About Our STEM Staff

Kathryn Lanier, Ph.D.

STEM Education Outreach Director

Kathryn Lanier, Ph.D., joined Southern Research in 2017 as the first STEM Education Outreach Director. In this role, she is responsible for directing a statewide program that aims to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and engineering, in addition to training teachers involved in these fields. In addition to her role at Southern Research, Dr. Lanier was appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to represent Alabama's 6th congressional district on the Mathematics Course of Study Committee and Alabama's 7th congressional district on the Career Technical Education Course of Study Committee. Dr. Lanier also serves on the Governor's Advisory Council for Excellence in STEM. Prior to Southern Research, Dr. Lanier received her Ph.D. in chemistry from Georgia Tech, where she worked the laboratory of Dr. Loren Williams as part of the NASA Center for the Origin of Life. Dr. Lanier received the Georgia Tech Presidential Fellowship, an award allocated to the top 5% of each doctoral class for all four years of her doctoral studies. She was also a Molecular Biophysics and Biotechnology fellow for three years. In 2018, Kathryn was selected as one of Georgia Southern University's Top 40 under 40. In 2020, Kathryn was named as part of Georgia Tech's inaugural 40 Under 40 class.

Liz Johnson, Ph.D.

STEM Student Experiences Lead

Liz Johnson, Ph.D., joined the Southern Research STEM Education Outreach team in 2018 and is the STEM Student Experiences Lead. She is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing educational experiences to engage and inspire Alabama students to pursue STEM professions. Additionally, these experiences are aimed at improving STEM literacy and guiding students through real-world, data driven problem solving. She also provides professional learning opportunities for STEM educators.

Dr. Johnson received both her Bachelor of Science in biological sciences and doctorate in biological sciences from the University of Alabama. While completing her Ph.D., Johnson was awarded the 2018 Ralph L. Chermock Prize, which is presented each year to the most outstanding graduate student in natural history and evolutionary biology. She was also an Aquatic Biology Fellow for 2 years. She received the Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student honor and was awarded a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant for her work on the reproductive, physiological, and behavioral effects of endocrine disruptors in fish.

Dr. Johnson currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Coosa Riverkeeper as an expert on bioaccumulation of pollutants in fish, and she is the President-Elect for the Alabama Science Teachers Association (ASTA). She also serves on the Eureka! Advisory Council for the Eureka! Teen Achievement Program with Girls Inc and the executive board for the Cards Against Humanity Science Ambassador Scholarship. She has served as a production assistant for Alabama STEM Explorers, an educational television series that airs on Alabama Public Television. She actively volunteers in her community with organizations including Girls Inc., Boys & Girls Club, and Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama and has served as the chair of Southern Research’s Social Committee. She is a Birmingham native and a former student of both Hoover City Schools and Shelby County Schools.

Molly Langston

STEM Education Associate

Molly Langston joined Southern Research’s STEM Education Outreach Team as the STEM Education Associate in summer of 2021. She is responsible for assisting with the implementation and development of educational programs that aim to excite Alabama students about science, technology, engineering, and math. She works alongside with undergraduate LIFT Fellows to help with preparations for the important outreach events that this team performs. She received her Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Alabama. During her last few years of undergrad, she worked closely with cohorts of students in the Master’s in Education program, including presenting at the 2019 Alabama Science Teachers Association Conference and being a judge at the Regional Science Fair at UAB. She worked with different volunteer programs that focused on educational outreach throughout her time in undergrad, and looks forward to furthering her reach, influence, and abilities working as the STEM Education Associate.

Shon Essex

STEM Education Associate

Shon Essex joined Southern Research’s STEM Education Outreach team in fall of 2022 as a STEM Education Associate. He is responsible for developing creative ways to assist and engage school districts throughout Alabama to enhance the state’s STEM activities, as well as develop and implement STEM learning experiences for K-12 students and educators. In his role, Shon works closely with students to provide a more personal approach to highlighting careers in STEM. Prior to Southern Research, Shon received his undergraduate degree in Biology/Pre-Medicine from Miles College and a Master of Science in Biomedical and Health Sciences from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Throughout his college career, Shon participated in numerous organizations such as the Diversity Recruitment and Enrichment for Admission into Medicine Program at the University of South Alabama, was President of the Science Club at Miles College, and discussed the importance of diversity in STEM opportunities with the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence Program. With his passion for using his personal experiences to motivate and encourage students, particularly in underrepresented communities, Shon plans to enhance his outreach abilities in his role as STEM Education Associate.