AfroBiotech Conference 2019

October 27-29, 2019

The AfroBiotech Conference, hosted by the Society for Biological Engineering, will highlight the achievements of African Americans in biotechnology, inspire a new generation of diverse biotechnology professionals and identify, communicate, and explore current advancements in various aspects of Biotechnology. The conference aims to support AIChE's diverse engineering community and all are welcome to join.  

Look out for AfroBiotech 2020! 

AfroBiotech 2019 Flyer

Technical Program

Poster Presenters

NSF’s support may be available to students/post docs who submit an abstract. Women and members of underrepresented groups are strongly encouraged to apply.


Historically, scientists of various racial/ethnic and gender identities have participated in the advancement of science and engineering in the U.S., but historically certain groups have been "hidden figures" who were denied full recognition of their innovation and leadership. Today, habitual exclusion increasingly discourages participation and recruitment of the next generation, which in turn undermines the strength and creativity of the U.S. scientific workforce. The AfroBiotech conference will focus on discoveries, innovations, and achievements from African-American scientists  and engineers in biotechnology to feature the contributions of this underrepresented group to solving current problems and demonstrate the power of a diverse engineering community. By organizing African-American scientific talent from across the U.S. at a single event, AfroBiotech hopes to enable the biotech industry to hire diverse professionals, inspire organizers of other scientific conferences to invite diverse speakers, and inspire the next generation of diverse students and scholars to join this community. The venue for the inaugural AfroBiotech conference is Atlanta, home of the emerging Georgia biotech corridor.

Keynote Speakers

Invited Speakers

Session Topics

  • Regenerative Engineering
  • Health and medical applications
  • Metabolic engineering and synthetic biology
  • DNA synthesis, genome design, and editing
  • Microbiome and immunoengineering
  • Mathematical and computational modeling
  • Bioengineering and our community

Conference Chairs

Organizing Committee

  • Edward Botchwey, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • James Carothers, University of Washington
  • Ayanna Jackson, Dow AgroSciences
  • Amanda Marie James, Emory University
  • Cato Laurencin, University of Connecticut
  • Elebeoba E. May, University of Houston
  • Kristala Prather, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sarah Richardson, Microbyre
  • Amelia Smith, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Cranos Williams, North Carolina State University


Featured Speakers

Cherie Butts

Dr. Butts is Medical Director and Head of Human Biology Research – Digital & Quantitative Medicine at Biogen (Cambridge, MA).  She obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.  Her pre-doctoral studies at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center characterized anti-tumor immune responses in ovarian cancer patients and postdoctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health examined neuroendocrine regulation of innate immunity. She continued this work at the US Food & Drug Administration, taking on additional responsibilities of...Read more

Anthony Guiseppi-Elie

Dr. Anthony Guiseppi-Elie is Associate Dean for Engineering Innovation in Engineering Medicine (EnMed) at Texas A&M University (TAMU) and Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH). At TAMU he holds the TEES Research Professorship in Engineering, is Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. At Houston Methodist Hospital, he is Full Affiliate Member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute and Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences and Engineering. A former Department Head of Biomedical Engineering at...Read more

Kristala Jones Prather

Kristala Jones Prather is the Arthur D. Little Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. She received an S.B. degree from MIT in 1994 and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley (1999), and worked 4 years in BioProcess Research and Development at the Merck Research Labs prior to joining the faculty of MIT. Her research interests are centered on the design and assembly of recombinant microorganisms for the production of small molecules, with additional efforts in novel bioprocess design approaches. Prather is the recipient of an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (...Read more

Cato Laurencin

Cato T. Laurencin is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and the Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He is also the Director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences, and the Chief Executive Officer, The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering.

He is the 8th University Professor in the University...Read more

Erika Jefferson

Erika  Jefferson  is  the President  and  Founder of  Black  Women in Science  and  Engineering  (BWISE),  an organization  focused on bridging the leadership gap for Black women in STEM. She received her MBA from Georgia Tech and her BS in Chemical Engineering from LSU. She has worked for top companies such as Amoco,BP, Chevron and  Praxair  in  a  myriad  of  leadership  and  executive  roles  ranging from  sales/business  development  to  supply  chain...Read more

Elebeoba May

Dr. Elebeoba May currently serves as a Program Director for the Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) Cluster in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences within the NSF Biological Sciences Directorate.  The SSB program supports highly interdisciplinary research that uses the tools of systems and synthetic biology to understand complex interactions within biological systems across different scales.  As an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Houston, Dr. May’s research focuses on the integration of computational and experimental platforms for...Read more

Erika Moore

Erika Moore is the inaugural Rhines Rising Star Assistant Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Florida. She defended her PhD in biomedical engineering from Duke University in May of 2018. She earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Erika’s work broadly focuses on understanding how immune cells can be leveraged to enhance tissue regeneration. Under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer L. West at Duke University, Erika’s thesis focused on the use of macrophages, innate immune cells, to support...Read more

Tagbo H. R. Niepa

Dr. Niepa is an assistant professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. He held a Postdoctoral Fellowship for Academic Diversity at the University of Pennsylvania (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), working with Professors Kathleen Stebe, Daeyeon Lee and Mark Goulian (Biology) to develop new culture methods to study microbial dynamics in artificial microniches and thin films. Dr. Niepa started his academic journey in the Ivory Coast, where he received his Associate Degree in Food Science and work experience at the...Read more

Norbert Tavares

Norbert Tavares is a Science Program Manager at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where he primarily manages single-cell biology research programs that support the international Human Cell Atlas consortium. Previously, he served at the National Cancer Institute, at the National Institutes of Health as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, where he managed interdisciplinary trans-institute/agency research grant programs. Dr. Tavares is a microbiologist by...Read more

Aimable Habimana

My name is Aimable Habimana, I am an NGS Test Engineer here at Ginkgo. I began my career in this field after an Internship opportunity while in graduate school at the USDA-ARS. Here, I was working on cotton (“Understanding Drought Stress Response by Transcriptome Analysis") and this opportunity opened the door for me in utilizing sequencing technologies to analyze the molecular mechanisms in various organisms. After earning my master’s in biotechnology from Texas Tech University, I joined Ginkgo Bioworks; developing and working on the inhouse sequencing pipeline.  I have been at...Read more