Symposium Keynote Speakers

Natalie Konomi

Vice President for International Affairs and Diversity at Kyushu University

Dr. Natalie Konomi, a Professor and Manager at Kyushu University's Global Strategies Office, serves as Vice President for International Affairs and Diversity since October 2022. With over 20 years in academia, she has been pivotal in promoting cross-cultural understanding and internationalization in Japanese universities and communities. Holding degrees from Augsburg University, Germany, and Nagoya University, Japan, her research spans organizational management, strategic alliances, and intercultural communication.

Dr. Konomi’s past key roles include Director of the International Center at Kitami Institute of Technology and Vice Director of Nagoya University's European Center. She's recognized for her global dedication, receiving the Hokkaido Social Contribution Award for her JICA-funded health project connecting Kitami city (Japan) and Ulaanbaatar city (Mongolia). Her vast experience in education and intercultural communication includes navigating diverse teaching environments, customizing classes for diverse cohorts of international and Japanese students. Her expertise extends to conducting training sessions for Japanese enterprises of all sizes, local communities, and university staff.

Dr. Konomi’s commitment to fostering inter-cultural awareness and understanding aligns with her goal of inclusive dialogues and bridging divides. With her extensive experience, she equips people with essential skills for success in an ever-interconnected world aiming to inspire aspiring global citizens to shape a harmonious future.

Kana Grace

Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at IOE, University College London (UCL)

Dr. Kana Grace is a multiply-neurodivergent advocate, researcher, and specialist mentor of neurodivergent people. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE) at IOE, University College London (UCL) where she completed her PhD. Her doctoral research investigated and characterized loneliness in autistic adults. Dr. Grace now works on multiple research projects on the wellbeing of neurodivergent people. She also runs a non-profit startup, Valtameri for support and advocacy of neurodivergent people and their families. Dr. Grace is keen to co-produce her research and advocacy work with other neurodivergent people, and has been an active part of the UCL’s Co-production Collective. She was particularly involved in their work to make the Collective itself become more accessible and inclusive to diverse individuals (e.g., communication of their work).

She has often felt like an alien in her environments whether she lives in Japan, America, or England. However, she has always found home in ballet which she has practiced since she was three years old. Dr. Grace has also been fascinated by animals since she was little, and she is passionate about advocating for animal rights and veganism. Both ballet and animals have helped her to navigate the social world.

Catherine D`Ignazio

Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT

Catherine D’Ignazio is an Associate Professor of Urban Science and Planning in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. She is also Director of the Data + Feminism Lab which uses data and computational methods to work towards gender and racial justice, particularly in relation to space and place. Professor D’Ignazio is a scholar, artist/designer and hacker mama who focuses on feminist technology, data literacy and civic engagement. She has run reproductive justice hackathons, designed global news recommendation systems, and created talking and tweeting water quality sculptures. With Rahul Bhargava, she built the platform, a suite of tools and activities to introduce newcomers to data science. Her book, Data Feminism (MIT Press 2020), co-authored with Lauren F. Klein, charts a course for more ethical and empowering data science practices. Since 2019, she has co-organized Data Against Feminicide, a participatory action-research-design project, with Isadora Cruxên, Silvana Fumega and Helena Suárez Val which includes AI tools for human rights data activists. Professor D'Ignazio's forthcoming book, Counting Feminicide: Data Feminism in Action (MIT Press 2024), highlights how mainstream data science can learn a lot from the care and memory work of grassroots feminist activists across the Americas.

Vic Sivanathan

Senior Program Leader for the Science Education Alliance (SEA) at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Dr. Vic Sivanathan leads the Science Education Alliance (SEA), a program by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) that aims to broaden access to the practice of authentic discovery-based research. Focused at the undergraduate-level, SEA organizes science educators into long-standing communities of practice with bench-scientists and education researchers who collaborate to answer common research questions in the realms of science and science education.  By developing practices and infrastructure for doing so, science educators in SEA have agency, are not just consumers of science or education expertise, and find the work of advancing science and their teaching of it professionally rewarding. In turn, science educators in SEA, presently at over 200 colleges and universities from across the United States and beyond, are positioned to broaden access for their undergraduate students by embedding research as a fundamental component of the early undergraduate curriculum, thereby offering their students, en masse, an engaging educational experience that integrates them into the research ecosystem and promotes their persistence in the sciences. Dr. Sivanathan is a biochemist and microbiologist trained at the University of Oxford and Harvard University, and has leveraged his own research as a tool to engage college students in research.

Laura Bonetta

Senior Director for the BioInteractive program at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Dr. Laura Bonetta serves as the Senior Director for the BioInteractive program at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and is an adjunct professor of biology at Howard Community College. HHMI, a prominent independent science philanthropy, is committed to advancing science and science education for the benefit of humanity. In line with this mission, HHMI BioInteractive stands at the forefront of engaging students with authentic science by ensuring universal access to compelling, narrative-driven educational resources and by providing professional development opportunities to high school and college life science instructors across a diverse range of educational settings. The core of HHMI BioInteractive's work lies in its evidence-based approach to science teaching, with a focus on creating classroom environments that prioritize belonging and relevance for today's students.

Dr. Bonetta's academic journey includes graduate studies at the University of Toronto in Canada, followed by postdoctoral research at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) in London. She transitioned from laboratory research to embark on a career as a science writer and editor. Dr. Bonetta has contributed her expertise to numerous influential science journals and played a pivotal role in shaping various National Institute of Health publications and websites. Her career has been shaped by her belief in the transformative power of evidence-based, accessible science communication and education to enhance people’s lives.

Matthew Dolbow

U.S. Consul General

Consul General Matthew Dolbow leads U.S. Consulate General Naha and organizes American diplomatic outreach in Japan's southwestern islands.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Matthew previously served as Senior Advisor at the National Security Council, Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and at U.S. diplomatic posts in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Seoul, as well as in Washington, DC.

Matthew is a graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he studied diplomacy and leadership, and he completed undergraduate studies at the University of Chicago.  Outside of work, Matthew enjoys exploring music and arts venues, as well as autocross, and has driven at amateur track events in Beijing, New York, New Jersey, and West Virginia. He is joined in Japan by his wife Judy and their two daughters.