Committee Staff

Dick ObermannChief of Staff

Dick serves as the Democratic Chief of Staff for the Committee.  As such he acts as staff director, administrator, and senior policy adviser to Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson.  He is responsible for managing a team of Committee scientists, engineers, attorneys, and other professional support staff as well as the Minority budget and all administrative operations.  Dick joined the Committee in 1990. Initially, he served as Science Advisor for the Subcommittee on Space, including oversight and budget authorization responsibilities for science, exploration, and the space station program. He later went on to serve as Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, with primary authorization and oversight responsibility for civil space and aeronautics activities. Dick holds a B.S.E. and Ph.D. in Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences from Princeton University, and an M.S.E. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University. He also completed the Senior Managers in Government Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Dick started his career working on the technical staff at the MITRE Corporation and as a senior program officer on the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and of the American Astronautical Society and a Member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

Kristin KopsheverAdministrative and Communications Director

Kristin joined the Committee as Staff Assistant in April 2010. She currently serves as the Administrative and Communications Director for the Minority.  In this role, she serves as adviser to the Ranking Member and Chief of Staff and as Office Manager for the Minority staff. Her responsibilities include Committee media outreach and response, website content and development, and other press shop needs.  She also assists with the Committee's international issues portfolio. Prior to joining the Committee, she was an intern for her hometown Member, Congressman Costello (D-IL).  Kristin is originally from Pinckneyville, Illinois.

John PiazzaChief Counsel

John Piazza joined the professional staff of the Committee in March 2006. His responsibilities include legislative, legal, and parliamentary process issues. In addition, he works on oversight for the Committee. John graduated with a B.A. from Columbia University in 1999, where he studied environmental science. He received a J.D. from Washington and Lee University in 2002. John is a member of the Arizona and District of Columbia Bars. Prior to joining the Committee, John was a prosecutor in Tucson, Arizona.

Russell NormanDeputy Chief Counsel

Russell joined the Committee in April 2012 as Deputy Counsel.  His responsibilities include strategic planning and handling legislative, procedural and jurisdictional matters. Russell graduated with a B.A. from NYU in 2002.  He received a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2005.   Before coming to the Committee, Russell was an Associate Deputy General Counsel with the Office of General Counsel, Department of Defense.  Prior to joining the Department of Defense, Russell was a U.S. Army Judge Advocate.  He served for over four years, including a tour in Iraq with the XVIII Airborne Corps. Russell is currently a member of the New York and New Jersey Bars.

Rebekah Eskandani, Press Secretary and Digital Media Coordinator

Rebekah joined the Committee in October 2015 as the Staff and Press Assistant. She currently acts as Press Secretary and Digital Media Coordinator. Her responsibilities include assisting the Communications Director with digital media, website content, and press outreach. Rebekah studied political science at Hope College located in Holland, Michigan. Before coming to the Committee, Rebekah worked as an intern and subsequently as staff assistant for former Congressman George Miller (D-CA). She is originally from the San Francisco East Bay.

Sara Palasits, Research Assistant

Sara joined the staff in January 2016 after completing a fall internship with the Committee. She works primarily with the professional staff of the Subcommittee on Oversight, assisting with research related to Committee investigations. Sara came to the Committee from Brown University after completing her bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and working as a research assistant for two Brown cognition labs.

Sara Barber, Professional Staff

Sara first joined the Committee as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow sponsored by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in October 2015. Sara was brought on the Committee staff in October 2016 to work with both the Space and Research and Technology Subcommittees. Prior coming to the Committee, Sara graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Ph.D. in Physics where she studied remnant planetary systems orbiting White Dwarf stars.

Subcommittee on Environment

Pamitha D. Weerasinghe, Professional Staff

Pamitha first joined the Committee as an intern during the Fall of 2011. He was hired as a full-time member of the staff in April 2012. Pamitha is a 2005 graduate of the University of Maryland (B.A.) and a 2009 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, School of Law (J.D.). In addition to his legal research and writing abilities, Pamitha has experience working for several online and print publications and has developed core management and leadership skills in the field of Higher Education. Pamitha is originally from Colombo, Sri Lanka but has made his home in nine states.

Priyanka Hooghan, Professional Staff

Priyanka joined the Committee in January 2017. Before coming to the Committee, she had completed a yearlong fellowship as the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) first STEM fellow working in the office of Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), and with the American Petroleum Institute (API). She held previous positions as a regional environmental engineer for a raw material processing and handling company, and as an environmental consultant. Priyanka received an M.S. in environmental engineering from Stanford University, and a B.S. in environmental engineering from Southern Methodist University.


Subcommittee on Energy

Adam RosenbergStaff Director

Adam Rosenberg is the Staff Director for the Subcommittee on Energy and previously served as a professional staff member on the Committee from mid-2007 through 2010. Dr. Rosenberg holds a B.S. in applied & engineering physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in plasma physics from Princeton University, where he studied interactions between radio frequency waves and energetic ions in a large magnetic fusion experiment at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.  From mid-2003 through 2004, Dr. Rosenberg was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Fellow on the Democratic staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He then accepted a position as a Program Manager in the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science’s Fusion Energy Sciences Program, where he directly oversaw a major research facility at MIT. Prior to his current position, Dr. Rosenberg served as Deputy Director for Technology Strategy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs. There he managed the coordination of joint activities with DOE to accelerate the development and deployment of advanced energy technologies for military applications. In addition, he served as the Assistant Secretary’s lead staffer on alternative fuels policy and technical analysis.

Joe Flarida, Professional Staff

Joe joined the staff in December 2013 after completing his internship with the Committee over the summer and fall. After working as the Staff and Press Assistant and subsequently as the Press Secretary and Policy Assistant, Joe joined the Energy Subcommittee as a Professional Staff Member. Before coming to the Committee, Joe worked for Battelle’s Washington Office conducting policy and legislative research. Joe graduated from The Ohio State University in 2012 with two degrees, Political Science (B.A.) and Public Affairs (B.A.). Joe is originally from Lima, Ohio.

Subcommittee on Research & Technology

Dahlia Sokolov, Staff Director

Dahlia joined the Committee as an American Institute of Physics Congressional fellow in October 2004 and joined the professional staff in July 2005. For the two years prior to joining the Democratic staff of the Research and Science Education Subcommittee, she served on the Energy Subcommittee working on nuclear energy R&D under then-Chairman Sherwood Boehlert’s (R-NY) leadership. Before coming to the Hill, Dahlia completed a two-year postdoctoral research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health in the Radiation Oncology Sciences Program. Dahlia has a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Washington and a B.S. in Engineering Physics from the University of California at Berkeley.

Brystol EnglishProfessional Staff

Brystol joined the Committee in February 2011.  She focuses on transportation R&D, small business innovation, and U.S. competitiveness, including international standards for the Technology Subcommittee.  She also works with the Research Subcommittee on issues relating to international science and technology cooperation.  Prior to joining the Committee, she served as a Special Assistant in the personal office of Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and before coming to the Hill she consulted on transportation issues as they relate to international trade and goods movement, economic development, the environment, security and emerging technology.  Brystol received a J.D. and Certificate in Comparative and International Law from The Catholic University of America and holds a B.A. in Political Science and French from Austin College.  

Subcommittee on Space 

Pamela Whitney, Senior Professional Staff

Pamela Whitney serves as Professional Staff on the Space Subcommittee. In her former position as Senior Program Officer at the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council, National Academies, she directed studies and workshops on international cooperation in space, Earth remote sensing, Mars planetary protection, space policy, astronomy science centers, among other space technology and research topics. Pamela also served as the Executive Secretary of the U.S. national committee to the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) of the International Council for Science (ICSU). She held previous positions as an analyst at the aerospace consulting firm CSP Associates, Inc., and as a researcher and writer for Time-Life Books, Inc. Pamela holds a B.A. in Economics from Smith College and an M.A. in International Communication from American University. She is a member of Women in Aerospace and a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.

Allen Li, Senior Professional Staff

Allen serves as Professional Staff on the Space Subcommittee. He joined the Subcommittee in January 2008 after retiring from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in May 2007. As Director of GAO’s Acquisition and Sourcing Management Team, Allen led GAO’s work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and reviewed numerous defense acquisition programs. He also served as the Team’s Director for Operations, managing day-to-day activities of a geographically dispersed group. During his career at GAO, Allen also served as Associate Director in GAO’s Energy, Resources, and Science Issue Area; and Associate Director of the Transportation Issue Area, where he specialized in aviation safety and air traffic control modernization. During his tenure at GAO, he testified numerous times before Senate and House Committee and Subcommittees on civil and military issues such as the International Space Station and the F-22. Allen was selected for GAO’s Senior Executive Service in 1993. He holds a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland and is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Subcommittee on Oversight

Douglas S. Pasternak, Staff Director

Doug is a former Emmy award-winning investigative reporter/producer who spent nearly two decades uncovering waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement at federal agencies – primarily within the national security arena – including the Departments of Energy, Justice, Defense and Homeland Security, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Central Intelligence Agency and National Reconnaissance Office. As an investigative reporter at U.S. News & World Report magazine he was twice nominated for the National Magazine Award, the magazine industry’s highest honor.  In 2006, Doug came to the Committee from the Investigative Unit at NBC Nightly News where he broke several major investigative stories, including FEMA's mishandling of ice shipments to victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Defense Department’s domestic intelligence collection efforts in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  His stories have resulted in investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Inspector General’s Offices at the Departments of Justice and Defense and congressional oversight hearings.  Since joining the Committee, Doug has led investigations regarding public health and safety issues at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  He has also led investigations regarding security related issues and program mismanagement at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amongst many other issues.  Doug has a B.A. degree in Political Science from The American University in Washington, D.C. and has studied in Israel and Poland.

Stanton Johnson, Professional Staff