JBoard Virtual Mixer


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JBoard Virtual Mixer

July 8 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Our annual JBoard Member Mixer is going virtual for 2020! This invitation-only, virtual evening on Wednesday, July 8, will bring you the latest news from the Institute and the opportunity to connect virtually with our mission and fellow JBoard members. While we won’t be together in person this year, we still have a wonderful, virtual evening planned to honor the young professionals who demonstrate incredible dedication and generous support for the Institute’s mission!

Co-chairs Chad Bassett and Rachel Mraz will kick off the event, and attendees will hear from three Institute postdoctoral fellows — Payton Stevens, Ph.D., Emmanuel Quansah, Ph.D. and Michael Dahabieh, Ph.D. — on where they’re from, why they joined VAI and what exciting research they’re working on right now.

Chief Education Officer Terra Tarango will then provide a look at the critical role VAI serves in providing teachers and parents with resources for at-home schooling. This includes the launch of a free, virtual version of “Prevent the Spread,” a Blue Apple™ project that helps students learn about their unique power to stop the spread of coronavirus.

An interactive Q&A session will follow the presentations, so you’ll have the chance to ask any questions that may have surfaced while listening to our presenters.

We’re collaborating with one of our favorite community partners, Aperitivo, to offer you a delicious at-home experience during the event. As part of Aperitivo’s Virtual Happy Hour, two bottles of wine and a three-cheese platter (plus crackers, bread and other fun sides) will be available for pickup at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market for attendees who register by 12 p.m. on July 6. Wine and cheese experts from Aperitivo will guide you through the history and background on everything while we all taste together from the comfort of our homes. Life may look a little different lately, but we feel strongly that it’s important to continue to support the community and our restaurant partners where we safely can.

Register for this exclusive evening here. (Bonus: You won’t be on camera, so feel free to dress in your living-room best!) Once registered, you’ll receive a link allowing you to log in and access the virtual event on July 8; the access link will also be sent again the day of the event. Be sure to register even if you can’t join the virtual event while it is live — everyone who registers will receive a link to watch the recorded presentations after the evening concludes.

Please note, this is an invitation-only event.


Michael Dahabieh, Ph.D.

Emmanuel Quansah, Ph.D.

Payton Stevens, Ph.D.

Terra Tarango



Dr. Michael Dahabieh earned his Ph.D. in experimental medicine from McGill University and his M.Sc. and B.Sc. in molecular biology and biochemistry from Simon Fraser University. His thesis research focused on the role of peroxisomes in tumor proliferation across multiple model systems. To aide in his research, he has laboratory skills that include immunoprecipitation, immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, electron microscopy, density centrifugation, among others. In 2020, Dr. Dahabieh continued his study of cancer and metabolism as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Russell Jones’ lab.






Dr. Emmanuel Quansah is an expert in cell and molecular neurobiology, genetics and neuropharmacology with an interest in neurodegenerative disorders. He earned his B.Sc. in molecular biology and biotechnology from University of Cape Coast in Ghana followed by an M.Sc. in pharmaceutical biotechnology and a Ph.D. in molecular neurobiology from De Montfort University in the United Kingdom. His graduate work focused on the effects of the medication Ritalin (methylphenidate) on the developing brain. More recently, his work has centered on mitochondrial dysfunction and misfolded protein propagation in Parkinson’s disease, first as a research assistant under the mentorship of Dr. Nicoleta Moisoi at De Montfort University and now as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Patrik Brundin at Van Andel Institute. Over his academic career, Dr. Quansah has received several awards for his work, including the High-Flyers Scholarship from De Montfort and the Ghana Educational Trust Fund Scholarship from the government of Ghana.

Dr. Payton Stevens earned both his B.S. in biology and Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Kentucky, where his studies largely focused on the role Erbin plays in colon cancer initiation and progression. In 2015, he was awarded a prestigious, three-year Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31) from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to support his colon cancer research. Now, as a postdoctoral fellow in the Williams Lab at Van Andel Institute, he will continue to work in the field of cancer progression and metastasis while focusing on Wnt signaling and cell motility.



Van Andel Education Institute Director and Education Officer

Terra Tarango is an accomplished executive in the education industry with more than 15 years of experience in educational publishing and services. Prior to joining VAI, Tarango served as President of SDE, one of the largest providers of professional development for pre-K through 12th-grade educators in the U.S. Before that, she developed award-winning print and digital curriculum with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the largest educational publisher in the nation. She is an expert in instructional climate and culture and has devoted her career to increasing curiosity, creativity and critical thinking in the classroom.

As Van Andel Education Institute Director and Education Officer, Tarango oversees VAEI and its efforts to improve science and inquiry-based instruction in K12 education. She and her team provide innovative science programs for students and world-class professional development for educators.

Contact Sarah Rollman at 616.234.5712 or via email for more information.


July 8
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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