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Director's Office > Office of Diversity and Inclusion > Diversity & Inclusion DAs and EDG members 2020-2021

Diversity & Inclusion DAs and EDG members 2020-2021

Get to know your Diversity Advocates and Employee Diversity Group Members




Paulina Bocaz Paulina Bocaz

Paulina Bocaz joined NRAO in 2014, after 7 years working at the Joint ALMA Observatory. In 2016, she assumed the position of NRAO assistant director for Chile. Since then, Paulina has been spearheading several diversity & inclusion initiatives such as a study to identify underrepresented groups in STEM (2016), the first Workshop on Women in Astronomy and Engineering (2017), Hour of Code and STEM career “speed dating” activities (2018), and a role model campaign to promote STEM vocations among girls in low-income communities (coming in 2019). She is personally motivated by the observatories scientific mission, but believes that diversity & inclusion is key to making a complementary and lasting contribution to society, truly broadening the impact of science.

Sonia Duffau Sonia Duffau

Sonia is an astronomer; she obtained her Ph.D. from the joint Yale-University of Chile program. She is also a certified corporate mentor and coach. Sonia spent ten years until 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher in Germany and Chile, and was part of the board of directors of the Chilean Astronomical Society (SOCHIAS) during 2017-2018. As part of SOCHIAS, she led several initiatives focusing on gender equality and inclusive astronomy. Some highlights include “Breaking the Silence”, which brought astronomy closer to the deaf community, and coordination of the Chilean contribution to the “Hands in the Stars” project, a project of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to compile astronomical terms in different sign languages of the world.

Sonia´s focus is on education, outreach and diversity & inclusion initiatives in the AUI/NRAO Chile Office where she is the outreach and diversity officer since April 1st 2019. 
She works in programs like the PROVOCA campaign, as well as designing new ones to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in astronomy and STEM.




Summer Ash


Jennifer Jackson Jennifer Jackson

Jennifer Jackson is a Technical Specialist at the National Technology Center in Charlottesville.  She builds, tests, and repairs Warm Cartridge Assemblies that are the local oscillators for each band in the ALMA telescope array down in Chile.  In the 13 years she has worked at the NRAO, more than 700 of these oscillator units have been delivered to the array and are in use today.  Jennifer is a veteran of the United States Air Force, where she traveled to many different locations and worked with many different people from all over the world.  She has many years of experience working in the commercial sector of cellular, wideband, and PBX communications.  In working with so many people, Jennifer has come to appreciate the way diversity affects the environment of any workplace.  New ideas come from new outlooks and different ways of seeing the same problem.  She values the input of others, regardless of their background.  She is active in several local community groups and attends many LGBTQ focused events and workshops.  Having often been the only female in many of her work environments, she knows firsthand what it means to feel like you aren’t being heard.  Jennifer believes in creating a productive and happy work environment and truly believes that teamwork makes the dream work.  Without true acceptance and respect from coworkers and management, no team can reach its full potential.

Erica Keller Erica Keller

Erica Keller is a Data Analyst at the ALMA North American Science Center in Charlottesville. She works with the data processing and community support teams to help ALMA users get the most out of their data. In recent years she has focused on community outreach to under-representated students to encourage interest in science and technology.

Morgan Morgan McLeod

I'm a Software Engineer at the NRAO Central Development Laboratory in Charlottesville, Va.  Over the last 10+ years I have developed software for operating and qualifying the ALMA front end receivers. I have traveled several times to the ALMA OSF labs Chile to set up and maintain the front end measurement systems and to train the users.  Prior to working at the NRAO I contributed to the display systems on the platforms of the Washington DC Metro ("7 car train to Vienna, 4 minutes.")  I have also built software for manufacturing automation of cell phone infrastructure components.   In recent years I have mentored a few summer students at the CDL, which I find to be an enjoyable challenge.

Karen Prairie Karen Prairie Karen Prairie has been with NRAO since 2011. As the Observatory’s Meeting Planner, she advocates for and lifts up diversity issues on all levels of NRAO hosted events. Participants experience direct benefits from a diversity of ideas and perspectives when there is broad representation at these events. She believes there are many opportunities for each of us to uphold NRAO’s commitment to diversity in large and small ways.
Elizabeth Sharp Elizabeth Sharp

Originally from Kentucky, Elizabeth Sharp has been working professionally as a Software Engineer since 1997. She graduated with a Master of Science from the JB Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville in 2006-2007. She began working at NRAO in Charlottesville in November 2009.

For most of her life, Elizabeth lived as a male, but following a life-changing event in 2016, she realized that she needed to transition. Her extracurricular interests include science-fiction, fantasy and mystery novels; music, movies, journaling and an occasional trip to the pub with her friends and colleagues. Her wife Vivia, whom she met on a trip to Italy, manages their small farm just outside Charlottesville
JJ Utley JJ Utley

Jessica (JJ) Utley has been an Administrative Assistant at NRAO in Charlottesville for nearly 11 years.  She has worked for the Director’s Office, Business Services, and currently supports the department of Science Support and Research and the office of Diversity and Inclusion.  Over the years, she has had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of people at various stages in their careers – from students just starting out, to tenured colleagues.  However, she considers working with students from diverse backgrounds to be especially rewarding.  In her role as Administrative Assistant for the office of Diversity and Inclusion, JJ provides support to underrepresented students during their research experiences and serves as a single point of contact for assistance with everything from travel arrangements to stipend payments.

JJ believes wholeheartedly in the Observatory’s commitment to a diverse and inclusive work place culture that accepts and appreciates all individuals regardless of race, gender, gender identity/expression, age, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, or national origin and culture.  To that end, she plans to use every resource available to educate herself and her colleagues on diversity related issues, while continuing to advocate and provide support for minority and underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

Akeem Wells Akeem Wells
Akeem Wells is a Software Engineer at the  National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, VA. He received his B.S. in Interdisciplinary Science from Florida Institute of Technology in 2013. While having various interests in diversity, inclusion, education  and public outreach;  Akeem volunteers with public outreach events along with various events around the community in order to assist with efforts to make the Observatory a comfortable working environment.

ODI Contacts

Office of Diversity and Inclusion
(434) 244-6896

520 Edgemont Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903-2475

Director of D&I

Broader Impacts

- Observatory-wide Lead, and ngVLA BI IPT Lead


Antonio Hales - Program Manager

NAC Program

, Administrative Assistant

NINE Program

, Project Management Lead

, Science and Technical Lead


, Project Director

Diversity Programs

Diversity Advocates and Employee Diversity Group Members