Who We Are


Dr. Margaret (Peg) Riley – President & Founder

President Peg Riley

Dr. Riley obtained her B.S. and M.S. at UMass Amherst and her Ph.D. at Harvard. She then spent 15 years as a Professor at Yale. She just recently returned home to UMass Amherst, where she is a Professor in the Department of Biology. Her research in microbial ecology and evolution has led to key insights into the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Dr. Riley has a strong commitment to science education and hopes to use her position as the first President of the MAS to pursue this challenging and rewarding mission.

Jenna Farrell – Executive Director

Jenna joined the MAS in the Spring of 2009 as an intern and became the Director of Operations in June of 2009. She attended Greenfield Community College where she studied Business Administration and earned an Associate’s Degree in Science. She then continued on to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Isenberg School of Management, where she continued and completed her studies in Management. She brings a unique perspective to the MAS because of her “non-sciencey” background, but is developing a deep appreciation for and interest in science. Jenna is interested mostly in science outreach – bringing the wonders of science to students, teachers, and parents.

Doc – Tea Room Director

Doc is the resident African Grey Parrot of the MAS. Parrots are extremely intelligent animals and can grow to the intelligence level of a five year old human. Right now Doc is still young, but is learning words. His favorite time to show off his talents is when no one is watching, because he knows once he talks all eyes are on him. He particularly like blowing kisses and mimicking sounds he hears, like the walky-talkies of janitors. He is a feisty and exciting bird to have around the workplace.

Monty – Tea Room Barista

Monty the Python is the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences official mascot. You can see Monty at any event that MAS attends. He is a ball python (Python regius) around 3-5 years old, and is still considered a juvenile. Right now he is about 3 feet long, but when he is fully grown he will be 5-6 feet long! Monty is extremely friendly and is held by many attendees at MAS events.

Charles – Tea Room Pretty-Boy

Charles, named after Charles Darwin, is our cute and cuddly bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Charles is about 4 years old and loves to bathe in the sun when he isn’t accompanying Monty to MAS events. Like Monty, Charles is also friendly and can be seen in the hands of curious guests at almost all events that the MAS attends. He is easily one of the most photogenic lizards we have ever seen.

Contributing Interns:

Gabrielle Bailey – Mentor

GabrielleprofileGabrielle Bailey is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is in the Pre-med track, but currently has an undeclared major.  She was originally born in Worcester Massachusetts and attended high school at Bay Path Regional Technical High school. Her hobbies include volunteering, baking, painting and playing basketball.

She currently works as a nursing assistant at a nursing home. Her future career aspirations are to become a pediatrician. She has a passion for working with children that was sparked during her trips volunteering at Camp Sunshine.

Rebecca Brigham – Mentor

RebeccaBrighamProfileRebecca is a sophomore at UMASS Amherst currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Biology. She is hoping to use her education to continue on towards becoming either a Physician’s Assistant or obtaining a post-graduate nursing degree. Rebecca works as a nanny over the course of her summer breaks and enjoys helping kids reach their full potential. Having developed her love for science in middle school, she sees this opportunity to work with other students as a way to share her passion for the subject and to even instill a similar interest in others.

Lisa Bui – Mentor

My name is Lisa Bui andLisaBuiProfile I am a transferred sophomore studying biology. I’m from the rainy city of Seattle, WA! I love biology so much, I always look forward to class because the spectrum of life is infinite and everything relates in one way or another. On my free time some of the things I like to do are hang out with my family/friends, read, volunteer, or hike. I have an obsession with aquatic animals and giraffes but am passionate about all animals and helping others. I always strive to be a part of something bigger than myself so I’m excited to be a new member of such an inspiring team of mentors! 🙂

Daryl Choa – Lead Mentor (Quaboag)

DarylProfileMy name is Daryl Choa. I am a junior Biology/Psychology major on the pre-med track. I’m originally from Newton, MA. Outside of academics, I’m a member of UMass Club Swimming, Vice President of the UMass Cooking Association, and a Student Admissions Representative (tour guide) for UMass  Amherst.

This is my second year as an E-STEM mentor and I’m very excited to be back! I first joined the MAS when I heard about it through my professor, Margaret Riley, the founder of the organization. I thought it would be a great opportunity to inspire my love of science in younger students. In middle school, the Girl’s Science Club of Boston came to visit and showed us all the different career opportunities available through a STEM education. They inspired me to pursue a career in science, and since then I’ve wanted to share that interest with other students. When I graduate, I hope to become a part of the Teach for America program, and then eventually go to medical school.

Paul Fionte – Mentor

PaulFionteProfileCurrently, I am a junior at UMass Amherst obtaining a B.S. in biology. I am also pursuing a double minor in psychology and chemistry. Sports are a big part of my life. A few I really enjoy are basketball, swimming, and ultimate Frisbee, but there are plenty more. On Campus at UMass I have played intramural volleyball, basketball, and softball. Starting this semester I work in the Biology Computer Resource Center as an instructor that helps students set up accounts, access supplies, and solve computer problems. After college I hope to go into a field of medicine either working as a pediatrician or go into pediatrics as a physician’s assistant.

I’m very excited to start volunteering and working with E-STEM! I’ve always had a passion for mentoring and working with children. From the age of 15 to the present I have worked at The Lowell Association for the blind as an Assistant Group Leader. I’ve helped kindergarten all the way to teenage visually impaired children participate in activities like bowling, apple picking, and going to the movies for example. I work primarily on the weekends about once or twice a month when I’m at home during the summer or winter break. I’ve also worked and volunteered at my local YMCA. I was part of a teen leadership group there from 8th grade through high school and beginning in the summer of my junior year I have worked there every summer as a camp counselor. I love my job; helping kids grow and learn while having fun with them is an amazing opportunity.

Sam Fox – Mentor

Hi, my name is Sam Fox and I am a STEM mentor. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts. I am a biology major here and on the pre-medical track. The goal is to become a doctor, which as many know, is a very long term goal. I love biology because it is amazing to learn how life forms (such as us) work. The field is so complicated that we will never know the true answers. One has to be very curious to study something where the exact answers will never be found.

Some of my interests include basketball, sailing, and hiking. I grew up playing basketball and still play it on an intramural team here at UMass. I also grew up in a town placed right on the ocean in eastern Massachusetts. There, I grew up sailing and now teach people how to sail over the summers. My favorite place to be is on the water, so going to school in western Massachusetts is definitely a new experience for me. Here, in Amherst, I go hiking and try to be outdoors all the time. Just theSamFoxProfile other day I was on a hike and saw para-sailors at the top of the mountain. I guess that’s as close as I’m going to get to sailing out here! This is what it looked like:

I could never imagine doing this as I am scared of heights. Anyways, I am really looking forward to mentoring and can’t wait to start!

Molly Jeffrey – Mentor

MollyProfileHi, my name is Molly Jeffrey. I am a double major in Biology and Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am from Norfolk, Ma and currently work as a medical assistant at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. My personal interests include playing softball, skiing, and hanging out with my dog Axel! In the future I hope to attend optometry school. I am excited to work with the STEM students because as a former peer mentor, I enjoy and believe in the positivity of the relationship between mentors and mentees.

David Lassalle – Mentor

DavidLasalleHello! My name is David Lassalle and I am a freshman at UMass Amherst as a computer systems engineering major. I’m from a small town in Massachusetts called Upton in Middlesex and went to a charter school in Marlborough, MA called the Advanced Math and Science Academy where I was a member of only the third class to ever graduate from the school. Although I am an engineer, I applied to UMass with education being my second choice in major, so I love to teach and help tutor anyone on what I can help with. I’m excited to start mentoring and I am sure it will be fun and productive!

Luyan Lin – Mentor

LuyanProfileLuyan is a sophomore Biology major at UMass Amherst. She also hopes to minor in Education, for she aspires to become a teacher for high school age students. Some of her hobbies include singing and drawing. She hopes to encourage others to share her love of the arts and sciences, which is why is she excited to be a part of the STEM program!

Amanda Ng – Mentor

AmandaNgProfileMy name is Amanda Ng. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and I am an Economics major on the pre-medical track. My ultimate dream in life is to become a pediatrician. When I was about 6 years old, I got a doctor kit that came with all those fancy tools that doctors used and I performed “operations” on my little sister. It was one of my favorite games to play.

When I was in high school, I started volunteering at a hospital named Tufts Medical Center in Boston and fell in love with everything about it. I was a mentor there and I helped jumpstart that program. I was the first mentor this program had. It is one of my biggest accomplishments up to date because I felt that I really did help my kids. It is a great feeling knowing that I can help someone in any way possible. I hope my involvement in this program will not only affect my life, but to impact yours as well. I look forward to working with all of you and I am here to help so please come to me with any questions!

Aaron Nimako – Mentor

AaronProfileHello all, my name is Aaron Nimako and I am a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I am a biology major and an aspiring pediatrician. I am from Albany, New York and I attended Colonie Central High School. During my time at Colonie Central High School I ran track for 8 seasons, 4 of indoor track and 4 of outdoor track, I also played baseball for Cook Park in Colonie. Some hobbies I have would be listening to music, reading, working out, playing and watching sports.

I am so excited to start being a mentor, I love working with kids and being able to teach and make a difference for kids is something I decided I would be really interested in once I got to UMass. So when I saw the opportunity to be a mentor for E-STEM I had to grab it. I also want to become a pediatrician so I will be working with kids in the future, this will be a good experience for me to have.

Amanda Okpoebo – Mentor

540077_10150836926946374_1097703624_nMy name is Amanda Okpoebo and I am a sophomore Biology major on track for pre-med here at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In my spare time, I like to exercise, discover new music and relax with my closest friends. In the future, I hope to attend med school and become a child/adolescent psychiatrist.

One of the main reasons I decided to become an E-STEM mentor is because of how great the opportunity was. I thought to myself, if I had the opportunity as a junior high school student to get mentored by college students in the sciences just how massive my desire to pursue a career in the sciences would be at that early age. As a mentor, I hope to be able to spark interest in the sciences within my mentees and to get them thinking about their futures early. The earlier they contemplate their careers, the more time they will have to decide. Its programs such as E-STEM outreach that help provide children, who are often at risk, with the basic skills necessary for success.

Isaac Virshup – Mentor

IsaacVirshupProfileIsaac is a third year student at Hampshire College studying biochemistry. If you ask where he’s from you’ll be answered with a string of ‘uhm’s, ‘err’s, and ‘uhh’s before learning he was born in Utah, but lived in Singapore during high school. Besides academic activity, Isaac enjoys cooking, wandering, and consuming pop culture in all its glorious forms. He is new to MAS, becoming involved due to an interest in the practice of science education and a hope to share his enthusiasm for science as his mentors shared theirs.

Phung Vuong – Mentor

PhungProfilePhung Vuong is from Boston, Massachusetts, who is currently a freshman at Umass Amherst majoring in Biochemistry going on a pre- medical track. Academics are important to her as well as achieving her goals, but her passion is also VoViNam Martial Arts. She loves biking, going to the park with her niece, and playing outdoor sports during her free time. She is hoping to become a Pediatrician in the future, thus is the reason why she is interested in the MAS program. She had experienced working with teenagers and kids for the past three summers as a high school student. So, she is super excited to be part of MAS this year because this program gives both the opportunity of working with kids as well as being engage in science.

Becca Warren – Lead Mentor (Holyoke)

BeccaProfileHi everyone! My name is Becca Warren and I am a senior here at UMass. I am a biology major with a psychology minor, and in the future I’d like to work in the healthcare industry.  In my spare time, I love to spend time outdoors, practice yoga, cook, and travel.

Initially, I became interested in mentoring after being inspired to pursue the sciences by a mentor I was fortunate enough to meet during my freshman year at UMass.  I had a wonderful experience working as a mentor with E-STEM last year, and I am very excited to be a part of the program again this upcoming year!

Steve Yu – Intern

SteveProfileMy name is Steve Yu and I am a senior at UMass Amherst, majoring in biology. I was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, and am the oldest of six siblings. On my free time I like to play guitar, and be with friends playing sports, fishing, or hiking. This is now my third semester working with MAS, and I am happy to be back as part of such a great program. I have loved science ever since I can remember, and have had experience with youth leadership since the beginning of high school. E-STEM gives me a chance to combine both, helping elementary and middle school students find a genuine interest in science.


One response to “Who We Are

  1. Pingback: Doc, our parrot friend, gets a Facebook! « Massachusetts Academy of Sciences Blogline

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