The mission of the Corporation is to foster Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education among Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students by serving as a catalyst for the development of a cadre of STEM literate students; empowering these students to engage in science and engineering practices; and providing these students with a public forum to present and have their work evaluated by professionals in specialized fields of study.





The Chicago Public School Student Science Fair, Inc. (CPSSSF) consists of CPS teachers and administrators, as well as corporate partners who aim to enlighten the bright young minds of Chicago’s youth through the wonders of science. Through 10 regional science fairs and a culminating city-wide competition, CPSSSF sparks a life-long passion for science by providing a platform for students to showcase their work, while preparing them for a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields.

our board

melvin s. munsaka

Melvin S. Munsaka, PhD, is currently a Director in the Safety Statistics and Risk-Based Analytics Department within the Data Science Institute at Takeda Development Center Americas, Inc. in Deerfield, Illinois. He received his PhD in Mathematical Statistics from Queen's University in Canada and also holds an MSc in Mathematical Statistics and MEd in Mathematics, both from McGill University in Canada, and a BA in Mathematics from UNZA. He has worked in pharmaceutical research for more than 20 years. Melvin is also involved in some initiatives of the Drug Information Association Bayesian Scientific Work Group and the some initiatives of the Biopharmaceutical Section of the American Statistical Association (ASA). He has been the Publicity Chair of Midwest Biopharmaceutical Statistical Workshop since 2005. He has also held positions of President, Program Chair, and Chapter Representative of the Northeast Illinois Chapter of the ASA. Melvin also teaches statistics courses at the University of Chicago’s Graham School of Professional Studies in the Clinical Research Program and the Biomedical Informatics Masters Program. He is also the 2017 Chair Elect of the Statistical Programmers and Analysts Section of ASA. Currently, Melvin is a member on the Chicago Public School Student Science Fair board as the Secretary of the Board.

brian stepp

Brian Stepp, President of the Chicago Public School Student Science Fair Board, during his career has focused on general management assignments, global sourcing initiatives, global program management, manufacturing and distribution operations.

Brian currently works as the Director of Business Development for Simmons Associates & Consultants and in Strategic Sourcing for BorgWarner.  Brian also was formerly the Vice President of Sales for Asian Micro Sources, an East Bay California company and has held Director level corporate positions. 

A few of his many career accomplishments include managing and leading site development for Brownfield/Greenfield distribution and manufacturing locations globally, saving over $400 million within Global Sourcing positions (Asia & Europe), and developing market strategy and closing sales internationally for engineered products.    

Brian has a history of “giving back” through the Adopt-A-School program, tutoring for numerous years at the Fourth Presbyterian Church Community Service program and his involvement with the CPS Student Science Fair Board

He received his Bachelors in Electrical Engineering, Computer & Power Systems from Purdue University.  Brian also has a MBA in finance and marketing, from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

Brian Stepp has been awarded for his many achievements by both the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Motorola.

ELIZABETH s. copper

Elizabeth Copper (Liz) is the 2016-2017 Chicago Public School Student Science Fair Chairperson and also the CPSSSF Advise-a-Student Chair. In addition, she currently teaches Honors Biology and Forensic sciences at Lindblom Math & Science Academy in Chicago, Illinois. She is also an adjunct undergraduate professor at Northeastern Illinois University, Caruthers Center for Inner City Studies. This year will mark her 24th year of teaching in both formal and informal academic settings. Ms. Copper is known by her chemical symbol, Cu, element 29 on the periodic table of elements.

She earned her Masters of Public Health from the University of Illinois, School of Public Health; and a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Illinois College of Education. She is a 2013 Golden Apple Fellow. This year she served as a Golden Apple Reflective Leaders at Illinois State University for the Mission to Mars GA Scholar summer camp program and as the moderator for the 2016 Summer National Youth Leadership Forum: Explore STEM in Chicago.

Debra Sutkowski-markmann

Dr. Debra Sutkowski, Ph.D. is the Past President of the Board of Directors’ for Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair, Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. She has been involved in the Science Fair for 4 years and has volunteered as both a Regional and State Science Fair judge, a safety judge for City and State Science Fairs, as a chaperone to the top four students presenting their STEM research at the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles and as an interviewer on the Science Fair Scholarship panel. Dr. Sutkowski has extensive experience at various global pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S. and Japan. Currently she serves as the Urology Publication Director in Medical Excellence at Astellas Pharma, Inc. Dr. Sutkowski has held various roles at Takeda Pharmaceuticals with increasing responsibility throughout the years. She served as a Senior Director in the Clinical Science & Early Development Department and in the Chief Scientific Officer’s Office at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, International since April 2009. Prior to Takeda, Dr. Sutkowski directed several aspects of TAP’s (Takeda Abbott Partners) drug development activities, including the identification of new product candidates, execution of pre-clinical and clinical research programs and strategic planning for lifecycle management approaches since 1998. Dr. Sutkowski served as a Research Scientist at Bristol Myers-Squibb in Endocrine Oncology in 1997. She earned her PH.D. from Northwestern University in Tumor Cell Biology, specializing in Urology and completed her Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Eli Lilly & Company, where she provided scientific insight in the area of prostate cancer research.

lorel madden

Lorel Madden is a dynamic science teacher with strong classroom management skills demonstrating 25+ years of classroom experience. She received her bachelor of science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, her Associate of Science at St. Xavier University, her Certificate in Education at Northeastern Illinois University, and finally her Masters of Education at American College of Education in Chicago, IL. Lorel prides herself on her ability in designing and implementing meaningful curriculum to develop young minds through the creative and enthusiastic thinking of complex science concepts. This outlook on teaching brought her to many awards and accomplishments, including “Teacher of the Year” and finalist for the CPS DRIVE Initiative in 2008, a nomination for the “PAEMST Award” in 2009 and 2015, becoming a Congressional Youth Leadership Council Honorary Commission for Educational Leader and Mentor in 2006, and others.

Starting in 1990 Lorel has been an upper grades science specialist and team leader. Her appreciation, love, and strong ability for teaching have brought her to become the CPS Area Science Fair Co-Chairperson and the CPS Student Science Fair. Inc. Treasurer and Board Member.   

The wonders of science have been inspiring Chicago Public Schools students for over 66 years. From demonstrating chain reactions with mousetraps to researching the correlation of how diet affects colon cancer development, the presentation of STEM experiments has allowed young science enthusiasts to dive further in their passions.



It all began in the fall of 1950....

when the Chicago High School Physics Teacher’s Association (CHSPTA) felt that the experiments their students were creating had amazing potential. After proposing an exhibition of these innovative experiments, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry accepted the arrangements to hold the exhibition of incredible experiments by students in cooperation with the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry. By 1953, the exhibition evolved into the science fair, inviting all Chicago Public Schools science teachers to participate. This is when Chicago Public Schools Student Science Fair, Inc. was created and to this day, exists to bring the wonder of science to the bright young minds of Chicago youth.