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Bob Cerf


Bob has a BA from Cal Berkeley and an MBA. He took many math and science courses at UC Berkeley. Bob entered the education profession in 2004. Prior to that Bob was a senior merchandising executive for Macy's and J. Crew and co-managed an Angel Fund.

Bob has tutored and mentored students that went on to be graduates of Stanford, Princeton, Colorado College, University of Colorado Boulder Honors Program and many other top schools. Bob was a Division I tennis player (UCLA) and his three sons played lacrosse in college. He walks daily and plays tennis regularly and loves to ski with his family. Bob has a burning passion to create FUN experiential, hands-on, discovery learning opportunities that ignite kids' interest in STEAM.

Laura D.

M.S.E., Computer Engineering, Control Theory, Santa Clara University
M.B.A., General Management, UC Berkeley and Columbia University
B.S.M.E., Biomedical Mechanical Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis

Laura is an educator, executive consultant, entrepreneur, and judge for STEM competitions. Laura taught students in 10th through 12th grade in Computer Science at The Bay School of San Francisco for the 2017-2018 school year. In past roles, she has led technology teams in cleantech, software and biotech for 10+ years across multiple functional areas and industries, focused in renewable energy and energy efficiency for 5+ years.

Laura is passionate about all sides of the STEM field. In parallel to her tech roles, she has taught UC Berkeley, secondary, and elementary school computer science for 10 years; tutored math, and has been an advisor to several STEM startups. Laura is also a judge for high school, college, and government funded (DOE solar) grants and competitions in STEM. While teaching at UC Berkeley Extension, Laura developed the UC Berkeley curriculum for Microsoft Windows programming development and published the textbook Windows Programming Under the Hood of MFC, based on her applied approach to teaching students how to develop object-oriented software.


Raquel S. 

Raquel received her BA in Psychology from the University of Illinois-Chicago and her MA in Developmental Psychology from San Francisco State University, where she conducted research on learning and behavior in preschool age children. At Duke University, Raquel was part of a behavioral economics research group that explored financial literacy among families with young children and identified useful tools for financial education. At Stanford, Raquel was involved with the Sightlines Project at the Center on Longevity, which investigated how financial security, healthy behaviors, and social engagement can lead to longevity (living well to the age of 100 and beyond).  

In addition to her research, Raquel has extensive experience teaching students of all ages in a variety of settings. Early in her career, Raquel developed math curriculum for students (grades 9-12) with learning disabilities at Yeshiva University High School in NYC, as well as being an SAT instructor for the Princeton Review. Raquel has also taught the undergraduate level Intro to Statistics course at SF State University, where she was also a Lab Instructor and TA in the Dept. of Psychology. Raquel has also been an active Volunteer Teacher in the Palo Alto Unified school district, helping K-5 students with Math coursework.


Ying H.

Ph.D.  Electrical Engineering, University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering
M.S.  Electrical Engineering, Beijing Institute of Technology

Ying received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering, where she did her research on robust adaptive control techniques and applications. Ying was also an instructor in the Department of Electrical Engineering, teaching undergraduates Industrial Control techniques for 2 years, as well as a teaching assistant for the Systems and Control course. Ying is the mother of two boys in 6th and 9th grade in the Cupertino School District, where she has been an active volunteer and sharing her passion for STEM by working with K-8 students. As a Student & Lecturer at the Beijing Institute of Technology, she was awarded "best student adviser" for her outstanding management and leadership in mentoring a class of 34 students. 


Adrian P.

M.F.A, Digital Arts and New Media, University of California, Santa Cruz
B.A., Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts & Computer Science, University of California, San Diego

Adrian is an interactive media designer, developer, and educator. Working primarily through the creation of compelling stories through emergent gameplay and systems oriented design, he is fascinated by the intersection of games and education. While not working at Starfire, he is a freelance designer and developer working with a number of clients, from startups to art galleries. He obtained his Master's of Fine Arts in Digital Arts and New Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz, with an emphasis in Playable Media. He completed his undergraduate education at the University of California, San Diego with a major in Interdisciplinary Computing in the Arts and a minor in Computer Science.


Karen W.

Karen has a B.S. degree from Stanford University in Management Science and Engineering with a focus in Organizations, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. Before joining the Starfire team, she worked as a product manager for mobile applications at a technology company in Silicon Valley. Growing up, Karen was both an avid babysitter and tutor and she loves the opportunity to share her passion for STEAM with kids of all ages through Starfire's after school programs. Outside the office, Karen loves to read philosophy and psychology books, travel the world, play soccer, and pet as many dogs as possible.


Luyi X.

Luyi earned her Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University School of Art. Luyi is a contemporary artist, as well as a passionate educator of the arts. She is an experienced art instructor who has worked with varying skill levels and varying ages of students. She is invested in motivating and guiding her students towards developing their intellect through the study of art. Her goal is to help others see the best of themselves, especially her students. Her teaching philosophy involves learning how to creatively problem-solve and applying those creative skills in multiple areas of study.

By the time Luyi was a teenager, she had already mastered advanced painting techniques and grasped other various materials and skills. She comprehends deeply different styles of art in history and in contemporary times. Her academic career focused on exploring topics of phenomenology, ideological impact, and identity issues. Her artwork has been broadly exhibited and collected nationally and internationally.


Samina P.

Samina started her career as a software engineer, working at places like Cisco Systems and Oracle doing software development. More recently, Samina’s love of teaching has led her to focus on being a Technical Trainer and Coding Instructor in a variety of settings. Samina is involved in the Training department of Women In Big Data (read her blog post: My Big Data Journey), and enjoys taking complex technical information and trying to find ways to present them in ways that are fun, visual and easy to understand. Samina is a mom to two teenage boys who share her love of reading, computers and museums, and delights in sharing that enjoyment with her students as well.


Nathan H.

Nathan Hechtman is a Palo Alto native. He went to Ohlone Elementary, Jordan (now Greene) Middle School, and finally Palo Alto High School before studying Biology at Willamette University in Oregon. He has been teaching and mentoring youth for nearly a decade, including working at summer camps in high school, teaching high-schoolers about biology during college, and tutoring during and after college.

Nathan loves to tailor math to students' interests. A child who cannot stop talking about sports may calculate baseball statistics. A student fascinated by programming might explore basic linear algebra. An avid player of board games can investigate the math behind good strategies. Whatever excites a student, they are encouraged to pursue it mathematically.


Fa C.

PhD Student, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz
MS., Electrical and Computer Engineering, UC Santa Cruz
MS., Electrical Engineering, Washington University, St. Louis

Fa is a doctoral student in the Computer and Electrical Engineering program at UC Santa Cruz. He also holds a Masters of Electrical Engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis. At UC Santa Cruz, he has served as a graduate teaching assistant for several undergraduate courses, and is involved in several academic research projects, including: “Improving Resilience of the Electricity Distribution System using Anomaly Detection,” “Time Series Analysis of Snow Depth using Bayesian Kalman Filtering and EM Estimation," and “Power Reproduction on Wind Speed Prediction,” in the data science field.

Fa has been teaching undergrads and high school students for various courses in Computer Architecture, Probability and Statistics, and Algebra. He has real world experience in data science, embedded systems, and digital signal processing. He brings these experiences into his teaching to create learning opportunities, and is always encouraging his students to do their best. He has enough experience to know that there is always a lot more to learn. Fa loves to spend time with his wife and nine-year old son, and enjoys taking road trips throughout the USA whenever he gets the chance.


Jennifer Y.

Upon graduation with her M.S. in Computer Science from New York University, Jennifer worked at a variety startup companies in Silicon Valley. Her deep passion for software development led her through the early days of database internal R&D to internet infrastructure systems. In addition, she has broad engineering and project/program management background, and experience working with large development teams and managing cross-continent software releases.

From 2007 to 2013, Jennifer traveled across the continent, meeting with many exceptional teenagers and their families. She gained valuable insights on how to raise a child: proper empowerment, support, and inspiration are all important to the development of every child. An adaptive and open learning environment is essential, and there is no black/white rule.

Jennifer has been teaching college level Computer Science and database courses since fall 2015. She introduced various Computer Science concepts and basic programming in Python and SQL to adult students coming from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. As a teacher for Starfire Education, Jennifer spent the past few years teaching middle school students the Python programming language, Design Thinking, and general applications of Computer Science concepts.

Jennifer loves constructing contemporary structures and enjoys listening to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.


Joe C.

Joe graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Philosophy, and is an acquisition editor for an academic publisher of graduate-level e-books. Joe works with authors and editors to produce educational resources for researchers at the cutting edge of neuroscience, cell biology, physiology, and experimental biomedicine. Previously, Joe worked at the American Association for Cancer Research, promoting and supporting preclinical and translational cancer research programs for its 30K plus members worldwide. Joe is passionate about training the next generation of scientists and implementing innovation in education. Joe was on the Varsity Fencing team at Princeton and volunteers for SoccerFours, an adult pick-up soccer league in San Francisco.



Aparna has a Graduate degree in Physics (Electronics) with a Post Graduate degree (M.Phil.) in Physics (first rank holder in her batch) from IIT Roorkee, India. She did her pre-doctoral thesis on measuring the size of atmospheric particles. She is a proud mother of a daughter and a son. She taught her kids through their high school studies, and she loves teaching math and science to elementary school kids because this is their age of foundation. Her philosophy is that kids are very creative and they don’t want to stick to one way to solve a problem, but rather, can find solutions to a problem in different ways through trial and error. She became a Starfire teacher because the Starfire philosophy encourages creativity and connects math and science with real life problems. Her hobbies are trying different recipes in the kitchen and painting.


Veenu S.

Veenu graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a B.S. in Physics and Astrophysics. Veenu’s undergraduate research dealt with astrophysical concepts such as Instrumentation, Exoplanets and Dark Energy, and several of his projects have been published in Astrophysical Journal. Currently, Veenu is involved with a research project at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), studying and undertaking the conceptual design of a photonic propulsion system for Mars and the Moon.

Throughout high school and college, Veenu developed a passion for helping others succeed through mentoring and coaching. He was a Teaching Assistant (TA) for various college level physics courses at Ann Arbor, and volunteered weekly at his high school’s National Honor Society. Veenu joined Starfire Education because he wants to help students become successful and reach their full potential in STEM subjects. During his spare time, Veenu enjoys climbing, playing violin/piano, watching/playing basketball and football, and going to the beach on weekends.