Our Team

Check out our team blog to learn about starting a state-level science and technology policy fellowship program, our transition to a nonprofit corporation, and more!

Rachel K. Owen, PhD | Executive Director
rachel@mostpolicyinitiative.org | (573) 507-0141

Dr. Rachel K. Owen co-founded Missouri Science and Technology (MOST) Policy Initiative in 2016 and has served as the executive director since June 2019. As MOST Director, Rachel has worked to identify key decision points in the state legislative process and provide timely and relevant scientific information to policy-makers. Additionally, MOST equips scientists to effectively engage with decision-makers and hosts science policy workshops and events statewide. Dr. Owen received her Ph.D. in the University of Missouri School of Natural Resources, researching the impact of a changing climate on wetland ecosystems and landowner perceptions of climate and agricultural threats in the Great Plains. Prior to moving to Missouri, she completed her B.S. in Agronomy and Global Resources Systems at Iowa State University and her M.S. in Plant Science from South Dakota State University. She has been involved in leadership and professional organizations through the duration of her university career, including Co-Director of VEISHEA, Inc. at Iowa State, Founder of the Plant Science Graduate Student Association at South Dakota State University, and Graduate Representative to the Board of Directors of the Soil Science Society of America. Additionally, Rachel serves as an soil science instructor at University of Missouri, coaching the Mizzou soil judging team – Go Tigers!

Dan English | Local Science Engagement Network Coordinator
dan@mostpolicyinitiative.org | (816) 226-6914

Dan earned a BA in Telecommunications from Indiana University in 2003. He worked in sports broadcasting, music videos, and TV journalism before moving to Missouri in 2008 to pursue a career in news. Dan produced the short film, Last Days of Shaniko in 2010, and produced morning TV news broadcasts in Kansas City until 2014. Dan developed a passion for science and public health after a career in communications. He started attending science classes at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Rockhurst University in 2012. In 2014, Dan became a surgical tech, assisting surgeons and nurses with multiple surgical technologies in the operating room. In 2019, he received an MS in Global Health from the University of Notre Dame, researching malaria and vector behavior in South America. Now Dan is combining his passions for communication and science as the Local Science Engagement Network Coordinator.

MOST Policy Fellows

Jill Barnas, PhD | Children, Families, and Seniors Policy Fellow

Jill is from the Chicago suburbs in Illinois and completed her Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Missouri-Columbia in May 2020. During her time at Mizzou, she was involved in investigating new devices for measuring body composition in addition to understanding the link between maternal obesity, maternal exercise, and the impacts on fetal outcomes and development. Her dissertation work focused on the influence of physical activity interventions on sedentary activity, social skill development, and problem behavior in elementary-aged children under the supervision of Dr. Jill Kanaley and Dr. Steve Ball. Jill earned a B.S. and M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the Illinois State University. 

Eleni Galata Bickell, PhD | Agriculture and Conservation Policy Fellow

Eleni received her PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics at the University of Missouri, where she studied how information impacts the decisions that stakeholders make on new food technologies and agriculture. Under the supervision of Dr. Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes, Eleni worked at the Food Equation Institute and Economics and Management of Agrobiotechnologies Center, investigating the social acceptability of Genetic Engineering, from farm to the end consumer. During her time at Mizzou, Eleni founded and co-founded several organizations whose focus was food security and student success. Eleni’s undergraduate degree is in International Economics and Politics with a focus on Diplomacy. Before receiving her PhD, she graduated with honors with a Master’s degree in Business Economics and Management from the Mediteranean Agronomic Institute of Chania and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Because of her background as an applied economist, Eleni is prepared to speak the language of both researchers and policy makers to help Missourians and their families achieve better lives.

Jenny Bratburd, PhD | Transportation, Public Safety, and Energy Policy Fellow

Jenny Bratburd earned her PhD in Microbiology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where she studied how beneficial bacteria protect their hosts from disease. During her PhD, Jenny served as the Policy Engagement Chair for Catalysts for Science Policy, where she worked on raising awareness about issues in forensic science and started the In a Perfect Policy podcast. She also served as the Environmental Policy intern for Clean Wisconsin. Prior to her PhD, Jenny earned her B.S. in Microbiology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she researched the transmission of grapevine leafroll-associated virus. She is thrilled for the opportunity to work on science policy in the state she was raised in!

Josh Mueller, PhD | Health and Mental Health Policy Fellow

Josh completed his Ph.D. in Dynamical Neuroscience from the University of California, Santa Barbara in summer 2020. His dissertation work, completed in the Complex Systems Group under the supervision of Dr. Jean Carlson, characterizes the syntax of fruit fly grooming behavior. Josh earned a B.A. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied proteins responsible for the regulation of replication in Epstein-Barr virus and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.

Brittany Whitley, PhD | Education and Workforce Policy Fellow

Brittany earned her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Washington- Seattle. Prior to her dissertation research, she completed her B.S. in Neuroscience at Bucknell University and served for two years at the National Institutes for Health as a post-baccalaureate research fellow. Brittany has worked enthusiastically to promote science accessibility for both policymakers and the public- as a Science Communication Fellow at the Pacific Science Center, Life Science Interpreter at the Seattle Aquarium and Policy Director for the UW Graduate and Professional Senate. She is eager to work with legislators, scientists and other stakeholders to support evidence-based policy making in Missouri.

Public Relations

Christina Mascarenas | Content Writer

Christina Mascarenas is a graduate student at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism in Columbia. She will defend her thesis, The Role of Public Information Officers in Local American Government, in the fall and graduate with a master’s in journalism with a concentration in strategic communications and public relations. She has previously earned a master’s degree in (educational) leadership from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs and a bachelor’s of mass communications from Colorado State University-Pueblo. 

She is the public relations assistant with Missouri Science and Technology Policy Fellows (MOST). She has been a Pathways public affairs student trainee at the USDA Economic Research Service and the Department of Veterans Affairs; she’s worked in higher education as the student support program coordinator for the Upward Bound TRiO program working with low-income, first-generation high school students; and was an entrepreneurship for 10 years owning a portrait studio specializing in creating photographic artwork of infants and children. She’s a third generation Colorado native and a cat mom. 

Megan O’Russa | Graphic Designer

Megan O’Russa, a senior at University of Missouri from Peoria, Illinois. Megan studies graphic design and mediated communication. As our graphic designer, she creates handouts, brochures, and graphics that can be used for distribution and promotion for various meetings and events. She plans to move to Chicago after her December graduation to work in the creative marketing field or as a product designer.