Superheroes of Science

The Superheroes of Science lecture series brings renowned scientists to RAIN’s downtown Tacoma location. The storytellers unfold their work and its importance, fantastic failures and lessons learned, the future of their field, and war stories from the lab.

Now open to the public, this growing event brings the local science community together, serves as a platform for networking and cross-pollination, and empowers students with lessons they can leverage to be successful in their careers.


RAIN Presents

Dr. Josh santarpia

Research Director

National Strategic Research Institute 


Monday, June 10, 2019 6-7pm

Patterns in Static: Identifying Causal Relationships In Environmental Data, Understanding chemical and biological interactions in the environment often requires studying a cumbersome amount of information.  Yet understanding them is critical to solving a wide variety of problems: from air pollution and climate change to natural disaster recoveries. The complexity of these studies - the number of variables, the rapid evolution of these variables, and the difficulty in knowing or measuring all the variables involved - demands a unique approach to problem-solving.

This talk will cover a wide variety of environmental problem-solving that I have encountered in my scientific career.  Subjects will range from air pollution to metagenomics, and some problems on the border of chemistry and biology. Rather than focus on “big-data” analytics, this talk will focus on straightforward approaches to simplifying problems and arriving at reasonable solutions.


Dr. Cindy Lawley

Illumina Commercialization Specialist, Conservation Geneticist, Marine Biologist, Animal Behaviorist, Kelp Forest Ecologist, high school science teacher


Monday, may 13, 2019 6-7pm

Dr. Cindy Lawley spent the last 14 years within Illumina, Inc helping commercialize low cost genotyping and sequencing solutions and consulting for startups leveraging genetics. She will talk to us about her experiences driving corporate success through scientific collaborations and challenge us to ponder the question In What Ways Are You a Product of Your Education/Environment?

She comes to RAIN with a diverse background including roles as animal behaviorist, high school teacher, professional scuba diver, marine biologist, kelp forest ecologist, university instructor, lab manager, and conservation geneticist (pause for breath). Cindy is passionate about advocacy, holding several scientific advisory board positions in STEM non-profits, and identifies strongly as a STEM mentor and coach for women in the sciences.


Dr. Joel Baker

Science Director

Center for Urban Waters

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Monday, April 8, 2019 6-7pm

Water is ubiquitous. Most of us use 10 gallons each morning before our first cup of coffee and over 100 gallons throughout the day, while 3 in 10 people worldwide lack access to clean water in their homes. Despite this, we fear unseen pollutants, fight over supplies, and worry about running out of this valuable but nearly cost-free resource.

In this presentation, we will explore how advances in analytical sciences and computing technologies led to vastly improved water supplies.

We will then discuss the impact of social media on our ability to comprehend risks. Are we in a water crisis? Is the sky falling? You will be challenged to reinvigorate your best superpower--critical thinking about your world!

We will finish with some thoughts on exciting innovations in how cities manage water.


Dr. David Voehringer

Cofounder, Director


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Monday, January 14, 2019 6-7pm

Successful Failure: Stories to Success Silicon Valley. Dr. Voehringer is driven by the challenge of enabling breakthroughs in science and technology and translating them into successful ventures. As a founding member of ProteinSimple (now a division of Bio-Techne), he was part of a team that built a unique protein analysis business from scratch that was successfully sold for $330M.

Over 15 years he made significant contributions to a revolutionary technology that modernized the Western Blot method and grew ProteinSimple from $0 to over $100M in revenue.  Taking on the role(s) of managing the research team, directing the marketing and business development efforts early in the technology rollout and ultimately building and spearheading an international sales teams, David gained a wealth of experience as a small startup successfully transitions to a market force.





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Monday, DECEMBER 10, 2018 6-7pm

All outbreaks whether intentional, accidental, or natural with pandemic potential start locally.  Early detection, reporting, and response are critical at the local and regional level to mitigate the effect of these outbreaks.  Therefore, it is vital that the various organizations (governmental and non-governmental) and subject matter experts connect and work collectively on challenges prior to an outbreak. Mr. Brooks will call on his wealth of experience to speak to how we as a country prevent outbreaks.

Mr. Brooks, within the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, leads the Biological Threat Reduction Department within the Cooperative Threat Reduction Directorate.  The Department is focused on protecting the United States and its allies from especially dangerous pathogens by collaborating with partner countries and the international community to minimize the threat of deliberate, accidental, and natural infectious disease outbreaks through enhanced biosecurity, safety, and surveillance measures.


Dr. Hans Jannasch

Senior Research Specialist

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute


Monday, November 12, 2018 6-7pm

A career in science doesn’t need to take a traditional academic nor engineering track. Building on your own curiosities and interests, you can follow your passions to create a unique, yet productive and satisfying career.  By using head and hands, as well as analytical and creative abilities, Hans will describe a career that took him to the ends of the earth, bottom of the ocean, while studying antarctic fish, elemental and nutrient cycling in the ocean, plate tectonics and ocean acidification.  

Hans has worked in chemical oceanography for over 45 years, having recently semi-retired as a Senior Research Specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). He balances science and engineering to develop instruments to study the role our ocean plays in processes from plate tectonics to climate change. He and a friend currently run a small ocean instrumentation company, and consult with various institutions designing deep-sea chemical monitoring systems. 


Dr. Malin Young

Department of energy national labs

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Monday, October 8, 2018 6-7pm

Dr. Malin is is responsible for integrating PNNL's science and technology capabilities to address critical challenges in science, energy, the environment, and national security. In this talk, she will share 10 of the most impactful scientific discoveries made by the National Labs and talk about how the Labs are driving America’s leadership in science and technology. The National Laboratories may be America’s best-kept secret in that it has spawned industries, saved lives, generated new products, revealed the secrets of the universe and has changed and improved the lives of millions of people.


Dr. Aleksandr Miklos

the US Army Research Center


Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 6-7pm

Dr. Miklos will present on the development of a novel chemical sensing technique and how it got from an academic project to a prototype device that's being tested in the field.  Instead of presenting this work as a linear, clean story where it looks like the researchers anticipated every twist and turn and wound up exactly where they intended to be, he will go out of his way to highlight the mistakes and decisions his team wishes they could change.

Because sometimes you have to remember that successes are frequently built through repeated failed attempts and that you need to be willing to change your mind and learn as you go. Dr. Miklos started out with a degree in Biochemistry from a liberal arts college (Kenyon College) where he spent as much time working on sculpture projects as he did in the lab.  He went on to get his Ph.D. from Duke University where he learned, in addition to computational protein design, that sometimes one must repair (or outright construct) an instrument to get an experiment done.  This was all excellent training for constructing a DNA synthesis lab in a trailer during his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas at Austin and then working on multiple and almost entirely unrelated projects for the US Army at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. 


Dr. peter senter

Vice President of chemistry

seattle genetics

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Monday, May 14, 2018 6-7pm

Monoclonal antibodies have played a major role in the treatment of cancer, with approved, active drugs such as Herceptin, Erbitux, Avastin and Rituxan for a wide range of therapeutic applications. Our focus has been on developing next-generation cancer therapeutics by using monoclonal antibodies for the selective delivery of high potency chemotherapeutic drugs. This presentation will give a background on targeted drug delivery, an overview of how Adcetris was discovered and developed, and some reflections on where this area of science is headed.


Dr. Nels Olson

Lead Technical Engineer and Scientist

The Boeing Company

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Monday, June 11, 2018 6-7pm

Trouble: where to find it and what to do, problem solving in the aerospace industry.  We all love those beautifully painted planes, but corrosion is the enemy. Dr. Olson has studied and tested many types of coating systems to protect both aluminum  and composite fuselage materials common to aircraft designs.  Throughout the history of aviation, all  aerospace companies have used Hexavalent Chrome as a paint system additive to protect against corrosion.  However, the toxicity of this material made it a poor choice long-term; a replacement was needed. Nels and the Boeing team went to work. The previous generation of tests were determined to be testing the wrong parameters to be predictive of in-service performance.  New tests were required that would better mimic the environments that aircraft experience.  Accelerated tests were needed to bring faster qualification of new paint systems. The Boeing paints and coatings team determined that a single test was not enough. When building models, if you have incomplete or uninformative data, you will not solve the problem.   Ultimately, the Boeing team outlined a series of tests that are designed to provide a more complete understanding of in-service performance and to identify the superior paint system of the future.  This talk shows the importance of smart engineering, system designs, and well thought out tests.  



UW Dept. of Chemistry

Monday, May 7, 2018 6-7pm



dr. sumita pennathur

University of california, santa barbara

Monday, april 9, 2018 6-7pm

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Dr. peter areissohn

VP of Research & Development


Monday, march 12, 2018 6-7pm

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dr. betty kutter

the kutter fund for microbiology research

Monday, May 7, 2018 6-7pm

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Dr. Betty Kutter received her Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Rochester, working on the transition from host to viral metabolism after bacteriophage infection of E. coli. In addition to  teaching, she has conducted extensive research throughout her time here involving hundreds of Evergreen students and various Evergreen and visiting colleagues. The National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and The Evergreen State College Foundation have all provided funding to support this work. 

Since a 1990 4-month US-USSR Academy of Sciences exchange visit, the Phage Lab's work has expanded to include therapeutic and food-safety applications of bacteriophage. It has also hosted 20 biennial Evergreen International Phage Biology meetings, now drawing about 170 people from 35 countries.

Betty established The Kutter Fund to help make it possible for Evergreen’s younger faculty and students to continue Evergreen's tradition of excellence in microbiology research. RAIN is proud to celebrate her as a SUPERHERO of SCIENCE!


dr. gustavo palacios

director, center for genomic sciences

US Army research institute for infectious diseases

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dr. kristi morgansen

UW Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics

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Monday, december 7, 2017 6-7pm

Kristi Morgansen received a BS and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University, respectively in 1993 and 1994, an S.M. in Applied Mathematics in 1996 from Harvard University and a PhD in Engineering Sciences in 1999 from Harvard University. Until joining the University of Washington, she was first a postdoctoral scholar then a senior research fellow in Control and Dynamical Systems at the California Institute of Technology. She joined the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the summer of 2002.

Professor Morgansen’s research interests focus on nonlinear systems where sensing and actuation are integrated, stability in switched systems with delay, and incorporation of operational constraints such as communication delays in control of multi-vehicle systems.  Applications include both traditional autonomous vehicle systems such as fixed-wing aircraft and underwater gliders as well as novel systems such as bio-inspired underwater propulsion, bio-inspired agile flight, human decision making, and neural engineering.  The results of this work have been demonstrated in estimation and path planning in unmanned aerial vehicles with limited sensing, vorticity sensing and sensor placement on fixed wing aircraft, landing maneuvers in fruit flies, joint optimization of control and sensing in dynamical systems, and deconfliction and obstacle avoidance in autonomous systems and in biological systems including fish, insects, birds, and bats.