About Us


NewtonSTEM was established in February 2011 to draw together Newton (Massachusetts) parents, educators, students, and STEM professionals to develop Newton students’ interests and abilities in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), both in school and in extra-curricular activities.


  • Create a network for parents, students, staff and community members to share ideas about how to make Newton’s STEM curriculum and extra-curricular offerings even better
  • Encourage student awareness, education and interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics via hands-on learning
  • Tap parents’ connections and resources to identify and engage regional businesses and institutions to support and enhance STEM programming within Newton Public Schools and STEM activities outside of school.


Bruce Henderson (Chair) has an MBA from Harvard Business School, is the father of a Newton South student and former co-president of the Zervas and Oak Hill PTOs. For two decades, he has run a technology-marketing company focused on Japan. He helped initiate the FIRST robotics program at Oak Hill and Newton’s participation in Envision the Future, and he manages the NewtonSTEM website.

Ryan Byrne graduated in 2012 from Newton North HS, where he was as a member of the Newton Ligerbots — leading the design and build processes for the Ligerbot robot’s drive system — and played on the varsity baseball and football teams.

Michelle Ciurea holds an M.S. in Economics from Cornell University and is currently a Senior Associate in policy and program evaluation at Abt Associates.  She is also Program Director and co-founder of Educational Enrichment for Romanian Children, a nonprofit that brings Romanian students to Boston for educational exchanges.  A parent of two, she established Science Night at Horace Mann Elementary School, and formerly served on the School Council at Day Middle School and on an NPS task force exploring extended learning time for Newton schools.

Joshua Cohen holds a Ph.D. in Applied Math from Harvard University and is a Research Associate Professor and health economist at Tufts Medical Center.  He is a Newton father and a former member of the panel appointed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to revise the state’s math curriculum framework.

Lucia Dolan is the mother of three Newton school children, a former member of the Mass Board of Education Advisory Council on Mathematics and Science, a member Newton South School Council, and a former president of the Brown Middle School PTO.

Dan Erhlich is a graduate of Newton South HS and a former member of the Newton Ligerbots, with prior experience in the FIRST Lego League.  He’s currently studying applied mathematics at the University of Chicago.

John Fitzpatrick, the father of a Day Middle School student, is educated as an electrical engineer and is an Engineering Fellow at Raytheon. He is a Raytheon MathMovesU Ambassador, has coached FIRST Lego League teams for two years, and has been the Raytheon sponsor of the Ligerbots since the team started.

Chris King is a Newton father. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University and is a Chairman of the Mathematics Dept. at Northeastern University, where he helps to run a program designed to attract and retain undergraduates in STEM fields.

Marina Kvitnitsky is a high technology Product Manager, with a BS in Physics, MSEE in Electro Optics, and prior experience in software development.  She has two elementary school age children in Newton schools, is active in the Cabot PTO, and has organized Science-related events in Horace Mann and Cabot elementary schools.

Lisa Mikus is a fourth grade teacher at the Horace Mann Elementary School, having previously taught second and fifth grades.  On the national level, she was on the Item Review Panel for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Validity Study.   At the state level, she was appointed to the Grade 5 MCAS Assessment and Development Committee, the Mathematics Curriculum Framework Revision Panel, and the MTEL Pass Rate Study Group.  She is currently secretary of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Massachusetts.  Her conference presentations at the district, state, regional, and national levels have ranged from differentiated instruction in the elementary classroom to developing strategic thinkers in mathematics.

Beth Nicklas is Vice President and Counsel for Academic and Research Programs at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. She developed a 12-week summer internship program that places 170 college students studying STEM in life sciences companies each year; and is interested in developing an online catalog of STEM opportunities for children. She is the mother of two graduates of Newton North.

Sarah Nitsche has a M.Ed. in Secondary Mathematics Education. She has taught middle school math since 2003 and in Newton at F.A. Day Middle School teaching 7th grade math since 2008. She has participated in the Metro S/W Regional Employment Board’s Leadership Initiatives for Teaching and Technology (LIFT2) professional learning program for middle and high school STEM teachers.

John O’Brien is the father of two children enrolled in the Newton schools. He holds a B.A. in Physics from Princeton University and an M.S. in Physics from UC, Berkeley. He has worked as an engineer for over 15 years at technology companies around Boston and in Silicon Valley. Currently he is the Chief Engineer of a bomb disposal robot development program at iRobot Corporation.

Eric Olson has a PhD in Evolutionary Ecology from Penn, a Masters in Forest Science from Yale, and a BA in Geology/Paleoecology from Carleton College. He teaches about water and health, climate change, and ecology at the Heller School, Brandeis University. He is the chairman of Newton Citizens Commission on Energy, a “Visiting Scientist” in the Newton Public Schools; and coordinator of Newton’s Invasive Plant Task Force. His hobbies and interests include advocating for solar power projects, organizing urban forest and park stewardship, rearing butterflies and moths, and fishing. His son Eli likes Newton North’s Greengineering Program best, of all his classes.

Joyce Plotkin is Chair of The DIGITS Project, a statewide STEM education program for sixth graders. She is also President Emerita of the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, where she served for 22 years — promoting the software industry and helping entrepreneurs start, grow and manage technology companies. She served as the chair of the organizing committee for the statewide Net Day initiative that resulted in the installation of computers and networks in half of the public schools in Massachusetts more than a decade ago. She is a gubernatorial appointee to the statewide STEM Advisory Council where she serves on the Executive Committee and co-chairs the Public Awareness Subcommittee. She is also a National Visiting Committee/Advisory Committee member for two Massachusetts-based National Science Foundation STEM projects.

Dennis Rosen is a pediatric lung and sleep specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston, where he also serves on a public policy task force addressing pediatric healthcare issues at state and federal levels.  He is the father of three children schooled at Zervas, Oak Hill and Newton South, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and Boston Herald.

Robin Saitz holds a MS in Engineering Management from Northeastern University and BS in Engineering from Trinity College.  She is SVP of Solutions Marketing and Communications for Needham-based PTC, a CAD/PLM software company with over 25,000 manufacturing customers worldwide.  She was recently featured in Forrester Research’s new book, Empowered. She is executive sponsor for PTC’s partnership with FIRST, a member of the Boston First Board of Directors, the founder of and a mentor to the Newton Ligerbots in the FIRST Robotics Competition, and a sponsor of Newton’s Lab.  She, her husband, and their two sons in Newton Public Schools have been instrumental in driving parent-led FIRST Lego League teams in Newton.

Agi Sardi has an MS in Computer Engineering and Biochemistry and an MBA in Technology Management. She was a director of advanced technology for 10 years with Raytheon’s Advanced Prototyping Integration Development Facility as well as a web producer for a large advertising agency.  She is currently a Newton mother and has been co-president of the Lincoln-Eliot Elementary School PTO.

Norma Sullivan has a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instructional Technology.  She taught in Newton from 1987 until her retirement in 2013 — at Brown, Memorial-Spaulding, and Oak Hill (teaching 6th grade math and science since the school opened in 1997).   In 2010, she completed the Metro S/W Regional Employment Board’s Leadership Initiatives for Teaching and Technology (LIFT2) professional learning program for middle and high school STEM teachers.  She currently is a consultant to Science From Scientists.