Board of Directors

Kyle Gracey

Kyle brings over a decade of experience in Pugwash to shaping its long-term vision. He previously served as a chapter President, Research Intern, Student Board Member, Vice President and Board Member.

Outside of SPUSA, Kyle co-founded the youth coalition at the United Nations climate change negotiations, analyzed policy for the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, served at the U.S. Treasury Department during the financial crisis, and wrote speeches for Vice President Joe Biden. Other roles have included Research Scientist at a sustainability nonprofit, Executive Director at another, supporting Government Relations at Carnegie Mellon University, soldier in the Army National Guard, and stints as a Science & Environment Consultant and Innovation Consultant at two private sector firms.

Kyle has served on over half a dozen nonprofit boards of directors; he is currently the chair of three. His writings and interviews can be found in book chapters, scientific papers, magazines, newspapers, video and radio. His Bachelors degrees (Biochemistry & Biophysics, Ecological Economics) are from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he became a Truman Scholar. His Masters degree (Geophysical Sciences and Public Policy) is from The University of Chicago.

Sharlissa Moore

Sharlissa is an Assistant Professor of International Energy Policy jointly appointed between James Madison College and the College of Engineering at Michigan State University. Her teaching and research interests focus on the social, policy, equity, and security dimensions of energy systems, particularly those that cross nation-state borders and are undergoing dramatic change. In addition to her research on solar energy policy in the Mediterranean region and Morocco, Sharlissa works on research collaborations in the College of Engineering to study the social and governance aspects of emerging energy technologies. She began her career studying astronomy and physics at Smith College and, since then, has continued to work with engineers and scientists to understand the social and policy dimensions of technology. For example, she has taught courses on sustainability and ethics for civil engineering students. Sharlissa has worked with SPUSA since 2006, initially as a staff member, later as president, and currently as treasurer on the Board of Directors. She has also worked in science and technology policy in Washington, DC at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Science and Technology Policy Institute.




Rachel Svetanoff

Rachel Svetanoff is the Vice President for Student Pugwash USA. Her current responsibilities include recruiting new student board members, coordinating member engagement activities, and organizing members to participate in communications roles. Before her role as Vice President, Rachel served as a student board member for two years where her primary duties focused on communications and public relations. Her current independent research activities, in collaboration with Dr. Sharlissa Moore, explores perspectives on social responsibility in science and technology as it evolved through the history of Pug-wash and Student Pugwash USA to understand the history of the idea of social responsibility as interpreted, understood, and applied by Student Pugwash members. Before her involvement with Student Pugwash USA, Rachel was the President of Purdue Student Pugwash for the 2013-14 academic year and publicity director for the previous year. Rachel received a M.S. in Global Health from the University of Notre Dame and a B.S. in Chemistry/Biochemistry from Purdue University. She now returned to Purdue University as a Graduate Assistant for the Jane Brock-Wilson Women in Management Center to obtain an MBA at the Krannert School of Management.


Kavita Berger

Kavita M. Berger joined Gryphon Scientific in 2015. Her focus areas are biotechnology, security, health security, and science policy. Kavita’s work addresses biological and chemical defense issues through active involvement of the scientific and security communities, international science engagement, and evaluation of multidisciplinary science and technologies. She has experience in: evaluating policy initiatives and produced policy and program option papers; developing educational case studies through which scientists can learn about how to analyze risk in their own research; designing and administering table top exercises to promote greater knowledge of how risks and threats are addressed in the scientific and law enforcement communities and to identify potential gaps in the system; and conducting technology evaluations in which she developed risk and benefit scenarios and risk assessment frameworks. She has developed innovative programs to promote trust and communication between the FBI and the academic science community in the United States, and to encourage cooperation between U.S. and Middle Eastern and North African scientists. In 2012, Kavita worked with the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues for seven months. There, she was the staff lead on the Commission’s evaluation of the ethical issues associated with pediatric medical countermeasures research. Immediately prior to joining Gryphon Scientific, Kavita spent nine years at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy. Kavita conducted her post-doctoral research at the Emory Vaccine Center where she conducted pre-clinical research and development of HIV and smallpox vaccines. Kavita received her Ph.D. in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University and B.S. in molecular genetics at The Ohio State University.


Walter Valdivia

Walter D. Valdivia is a fellow in the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. He studies innovation, science, and technology policy and the governance of R&D and innovation. His recent research examines the distributional outcomes of different modes of innovation and the politics of federal R&D. Valdivia holds a B.S. in economics from Universidad Católica Boliviana, and an M.S. in economics and a Ph.D. in public administration from Arizona State University.

Jeff Porten

Jeff Porten is a SPUSA alumnus representative on the Board. He is an independent Internet consultant, entrepreneur, and freelance writer based out of Philadelphia and Washington, DC.  He focuses on Macintosh and open-source Internet technologies professional and out of personal interest. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he served two terms as a Student Pugwash board representative and Chapter Advisory Council co-chair from 1989-1993 and has attended Pugwash and ISODARCO meetings since graduating.  Jeff is fired up about organizing alumni to hold SPUSA-style events and maintain an active and vibrant network.

Katie Wachsberger

Katie Wachsberger is an American Israeli studying Middle East Studies and Neuroscience at Columbia University. Upon completing her service in the IDF in 2014 as an instructional officer in a UAV unit, she became interested in understanding the Middle East with an interdisciplinary approach that would address some of the inequalities and challenges in a comprehensive way. She has worked for SIGNAL - Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership - for the past two years developing academic ties between Israeli and Chinese intellectuals, and is the founder of a Columbia University student organization, China-Israel Connection. 

Cameron Bess

Cameron D. Bess is a post-doctoral research fellow at the National Institutes of Health in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, where we studies the familial genetic protection against severe malaria in West Africans.  Dr. Bess received his Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University in Cellular Biophysics in 2009.  Dr. Bess was the Co-Coordinator of SPUSA's Rockefeller Chapter and served as Student Board Member to the National Office at that time.  He received his Bachelors of Science in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology with honors from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2002.

Ben Austin

Ben Austin is Vice President, Marketing and Communications for the World Science Festival. The inaugural Festival in May 2008 in New York City featured three days of programs exploring the many ways in which scientific discovery and innovation are shaping modern life, attracting over 120,000 people . Previously, he was a public relations and marketing consultant at Beijing Med-Pharm, which links U.S. and Western pharmaceutical companies to the Chinese marketplace. Prior to his position at Beijing Med-Pharm, he managed marketing programs and developed business strategies for several technology and software companies. In 2004, Austin worked as the marketing and communications lead for Caroline Kennedy at the New York City Dept. of Education, highlighting the effort to raise private funds for the city’s public schools.  He began his career as a scientist.  He received a BS in Chemistry with honors and a BA from Stanford University, and worked as a molecular biologist at Rockefeller University and Genentech.

Paul Billings

Paul Billings, M.D., Ph.D., a board certified internist and clinical geneticist, was appointed as President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Cellpoint Diagnostics (CPD) in February, 2008. CPD, a Mohr, Davidow Ventures backed enterprise, seeks to revolutionize cancer care through the provision of products and services focused on circulating tumor cells. Dr. Billings is also Executive Chairman of Signature Genomics Laboratories LLC, and serves on the Board of Directors of BioScale Inc., Cyntellect Inc., Lipomics, Inc. and several not-for-profit public interest organizations. Until September 2007, he was Senior Vice President and Senior Geneticist at Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings Inc. He has been Professor of Anthropology (adjunct) at the University of California at Berkeley and has published extensively on topics in immunology, genetics and medicine. Dr. Billings has interest and expertise in diagnostics in medical care and genomic medicine.

Jason Blackstock

Jason J Blackstock, PPhys, PhD, MPA is the Deputy Head of Department of University College London's new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP), an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the University of Oxford, and an Associate Professor (Adjunct) of the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED) at the University of Waterloo. With a unique background incorporating research physics, technology development, public policy, and international affairs, Jason is emerging as a leading international scholar and policy adviser on the interface between science and global public policy. He has previously built and led research and policy engagement programmes from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Austria) and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (Canada) that examined the complex interactions between the scientific, political and global governance dimensions of our planetary climate and energy challenges.

Suzanne Ou

Suzanne Ou is an undergraduate majoring in Biology and Environmental Policy at Duke University. Born and raised in Singapore, her primary interests lie in environmental issues concerning the tropics. From unsustainable resource exploitation to public health challenges, many equatorial countries are facing countless trials as economies develop. She plans to pursue graduate studies in Ecology before returning to Southeast Asia to lead scientifically-informed, community-based conservation efforts. Outside of research, Suzanne is active in promoting science communication with the Nicholas School of the Environment and uses wildlife photography to convey the wonder of nature.

Alan McGowan

Alan H. McGowan, Emeritus Chair, is an executive editor of Environment magazine, he is chair of the Science, Technology, and Society Program at Eugene Lang College and of the science program in the University Liberal Studies Program, both of New School University. He is also the Founder and President of the Gene Media Forum, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing information on all aspects of the genetic revolution to journalists. For 20 years, he was president of the Scientists’ Institute for Public Information, which served as a bridge between the scientific community and the media. Mr. McGowan has written extensively on science policy and public understanding of science issues.