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Chapter Committees and Officers

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 Dr. Bita Nickkholgh

Membership Chair

As an MD, PhD, Dr. Nickkholgh have experience in clinical work, human reproductive biology and cell signaling. Currently, she is working as an academic process development scientist. As part of Manufacturing Development center of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, her work is to try to fill the gap between researchers and FDA by advising researchers on developing projects aligned with FDA regulations. She is involved in designing various project-based safety and stability studies for Regenerative Medicine Products that aim for clinical trials.

Dr. Nickkholgh is also passionate about teaching science and transferring knowledge to next generation. She teaches undergraduate, graduate master level and medical students. She is also an ambassador of IMPACT program (Inspiring Meaningful Programs and Communication through Science) with the goal of Science communication for public at different levels.

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Amber Foust, MS

Communications Co-Chair (Social Media/Flyers/Emails)

Amber Foust is a Technical Specialist with the Human Applications Lab at Carolina BioOncology Institute, where she works in translational research, biospecimen banking and procurement, and cell manufacturing for immuno-oncology applications. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Masters in Pharmaceutical Science where she developed her passion for early drug discovery and research. Amber also serves as a Communications Officer in the US Army Reserve and enjoys being able to work in the STEM field from multiple angles. She is excited to be a member of the AWIS-North Carolina team and to continue support women and diversity in science!

Dr. Gauri Kulkarni 

Communications Co-Chair (Website/Newsletters/emails)

Dr. Kulkarni is a Regenerative Medicine Scientist at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Winston Salem, NC;  leading a Drug discovery and development Biology team focused on developing novel Small Molecules based Therapies for fibrotic diseases and In Situ Tissue Regeneration using high throughput assays and body-on-a-chip platform. Her expertise and specialized Research areas include tissue engineering, stem cell therapy, organ-on-a-chip devices and drug discovery to repair damaged or diseased tissues and organs to make patients lives better. She also has an experience in Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization. Dr. Kulkarni has served as a Chair of Women Postdoctoral Scientists' events and is a member of Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS) at Wake Forest School of Medicine.  Besides research, she is an International Space Station Ambassador, actively engaged  in enriching young minds through STEM education, mentoring, professional development and community outreach in USA as well as rural students in India. She is also a visual artist and has exhibited her Science inspired paintings in the professional art galleries to bring social awareness.

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Joan F Schanck, MPA

Outreach Chair

Joan is Chief Education   Program Officer at Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Joan’s work is focused on providing high quality educational programming within the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In her role, she also works to increase awareness of the Institute’s leadership role within the field of biomedicine. Joan's professional background includes more than 20 years of specialized experience in administration, education, research, fund raising, collaborative team building, program development and direct care/services delivery within the university, community and non-profit, public health, and education setting. Throughout her career, she has recognized the importance of education and the need to develop collaborative, multidisciplinary education and research training across formal and informal educational environments. Joan received 'the 2023 Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS-AM) Educational, Training and Outreach Award'.  As an outreach chair, Joan will be focused on developing academic and Industry affiliated mentoring and educational  programs for high school and undergraduate female scholars.

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Aynsley Szczesniak

Student STEM Program Chair
          (HERspectives/Summer STEM Workshop)  

Endlessly energetic, Aynsley Szczesniak is a proactive STEMinist and youth trailblazer shattering the stigmas that have suffocated women in STEMM. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Speak Out Sisterhood, a global network elevating youth to eradicate barriers to equality for women in STEM; the Founder and State Lead of Million Women Mentors North Carolina, the NC chapter of the global movement of leaders dedicated to empowering girls and women in STEM; the Bob and Janitta Carithers Honors Carolina Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and an aspiring physician eager to explore endocrinology, women’s health, and neonatal intensive care. As the Student STEM Programs Chair of AWIS North Carolina, Aynsley is dedicated to equipping young women with the skills and confidence they need to succeed in STEM through innovative career development programs and events.


Dr. Sabrina Mitchell

Fundraising/Partnership Chair

Dr. Mitchell is a life scientist with a broad range of research experience that includes human genetics, molecular biology, and protein bioprocessing. Her work has mainly centered on discovering molecular mechanisms of human diseases, most recently focusing on age-related macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease. She currently freelances as a scientific writer and is excited to be part of the AWIS-NC team.

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Dr. Rahma Ajja

Women In Stem Education (WISE) Program Chair

Dr. Ajja is a post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forst School of Medicine. Her primary research mainly focus on studying age-related changes on behavior maintenance, and evaluating evidence-based interventions to enhance long-term maintenance of physical activity levels in older adults. As the mentorship chair, Dr. Ajja is excited to focused on developing the mentorship program with the vison to provide opportunities for young and aspiring women in STEM to connect with leaders in the STEM field.

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