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2011 Opening and Closing Speakers

Check out a talk from one our keynote speakers: Nina Tandon, 2011 TED Fellow!

Sarah Shirk (
Profession: Outreach Director, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE)
Work: University of Illinois at Chicago
Education: BA Swathmore College, MPH University of Illinois at Chicago

As Director of Outreach for the UIC Women in Science and Engineering program, Ms. Shirk exposes women to career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers with a realistic awareness of the skills needed to garner those careers. The WISE program provides many opportunities to mentor young women in both after-school informal learning environments and in-school collaborations with STEM teachers. The WISE mentoring programs help direct their futures by linking them to university student mentors and offering campus tours to offer a taste of what college life is like. In addition to working with K-12 outreach, Ms. Shirk also manages programs that link Chicago area community college students to UIC through exposure to nanoscience and nanotechnology career opportunities.   In January 2011, the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program’s mentoring initiatives were one of four organizations honored with a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). 

Nina Tandon (
Profession: Postdoctoral researcher (Columbia University), Adjunct Professor of Electrical Engineering (Cooper Union)
Work: Columbia University's Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering
Education: PhD, MBA, Columbia University

Dr. Tandon is a current TED Fellow, post-doctoral researcher at Columbia University’s Lab for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, executive MBA student at Columbia University, and adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering at the Cooper Union, teaching a “Bioelectricity” class. A native New-Yorker, she spent her early career in telecom (Avaya Labs), transitioning to biomedical engineering via a Fulbright in Italy (working on an electronic odor detector). She completed her PhD under Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic at MIT and Columbia, researching cardiac tissue engineering. After consulting at McKinsey from 2008-10, she’s resumed her research on electrical stimulation for broader tissue engineering applications. In her spare time, she practices yoga, running, metalsmithing, playing with puppies, baking and exploring. She has presented her work at TED, Singularity University, and Google, in addition to many prestigious academic conferences around the world. See Nina's 2011 TED Conference talk here!