Meet the Governing Board

Kentucky Academy of Science 2018 Governing Board

CLICK HERE for the 2018 Governing Board roster ( available to KAS members only)

President Jennifer Birriel, Morehead State University. Dr. Jennifer Birriel received her B.S. in physics from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1992. She received her M.S. in physics in 1996 and her Ph.D. in physics in 2000, both from the University of Pittsburgh. Birriel's research specialty is stellar spectroscopy and light pollution. She also has a regular column, entitled the Astronomer's Notebook, in Mercury magazine, which is a publication of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

President-Elect Leslie North earned her doctorate in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy from the University of South Florida in Tampa. Since she was first exposed to karst science as an undergraduate student, Leslie has focused her collegiate and research activities on understanding and protecting these fragile terrains. During her Master’s thesis research, which focused on evaluating anthropogenic karst disturbances, Leslie reached the startling conclusion that both the general public and policymakers have a very limited understanding of karst terrains, resulting in widespread misuse of these landscapes. As a result, for her dissertation Dr North conducted the first holistic study of karst-related educational programs implemented in the United States and abroad, and the tools, techniques, and feasibility of educating the general public at karst attractions, particularly show-cave facilities. Through a large body of data collected from over 100 show caves worldwide, she was able to illustrate the existence of multiple missed opportunities and misconceptions about educational pursuits in informal learning environments that are ultimately hindering the pursuit of appropriate geologic education and encouraging erroneous measures of program success. Dr. North is an associate of the Center for Human Geo-Environmental Studies (CHNGES) . For more information about her teaching and research interests contact Dr. North at
Vice President Frank Ettensohn is a Professor  of Geology at the University of Kentucky. His research interests largely center on sedimentary geology and are integrative and field-oriented in nature. His background is in the fields of stratigraphy, sedimentology, and paleontology, but he has found it rewarding to integrate these disciplines with each other and commonly with regional tectonics for a more complete resolution of the problem at hand. Dr. Ettensohn and his students have been especially successful using this approach in the areas of black-shale geology, carbonate paleoenvironments, and seismites.

Treasurer Rodney King is a Professor of Biology at Western Kentucky University. Dr. King is a microbiologist doing research on bacteriophages and was the recipient of KAS' 2014 award for Outstanding College / University Teacher.

Secretary Rajiv Singh is a Chemistry professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College. He received his MS in Organic Chemistry from the Department of Chemistry at University of North Dakota in 2012, and joined the Department of Math and Natural Sciences at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in 2012 as an Instructor of chemistry. He was promoted to the rank of Assistant Professor in 2015. His research work at UND was related to synthesis and characterization of two-armed and three-armed carbamates.

Past President Darrin Smith is an analytical chemist at Eastern Kentucky University

Physical Sciences Representative Trent Garrison is an environmental geologist at Northern Kentucky University. He studies water quality and coal fires, and has a passion for teaching, science advocacy and outreach.

Physical Sciences Representative Richard Gelderman is the Director of the Hardin Planetarium at Western Kentucky University. He was the recipient of KAS' 2016 Award for Excellence in Science Education and Outreach. His research interests include design and operation of globally networked, fully autonomous, astronomical observatories; moderate resolution spectroscopy of extra-galactic narrow line emission regions;evolution of active galactic nuclei; and composition and structure of extra-galactic jets.

At-Large Representative Dirk Grupe joined the Department of Earth and Space Science at Morehead State in August 2014. Before coming to MSU he was a senior research associate at the Department of Astrophysics and Astronomy at Pennsylvania State University. He was involved with the NASA Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer Mission. Dr. Grupe performed post-doc work at the astronomy department at  Ohio State University, and from September 1997 to July 2002, he was a researcher at the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany.

Biological Sciences Representative Melanie Hardin Pierce has an extensive background in adult critical care. Her research interests include improving outcomes in the mechanically ventilated adult critically ill patient population, prevention of ventilator-associated pneumonia, and positional therapy as an adjunct treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome. She has written numerous textbook chapters in the area of high acuity nursing and is a co-editor of an award-winning nationally recognized critical care textbook, High Acuity Nursing (5th edition). She is active in research and evidence-based practice issues. Dr. Hardin-Pierce is an associate professor in the college where she teaches in the graduate program. She is an acute care nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center in Lexington, and also is involved in research in the adult critical care services division at UK's Albert B. Chandler Hospital.

At-Large Representative Tracy Hodge is an Associate Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Department at Berea College. There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Social & Behavioral Sciences Representative Kerrie McDaniel's current research interests focus on issues in STEM education. She is involved in identifying factors that lead students to pursue a career as a science teacher, and those factors that decrease attrition rates especially in high needs areas.  In addition, she is interested in bolstering the P-12 pipeline to the university by increasing the content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of elementary, middle and high school teachers.  The goals of this research are to provide higher quality science instruction in the public schools and increase the quality and quantity of teachers that enter as STEM educators.

Biological Sciences Representative  Maggie Whitson is the Director of the John W. Thieret Herbarium at Northern Kentucky University. She studies plant systematics and evolution and is an expert in the Solanaceae (tomato family).

 Claire Rinehart (ex-officio) is a Professor at WKU specializing in Bioinformatics, He serves the KAS Board as Webpage Editor.

Historian Marilyn Akins (ex-officio) is an Assistant Professor of Physics at Bluegrass Community and Technical college in Lexington and serves as the Secretary / Treasurer for the Kentucky Association of Physics Teachers.

Nancy Martin (ex-officio) serves as our reprentative to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National Association of Academies of Science (NAAS). Dr. Martin is Faculty emerita at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and her research interests have been in the area of yeast molecular biology and transport of nuclearly encoded proteins into the mitochondria of that organism.

Journal Co-Editors Wally Borowski and Kelly Watson (ex-officio) are both faculty in the geology deprtment at Eastern Kentucky University. Dr. Borowski studies stratigraphy, Environmental health of surface warers. Geochemistry of marine sediments. Dr. Watson studies landscape ecology and natural resource management.

Junior Academy of Science Director Ruth Beattie (ex-officio) has research interests in the area of instructional pedagogy.  She is identifying student learning styles, enhancing student learning and developing alternative classroom assessment mechanisms.  This involves the development, implementation and evaluation of innovative teaching strategies with an emphasis on their use in large enrollment, introductory biology classes. She is contucting a long term assessment of the role of technology (computer aided presentations, World Wide Web access, interactive software) in improving student learning.  In addition, she is analyzing data from a series of attitudinal surveys which have been administered to major and non-major biology students.  These surveys provide baseline data concerning the attitudes of students toward the importance of biology in everyday life and will aid in the development of non-traditional instructional strategies.

Junior Academy of Science co-chair Bruce Griffis (ex-officio) is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Kentucky State University. He has served on the KSU Faculty Senate and has been involved in several Mathematics and Science Partnership efforts – partnerships in which Kentucky schools and school districts, KSU, and other universities worked together to increase learning in math and science. He also participated on the statewide team that reviewed the Next Generation Science Standards for the state of Kentucky alongside elementary, middle, and high school teachers; faculty from universities; and other stakeholders in science education.

Program Coordinator Melony Stambaugh (ex-officio) coordinates hundreds of oral and poster presentations for the KAS Annual meeting each fall. Find out more

Newsletter Editor Sarah Mardon (ex-officio) has an extensive background as a research scientist and project coordinator. Her previous experience includes serving as Senior Admissions Counselor for Eastern Kentucky University, Geologist for agricultural cooperative CountryMark, Program Coordinator for the University of Kentucky's (UK) Center for Applied Research and Environmental Technologist for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Sarah earned her B.S. in Economics, B.A. in Geology and M.S. in Geology from UK. She is a member of the Kentucky Society of Professional Geologists and served on the Alumni Board for UK's Geology Department.

Executive Director Amanda Fuller (ex-officio) joined KAS as Executive Director in 2013. She has a BS in Environmental Science and a M.S. in Land Resources from UW-Madison. She has served as a board member and as staff with various nonprofits and served her country as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. Outside the office, Amanda is a part-time urban farmer, orchardist, and educator.