Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science. Edwin Powell Hubble


photo of STARS to STEM president Diane Swan

Diane Swan


Diane Swan earned her BS in Early Childhood Education and MS from Southern Connecticut State University. She is employed by East Lyme Public Schools, 1996-present, as an early childhood educator.

Prior to that she worked as an educator in Kissimmee, Florida. In addition to her teaching responsibilities Diane serves as the building's science coordinator. In this capacity, she worked closely with town engineer and together they secured a grant for the Outdoor Stormwater Classroom. Since its conception, the outdoor educational experience has educated over 1000 third grade students from East Lyme and Salem about storm water runoff.

Diane has taught a science summer camp, “Camp Phenomena,” for the past two years. Additionally, she has worked for LEARN conducting a week-long science camp that serviced regional students. Diane has run several "Simple Science” after school activities for the Niantic Center School PTA.

She is committed to volunteering and has served as the chairperson for assemblies, fundraising and beautification for the PTA. Currently, she is a member of the Miracle League of South Eastern Connecticut fundraising committee.

Photo of Linda Raffa, Secretary Treasurer of Stars to STEM

Linda Raffa


Linda Raffa is an East Lyme resident retired from a long career in education and business. Her experiences include Kindergarten teacher and Director/Head Teacher of two preschools.

As well as serving in the fulfilling capacity as educator, Linda also helped manage several businesses, primarily as bookkeeper. Her volunteer work includes roles as secretary, treasurer, and president of parent/teacher organizations and various organizations.

Her most recent employment was at the Children’s Museum of Southeastern Connecticut where she was Director of Operations.

As former educator and devoted grandparent, Linda enjoys spending time with young children and looks forward to expanding this interest with STARS To STEM's planetarium project.

Photo of Dr. Leslie Brown, Education and Programming Officer

Leslie Brown

Director/Education and Programming Officer

Leslie Brown currently serves as Associate Professor of Physics at Connecticut College, having joined the college's staff in 1992. Leslie completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Delaware and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University.

While on staff at Connecticut College, Leslie has shared her wealth of knowledge at national speaking engagements. Topics included: "The Past, the Present and the Future of Undergraduate Research in Astronomy at Connecticut College," presented at the American Astronomical Society's January 2004 meeting, and also the AAS's special session on "Instrumentation for Small Observatories in 2006.

Dr. Brown has been a recipient of numerous grant awards and is adept at operating various telescopes and related technologies. She has extensive experience in the fields of astrophysics and astronomy and brings her love of education to our team.

Photo of Amy Cabaniss, member of Board of Directors of STARS to STEM

Amy Cabaniss


Amy Cabaniss has an established career in environmental education (EE) that includes classroom and field teaching experience (pre-K through graduate school students), curriculum development, teacher training and camp leadership, among other aspects of EE. Her expertise includes environmental communications, conservation psychology and business sustainability, with applied research in behavior change and community-based social marketing.

Amy serves as faculty at UConn in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment where she coordinates the Conservation Ambassador Program. She concurrently teaches Conservation Biology at Eastern Connecticut State University. Amy has a BS in Environmental Conservation, MBA in Management & Organization and a PhD in Environmental Studies. In addition to Stars to Stem, she is a board member of the Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA) and a member of COEEA, the Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association.


Photo of Kyra Seurattan, Planetarium Advisor of Stars to STEM

Kyra Elliot Seurattan

Planetarium Technology Specialist

Kyra Elliott Seurattan earned her BA in Astronomy and Physics from Vassar College, and recently completed her Teaching Certification in Technology Education. She is the Technology and Engineering teacher at Nathan Hale-Ray High School in East Haddam.

Kyra has been a planetarian for over 16 years. She worked for four years as the Assistant Planetarium Director at the Travelers Sciencedome Planetarium at The Children’s Museum in West Hartford and developed programming for camps, classes, and homeschool students. She also presented shows, created animations and graphics for use in the dome, as well as explored possible technology upgrades for the theater.

In order to further focus on animation, graphics, and show production, Kyra accepted the position of Producer & Animator at the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium at Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As a Technology and Engineering teacher, Kyra is dedicated to sharing her passion with students and their families. She believes the planetarium is a unique environment where students can learn and practice a variety of 21st century skills. The sky is the limit!

Susan Lynch

Parent Liaison

Susan Lynch comes to this organization with 15 years experience as a senior tax analyst working for H &R Block. Her particular area of expertise is in real estate and investment procedures. She attended Three Rivers State College earning an associate of science degree. She spent many years as an accountant in retail at a local hardware store. Susan is active in her children’s sports activities and supports their academic pursuits.

Photo of Gillian McMahon, Collegiate STEM Liaison of Stars to STEM

Gillian McMahon

Collegiate STEM Liaison

Gillian is currently a freshman enrolled at the Questrom School of Business at Boston University. She is a graduate of East Lyme High School class of 2020.

In high school, Gillian was an active member of her school and the local community. In September 2018 she founded the Women in STEM club at ELHS to bring together girls with diverse interests within the field. In the club's first year, the group participated in volunteer events, job shadows at Pfizer, and held career-orientated events for young women in coordination with other clubs. Gillian was also a part of the Student Advisory Board, a regular volunteer at the Gemma E. Moran United Way Food Bank, a member of the National Honor Society, and a varsity basketball athlete.

In her first year of college, Gillian has been busy exploring various business and liberal arts topics including business ethics, finance, information systems, statistical data analysis, economics, calculus, and philosophy as part of her introductory coursework. Gillian is considering concentrating in information systems, management and organizations, or finance in the coming years.

Gillian is the manager for the BU Terriers women’s basketball team, a new member of Kappa Alpha Theta, as well as, involved in the College Democrats, the Outing Club, and The Women’s Network, all activities she is looking forward to returning to next year.

Gillian is very passionate about closing the gender gap, especially in STEM-related fields and is excited to be a part of an all-female Stars to STEM group.

Photo of Sachi Vora, High School STEM Liaison of Stars to STEM

Sachi Vora

High School STEM Liaison

Sachi is currently a very active junior enrolled at East Lyme High School. She spends her time on the E.L. Varsity Girls Soccer Team, as well as captain of the E.L. Varsity Girls Basketball Team. In the school, Sachi is involved with many clubs including Student Senate, PRO (Peers Reaching Out), Rotary Club, and Spanish National Honors Society. She is the Junior Class Board of Education Representative. Through all these clubs and activities she volunteers to better the community and learn from others.

Sachi has always been very interested in the sciences and helping others, including this great cause.

Victoria Thomson

Teacher STEM Liaison

Victoria is a resident of East Lyme and has been teaching at East Lyme High School since August 2017. She is the proud mother of two children, ages 6 and 3. Prior to teaching at ELHS, Victoria taught at New London High School for 3 years.

Although relatively new to the field of astronomy, Victoria's formal education encompasses several areas in science. She earned a B.S. from Cornell University and M.S. from the University of Arizona, with a focus in entomology. As a lifelong learner, her latest pursuit is in astronomy, a journey that included traveling to the Canary Islands this past summer (2019) to study astronomy for educators. She is passionate about learning and fascinated by the vastness of the universe. Knowledge only has power when evidence and information is transferred to other people, particularly to our youth. As a result, Victoria is committed to seeing STARS to STEM reach its fullest potential.