General Session Instructors

Robert P. Ellis – Course Director
Dr. Robert Ellis, CBSP (ABSA), DACVM, graduated from the University of Wyoming with a BS in Microbiology. Bob’s education continued with the MS and PhD degrees earned at Purdue University. He is currently the Director of Biosafety at Colorado State University (CSU). Bob joined the faculty at CSU in January 1978, and is Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology. Bob was appointed to the CSU Biosafety Committee in 1978, and was Biosafety Officer 1986-1989, and 1997 to present. Dr. Ellis was awarded the Russian Academy of Agricultural Science, Division of Veterinary Medicine, Gold Medal of Achievement in the field of Veterinary Science, December 2008.

Bob is a Certified Biological Safety Professional (CBSP) and a Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Microbiologists (ACVM Honorary). He was elected to the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) Council in October, 2004, and was elected President-Elect of ABSA for 2008. He served as the ABSA President in 2009. Bob is on the Editorial Board for Applied Biosafety. Bob has taught many pre-conference and summer session courses for ABSA, the Eagleson Institute, the ABSA/Emory Leadership Institute, and the ABSA/Behavioral Based Improvement Solutions Leadership Summit. Bob has served on the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, and chaired the NBBTP Scientific Advisory Board 2009-2011. In addition to his CSU and ABSA activities, he has been the Executive Director of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Diseases (CRWAD) 1987-2014, and was the Founding Editor-in-Chief of Animal Health Research Reviews (AHRR). Bob serves on the Biosafety Committees for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the National Wildlife Research Center. Bob has extensive experience in the design, construction, and operation of BSL–2 and BSL–3 facilities, and is recognized nationally and internationally for his knowledge and practical application of Biosafety practices and principles. Bob received the 2015 Everett Hanel, Jr. Presidential Award. The Everett Hanel, Jr. Presidential Award is given to a current ABSA (American Biological Safety Association) member for outstanding contributions to the American Biological Safety Association by promoting the field of biological safety and fostering, by example, the high professional standards of the Association’s membership.

In 2004, Bob founded and continues to direct the Biosafety and Biosecurity Training Course (BBTC) in Fort Collins, CO, USA. The BBTC is held each July and includes Animal, General, and Plant biosafety and biosecurity training sessions. Sixteen topic experts present and instruct the Animal, General, and Plant Sessions. For 2018 the BBTC transitioned to the Biosafety and Biosecurity Training Course-Global (BBTC-Global), a remote-based (on-line) interactive course presented through a Learning Management System. 2019 brought the Biosafety and Biosafety Training Course back to Fort Collins, CO, to be held on-site.


Sara Cope
Dr. Sara Cope is currently an Assistant Biosafety Officer at Colorado State University (CSU), as well as an Alternate Responsible Official (ARO) for CSU’s Select Agent program. At CSU, Sara has primary responsibility over the Diagnostic Medicine Center (DMC) on CSU’s South Campus. The DMC includes biosafety level-2 (BSL-2) and biosafety level- 3 (BSL-3) laboratory suites that serve to offer timely and accurate testing services to identify animal disease. The DMC also has a unique role in global disease surveillance, collaborating with public and private partners to track significant diseases in Colorado, across the nation and around the world.

Sara’s other responsibilities as part of the Biosafety team at CSU include: assisting with Mock BSL-3 training, biosafety cabinet training, BSL-2 and BSL-3 laboratory audits, Select Agent inventory audits and performing respiratory fit tests for personnel at CSU’s Infectious Disease Research Center (IDRC) and Diagnostic Medicine Center. Prior to her time at CSU, Sara was a fellow with the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland; where she had to opportunity to receive professional training in biosafety and biocontainment at one of the foremost biomedical research centers in the world.

Sara studied at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, TX, where she focused on Biology and Chemistry as an undergraduate and Molecular Biology and Microbiology as a graduate student. While at UNT, Sara served as the founding vice-president for the Society for Microbiology at UNT. As a graduate teaching assistant, she taught both Microbiology and Medical Bacteriology Lab courses throughout her graduate career and served as the Microbiology instructor and mentor for the Upward Bound Math and Science summer program for high school students interested in the science disciplines.


Nicholas Bergren
Dr. Nicholas Bergren graduated from LeTourneau University, Longview, Texas, with a BS in Biology in 2010. Nicholas continued his education, earning his PhD, at the University of Texas Medical Branch under the mentorship of Dr. Scott Weaver. During his time at UTMB, Nicholas gained experience working with arthropods and vertebrate animals in a BSL3 setting. Nicholas joined the Colorado State University Arthropod-Borne Infectious Disease Lab as a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Rebekah Kading’s lab in August 2016 where he continues his research studying arthropod-virus relationships.


Michael Pentella
Dr. Mike Pentella, D(ABMM), is a clinical professor of epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and is the director in the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL).

Previously, he was interim director of the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL), and the director of the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Massachusetts and before that an associate director for the disease control division at SHL, where he was responsible for infectious disease testing and newborn and maternal screening and was actively involved with bioterrorism preparedness, antimicrobial resistance and pandemic influenza planning.

In 2016, Pentella became the seventh recipient of SHL’s William J. Hausler Career Achievement Award, which recognizes a lifetime of achievement and professional activities that extend beyond the laboratory and greatly impact the field of public health.

Pentella chairs the Association of Public Health Laboratories’ Biosafety and Biosecurity Committee as part of his lifelong interest in laboratory biosafety issues. In 2017, he received APHL’s Leadership in Biosafety and Biosecurity Award. In 2016, he was given an Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of South Florida, College of Public Health.


Joseph P. Kozlovac
Mr. Joe Kozlovac, M.S., RBP, CBSP, SM-NRM, is a Registered Biosafety Professional (RBP) and a Certified Biological Safety Professional (CBSP) through the American Biological Safety Association International (ABSA). Joe is also certified as a Specialist Microbiologist in Biological Safety Microbiology through the National Registry of Microbiologists, American College of Microbiology, American Society of Microbiology (ASM). Joe has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, PA and a M.S. in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He has authored several journal articles and textbook chapters on the subjects of Biological Toxins; Bloodborne Pathogens; Indoor Air Management; ABSL–3 Agriculture, Agricultural Risk Assessment and Decontamination. Joe has also participated in the development of a new appendix on ABSL–3 Agriculture which appears in the CDC/NIH BMBL 5th edition.

Joe serves on the editorial review board of the peer reviewed journal Applied Biosafety and has also served as an external reviewer for the biosafety chapter in the USAMRIID Textbook of Military Medicine. Joe is currently employed at the United States Department of Agricultural, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) where he is responsible for developing biosafety policy for the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and to assist ARS locations in implementing these policies, and other biosafety guidelines and regulations. Joe’s program is responsible for the development of guidance for the design and construction of containment facilities. Joe has the responsibility for approving all biosafety related design features for ARS design projects.

Joe is a member and served on the Council of the American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) and is also a member and Past-President of the Chesapeake Area Biological Safety Association (ChABSA). Joe is also a member of the International Veterinary Biosafety Working Group. His professional services have included providing biosafety training to >850 Pakistani Scientists as part of an effort by the State Department’s Biosecurity Engagement Program, serving as USDA representative for the NIH RAC Biosafety Working Group, served as a peer reviewer on the design of USAMRIID’s new research facility, provided BSL–3 Operations Training to individuals in the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN) and providing independent assessments of U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) BSL–4 and BSL–3 Laboratories as an external participant in USAMRIID’s Safety Inspection Program. He has also served as a consultant to the U.S. State Department on the Technical Review Committee for the decontamination of an anthrax contaminated mailbag facility in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


Jerry Tews
Mr. Tews graduated from the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse, with a BS in Microbiology. He started working at Colorado State University (CSU) as an infectious disease microbiologist and later moved into the position of Biosafety and Facilities Operations Manager for the Infectious Disease Research Center (IDRC), Colorado State University (2000-2011). In addition to managing building safety, security, information technology (IT) and day–to–day building operations, he was involved with the design, construction and commissioning of five BSL–3 facilities on the CSU campus.

Mr. Tews joined Affiliated Engineers, Inc. (AEI) in 2011 as a member of its Commissioning practice, focused on the design review, inspection and/or verification of biocontainment and clean room facilities on campuses of higher education, private research, and governmental research. His responsibilities also encompassed the development of program documentation (Standard Operating Procedures, Occupational Health/Safety/Security plans, etc.) for principal investigators and facilities maintenance staff associated with these facility types, as well as the training of these user groups. Mr. Tews currently is a building design, commissioning, maintenance and operations consultant.


James M. (Jim) Welch
Mr. Jim Welch serves as the Executive Director (Retired) of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Foundation, a non-profit foundation in the United States that collaborates globally with public and private organizations and institutions in promoting effective biosafety training, occupational health awareness, and advocacy of responsible research.

Educated at East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee, Jim has served on the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training Program (NBBTP) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD. He serves on the board of directors of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

A retired educator, Jim has worked with various entities in organizational assessment, creating and implementing action strategies, personnel recruitment, leadership development, government relations, and human resource programs. A non-scientist, he travels the world working on initiatives in safe research and giving presentations that advocate safe and secure science and the strengthening of research capacity to improve public and animal health.


Sarah Ziegler
Dr. Sarah A. Ziegler, SM (NRCM), RBP, CBSP, is a biosafety professional and serves as a subject matter expert for Select Agent programs, biosafety, biosecurity and biocontainment facilities. Sarah is currently the Associate Director for Biological Safety and Security at Merrick. Sarah is an active member of the American Biological Safety Association International (ABSA), and serves on various committees. Sarah is a voting member of the NSF/ANSI 49 (American National Standards Institute) committee for Biosafety Cabinet certifications. Sarah is a Certified Biosafety Professional (CBSP) and Registered Biosafety Professional (RBP) with ABSA International.

Dr. Ziegler is a graduate of the National Biosafety and Biocontainment Training program (NBBTP), hosted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, Maryland. Sarah received her doctorate degree in biomedical sciences with an emphasis in virology from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX. She received her Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in biochemistry from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.