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Gulf Research Program Staff

Staff - Lauren Alexander Augustine Dr. Lauren Alexander Augustine is the Executive Director for the Gulf Research Program. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of management and use of the criminal settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that were entrusted with the National Academies by the federal government. This includes fulfilling the vision, defining the strategic direction, and leading the development and implementation of this multi-dimensional, science-based program. Since her tenure at the National Academies began in 2002, Lauren has gained experience working in a variety of roles on a broad range of topics pertaining to water, natural disasters, and resilience. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program in 2018, she served as Director of the Resilient America Program, which supports communities’ efforts to build resilience to extreme events using science and diverse stakeholder engagement. In addition, she has formerly served as Country Director for the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), a decadal program that built scientific capacity in national academies across Africa; as Director of the Disasters Roundtable; and as a study director for the Water Science and Technology Board. Outside of her work at the National Academies, Lauren has served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Risk and Resilience; was a member of the Advisory Board for the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange program; and was a juror for two resilience competitions, Rebuild by Design for recovery after Hurricane Sandy and Resilience by Design in San Francisco. She is also a NATO Expert for the Civil Protection Group. Lauren earned her B.S. in applied mathematics and systems engineering and her M.S. in environmental planning and policy from the University of Virginia, and her Ph.D. in an interdisciplinary program that combined physical hydrology, geomorphology, and ecology from Harvard University.
Jim Banihashemi
Jim Banihashemi is the Senior Financial and Administrative Officer for the Gulf Research Program, and provides financial and administrative oversight to the program. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, Jim was an Academies staff member with the Health and Medicine Division (HMD), the Policy on Global Affairs Division (PGA), and the National Academy of Medicine. His work includes providing financial management and training for the Board on African Science Academy Development, a ten year program providing capacity building opportunities for African science academies. Jim also worked with the Academies program Partnerships for Enhanced Engagements in Research (PEER), a competitive grants program for scientists in developing countries. He served as the PEER financial trainer conducting international workshops on US government financial guidelines and best practices. Jim earned a Juris Doctor degree from Widener University School of Law, and is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Staff - Michael Banker Mike Banker is the Director of Communications and Media for the Gulf Research Program. His role is to lead and manage internal and external communications, outreach, and dissemination activities for the program. Mike’s background spans communications and marketing, grants administration, and environmental policy. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, he served as the Assistant Director and communications lead for the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, where he engaged with a broad spectrum of environment, energy, and natural resources topics and issues. Mike has an M.A. in rhetoric and scientific and technical communication from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in communication arts and philosophy from the University of Wisconsin. His graduate work had multidisciplinary focuses that included environmental rhetoric, conservation biology, and the integration of multi-stakeholder deliberation into environmental risk assessment processes.
Staff - Ellen Bannon Ellen Bannon is a Research Assistant for the Gulf Research Program. Her work is focused on the Safer Offshore Energy Systems Initiative, which seeks to make offshore operations safer for people and the environment. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, she worked as a research fellow at Georgetown's Global Health Initiative and as an outdoor education guide. Ellen earned her B.S. in science, technology, and international Affairs with a concentration in global health and biotechnology and a minor in French at Georgetown University.
Staff - Alexis Bhadha Alexis Bhadha is a Senior Program Assistant for the Gulf Research Program. She supports various programming, including activities under the Safer Offshore Energy Systems Initiative. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, she worked with various nonprofit organizations focused on topics such as gun violence prevention. Alexis holds a B.B.A. in international business and international affairs with a focus on environmental studies from George Washington University.
Hannah Hoffman photo Hannah Hoffman is the Gulf Research Program’s Project Coordinator – Grants and Fellowships Specialist. She is charged with supporting various Gulf Research Program activities. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, she worked in higher education as the supervisor of the telecommunications center for the Office of Admissions at Mount Aloysius College. Ms. Hoffman earned her B.S. in biology with a concentration in pre-health professional studies from Mount Aloysius College. She enjoys spending time with family, kayaking, and learning as much as possible.
Khazmutdinova Karina Karina Khazmutdinovais an Associate Program Officer for the Gulf Research Program responsible for supporting and advancing its Safer Offshore Energy Systems Initiative, with a focus on the Understanding Gulf Ocean Systems campaign. She first joined the Gulf Research Program as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow. Prior to this, she was a postdoctoral associate at Florida State University, working with inverse models to better quantify the global ocean circulation and its effects on climate. In addition to two oceanographic cruises in the Arctic and Indian Ocean, she participated in a large oceanographic campaign in the Gulf of Mexico. Karina has worked across the fields of physical and observational oceanography, climate science, and speleology. She holds a Ph.D. in geophysical fluid dynamics from Florida State University with a focus on caves’ microclimate and a B.S. in applied mathematics from the National University of Science and Technology in Moscow, Russia.
Staff - Heidi Kim Heidi Kimis the Finance Business Partner for the Gulf Research Program and works on financial and grants management. Previously, Heidi worked in various levels of fundraising alongside grants management with organizations including the United Nations Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts. Heidi has a Bachelor’s degree in business marketing management from Pamplin School of Business at Virginia Tech. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in public administration at the University of Baltimore with a focus on policy and administration.
Vanessa Lazar smaller Vanessa Lazar is the Program Officer in Strategy and Evaluation for the Gulf Research Program. In this role she leads the GRP’s strategic planning, supports the development and implementation of new activities, and oversees evaluation of the GRP. Before joining the Gulf Research Program, Ms. Lazar was a staff member in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, where she contributed to two consensus studies. Prior to joining to the National Academies, she was at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Division of Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences. At the NSF, Ms. Lazar primarily contributed to science communication, program evaluation, and supported a number of initiatives that bridged the behavioral and environmental sciences. She holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island. Her graduate research focused on social vulnerability to natural disasters.
20170607_Mitsumori photo Amy Mitsumoriis a Research Assistant for the Gulf Research Program. She focuses on data management strategies. Before joining the Gulf Research Program, she worked for several non-profit organizations. Ms. Mitsumori earned her B.A. in environmental studies from the George Washington University and is pursuing her M.S. in climate change and development.
Oksvig photo Kelly Oskvigis a Program Officer for the Gulf Research Program. She leads the program’s Safer Offshore Energy Systems initiative, which includes activities aiming to minimize operational risk to offshore workers and to the environment. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, she was involved in geotechnical investigations in the Gulf, environmental monitoring in the Gulf, and operations management for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.  Ms. Oskvig earned her physical oceanography at Texas A&M University, and her B.S. in civil engineering at the University of Texas.
20170508_Rea photo Chris Reais an Associate Program Officer for the Gulf Research Program focused on human and environmental health-related topics. Prior to joining the National Academies, he was a fellow with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, serving through both the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education post-graduate programs. During his fellowships, Chris also worked with the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s climate change and human health workgroup. His research work has broadly focused on water quality, infectious agents, and wetland ecosystem goods and services. Additionally, Chris has been involved in various global health projects and is an active member of the American Public Health Association. He holds a Ph.D. in public health (environmental health sciences) and a Master of Public Health from the Ohio State University, as well as a B.A. in sociology from Vanderbilt University.
20170127_Ruggiero photo Karena Mary Ruggierois a Program Officer for the Gulf Research Program focused on education initiatives as part of the capacity-building and outreach aspects of the program. Prior to joining the National Academies, she was the Director of Education at an international environmental nonprofit based in Washington, DC. Dr. Ruggiero has worked in environmental and climate change education as an informal educator for several years and has conducted research on the development, capacity, and politics of state environmental literacy plans. She holds a Ph.D. in education with a focus on science and environmental education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, a M.A. in political science from the University of Rhode Island, and a B.A. in journalism and environment & natural resources from the University of Wyoming.
Staff - Juan Sandoval Juan Sandovalis a Senior Program Assistant who works in providing support to various Gulf Research Program activities. Before joining the Gulf Research Program, he worked for the University of Maryland Medical System as a project coordinator. Mr. Sandoval earned his B.S. in geography from the University of Maryland along with a certificate in Latin American Studies.
20160722 Showalter photo Lauren Showalteris the Program Officer in Information Science for the Gulf Research Program. In this role, she is primarily responsible for developing the program's data management strategies, advising on data management policies and activities, and ensuring data from the program is available and accessible. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, she was the program manager for the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC), where she managed a complex data management system that served to make data from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill available to the general public. She received her M.S. in marine science from the University of Alabama, and her B.S. in biology from Northern Kentucky University. Her graduate research focused on ecotoxicology and marine food web dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico. Ms. Showalter is passionate about the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and ensuring that the information gathered following disasters is available for future generations.
20141020 Tang photo Evonne Tang is Associate Executive Director and Director of External Funding Opportunities for the Gulf Research Program. She supports the Executive Director in management, policymaking, and planning activities and oversees the conceptualization, development, and implementation of a range of grant making activities. She was one of the founding staff when the program was established in 2013 and led the development and operalization of the external funding portfolio. Evonne joined the Academies in 2002 as a Program Officer and was promoted to Senior Program Officer in 2005. In those roles she collaborated with different units and directed over 15 consensus studies and workshops with published reports. She was part of a multidisciplinary team that worked on the America's Energy Future Initiative, designed to provide an authoritative analysis of technology options and their costs and impacts to help guide decisions about the nation's energy future. Her sustained outstanding service was recognized by the Academies in 2010 when she received the Distinguished Service Award. Evonne received her B.Sc. from the University of Ottawa, M.Sc. from McGill University, and Ph.D. from Laval University, Canada.
Teri Thorowgood Teri Thorowgoodis the Administrative Officer for the Gulf Research Program. Previously, Ms. Thorowgood served as the Administrative Coordinator for several boards within the National Academies, including the Board on Physics and Astronomy (BPA) and the National Materials and Manufacturing Board (NMMB). Before coming to work at the NRC in 1998, Ms. Thorowgood worked as a clinical pediatric oncology social worker at the Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara, California, doing individual and group therapy with patients and their families. She received a B.S. in rehabilitation counseling and a master's in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Staff - Noel Walters Noel Waltersis a Research Assistant for the Gulf Research Program. Her work focuses on health and community resilience. Prior to joining the Gulf Research Program, Noel worked as a data analyst improving the quality of electricity survey data for the Energy Information Administration. She earned her M.A. from the George Washington University with concentrations in social inequality and urban sociology, and she earned her B.A. from McDaniel College, majoring in sociology and minoring in studio art. Currently, Noel volunteers as an “Insect Ambassador” in the National Museum of Natural History’s O. Orkin Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion exhibits.
20170112 Windecker photo Laura Windeckeris a Program Officer for the Gulf Research Program focused on ocean-related topics, including observation and monitoring. She has been involved in oceanographic and coastal research for over a decade with a primary focus on marine phytoplankton and their role in global carbon dynamics. Prior to joining the National Academies, she was a NOAA John A. Knauss Sea Grant Fellow working as Advisor to the Director of the U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System, a federal interagency committee, where she served as project manager of a Report to Congress. Laura has a Ph.D. in marine science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, a M.S. in oceanography from the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, and an A.B. in physics and marine science from Bowdoin College. Her first oceanographic research cruise was as an undergraduate aboard the SSV Westward with Sea Education Association.