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Hartford, CT (February 2, 2021) The Connecticut Science Center is continuing to serve science-curious adults with virtual events to address hot topics in today’s world. Straight Talk, a Science Straight Up Program, brings together dynamic experts in the science community in a LIVE virtual setting. Moderated conversations allow for audience interaction and participation.

Following the successful December program which featured presenters from Cytiva and Pfizer, the Connecticut Science Center is hosting Straight Talk: The Persistence of Race in Scientific Research on Thursday, February 18, 2021, at 6 PM. Straight Talk is offered as a free program to facilitate important community discussions. This conversation between philosophers and scientists will not only interrogate some of the enduring ideologies of race in America, but also the reasoning behind its continued resonance within the scientific community, largely in the field of Genetic Research.

The Science Center is excited to be joined by Dr. Sarah Roe of Southern Connecticut State University; Dr. Quayshawn Spencer of the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Cleo Rolle of Capital Community College; Dr. Keitra Thompson, DNP, MSN, FNP-BC of the Yale School of Medicine; and Connecticut Science Center STEM Educator Melissa Garafola. This event will also feature a special performance by one of Yale University’s premier acapella groups, Shades of Yale, who will open the program with a performance of the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

“This program is reflective of our ongoing commitment to delivering science-based content that raises awareness of and candidly examines the intersection of race, gender and STEM,” said Amy Sailor, the newly appointed Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access at the Connecticut Science Center. The Science Center will continue to introduce new programming and topics throughout the year under Ms. Sailor’s leadership.

Participants will also be treated to a look inside the Science Center’s new permanent exhibition The Genome in Me, presented by the Chase-Bear-Dyer Family, with STEM Educator Melissa Garafola. Ms. Garafalo will offer a glimpse into the science behind our genetic makeup. Set against the backdrop of the stunning visuals from inside the new exhibition, this informative, tone-setting presentation will show that we are all virtually the same when it comes to biology.

Straight Talk is the Connecticut Science Center’s series of adult discussions with experts, STEM professionals, and thought leaders. Each Straight Talk event is unique and provides guests with a robust discussion of on-trend topics.

This popular program is usually held in-person as part of the Connecticut Science Center’s Science Straight Up happy hour events. Dubbed “Hartford’s Smartest Happy Hour,” the events usually draw 400-800 people. Over the last 8 months, the Science Center has adapted the programs to a virtual format to continue these important conversations. Participants can expect to be informed and engaged with special features and opportunities to interact. This includes online Q & A, and exclusive content such as musical performances and LIVE science demonstrations.

Straight Talk is a Science Straight Up program and is part of the Connecticut Science Center’s Women in Science Initiative. Founding sponsor of Women in Science is The Petit Family Foundation with additional support from Voya Financial and Vistra.

Registration is free and donations are accepted. To register and to learn more about virtual events, more information can be found on the Connecticut Science Center’s website. Registration is free at


Presenter Bios:


Shades of Yale – One of Yale University’s premier acapella groups, Shades of Yale draws on the rich ethnic and musical backgrounds of its members. Shades strives to achieve the most dynamic and powerful musical presentation possible, with a focus on music of the African Diaspora. They have performed internationally for former President Obama, Nelson Mandela, and alongside music icons such as Lenny Kravitz and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in South Africa.



Melissa Garafola – Ms. Garafola is the Genetics Educator at the Connecticut Science Center. She develops as well as delivers Genomics programming to a wide variety of audiences. She has a BA in Biology from Western Connecticut State University and an MS in Education from the University of Bridgeport. Ms. Garafola is also certified in Connecticut to teach Secondary Biology. She transitioned from the research lab to formal education, ultimately finding her way to her true passion for informal science education.




Sarah Roe, PhD – Dr. Roe is an Associate Professor of History and Philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, where she is the director of the Research Center on Values in Emerging Science and Technology. Dr. Roe specializes in history and philosophy of science, feminist philosophy, and biomedical ethics. Her research can be found at the intersection of science and ethics and very often focuses on issues surrounding race and gender.





Cleo Rolle, PhD. Dr. Rolle earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Miami. Her graduate work focused on the generation of effector and memory T cells for adoptive immunotherapy to treat solid tumors. During her postdoctoral training at The University of Chicago in the Department of Surgery-Section of Neurosurgery, Dr. Rolle characterized the immune responses elicited in the brain tumor microenvironment and the utility of neural stem cells for the delivery of oncolytic viruses for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Medicine-Section of Hematology/Oncology, she examined genomic alterations in lung cancer based on the racial backgrounds of patients. Her publications include articles on the kinetics of T cell development, mechanisms of immune invasion in the brains of glioma patients, and the characterization of novel genomic alteration in thoracic tumors, as well as invited reviews and book chapters describing therapeutic strategies for cancer. Currently, Dr. Rolle is an Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Biotechnology Program at Capital Community College, and an advocate for increased access to STEM education for underserved student populations.


Quayshawn Spencer, PhD. – Dr. Spencer is the Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a PhD. in philosophy and an MS in biology from Stanford University. He specializes in philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, and philosophy of race. His research focuses on metaphysical problems in his areas of specialization, and his work has appeared in a wide range of philosophy journals, such as Philosophy of Science and Philosophical Studies. His research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the American Philosophical Association. He is a co-author of What is Race? Four Philosophical Views, which was published with Oxford University Press in 2019. He is also the editor of The Race Debates from Metaphysics to Medicine, a forthcoming edited volume with Oxford University Press. He is an editorial board member for multiple philosophy journals—such as Ergo and Biology & Philosophy—and handles primarily race-related submissions to those journals.


Keitra Thompson, DNP, MSN, FNP-BC – Ms. Thompson completed her doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Receiving her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies from Emory University. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate matriculation, she has been actively involved in both quantitative and qualitative research projects, volunteerism, and advocacy. She has a background in psychiatric-community health nursing, correctional healthcare, adolescent wellness, and women’s health. Her doctorate work focused on the integration of trauma-informed reproductive health services into an urban family drug court program.


About the Connecticut Science Center: The LEED-Gold certified Connecticut Science Center, located in downtown Hartford, sparks creative imagination and an appreciation for science by immersing visitors in fun and educational, hands-on, minds-on interactive experiences while maintaining an environmentally conscious presence. Serving more than 3.25 million people since opening in 2009, the Science Center features more than 165 exhibits in ten galleries and a range of topics, including space and earth sciences, physical sciences, biology, the Connecticut River watershed, alternative energy sources, Connecticut inventors and innovations, a children’s gallery, and much more. Other features include four educational labs, a 200-seat 3D digital theater, a function room, a gift store, and ongoing events for all ages. The Science Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing science education throughout the state of Connecticut and New England, providing learning opportunities for students and adults of all ages, and engaging the community in scientific exploration. The Connecticut Science Center is also the home of the Joyce D. and Andrew J. Mandell Academy for Teachers, offering powerful professional development for educators. More information: or 860.SCIENCE.