer - Board Member

Who Are You?: I am a PhD student studying insect biochemistry, with a focus on their immune response. I love insects, video games, and my two cats, Hydrogen and Carbon.
Why do you care about science?: I believe by devoting our time and energy to understanding the world around us we can pave a better path for future generations. One leading to a future less grim than what we are currently heading towards. To me, science is an act of love.
Science fact that blew your mind away?: Mealworms are higher in iron and other nutrients than most traditional livestock we eat, and they are able to degrade Styrofoam! with

Anna Kazarina - Board Member

Who Are You?: I am a PhD student studying Big Bluestem grass and its microbiome interactions. Let's talk about microbes!
Why do you care about Science?: Science is a process of gaining knowledge about ourselves and the world around us. This knowledge has a great power of creating a change, a change for the better. By being a member of the scientific community, I believe my contribution will help make this world a better place.
Science Fact that blew your mind away: The largest living organism on Earth is a fungi!

Kevin Colle - Board Member

Who Are You?: I am a Program Coordinator at the K-State Rural Education Center, where I work to bring STEM Exploration activities to rural schools across the state.
Why do you care about science?: Science serves as a foundational piece in the fight against extinction. Thus, scientific literacy is critically important to save endangered wildlife and wild places.
Science fact that blew your mind away?: Industry leaders that utilize lasers in manufacturing have to have a nitrogen supply. New technologies allow nitrogen to be filtered from the air and separated from oxygen using (among other things) coconut husks!

Ryan Donnelly - Board Member

Who Are You?: I am a Master's student at Kansas State University studying grassland ecophysiology. I am also an avid user of the citizen science platform iNaturalist.
Why do you care about science?: Science is incredible because it allows us to understand the world in much deeper ways, and we can use this knowledge to combat all kinds of problems. There's also just a 'coolness' factor of science. The closer we look at things, the more amazed I am at how the natural world works!
Science fact that blew your mind away?: Scientists have been able to germinate seeds that are thousands of years old, including the previously-extinct Jerusalem date palm.

Sally Davis, DVM, Ph.D. - Board Member

Who Are You?: I am a veterinarian scientist and microscopy zealot dedicated to the visualization of infectious diseases in a diverse array of animal species, including humans! Visualization leads to better understanding that enables the creation of better therapies and control measures.
Why do you care about science?: As a prior secondary school sciences teachers, I am dedicated to creating opportunities for the next generation of scientists. What better entry than through the powerful window of our eyes and what they can see through a lens!
Science fact that blew your mind away?: A protein can be infectious and the mechanism is just like Ice-nine in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle.