Susan Yoon, Ph.D.
Susan Yoon, the lead SPARK! PI, is an assistant professor of education at Penn’s Graduate School of Education specializing in the areas of science, technology and the learning sciences. Her research program aims at understanding how students and teachers understand levels of complexity in scientific phenomenon. Her work is also focused on improving the numbers of students entering STEM-related fields of study and careers.
Ambra Hook
Ambra Hook, co-PI of SPARK!, is the Director of Science for the School District of Philadelphia. She is responsible for the facilitation of continuous research and development of the school district’s science curriculum. This involves the assessment and development of comprehensive support strategies to further improve outcomes for all elementary, middle and senior high school students.
Jeremiah J. White, Jr.
Jeremiah J. White, Jr. is the co-founder and Chairman of Osiris Group, Inc., a Philadelphia-based business strategy and marketing communications firm with strong relationships in the region’s science and technology community. It was through this work that Mr. White became aware of the extent of the under-representation of people of color in science and technology professions and, in 2003, he was a co-creator of iPRAXIS, a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the flow of knowledge, innovation, and business between people living in underserved communities in Philadelphia and the region’s renowned academic and research institutions and numerous cutting-edge life science and technology companies. Today, Mr. White serves as Vice-Chairman and Treasurer of iPRAXIS, and is a co-PI on the SPARK! project.
Linda Cairnes
Linda Cairnes is the Philadelphia Zoo co-PI for SPARK! and assists with coordinating the Philadelphia Zoo’s role in the project. She has experience working as the former exhibit and program developer at the Franklin Institute for 20 years. Currently, Ms. Cairnes is the Education Exhibits Program Manager for the Zoo and oversees the public spaces and exhibits in PECO Primate Reserve, Bank of America Big Cat Falls and the Treehouse. She is also the current Philadelphia Zoo PI for the latest Philadelphia – Camden Informal Science Education Collaborative project known as CASE (Community Ambassadors for Science Education). This project trains ambassadors from 8 community organizations to deliver science workshops to families at various community locations.
Joseph S. Sun, M.Sc.,
Joseph Sun is the Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. He also serves as Penn Engineering’s Director of Community Technology and Outreach, developing and overseeing the school’s many local and global service and outreach initiatives. Mr. Sun was one of the original participants in authoring the SPARK! program proposal. He serves as one of the program’s co-Principal Investigators, and oversees Penn Engineering’s program design and delivery of the Saturday workshops and summer camps.
Jennifer Chidsey Pizzo
Jennifer L. Chidsey Pizzo is the Director of Data Services and Curriculum for the Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network. Prior to joining Asia Society, Jenn was Director of K-12 Initiatives at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education where she focused on internationalizing K-12 education in West Philadelphia schools and co-directed the SPARK! Project. Ms. Chidsey Pizzo is currently a doctoral student at University of Pennsylvania, expecting to complete her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in 2010. Her prior graduate studies include science education and geoscience at the University of Iowa; critical and creative thinking at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She has B.S. in biology with teaching certification in secondary science from Northwestern University. She has received academic awards for excellence in education. She also serves on the Board of Ross Global Academy and the Advisory Board of the SPARK! Project.
Darryl N. Williams, Ph.D.
Darryl Williams is the Executive Director of iPRAXIS, Inc., a nonprofit organization that creates and fosters opportunities for underrepresented groups in science and technology through education and entrepreneurship. Part of iPRAXIS’ work involves recruiting and deploying volunteer practicing scientists (“Scienteers”) from industry and academia into classrooms throughout the School District of Philadelphia, connecting them to students in an effort to inspire a life long interest in science and technology. Dr. Williams is the director of SPARK!, and his background in chemical engineering and nanobiotechnology research assists the SPARK! team in implementing engineering principles to support student and teacher understanding of inquiry-based learning in the context of engineering design.
Melissa Chessler, Ph.D.
Melissa Chessler, Ph.D., is the external evaluator for SPARK!. She works closely with the PIs and organizing staff to ensure that the project’s implementation is on track and to assess the project’s impact on instructional staff and students. Through observations of SPARK! programming and professional development sessions, she provides ongoing feedback to continually improve the project’s implementation. Observational data, along with data from instructor interviews and participant surveys, will help Dr. Chessler, in collaboration with the SPARK! team, to identify program elements that are essential for improving students’ outcomes in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Rashmi Kumar
Rashmi Kumar is a doctoral student at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and is responsible for professional development and coordinating research components within the SPARK! project. She is interested in understanding how the dissemination of knowledge regarding learning and teaching of science takes place in urban schools. Another area of her interest lies in exploring parental involvement in curriculum development, and developing commensurate evaluation measures. Rashmi has published in journals such as Childhood Education and Young Children. She can be reached at
Wendy Green
Wendy Green is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is responsible for the creation and implementation of professional development for participating instructors within the SPARK! project. Wendy is interested in adult learning – specifically in how best practices can be utilized to enhance learning experiences. She is also interested in how adult learner identity intersects with the learning process. She can be reached at
Dorothea Lasky
Dorothea Lasky is a doctoral student in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research with SPARK! will include looking at ways in which students innovate while learning science and looking for meaningful ways to measure this innovation. Dorothea has worked on research projects at Project Zero, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, and the Philadelphia Zoo. She is also a poet and her first book of poems, AWE, just recently came out from Wave Books (
Jacqueline Flicker
Jacqueline Flicker is a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. She is responsible for the curriculum and materials used in the SPARK! after school program. She is interested in the development of inquiry -based curriculum and interdisciplinary studies specifically in math and science. Jacqueline is also interested in working with teacher preparation programs to encourage future teachers to create and implement these types of curriculum models in the classroom.

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