Storytellers 2020

We are pleased to announce the following alumni will return to LANS to be part of our Storytelling hour.

David Castro, Ph.D.

In 1999, David Castro graduated from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry.  In 2005, he defended his Ph.D. dissertation titled “Collisions and Reactions of n-Propanol with Liquid NaOH/KOH” in Physical Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  That same year, he joined the Research, Development and Engineering (RD&E) department at what is now known as Nalco Water, An Ecolab Company ( within the Pulp and Paper division.  As a scientist, he designed and conducted experiments to study the effects of novel chemistries in the production efficiency of paper and the properties of the final product.  Two specific areas of his research were paper sizing (the ability of the paper to repel hydrophilic liquids) and Yankee coating formulations for the production of tissue and towel grades.  Together with fellow researchers, Mr. Castro is part of at least ten patents and patent applications in Paper technologies.  In June of 2019, he became a full-time manager in the Global Analytical and Microbiological Services division in Ecolab.  In this new capacity, Mr. Castro is part of a team that provides analytical services to the innovation pipeline of the company.

Orly Clergé, Ph.D.

Orly is an author and sociologist whose research focuses on race, migration, cities, inequality, and identity. Orly’s first book The New Noir: Race, Identity & Diaspora in Black Suburbia (University of California Press) is a comprehensive exploration of the making of Black diasporic suburbs. The New Noir examines how nationality and citizenship are negotiated by the Black middle class and is the first book in a two-book series on the politics of Black identity in the 21st century. Orly is currently crafting a book on the political identities of Black millennials during the Obama and Trump era. Tentatively titled Young World, this book is an intersectional analysis of how Black youth growing up in middle class neighborhoods construct and challenge ideas about opportunity, political solidarity, and racial progress.

Orly also co-edited Stories from the Front of the Room: How Higher Education Faculty of Color Survive & Thrive in the Academy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) which uncovers the daily encounters underrepresented faculty at historically White college and universities have with racial exclusion and their strategies of resistance. This volume is a collection of letters from dynamic faculty of color across the country who dare to make public their private racialized interactions with other faculty, administrators, students and staff. These letters are paired with mentor letters from senior faculty who offer tools for creating racial equity in higher education. Orly’s other writings have appeared in Ethnic & Racial Studies, The New Black Sociologist, Sociology Compass, and Population, Space and Place.

Antoinette Nelson, M.Eng., Ph.D

Dr. Antoinette G. Nelson is an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As an Advisor within USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, she co-manages the Agency’s gender and environment portfolio. In this role, she supports the strategic integration of gender-informed approaches into USAID’s programming across global climate change, energy, urbanization, land and biodiversity sectors. She also provides oversight for a number of activities and partnerships to increase women’s economic empowerment and address gender-based violence in over 30 countries globally.

Prior to joining USAID, Dr. Nelson was a Congressional Intern for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee and the Office of Senator Bernie Sanders where she worked on a wide range of issue areas including health, education and foreign policy. During this time, she also served on the Executive Board of the Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus as a Co-Chair of the Historical Archives Committee. 

Dr. Nelson earned her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University in 2018. Her dissertation research focused on the development of safe and cost-effective nanotechnology-based platforms for HIV prevention. Outside of her professional life, she is a STEM mentor and community organizer, having spent over 20 years supporting community-based initiatives to provide foreign assistance and disaster relief to the Caribbean and Africa. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

Paloma Vargas, Ph.D.

Dr. Paloma Vargas is an Assistant Professor, Biology and Director of Hispanic-Serving Institute Initiatives at California Lutheran University. Dr. Vargas received her B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at El Paso, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Medical and Molecular Parasitology from The Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at New York University. Her graduate and post-doctoral work focused on host-pathogen interactions of both parasitic amoeba (E. histolytica) and Legionella pneumophila, the causative agent of Legionnaire’s Disease. She continues studying these diseases in her lab at Cal Lutheran and teaches both introductory biology course for majors and an advanced course in emerging infectious diseases.

As Director of HSI Initiatives, Dr. Vargas’ work focuses on evaluating and dismantling policies through an equity lens. Her goal is to address issues of justice, equity, and access in higher education for historically marginalized groups (Latinx, African America/Black, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Alaska Natives).

Dr. Vargas is an anti-racist in training, centers culturally relevant pedagogy in her teaching and is an active member of both the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and of the Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institute Educators (AHSIE), where she serves as VP of Conference.