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AC2 Team

Abbe Kesterson

Angela Wheeler

Angela is a professor of biology and biotechnology at Austin Community College.  She previously taught biotechnology at a high school in the Austin area and has taught at Austin Community College for 11 years.  Angela assisted in developing the curriculum for both the high school and college biotechnology courses and was contracted by TEA to develop the online professional development training required to teach Advanced Biotechnology for science credit in Texas. She has worked on numerous grants to further teacher professional development in biotechnology and is currently working with the AC2 regional center to establish an entry level certificate in biotechnology for high school students.

Contact Angela Wheeler at:

Bridgette Kirkpatrick

Bridgette has been the coordinator of the Collin College Biotechnology program since 2001. Prior to that she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-San Diego in the Department of Reproductive Medicine, she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona studying Reproductive Physiology in the Department of Animal Science, and an MS and BS from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the Department of Animal Science. She has been involved in undergraduate research for several years and works to embed student-led, exploration-based research into courses she teaches, as well as supervising individual research projects with students. She is involved in community outreach through teaching, mentoring and an equipment loaning program.


Candiya Mann

Candiya Mann

Candiya Mann is the independent evaluator for AC2 and several other National Science Foundation (NSF) grantees, including Bio-Link, the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI), the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center, and GeoTech. She specializes in K-16 education and youth workforce issues and has conducted evaluations for clients including the US Department of Labor, Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, United Way, school districts, community based organizations and workforce development agencies. Ms. Mann has served on the Advisory Group for the NSF Advanced Technology Education Evaluation Community of Practice and as an NSF panel reviewer.  She is a Senior Research Manager with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center at Washington State University, where she has spent more than 15 years. 

Carole Twichell

I am a native Texan from a family of educators. I wanted to teach ever since I was in second grade - I planned to punish bad teenagers by making them sit in the hallway! As it turned out, I don't have many teenagers in my classes since I teach at the great Collin College. I love the mix of students in my classes, the traditional and non-traditional. It sounds trite, but I've been interested in science my whole life, from an obsession with dinosaurs as a child to biology as a student. I had my first encounter with microbiology in a high school science class (ironically taught by my mother - family of educators, remember?). Looking at bacteria under the microscope and growing it on petri dishes blew my mind! All thoughts of being a doctor (or a paleontologist!) blew out with it and I knew that I wanted to study cells and microbes. I got my undergraduate degree from UT Austin in Microbiology, then went on to study at UT Dallas, where I got my masters in Molecular and Cell Biology. Somewhere along the way, I married my high school sweetheart, with whom I have had the great good fortune to have shared our lives since we were fifteen years old. We met at band camp! After I graduated with my M.S. we had our first of three kids. I started working at Collin when our oldest was a year old, teaching part-time and staying home part-time. Years passed, and now I am teaching full-time. My favorite class to teach is Cell Culture Techniques (BITC 2431) which is a favorite of my students. I also teach Introduction to Biotechnology, Genetics and Biology I. My teaching style is peppered with stories, real-world examples and poor attempts at humor. I'm primarily a visual learner so I'm writing and drawing on the board constantly, but I also try to teach to the auditory and kinesthetic learners with games, teamwork and activities. My teaching goal is to prepare my students for the next step towards their future, whatever that future might be.

Daisy Zhang

Made in China.  

M.S. From Midwestern State University

Ph.D from University of North Texas

Currently working at Del Mar College as Associate professor of Biotechnology

Deborah Davis

Deborah Davis holds a bachelors degree in Biology and Chemistry from the University of Tampa, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Dr. Davis has served as PI and/or Co-PI on several grant-funded projects and is currently Co-PI for AC2 Bio-Link Regional Center. Responding to industry's need for skilled biotechnicians in the Bluegrass Region, in 2010 Dr. Davis founded the Biotechnology Program at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, and she continues to serve as the program's coordinator.

Dr. Davis believes that meaningful learning can only be accomplished through the alignment of teaching practices with practical applications; the best way to learn is through doing. She endeavors to teach the merit of scientific discovery and how the process is rarely a straight line from idea to result. Her contribution to the AC2 Center is to create a Contract Service Organization (CSO) pairing industry projects with student internships and faculty externships. The CSO will provide students the ability to train by working on projects for actual life science companies, while providing low-cost labor these companies need to accelerate discovery, growth, and expansion.  A "win-win-win" for the college, students, and regional biotech companies.

Deborah Overath

Now a faculty member at Texas Southmost College in Brownsville, TX, Dr. R. Deborah Overath served Project Director for REVISION: Revising Science Education with Vision, an NSF ATE funded project focused on UG research mentoring and evidence-based learning in introductory biotech and biology courses, from January 2015-January 2017. The 2008 SACNAS Distinguished Undergraduate Mentor Awardee, Dr. Overath held faculty positions at both 2-year colleges and 4-year universities after earning a PhD in genetics at The University of Georgia. She also served as co-chair of the SACNAS Student Presentations Committee for several years.

Jeanne Wages

Jeanne has been teaching in the Biotechnology program at Bluegrass Community & Technical College since 2013.  She has a B.S. in Biology from Centenary College of Louisiana and a PhD in Biochemistry from Rice University.  Jeanne has mentored research students funded by NASA and the EPSCoR initiative.  Dr Wages has a particular interest in recruiting students into STEM programs.

Jennifer Lazare

Jennifer Lazare is a Senior Personnel on the AC2 grant. Jennifer currently teaches Dual Credit Biotechnology in collaboration with Austin Community College and Austin Independent School District. She works as a curriculum developer and teacher mentor in the field of biotechnology education and is currently piloting the Entry Level Biotech Certificate at Anderson High School. 


Dr. Hatherill has earned a postdoctoral fellowship from Stanford University, a Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of Michigan, a Masters in microbiology and a Bachelors degree in biology and chemistry from Eastern Michigan University. The American Society of Clinical Pathologists also certifies him in clinical chemistry. Dr. J. Robert Hatherill is a distinguished professor and a co-director of the biotechnology program in the Department of Natural Sciences at Del Mar College (DMC). He has served as a highly effective mentor of undergraduate students at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab research lab, launching many science careers from among his students. His research fellowships have focused on expression, isolation and characterization of the hyperthermophile Sulfolobus solfataricus DNA-related proteins, DNA repair and protein folding. The DMC bioscience mentoring program has impacted over 1000 high school science students from a Science Laboratory Loaner Kit program, and trained 142 high school science teachers for the experiments that were available from the Science Loaner Kit program. Dr. Hatherill has also mentored and advised over 80 undergraduate students at the University of California Santa Barbara.  Dr. Hatherill founded the formation of a new award winning Del Mar College biotechnology program and has secured over 4 million dollars in federal grant funding to support student research internships and procure “state of the art” lab equipment. He has received a number of outstanding teacher/educator and merit awards. Many mentored students have won poster and presentation competitions. Dr. Hatherill has also embedded an undergraduate research mentoring in classes at Del Mar College. DMC was accepted into the Howard Hughes Medical Institutes Science Education Alliance (SEA) program and students have accomplished impressive preliminary results. Over 100 of the research-mentored students have presented their research and published over 50 papers and abstracts, over 90% have either matriculated into a 4 year degree program or have secured employment and 50% are reporting plans to complete advanced degrees such as a Ph.D. or M.D. Dr. Hatherill believes the earlier students are introduced to research mentoring the more impact the program will have on lifelong learning.

Linnea Fletcher

Linnea Fletcher is a former co-PI for Bio-link and is now the PI for AC2 Bio-Link Regional Center.  Dr. Fletcher served as a program officer at the National Science Foundation for the past two years and has recently returned to her former position as head of the Biotechnology Program at Austin Community College.  Dr. Fletcher is passionate about education and outcomes. Her views on the role of community colleges in biotechnology education are best described in a published article in CBE Life Science Education (1).

1.  Fletcher LA, Carter VC.  The Important Role of Community Colleges in Undergraduate Biology Education, CBE Life Sci Educ. 2010 Winter;9(4):382-3. 

Mary Slowinski

head shot Mary Slowinski

Mary Slowinski is an educator/consultant specializing in collaborative learning research and design. She received her M.Ed. and Ph.D. in Learning Science from the University of Washington, completing the latter with a dissertation on communities of practice for educators.

Currently working with AC2 as Community of Practice Coordinator, she is also co-PI on Working Partners, a National Science Foundation research grant focused on industry/education partnerships.  As a consultant, Mary has served as learning coordinator for two international faculty learning projects, facilitated groups both physical and online, developed and reworked curricular and learning materials based on learning science, and collaborated as an innovation coach to assist with scaling up innovations in technical education.

In addition, Mary is tenured faculty at Bellevue College where she currently chairs the Digital Media Arts program.  She has also served stints at Bellevue as Director of Curriculum Design Services, lead for educational technology faculty development, and project lead for a campus-wide LMS migration that involved moving over 300 faculty and 9000 students to a new platform in three months. 


Poornima Rao

Poornima Rao, executes the coordination of AC2 Bio-Link Regional ATE Center Grant and is an adjunct faculty in the Biotechnology Dept. at Austin Community College, Austin TEXAS.   

She has been a biochemist with over a decade of industry experience in protein purification, enzyme characterization, assay design, and process development of complex scientific projects through multi-disciplinary teams.                                                                                                                                               Poornima received her MS in Biochemistry from Mysore University, India and has worked in Fortune 500 and numerous Austin area start-up companies.

Sandra Porter

Sandra Porter

Sandra Porter is one of the Bio-Link Co-PIs.  Dr. Porter has her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington.  She ran a successful biotechnology education program at Seattle Central Community College, and she worked on educational projects in a bioinformatics software company (Geospiza, Inc.) for many years.

Dr. Porter is also president of Digital World Biology. Digital World Biology creates educational materials that use bioinformatics resources to teach biology.


Stephanie Stoelb

Stephanie has been working for Bluegrass Community & Technical College since 2012. She has a B.S. in Biological Sciences and a MS in Zoology from Southern Illinois University. Stephanie has been very active in the Allied Health and Natural Sciences Outreach Program at BCTC, providing fun and exciting STEM related programs to youth throughout Kentucky. She also serves as a student research mentor for both KY-EPSCoR and STEM-PRIDE programs. 

Tammy Liles

Tammy Liles has been teaching biology and biotechnology for 22 years. She holds an MS in Biology / K-12 Science Education from Morehead State University and an MS in Microbiology from the University of Kentucky. Tammy is currently the Academic Dean for Health and Sciences at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.