6 Inspiring #WomenInSTEM Who Are Building the Future

To cure, prevent, or manage all disease by the end of the century, we need all voices at the table. At CZI, we know that building a future for everyone wouldn’t be possible without the incredible women on our science team.

We’re honoring International Day of Women and Girls in Science by highlighting a few of the women making a difference at CZI. Check out their stories below.

Mikala Caton, Product Application Scientist

“I love that my career in STEM has allowed me to positively impact people’s lives in a variety of ways. It’s amazing how a career in STEM can evolve over time.”

Mikala Caton was inspired to pursue a career in STEM early on in college. She was drawn to the field of epidemiology because of her curiosity for the who, why, when, where, and how people become ill. While working for a local public health department, Mikala was a “disease detective” where she responded to outbreaks and analyzed data to inform local public health policies. At CZI, Mikala continues to apply that knowledge and experience to develop new tools, like Chan Zuckerberg GEN EPI, that enhance the way we respond to disease outbreaks.

Ana-Maria Istrate, Research Scientist

Ana-Maria went into a career in science because of the beauty she saw in trying to understand the universe and the technology helping to do that in an automated way. In college, she was intrigued by the ideas of randomness and probability, and ended up specializing in artificial intelligence. Now at CZI, she builds machine learning solutions to support the questions brought up by program areas. At the end of the day, Ana-Maria feels that it’s all about the joy she gets out of coming up with solutions to challenging problems.

Ivory Dean, Science Program Manager, Diversity in Science

Ivory Dean was inspired to pursue a career in science by her high school chemistry teacher. She combines her passion for racial equity and science through her role at CZI. She considers herself “an advocate for scientists of all colors to have an equitable opportunity to contribute to science.”

Ivory currently oversees the Science Diversity Leadership program, a partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to further the leadership and scientific accomplishments of excellent biomedical researchers who — through their outreach, mentoring, and teaching — have a record of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in their scientific fields. She’s passionate about supporting scientific innovation that benefits all people, especially people of color.

Melissa Gorham, Science Project Manager, Neurodegeneration and Imaging

“As I grew up and explored topics in more depth, I found myself drawn to the areas that didn’t have answers — one being the science behind the brain’s role in health disease.”

Mentorship heavily impacted Melissa Gorham in becoming a scientist. As a kid, she asked a lot of questions about how the world worked, and felt comforted when science seemed to provide the best answers. Melissa is grateful for the support of her two fantastic mentors who encouraged her to not only study what she loves, but to find ways to continue to learn and feel close to the work.

Now an accomplished scientist with a degree in neuroscience, Melissa helps build collaborative networks of researchers to advance our understanding and treatment of neurodegeneration, as well as supports researchers pushing the frontiers of biomedical imaging. Melissa is also passionate about paying forward the formative training and mentorship opportunities she received when she was a trainee. To accelerate science, Melissa emphasizes that it’s key to bring new, bright minds to the field.

Cori Bargmann, Head of Science

“What could be better than making discoveries about the living world in the company of smart, thoughtful, curious people?”

CZI Head of Science Cori Bargmann describes being curious from a young age when observing the world and thinking about different problems. She fell in love with the lab at 17 years old: “From the first day that I was in the lab, I never wanted to leave.” Now, Cori is excited to support a new generation of scientists who continue to grow and accelerate science in new ways. She’s inspired by moments when another scientist describes a great piece of work, only to realize it was from a young scientist that CZI has supported — or one of her own former graduate students.

CZI is still in its early days, and Cori is excited to see the impact the work is starting to make and how it will benefit human health in the long term. Progress is happening at an astonishing pace — methods in single-cell biology, microscopy, and artificial intelligence that were considered impossible just five years ago are now routine. “Human biology is incredibly vast, and there’s much more to discover in the next 10 years as scientists study the human body in action.”

Bailey Marshall, Program Associate, Single-Cell Biology

“What makes me most proud to work in STEM is to be part of a community that is constantly asking ‘Why?’ and dedicated to uncovering new insights.”

Bailey Marshall was first inspired to go into STEM by a high school teacher who sparked an interest in understanding human development and stem cell biology. Since then, her interest has expanded to include understanding more about the biological mechanisms of cells. As a program associate for the single-cell biology team, Bailey supports grantmaking efforts focused on better understanding inflammation’s role in disease and supporting researchers who are building the Human Cell Atlas. She’s most inspired by the researchers and mentors who are committed to training the next generation of scientists.



Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Science

Supporting the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.