Plenary Speakers


Sunday, July 31 at 2:00 PM in Loeb Playhouse (Stewart Center)



Dr. David Asai

Senior Director for Science Education
Howard Hughes Medical Institute




David Asai is Senior Director for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He directs the Undergraduate and Graduate Programs (UGP) group, which designs and leads programs focused on the development of students in the domain of formal education (for more information, visit here). UGP initiatives aim to re-center science and science education on inclusion, and are founded on the belief that faculty, staff, and administrators have the primary responsibility for creating equitable learning environments.  Current UGP programs include: (i) Inclusive Excellence, (ii) Driving Change, (iii) the Gilliam graduate program, (iv) the Science Education Alliance, (v) the HHMI Professors, and (vi) the Scientific Mentorship Initiative.  

David received the bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Stanford and the PhD in biology from Caltech.  Before coming to HHMI in 2008, David was Professor and Head of Biological Sciences at Purdue University, and Stuart Mudd Professor and Chair of Biology at Harvey Mudd College. His research laboratory studied the structural and functional diversity of the molecular motor dynein. At Purdue and Harvey Mudd, he taught courses in cell and molecular biology, in particular at the introductory level.  David is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Society for Cell Biology. He currently serves as a member of the NASEM Committee on Advancing Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM.  


Wednesday, August 3 at 5:30 PM in Loeb Playhouse (Stewart Center)


Dr. Zakiya S. Wilson-Kennedy

Ron & Dr. Mary Neal Associate Research Professor of Chemistry Education 
Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, College of Science
Louisiana State University



Zakiya S. Wilson-Kennedy, Ph.D., is the Ron and Dr. Mary Neal Associate Professor of Research in Chemistry Education and the Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion within the College of Science at Louisiana State University (LSU). Her research investigates the persistence of individuals from all backgrounds in STEM higher education and careers, focusing on faculty and student recruitment, retention, and success. Through these efforts, she employs mentoring models that integrate the theories of identity development, empowerment, social cognitive career theory, and community cultural wealth to create and test development structures that cultivate self-efficacy and agency, particularly for groups historically underrepresented in STEM. 

Dr. Wilson-Kennedy was recently elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2021. She also served as the principal investigator for the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) organizational recognition for the LSU Office of Strategic Initiatives and has received additional honors for her work in broadening participation, diversity, and STEM education: the NOBCChE Winifred Burks-Houck Award (2019) and Henry C McBay Outstanding Educator Award (2014), the ACS Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences (2011), Woman of Color STEM Achievement Award for Promotion of Education at the Collegiate Level (2011), the National Administrator Role Model Award from Minority Access, Inc. (2009),  and the LSU Outstanding Staff Award (2009).  She is a charter member of the Society of STEM Women of Color and the Metropolitan Baton Rouge Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. She is also a founding contributor to the American Chemical Society (ACS) Women Chemists of Color Initiative. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Jackson State University and her doctorate in inorganic chemistry from Louisiana State University.