Here are our club officers for the 2017-2018 academic year:

 President: Tezin Walji


Tezin is a graduate student in the Genetics, Development and Disease graduate prograt at UT Southwestern in the Department of Molecular Biology. Tezin started getting involved with SPEaC as a first-year graduate student by attending volunteering and outreach events. Her passion for science communication drives her to promote public awareness on science topics and demystifying scientists which can be seen on her personal blog. She hopes that through science communication and making it more available, laymen get interested in various science topics and are not afraid to ask questions. Outside of being a student and #Sci-Commer, Tezin enjoys exploring Dallas, trying new foods, Zumba and spending time with her cat and new puppy!

Outreach Coordinators

Policy Coordinator: Spencer Shelton

Spencer has a passion and commitment to inform and engage scientists in science policy. Spencer was a participant in the 2018 ASBMB Capitol Hill Day, where he met with congressional representatives in their Washington D.C. offices and discussed various science policy issues, such as support for sustained federal funding for science and promoting equality. Spencer also participated in the ASBMB advocacy training program externship which further exposed him to the processes of science policy. As the Science Policy Officer for SPEaC, Spencer aims to facilitate meaningful discussion between scientists about current legislation and policy. Additionally,  Spencer hopes to empower fellow scientists to take a more active role in contacting their representatives.

Educational Outreach Co-Coordinator: Melissa Ellermann


I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Microbiology Department at UT Southwestern and serve as one of the Educational Outreach Officers for SPEaC. In my role as an Educational Outreach Coordinator, I am establishing contacts with science educators at local high schools and colleges in the DFW area and organizing science outreach visits by UT Southwestern postdocs and graduate students. These visits incorporate hands-on demonstrations and interactive lectures on hot topics in the biological and biomedical sciences – ones that are often not part of the science curricula, yet are frequently reported about in the press. It is my goal through these programs to inspire further curiosity in the sciences, while also demonstrating that the discoveries made through basic science research are relevant in our daily lives. I also help organize other outreach events in the community, including at the Dallas Zoo and in local public libraries.

Educational Outreach Co-Coordinator: Oguz Tuncay


Oguz is a neuroscience graduate student at in the Chahrour lab, working on the genetics of autism spectrum disorders. He is passionate about science education and promoting scientific thinking from a young age. As one of the Outreach Officers for SPEaC, Oguz helps plan and organize events with local organizations like schools, museums and libraries.

Educational Outreach Co-Coordinator: Sofia Bali


Sofia is a first year Biophysics graduate student in the Joachimiak lab which is part of the Center for Alzheimer’s and Newuodegenetive Diseases. She has a passion for bringing the excitement of the lab to the classroom and inspiring the next generation of scientist. As an Outreach Co-coordinator, her goal is to build a strong relationship with the local community and make science education fun for everyone.

Communications Coordinators

Science Communication Co-Coordinator: Therese Koch


Therese is a first year Neuroscience PhD student at UT Southwestern. In addition to studying how birds learn to sing in the Roberts Lab, she enjoys sharing her love of science with future scientists and non-scientists through writing, illustration and in person. Therese joined SPEaC in her first year of graduate school as a communications co-coordinator. She looks forward to working towards making science more accessible within her community, and helping fellow scientists learn to communicate their work most effectively to different audiences. When she isn’t in the lab or #scicomm-ing, Therese can be found exploring the Dallas art scene, listening to podcasts, learning new languages or embroidering.

Communication Skills Co-Coordinator: Nipunika Somatilaka


Nipunika is a first year postdoc in the Department of Cell Biology at UT Southwestern. She joined SPEaC recently, after receiving her PhD from the Cancer Biology Graduate Program in 2018. Nipunika is passionate about communicating complex concepts of basic sciences to the benefit of the general public. As an undergraduate in University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, she worked as a freelance science writer at “The Nation” Sunday newspaper, where she wrote human health and science related articles to a young adult audience. Currently she serves as a Project Volunteer for FORCE, helping evaluate literature of new breast cancer related research to provide breast cancer survivors and previvors a with better understanding of research relevant to them. As a Communications Coordinator in SPEaC, she aims to engage more in science communication both by promoting effective communication among scientists of various backgrounds and public audiences and creating science communication content.​

Our Team
Left to Right: Tezin Walji, Nipunika Somatitilaka, Melissa Ellermann, Oguz Tuncay, Therese Koch, Spencer Shelton, Sofia Bali. 

To join SPEaC or volunteer for one of our activities, please contact one of the officers listed above or email us here.

Former SPEaC Officers:




Early 2014: