Meet DEB: Ashley Le-Pham, Elizabeth Banda Cruz, and Bill Lawson


Ashley Le-Pham

What is your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Ashley Le-Pham, and I’m the newest Biologist to join DEB! My roles in DEB are pretty far and wide, but my primary responsibility is to assist in the merit review process by way of helping produce panel summaries, analyzing programmatic data, and being involved with outreach to the scientific community and the public.

How did you find out about NSF?

I first heard of NSF as an undergraduate researcher at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). I proudly displayed the NSF logo whenever I presented my research as NSF was our main source of funding. As for how I came to NSF for work, I was originally a Science Assistant in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, another division in BIO! I loved my time so much at NSF and knew I would want to stay here long-term (Science Assistants are on 2-year appointments). DEB hired me at the end of my science assistantship and the rest is history! Sometimes it still feels like a dream that I work at the National Science Foundation, and I am so happy to be here.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school.

At CSUF, I pursued a major in Biochemistry and a minor in Piano Performance. It was really cool to start my day by exercising my classical piano skills and then transition to more difficult chemistry classes in the afternoon. Studying metabolism was definitely the highlight of my undergraduate studies—it’s so interesting! My undergraduate research involved studying the critical starch-producing enzyme ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase and I studied this enzyme from the bacterial organism Deinococcus radiodurans in an effort to increase starch yield.

Cats or dogs?

Ooof. This is a hard question! I think for my current life stage, a cat would be better suited for me because of their independence and low maintenance. But I do love dogs because they are always so happy to be with you. Right now, I have my family dog with me (pictured here) in DC. She’s super low-maintenance, independent, and a great companion. I really do have the best of both worlds!



Is a hotdog a sandwich?

I think officially and logically, a hotdog is a sandwich. But will I ever verbally call a hotdog a sandwich? Never!


Elizabeth Banda Cruz

What is your name and role here at DEB?

I’m Elizabeth Banda Cruz and I’m a Program Assistant in DEB. I primarily support the Ecosystem Science and Population and Community Ecology clusters. More broadly, I help with travel documents, meeting schedules, panel preparations and during-panel tasks.

How did you find out about NSF?

Growing up with PBS Kids is probably how I first heard about NSF. However, I heard of an opportunity to work here from a friend I met in Eswatini while serving as a community health volunteer with the Peace Corps.

Tell us a little about what you studied in school.

I studied Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. I found Medical Anthropology most interesting as it aims to better understand the different factors that influence health and wellness.

Cats or dogs?

I am definitely more of a dog person. Especially huskies!

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life what would it be?

Impossible to choose just one!


Bill Lawson

What is your name and role here at DEB?

My name is Bill Lawson, and I’m a Program Assistant in DEB. I am responsible for the general logistics surrounding hosting panels, travel for staff and visitors, and other administrative support tasks.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m from Southern Maryland and grew up around the Delmarva area. I’m a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Mozambique, 2017-2019) with a B.S in Biology and a B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Chemistry from Virginia Wesleyan University. Soccer is my great passion and I enjoy playing, watching, and even coaching it on occasion.

Who do you cheer for?

I’m with the sky blue, Manchester City! As a kid, I wanted to root against my father, who is a Manchester United fan. Not being old enough to know that their rivals were actually Liverpool, I chose Manchester City to support, and we’ve been watching the derby ever since.

Anything else?

I have a particular love for quotes, and I wanted to share the following:

“I didn’t want to just know the names of things. I remember really wanting to know how it all worked.” -Elizabeth Blackburn, 2009 Nobel Prize winner for Physiology or Medicine