The ELISS Team

Leadership and Oversight

Melanie Roberts – Founder and Director of ELISS

Melanie’s passion is to tap university research and education for the benefit of society. As a graduate student, she co-founded two organizations – one to introduce graduate students to multiple career options and another to promote dialogue among scholars, the public, and policy makers about issues at the intersection of science and society. Since finishing her Ph.D. in neurobiology in 2005, Melanie has studied and shaped policy and programs related to innovation, research, and education. As an AAAS S&T Policy Fellow in the U.S. Senate and the National Science Foundation, she informed legislation and policies for research funding, health policy, ethics education, and peer review of interdisciplinary research. At the University of Colorado Boulder, studied cross-sector collaboration at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research and facilitated collaborative research and research commercialization as Assistant Director of the Colorado Biofrontiers Institute. She founded ELISS in 2012. Melanie also consults on graduate education and professional development, interdisciplinary research, and university-industry-government collaborations. She lives in Seattle.

Samantha White – ELISS Program Director

Samantha (Sam) is a Ph.D. graduate of the Neuroscience Graduate Group at the University of Pennsylvania where she studied Addiction Neuroscience. During her graduate career, Sam was very active in service to fellow students, the university, and the community. She served on the executive board of the Biomedical Graduate Student Association and as a graduate student representative in the Graduate and Professional Student Association. In those capacities, Sam worked to fund student-organized initiatives and to provide cross-disciplinary networking opportunities for graduate and professional students on campus. Additionally, Sam contributed to university-wide policies and programs as a student representative to the University Council. Within her graduate program, Sam was the founding co-director for GLIA, the Graduate Led Initiatives and Activities committee that oversees a variety of student-run programs ranging from professional development seminars to educational outreach opportunities and networking and community building ventures. Finally, Sam spearheaded the effort to bring ELISS to UPenn and worked closely with the co-founders to prepare for the inaugural class of fellows as an ELISS student liaison before becoming program director in September. Sam is also a science policy fellow for Research!America, one of the nation’s largest non-profit public education and science advocacy organizations.

Mark S. FrankelELISS program lead at AAAS and Director, AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program

Edward G. DerrickChair of ELISS oversight committee and Chief Program Director, AAAS Center of Science, Policy, and Society Programs



ELISS senior advisors are well-known individuals within their fields and believe in the mission of ELISS. They have helped to open doors for the program and spread the word about what ELISS is doing.

  • Gail Cassell – VP at Eli Lily (retired), VP at Infectious Disease Research Institute, and Visiting Professor in Global Health, Harvard University
  • James M. Gentile – President Emeritus, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and Dean of the College of Natural Resources, Hope College
  • David Goldston – Director of Government Affairs, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Jeff Hamaoui - Superconnector & Partner, Further by Design
  • Neal F. Lane – Former Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the National Science Foundation and Distinguished Professor of Science and Technology Policy, Rice University
  • Gail McClure – VP at W.K. Kellogg Foundation (retired) and Senior Advisor, National Science Foundation
  • Gilbert Omenn – Director, Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan
  • Judith Ramaley – Distinguished Professor of Public Service, Portland State University  


ELISS strategic advisors have experience in various aspects of program development. They have donated substantial time and expertise helping ELISS leaders shape the program and/or ELISS fellows shape their projects.

  • Kelly Edwards (Program Development) – Associate Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Professor of Bioethics and Humanities, University of Washington
  • Elizabeth McNie (Program Development) – Research Scientist, Western Water Assessment and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado
  • Bree Mitchell (ELISS Co-Founder) – Deputy Director, Canary Center for Cancer Early Detection, Stanford University
  • Andrew Robertson (Application & Selection) – Director of U.S. Regulatory Policy, Merck and Trustee of Gates/Cambridge Scholarship Program
  • Kate Stoll (ELISS Co-Founder) – AAAS/ACS Congressional Science and Technology Policy Fellow
  • Cynthia Robinson – Director, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships
  • Juli Staiano – Director of Development, AAAS
  • Amanda Murphy (Collaborative Problem Solving) – Project and Research Specialist, William D. Ruckelshaus Center
  • Alyssa Piccini Schaffer (Communication) – Scientific Director, TEDMED and Science Communication Consultant

Project Managers and Volunteers

ELISS would not be possible without volunteers with many different skills who asked “how can I help” to advance the ELISS mission. Project managers take responsibility for a specific need or project. Other volunteers have donated time and wisdom as needed to help the organization thrive.


  • Bethany Spencer (Events and Administration) – Center Administrator, AAAS Center of Science, Policy and Society Programs
  • Rebecca Carlson (Web) – Senior Project Coordinator, AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
  • Patrick Clemins (IT) – Cyber Specialist, Vermont EPSCoR, and Assistant Research Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Vermont
  • Melissa Lee Phillips (Editing) – Freelance writer and editor, Seattle, WA


Terrell Brotherton (Orientation); Jay Hardy, Carter Gibson, and David Peterson (Team Work / Program Evaluation) – PhD Candidates in Industrial & Organizational Psychology, University of Oklahoma; Nate Engle (Recruiting); (Marketing and Recruitment); Ryan Ritterson (Data Analysis); Skye Schuhman (Design); Amanda Shea (Applications); Jason Yang (Video)


Thanks to many other volunteers for so generously donating time, especially:  Colleen Gabauer; Karen Lawrence; Chris Golde; Mirvat Abdelhaq; TJ Augustine; Katy Beggs; Peter Blair; John Caldwell; Jenny DeRaspe-Bolles; Bryan Fioret; Brandon Hatcher; Ian King; Anita Mastroieni; Lisa McCloud; Henry Miller; Khara Ramos; Toby Smith; Meredith Stow; Nate Wade; Abby Watrous; Application Readers; and Interview Panelists.