Banis Githinji

Banis Githinji, Ph.D. 
Research Nurse Practitioner, National Institutes of Health

Banis Githinji is a former mentee of the Woman to Woman Mentoring program. She completed 2 years of mentorship in 2011. Banis works as a research Nurse Practitioner at the National Institute of Health. Her current research is focused on pediatric rare disease.  Banis holds a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Sojourner Douglass College, a Master of Science degree in nursing from Chamberlain University, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from Liberty University. Banis prides in delivering safe, evidenced based, and patient centered care to her patients. During her free time, Banis Githinji enjoys dancing, spending time with her son, travelling, and watching documentaries.

Christine Fennessey

Christine Fennessey, Ph.D. 

Scientist / Manager, AIDS and Cancer Virus Program, Frederick National Laboratory

Christine Fennessey is the head of the Viral Evolution Core and a staff scientist in the Retroviral Evolution Section in AIDS and Cancer Virus Program of the Frederick National Laboratory (FNL). She obtained her Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology in molecular biology in 2010 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University prior to joining FNL as a postdoc.

She has since been promoted to scientist and head of the sequencing core. She developed the first barcoded SIV which has now become the gold standard virus for nonhuman primate studies, having been distributed to over 50 different laboratories nationwide. For this work, she received the International AIDS Society Lange-van Tongeren Prize for Young Investigators in 2017 and the Leidos Publication Prize for Life Science and Medicine in 2018.

Her current work is focused on providing expert sequencing and phylogenetic analyses to collaborators across the country and using the barcoded virus to examine unanswered questions regarding HIV transmission, viral dynamics, and cure.

She resides in Frederick MD with her patient husband, two rambunctious children, two affectionate dogs, and cranky old cat.

Nicole Fer

Nicole Fer

RAS Initiative Scientist, Cancer Research Technology Program, Frederick National Laboratory

Nicole Fer is a scientist with the National Cancer Institute’s RAS Initiative at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNL), where she studies novel RAS biology and develops new tools to aid in the discovery of future RAS inhibitors.

Nicole began her career at what is now FNL when she graduated from McDaniel College. She worked with the Functional Genomics Laboratory, conducting mechanism of action experiments on “hits” for the drug discovery group and contributing to several poster presentations and publications. She earned a master’s degree in biomedical science from Hood College while working at FNL full time. She moved to “bench-to-bedside-back-to-bench" research with NIH clinical trials in the Tumor Hypoxia Group in FNL’s Developmental Therapeutics Program.

Nicole is co-author of several book chapters, Employee Invention Reports, and scientific journal publications. She lives in Frederick where she enjoys playing basketball and baseball with her husband and four sons and coaches her son’s baseball team in spring and fall.

Debbie Ricker

Debbie Ricker, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Hood College

Debbie Ricker received her bachelor’s degree in biological science from Mars Hill University, her master’s degree in biological science from East Tennessee State University and her doctorate in reproductive biology from The Johns Hopkins University. Ricker also completed the Harvard University Institute for Educational Management program.

Ricker began her administrative experience at York College of Pennsylvania in 1996 as a coordinator of the secondary education program in biology. She has served in that capacity until 2002 when she became chair of the department of biological sciences, leading more than 300 students, 15 faculty members and two staff members. In 2008, she took the role of associate dean of academic affairs where she stayed until she accepted her current role in 2010.

She helped lead the design and deployment of York’s new general education program called “Generation Next.” The curriculum is focused on closer coordination of courses, vertical integration of core competencies within each major and systematic, ongoing assessment of student learning outcomes endorsed by the campus community. The curriculum includes a cohesive first-year seminar, foundational courses, disciplinary perspectives, and constellation components, as well as co-curricular learning opportunities, many of which are administered through the division of academic services.

Along with her administrative positions, Ricker was an assistant professor from 1995 to 2000. She was promoted with tenure to associate professor in 2000, and she has been a professor of biological science since 2010. As a lifelong academic and biology professor, Ricker became Hood's vice president of academic affairs and provost on July 1, 2016.


Mary Kearney

Mary Kearney, Ph.D. 

Senior Scientist and Head, Translational Research Section  

Deputy Program Director, HIV Dynamics & Replication Program, National Cancer Institute

Chair, NIH Women Scientist Advisors 

Mary Kearney received her B.A. in Biochemistry from Hood College in 1996 and her M.S. in Biomedical Science from Hood College in 2001. In 2008, she received a Ph.D. in Biology from Catholic University and was awarded the Benedict T. DeCicco Award for Excellence in Graduate Research. Dr. Kearney has been an integral part of the HIV Dynamics and Replication Program since 2001. 

In 2008, Dr. Kearney was promoted to Head of the Translational Research Section where she oversees a team that investigates viral genetics and expression in vivo, the sources of persistent HIV during antiretroviral therapy (ART), the sources of rebound viremia after stopping ART, the mechanisms for maintaining the HIV reservoir, and the mechanisms for the emergence of drug-resistance mutations in HIV and other RNA viruses. Key discoveries include demonstrating that ART is fully effective at blocking HIV replication in vivo, that HIV persists through cellular proliferation of cells that were infected prior to ART initiation, and that HIV has differential expression among cells within infected cell clones. 

Dr. Kearney is the recipient of four Bench-to-Bedside Awards, three NIH Intramural AIDS Targeted Antiviral Program Awards, a U.S.–South Africa Initiative U01 Grant, an Office of AIDS Research Congressional Award, and an NCI Flex Technology Award. In 2019, she was promoted to Senior Scientist and in 2021 to Deputy Program Director of the HIV Dynamics & Replication Program.  Dr. Kearney served as Chair of the NCI Women Scientists Advisors (WSA) from 2018-2020 and currently serves as Chair of the NIH WSA. The WSA advise NIH leadership on improved recruitment, retention, and promotion of women scientists.