WIS Biographies

We are grateful for our alumnae for their time to return to campus and share about their careers in science, and for our event sponsors, Framatome and their US Women in Nuclear Contributions Committee!

2024 Panelist Biographies:

Courtney Carter Plaster (‘92)

Executive Director, Clean Valley Council

Courtney is a native Virginian whose experience in the non-profit world of science has spanned over 40 years. Before joining the Clean Valley Council, she worked in four different museums. They include the Virginia Museum of Natural History, Imagination Station Science Museum in Wilson, NC, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, and the Virginia Museum of Transportation in the departments of research, collections, publications, and science education. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1992. That’s right, she is an EVEN! In 2020, Courtney brought her non-profit leadership experience to Clean Valley Council as Director of Education where she quickly moved into the role of Executive Director in October 2020. She serves on several environmental stewardship committees including the Kiwanis Nature Park Committee with the Kiwanis Club of Roanoke, Resilient Roanoke Roundtable, Carilion’s Morningside Urban Farm Advisory Committee, Roanoke STEAM Day Planning Committee, Earth Day Roanoke Planning Committee, Roanoke City’s Bee City Planning Committee and the HOPE for Heat Resilience project with Virginia Tech. Courtney lives in Smith Mountain Lake with her husband, two daughters, two dogs and a 27-year-old salamander. When she is not working, you will find her hiking, dancing, practicing yoga, gardening, forest bathing, and attending music concerts and festivals.


Ashleigh E. Baber, PhD (‘05)

Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at James Madison University 

Dr. Baber attended Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and was heavily involved in theater, even as a chemistry major. She received her B.S. in Chemistry in 2005. She received a Ph.D. from Tufts University in 2011 working with low and variable temperature scanning tunneling microscopy to image individual atoms and molecules. She then completed a postdoctoral position in the Catalysis Chemistry group at Brookhaven National Laboratory from 2011- 2014. Her research group at JMU consists of undergraduate researchers using a homebuilt UHV surface analysis chamber to investigate the fundamental interactions of molecules with each other and metal single crystals. Her group focuses on modifying oxide nanoparticles supported on metals to drive selective chemical reactions. She has been awarded as a 2018 Research Corporation Cottrell Scholar, a 2018 AVS Future Star, and a 2022 American Chemical Society Women Chemists Committee Rising Star. She serves as a Director for the Board of Directors for AVS, the professional society for Science and Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing. Within the AVS society, she has served on executive committees for the Fundamental Discoveries of Heterogeneous Catalysis (HC) Focus Topic, Chapters, Divisions and Groups Committee, Surface Science Division, and the e-talk series. She is a co-founder and co-chair of the AVS Undergraduate Poster (UN) Session. She spends her free time with her family, her two children, and 2 dogs. She loves traveling when she gets the chance, especially if sand and the ocean are involved..


Kristina Whately, PhD (‘14)

Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Kristina Whately is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. She has been working in the lab of Dr. Chad Pecot for three years on lung cancer specific projects and received a T32 training grant from the National Institutes of Health. Her current research is focused on mechanisms of the relationships of different cell types within the tumor microenvironment, specifically between tumor cells and immune cells. She also investigates different drug therapy combinations and siRNA therapies in animal models for future clinical studies. She began her science career at Randolph College, pursuing a BS in Biology and Minor in Chemistry. She was able to do multiple independent studies with Dr. Rumore during her time at Randolph. She then moved onto West Virginia University, where she completed her PhD in Cancer Cell Biology. At WVU, she studied mechanisms of metastasis in breast cancer. She is currently progressing in her career and will be promoted to Senior Scientist this July. In her spare time, Kristina enjoys spending time with family, being outdoors, and playing disc golf with her husband.


Bria Carlisle-Thaniel (‘16)

Research Scientist for the US Department of Defense (DOD) and Adjunct Professor for Brightpoint Community College

Bria Carlisle-Thaniel is a Scientist (Research Scientist) with the United States Department of Defense. Bria conducts research that supports the Department of Defense and Navy that focuses on protecting the security of our country. Prior to being employed at with the federal government, Bria was employed at ATCC (American Type Culture Collection) as a lead biologist where she utilized a variety of microbiological techniques to propagate mammalian viruses in cell culture and embryonic chicken eggs. Bria has worked in several research positions throughout her career and has gained many laboratory and research skills including microbiological, molecular, virological, and clinical chemical techniques. In addition, Bria is an adjunct professor at both Germanna Community College and Brightpoint Community College where she teaches Introductory Microbiology and Biology. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, working out, and being a dog mom.