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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Winter 2016
Peer Advisor Availability

Writing Peer
Kyle Crocco

Mon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tue: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m.-noon

Funding Peer
Stephanie Griffin
Mon: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: noon-2 p.m.

Diversity Peer
Ana Romero

Mon: noon-2 p.m.
Wed: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.


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Graduate Student in the Spotlight, Rick Bacon: CEO and Non-Traditional Student

Rick Bacon: CEO and Ph.D. studentThe term non-traditional doesn’t even begin to explain second-year Ph.D. Education student Rick Bacon. While most of us are getting a Ph.D. to get a better job, Rick Bacon already has a job he loves as C.E.O. of Aqua Metrology Systems, a Silicon Valley start-up. Instead, he’s earning his Ph.D. to help understand how to widen access of underserved populations to learning and employment opportunities and wants to get business involved to help make it happen.

It’s all part of a process of giving back. Rick originally grew up outside of the U.S., near Chichester, U.K, in a farming community. While many of his friends never left, he was afforded the chance to get a good education and earned a degree in Land Economy from Cambridge.

I sat down with him and an undergraduate student, Cani Villasenor (a UCSB Undergraduate Senior in Hydrological Sciences and Policy), who was working on Rick’s business and education partnership in Goleta. We talked about what inspired him to come back to university, what he hopes to achieve, and what he and Cani had learned from collaborating on the education project.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

Most people are surprised to hear that a CEO is doing a Ph.D.

So why did you come back?

Spotlight lampI’ve been lucky in life. I had the opportunity to get a first class degree. And then I looked around me and saw bright kids, in underserved populations who were in need of access to new types of learning and employment opportunities. It’s a social justice issue supported by a non-profit, helping inner city students learn how to read the world and what it takes to be successful. I wanted to replicate this model, but education systems do not operate like a business. I met an alum of UCSB, and they said I would need to learn how education works, how learning takes place in order to avoid the mistakes many business people make by thinking they have ready-made answers for how to improve the education system. This resonated with me so much that I petitioned to become a student at UCSB.

How would you best describe your research to someone who wasn’t in your field?

I’m using an interactional ethnographic lens to examine ways that partnerships between business and education leaders form and develop to create learning and development opportunities for young people in underserved populations.

water monitoring station in GoletaRick Bacon with the water monitoring equipment in GoletaSo how are you doing that here on your project in Goleta?

Rick: At Aqua Metrology Systems (AMS), we design and manufacture online water quality monitoring systems that test water for contaminants, such as chrome or arsenic. One of our clients who uses this technology is the City of Goleta. They have several undergraduate interns working for them. So this is a model for business to work with and involve undergraduates and graduates in a project for the benefit of the community. It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved.

What do the undergraduate interns do?

Cani: We look at water quality because of the drought. We use the analyzers from AMS. All the data goes to the cloud. I use the analyzer to make improvements and operational changes.

What have you learned as part of this project?

Cani: I learned skills to lead a team of my own interns. That by using this analyzer we were able to make a bigger impact on water quality. Also without using the cloud, we would not be able to give work to other people. The company doesn’t want to employ five interns at the facility. So by using technology and the cloud, more people are able to be involved.

Rick: It’s a telling case, of how we (business, water agencies, students and faculty) could work this way across the state. It’s also a very interdisciplinary approach bringing together different types of knowledge and expertise. How do you bring all these different actors and systems together and create a common language? I am an  ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ to this, and it’s the basis of my Ph.D. research of a statewide water quality improvement project that is in the planning phase.

Chaotic LabThis chaotic lab space shows an instrument for Chrome 6, Arsenic (contaminants of concern in many parts of California) or Lead (of serious concern in Flint, MI)What’s the statewide project?

The Water Resources and Policy Initiatives project out of CSU San Bernardino in support of cleaner water for Disadvantaged Communities (DAC). They will work with 400 underserved communities, as part of a 3-year project involving students from every level: CSUs, UCs, and Community colleges and NGOs.

Turning back to school. After so many years away, what do you wish you had known before you started grad school?  Writing an essay is not like writing a business report, and I forgot how intensive education is. If you take it seriously, it’s very hard work. What most surprised me was some students are happy just to get the passing grade, rather than make the most of this amazing opportunity.

You’re a businessman and graduate student, what is the your favorite thing you do to relax?

I run, play tennis, and listen to music (everything from classical to flamenco).

What’s in high rotation on your playlist these days?

I’m going to see Merle Haggard and Bruce Springsteen next month.

What is your biggest accomplishment in life and why? 

Three wonderful kids, all married and four wonderful grandkids. – I started young!

Rick Bacon and familyRick Bacon with his biggest life accomplishment: his family

What has had the biggest impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?

I had a mentor at school. He told me to forget my dream of becoming a professional  soccer player because it was a poor use of my talents. He convinced me to go to college. Also Professor Judith Green here, who convinced me I could bring something to the world of education.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

Improving educational and employment access for underserved communities, either through policy or by being involved in the practical business side. 


Graduate Student in the Spotlight: History Major Brian Griffith

Brian GriffithBrian J. Griffith posing at San Francisco's Grace CathedralOur latest Graduate Student in the Spotlight column focuses on Brian J. Griffith, husband and father of two, and a fourth-year Ph.D. student in History, who is studying Modern Italy and Italian Fascism. He was also a recipient of the GSA Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014.

What would people be most surprised to know about you?

I used to play guitar for a Bay Area punk-rock group called The Drive Home. We put out a few records and did some extensive touring throughout the western half of the United States before disbanding in 2004. In addition to making a lot of really good memories, I learned a lot about hard work, dedication, and doggedly pursuing my personal or professional objectives over the long-term. Despite my band’s dissolution, those experiences and skills, I think, have really helped me during the course of my graduate training.


"It’s quite difficult to pursue an M.A. or a Ph.D. program with a lukewarm attitude. You should be burning with passion and dedication for what you’re doing or you’ll likely find yourself overwhelmed and prematurely burnt out." – Brian Griffith

What is your biggest accomplishment in life and why? 

The personal, or intellectual, obstacles that I’ve had to overcome in order to be studying and working here at UCSB, I think, constitute my greatest accomplishment. Prior to my intellectual awakening, I had largely failed my way through my high school years. As a result, I emerged as an early “adult” with very little intellectual foundation. And I really sensed my personal inadequacies vis-à-vis my peers. But after watching so many of my friends and loved-ones begin, and complete, their degrees, I was inspired to go back to school. I suppose you could say I had a positive intellectual context around me for many years, which reinforced my inherent curiosity and productive energies. And once I set my mind on, first, earning my B.A., I did it. And then I completed an M.A. two years later. And then I was invited to study here at UCSB for my Ph.D. in 2012. When I look back on all of these milestones, I realize how far I’ve come personally. This, for me, is my greatest accomplishment.

The Drive Home bandBrian J. Griffith, left, playing guitar with The Drive Home at Anaheim's Chain Reaction in 2003.

You won a GSA Excellence in Teaching Award in 2014. Any teaching tips you can hand down?

I’d say that if you’re passionate about what you’re teaching, then let it show in your classroom. I come to every section meeting, every lecture excited – genuinely excited – for whichever topic we’ll be reviewing together. I don’t think that studying and teaching History is just enjoyable; I think it’s important. And I utilize that sense of importance, and urgency, as an inspiration for getting my students excited and engaged. I think if you can develop ways for helping your students discover their hidden passions for your discipline, you’ll likely make a significant impact in their academic and, possibly, even personal lives.

What do you wish you had known before you started grad school? 

Thankfully, I was pretty well prepared for the realities of graduate-level professional training prior to starting my M.A. and Ph.D. programs. I think anyone considering a graduate program should be prepared to put their heart and soul into what they’re doing for two to seven years, depending on the degree(s) they’re pursuing. It’s quite difficult to pursue an M.A. or a Ph.D. program with a lukewarm attitude. You should be burning with passion and dedication for what you’re doing or you’ll likely find yourself overwhelmed and prematurely burnt out. Graduate programs are briskly paced, which can be a challenge for some people. But I can say from personal experience that that brisk pace, over the long term, will compel you to grow both as a scholar and as a person.

What is your favorite thing you do to relax?

I live only 15 minutes from the beach, so I like to take walks or bike rides out to the nearby bluffs with my family. I also enjoy gardening, playing my guitar and accordion, and watching old Italian films (preferably a Fellini or a Rossellini) over a nice glass or three of Chianti Classico.

What’s in high rotation on your playlist these days?

Lately, I’ve been listening to The Misfits and Django Reinhardt

Brian J. Griffith walking the streets in Florence, Italy, during his Fall 2015 research trip, which was funded by a Council for European Studies Pre-Dissertation Research Fellowship.

How would you best describe your research to someone who wasn’t in your field?

My current research explores the intertwining of viti-viniculture (table and wine grape production), autarkic (materially self-sufficient) consumerism, the physical environment, and identity construction in interwar Italy.

My dissertation – Bacchus’ Blackshirt – analyzes the centrality of Italy’s viti-viniculture industry within the Fascist regime’s intertwined campaigns for encouraging the development of a national identity in Italy and establishing a synchronized community of popular consumption under the auspices of the Corporatist State. Since grape vine cultivation was such a widespread practice in Italy, it offered the dictatorship an agro-cultural platform for projecting its socio-economic program to the Italian masses.

By promoting Italy’s winemaking heritage via popular campaigns and outreach, I contend the regime aimed to stimulate domestic consumption of Italy’s grapes and wines and, simultaneously, to impress upon the masses that Italians, regardless of their regional affiliation and geographical separation, shared these histories and practices as a singular patrimony. In doing so, I am arguing, Mussolini’s dictatorship hoped to motivate domestic consumers to recognize themselves as Italians.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

Like most starry-eyed Ph.D. candidates, I hope to be working as Professor of History at a four-year university. However, in light of the unfavorable job market out there, many feel compelled to begin planning for options B and C.

Brian Griffith and familyBrian J. Griffith with his wife Stephanie and their son Matteo at Goleta's Stow House.


A ‘Reinvented’ UCSB Library Opens 

Presiding at the UCSB Library ribbon-cutting are, from left, University Librarian Denise Stephens; UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang; Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall; Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Marc Fisher; GSA President Aaron Jones; and Associated Students President Jimmy Villareal. Credit: Monie Photography

The newly completed work on the UC Santa Barbara Library is more than just a renovation of its outdated buildings. The project is a reinvention of what an academic library at a top-tier research institution aspires to be and can be.

That’s how university officials are describing the state-of-the-art project, which was first proposed two decades ago. Two years of construction culminated last week with a festive “Reinventing the Library” grand opening ceremony, featuring speakers, dancers, musicians, a ribbon-cutting, a photo booth, and an open house.

Highlights of the celebration include, clockwise from left, an address by University Librarian Denise Stephens (credit: Patricia Marroquin); patrons entering the new library (credit: Sonia Fernandez, Office of Public Affairs and Communications); and the structure brightly lit at night (credit: Monie Photography).Key features and major components of the UCSB Library project, designed by Pfeiffer Partners Architects, include:

  • A three-story building addition on the north side of the library for Special Research Collections, with state-of-the art technology for preservation; Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory; and 24-hour Learning Commons.
  • Complete renovation and seismic retrofit of the original two-story building to house the Art & Architecture Collection, plus additional study, gathering, collections, and exhibition spaces.
  • A new “Paseo,” or grand walkway, that connects all parts of the library as well as the east and west sides of campus, and serves as the library’s new entrance.
  • The addition of about 60,000 square feet and the renovation of about 92,000 square feet.
  • LEED Silver certification. Environmentally friendly features include recycled and regional building materials; reflective roof and ground; energy-efficient lighting; window filters; and water-saving steps such as low-flow faucets and drought-tolerant outdoor landscaping.
  • 20 percent more study space.
  • Expanded wireless access and more power outlets.
  • A sit-down eatery called the Summit Café.
  • Bright reading galleries.

GSA President Aaron Jones speaks at the ceremony. Credit: Monie PhotographyUniversity Librarian Denise Stephens told the GradPost that specific programs and areas will be of particular interest to grad students. “As both scholars and instructors,” she said, “graduate students will benefit from new library programs such as the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboratory, which encourages and inspires data creation and analysis across all disciplines; a new Graduate Study that allows for quiet individual work; and group study areas throughout that allow for conversation and collaboration. We hope the new library, designed in part with feedback from graduate students, will serve their needs and allow them to engage with information in the most productive and meaningful ways – online or on site.”

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti said the building, with its new spaces, has stirred enthusiasm on campus. “It is thrilling to have the beautiful new library open, to walk through its halls, and to see that it has already become a significant locus of student study and interaction,” she said. “I predict it will become iconic for the campus, exemplifying the collaborative and interdisciplinary interaction that is the hallmark of UC Santa Barbara. The new resources, such as the Collaboratory and the redesigned special collections, will both enhance and accelerate graduate research. I’ve been on campus for more than 25 years and I’ve never before had the feeling that a new building was such a source of excitement and renewal. I couldn’t be more pleased!”

The grand opening ceremony featured speeches by University Librarian Denise Stephens; Chancellor Henry T. Yang; Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall; GSA President Aaron Jones; and Associated Students President Jimmy Villareal; as well as performances and music by students from the UCSB Departments of Music, and Theater & Dance.

Guests at the library's Open House were treated to "UCSBreakin'," a break-dancing performance in the Courtyard. Credit: Monie Photography

College of Creative Studies Dean Bruce Tiffney was among those posing with Dr. Seuss books in the photo booth. Photo courtesy of UCSB Library“I think the library has always been the heart and soul of the university,” Danelle Moon, head of the library’s  Special Research Collections, said in an Office of Public Affairs and Communications video, posted below. “You can just see the excitement on the students’ faces coming in and oohing and ahhing over the new building – the architecture, the furniture. … It’s telling that the students are embracing the importance and the significance of the library and through their studies they are going to be documenting the significance of what libraries hold, which is the history of the world.”

For more information about the UCSB Library, including entrances; new spaces and places; the new Summit Café; and events and exhibitions, visit the “Reinvented UCSB Library” page. And you may view a fun gallery of Dr. Seuss-themed photo-booth images in this Flickr album.

Dancers from the Department of Theater & Dance perform "Four Birds" on the library's Paseo Bridge. Credit: Karen Lindell, UCSB Library



Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Computer Science Student Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney, a fifth-year Computer Science Ph.D. candidate focusing on Computer Vision, sat down and shared the unique journey of his path to and throughout graduate school.

Despite his many academic accomplishments (including receiving top honors at the Association for Computing Machinery Multimedia Open-Source Software Competition in Australia last October), Chris maintains a well-rounded life. When he’s not in the Four Eyes Lab, he can be found performing with the local Santa Barbara Improv Group, swimming, or volunteering his time in local and international communities.

Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your family, childhood, and early education.

Chris SweeneyI grew up in Northern Virginia, near D.C.  I attended Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, where I began my love of computer science. I went to college at the University of Virginia, where I received a B.S. in Math and Computer Science. As an undergrad, I always knew what I wanted to study, and I’ve been following that path since then.

Tell us a little about your research and how you came to choose the topic.

I’m working in data visualization and computer vision. Specifically, I’m looking at 3D geometry from images for programs like CAD. This came by way of undergraduate research I participated in: large-scale image processing. As a Ph.D. student, I’m working on making large-scale Structure from Motion more accessible by developing 3D modeling software and sharing it on my software’s website. Some examples of models I’ve made with my software are below:

ColosseumA screenshot of a reconstructed model of the Colosseum in Rome, using Chris’s 3D modeling software. Credit: Chris Sweeney

DubrovnikA screenshot of a reconstructed model of Dubrovnik, a medieval city – better known as King’s Landing from Game of Thrones. Credit: Chris Sweeney

To create these 3D models, I have a script that crawls Flickr for landmarks (i.e., the most heavily photographed places in the world), then I take the images and run them through my software to recover full 3D models of the scenes.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

It’s been very rewarding. I’ve had several travel opportunities and internships. I’ve had three internships for Google Goggles, and from September 2014 through April 2015, I was a visiting student at ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology] in Switzerland. I’ve also enjoyed meeting cool people from these experiences.

What do you wish you had known before you started grad school?

Funding can be a real struggle!

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

Chris, center, accepting the top prize for Open-Source Software at the 2015 ACM Multimedia Conference in Brisbane, Australia. Photo courtesy of Chris SweeneyI’m having a hard time choosing between two big accomplishments: winning my Open-Source award, and my time as a visiting student to ETH Zurich. The Open-Source Software competition is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery, and my Theia Open Source Library for 3D Modeling won first place this past fall. I’m proud of this award, as it’s a validation of both my own hard work and the general community’s commitment and contributions to open source.

Secondly, being a visiting student to ETH Zurich was incredible. Professionally, it was really neat to be invited to the top labs there. Personally, it was a challenge to be in a country whose language was German. Although the working language of the labs was English, I had to improve my German language skills to get by day-to-day.

What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?

I’m very self-motivated, which has helped me accomplish a lot during school. It also helps that I’m in an industry that’s currently seeing a boom, and many digital imaging ideas are now becoming tangible products.

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, favorite places to go, favorite things to do?

Chris and his girlfriend enjoying the local fauna on a trip to Australia. Photo courtesy of Chris SweeneySome of my favorite hobbies include wine tasting along the Central Coast, playing soccer, and woodworking. So far, I’ve made desks and tables. I also like to travel, which is a benefit of grad school and the industry, since there are so many international and regional conferences.

Have you taken any other interesting international trips?

In college, I participated in Alternative Spring Breaks in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. These were week-long service trips in which we volunteered with local elementary schools. More recently, I traveled to Tamale, Ghana, with Community Water Solutions [now Saha Global]. Our team built a water purification center in town and taught local women how to run the facility and about sustainable leadership. We encouraged the women to charge a nominal fee for their work, which helped improve their economic standing.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I come from a big family – I’m one of five kids. I feel that families aren’t usually that big anymore, especially on the West Coast. People are usually surprised to hear how many siblings I have.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

For a while, I’d hoped to stay in academia, ultimately as a tenured professor. However, recently I’ve felt a growing potential toward working for a tech company. I could see myself doing R&D work, for the right company. I’m starting my postdoc work in January at the University of Washington, so I’ll see where that takes me down the road.

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

Be open to talking about any problems you may be facing – whether it’s financial, research, or life in general. It’s important to communicate openly with your advisors, colleagues, and other faculty members.


Peer Advisors' Office Hours for Winter 2016

The Graduate Division's Peer Advisors are here to help you. Each peer keeps office hours in the Graduate Student Resource Center, which is located in the Student Resource Building, Room 1215.

Writing Peer, Kyle Crocco
Mondays and Wednesdays: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 10 a.m.-noon

Funding Peer, Stephanie Griffin
Mondays: 10 a.m.-noon
Wednesdays: noon-2 p.m.

Diversity Peer, Ana Romero

Mondays: noon-2 p.m.
Wednesdays: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To ensure that you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email to make an appointment.


The Top 15 GradPost Stories of 2015 

Each year, the GradPost reports on various lists and rankings for UC Santa Barbara. For example, there's the Leiden ranking (UCSB is No. 7 in the world this year); U.S. News & World Report's "Top 30 Public National Universities" (UCSB is No. 8); and Washington Monthly's list of "Top 100 National Universities" (UCSB is at No. 14). Now it's that time of the year again for the GradPost to present its list – of the Top 15 GradPost Stories of 2015.  

We examined the analytics for the GradPost from January 1 to December 15, 2015, to find out what clicked with our readers. Once again, such articles as graduate student profiles; student awards and achievements; the Grad Slam; and yes, those prestigious annual rankings reports, topped our list. Below are the GradPost’s Top 15 most-read stories originally published in 2015, followed by a list of five more noteworthy articles that just missed the list. (If you’re curious about past years, read our 2014 list and our 2013 list.)

The GradPost sends you all warm wishes for a joyous holiday season, and a safe and happy new year. We would like to remind you to please subscribe to us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, to keep up with the latest graduate student news and events.


Top 15 GradPost Stories Originally Published in 2015

1. 4 UCSB Students Chosen to Attend Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting This Summer in Germany, March 10
Four UCSB Ph.D. students are among more than 670 young scientists from 88 countries selected to participate in the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on the picturesque island of Lindau in Germany, where they will have the opportunity to meet and mingle with 70 Nobel Laureates. The four – Stacy Copp of Physics; Matthew Gebbie and Gregory Su of Materials; and Nikki Marinsek of Dynamical Neuroscience – were selected in a highly competitive process. UCSB was 4-for-4 this year, with all of the university’s nominees named participants for the 2015 meeting. The GradPost interviewed the winners.

From left, UCSB Ph.D. students Stacy Copp, Nikki Marinsek, Matthew Gebbie, and Gregory Su.2. Making It Work: UCSB Graduate Student Parents in the Spotlight, January 12
The GradPost interviewed four graduate students to ask them about the challenges, rewards, resources, and life as a parent in graduate school. The students interviewed are Natalie O’Connor Holdren, a Ph.D. student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education; Federico (Fede) Llach, a Ph.D. student in Music Composition; Phillip (Phill) Rogers, a Ph.D. student in Linguistics; and Derek Smith, a Ph.D. student in Mathematics.

Clockwise from top left: Derek’s daughter Myla running along Goleta Beach; Natalie helping daughter Liv feed giraffes at the Santa Barbara Zoo; Fede with Gaby and Carmen in their family student housing garden plot; Phill’s children Rosie and Isaac hanging out at a park

3. Getting to Know You: Introducing Our 2015 Incoming Graduate Student Cohort, September 21
In the fall, UCSB welcomed 841 new graduate students. The GradPost presented statistics about this new cohort, such as state and country of origin; ages of the oldest and youngest graduate students; and most popular disciplines. We asked some of our new grad students to tell us more about themselves, including what degrees they will be pursuing, favorite things to do, and what they are most looking forward to doing in graduate school. The eight new UCSB graduate students interviewed are: Amanda Kaczmarek (Psychological and Brain Sciences); Jenny Selvidge (Materials); Luke Rosedahl (Dynamical Neuroscience); Michelle Grue (Education); Petra Peršolja (Piano Performance); Rick Thomas (Environmental Science and Management); Shriniwas Patwardhan (Electrical and Computer Engineering); and Tara Clark (Education).

4. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Sara Sutherland Discusses Madagascar, Motherhood, and Motivation, March 23
The Ph.D. student in Economics shares how studying in Madagascar fueled her fascination with conservation; why a boy named Jack motivates her; how she avoided a near disaster on a camping adventure in The Everglades; and more.

5. Mark Your Calendars With Events from the Graduate Division’s 2015-2016 Programming Preview, September 24
The GradPost offers a preview of the year’s programming by the Graduate Division. It’s packed with valuable, informational, and fun workshops, conferences, seminars, and other events. The programming includes workshops on grant writing, resume/CV writing, presentation skills, and funding; the Beyond Academia conference; and the Graduate Student Showcase and Grad Slam events.

6. Grad Slam Final Round for UCSB: The Right to Represent,
April 20
After eight preliminary rounds and three semifinal rounds, it came down to this: UC Santa Barbara’s Finals round. Ten finalists competed, and the judges selected UCSB’s Champion (Daniel Hieber of Linguistics) and two runners-up (Abel Gustafson of Communication and Jessica Perkins of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management). We offer a recap.

The 10 finalists were acknowledged by the audience and Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti before they took questions. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

7. UCSB Ph.D. Students William Ryan and Stacy Copp Win Fiona Goodchild Award for Work as Mentors to Undergraduate Researchers, June 3
Stacy Copp of Physics and William Ryan of Psychological and Brain Sciences are announced as the winners of the Fiona Goodchild Award for Excellence as a Graduate Student Mentor of Undergraduate Research. The GradPost interviewed Stacy and Will on topics related to their graduate education and their work as mentors.

8. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Selvi Ersoy Pursues Science ‘Theatrically,’ April 27
The multitalented Microbiology Ph.D. student and Grad Slam finalist discusses such topics as women in science; what it was like to compete in the Grad Slam; being an award-winning Teaching Assistant; and how her dancing, singing, and musical theater background helps her in her graduate education.

Abel competing at the AVP Manhattan Beach Open. Credit: Ed Chan9. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Abel Gustafson on Playing Like a Champion, May 24
The Communication graduate student placed runner-up in the 2015 Grad Slam for his three-minute talk on how Wikipedia can be used to help predict election outcomes. In this Spotlight, he discusses what graduate life has been like for him; his research on social behavior and influence; and his involvement in a pro beach volleyball tour, among other issues.

10. Fellowship and Grant Money: What’s Taxable? January 14
Kyle Crocco offers some valuable resources and tax tips for students regarding tuition, fellowships, and grants.

11. UC Santa Barbara Ranked No. 7 in the World in Leiden Ranking of Impact in the Sciences, May 22
In Leiden University’s annual rankings of the 750 best major universities in the world in terms of impact in the sciences, UCSB was listed at No. 7, rising one spot from last year. The GradPost interviewed a few graduate students to get their reactions to this prestigious honor.

Karly Miller at Big Sur. Photo courtesy of Karly Miller12. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Karly Miller, Fulbright Scholar, Shows the Power of Listening, May 8
The Marine Science Ph.D. student, water scuba instructor, and Fulbright Scholar talks about her lifelong passion for the ocean and her research and experiences in such places as Ecuador, New Zealand, and Peru.

13. 4 UCSB Graduate Students Win 2014-2015 Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards,
April 24
The recipients of the Academic Senate’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards – Mario Galicia Jr. (Education), Keith Avery (Computer Science), Selvi Ersoy (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology), and Jeremy Chow (English) – talk about what the award means to them.

14. Ph.D. Candidate Mario Galicia Jr.: Coming ‘Full Circle’ as UCSB Graduate Division’s 2015 Commencement Student Speaker, May 28
The Graduate Division’s 2015 Commencement student speaker discusses why UCSB is such a special place for him; gives thanks to those who have influenced him along the way; and offers a preview of his Commencement message.

15. UCSB Graduate Division Debuts Graduate Education Magazine, May 29
The Graduate Division’s inaugural Graduate Education magazine showcases the “spirited and creative thinkers” who make up UC Santa Barbara’s graduate student body. The issue contains nearly a dozen articles on current graduate students, accomplished alums, exceptional programs, and one very special donor, philanthropist Michael Towbes.


5 More Stories That Just Missed the Top 15 List

16. Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Levi Maaia and the 'Maker' Culture, July 29

Credit: Patricia Marroquin17. UCSB Grad Students React to Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Ruling: One Big Step, but More Work to Do, June 26

18. UCSB Is Ranked No. 8 on List of Top 50 Best Value Graduate Engineering Programs of 2016, October 9

19. Workshop on Interviews and Negotiating a Job Offer, January 7 (Note: The recap of this event may be read here:

20. UCSB Climbs to No. 8 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 List of ‘Top 30 Public National Universities,’ September 9


Student Health Open and Available to Graduate Students During Winter Break

If you're staying in town for the holidays, you can still access many of the services at Student Health. See below for more details.

Hours and Services for Dec. 14-18 and 21-23

What is open: Student Health, Pharmacy, Laboratory, Radiology, Insurance Office, Dental Care Center, and Eye Care Center

When it's open: 8 a.m. - noon

More Details and Exceptions

  • Urgent Care: No appointments needed
  • Eye Care Center: Closed Dec. 23, call 805-893-3170 for appointments
  • Psychiatry and Social Work Counselors: Call 805-893-3087 for appointments
  • Alcohol/Drug Counselors: Call 805-893-5013 for appointments
  • Dental Care Urgent Needs: Monday, 12/14, to Thursday, 12/17, call 805-893-2891 for further information
  • Pharmacy: Mail-order service available, call 805-893-2116 for information
  • Student Health Administrative Offices: Open full days during break weeks; call 805-893-5339 for further information

All Student Health Services Closed from Dec. 24-Jan. 3

During the break, all students have access to the 24-hour Nurse Line at 800-539-1387 for any medical questions or concerns. Students with mental health questions or concerns may also call the 24-hour telephone service available through Counseling and Psychological Services at 805-893-4411.

When Student Health is closed, UCSB Students will need to utilize other local Urgent Care and Emergency Department services for medical problems that cannot wait until they reopen. Further information on these locations in Santa Barbara County can be found here.

Students with Gaucho Health Insurance (GHI) have benefits to cover emergency medical and pharmacy costs at outside facilities when Student Health is closed. No referrals are needed for gynecology or services more than 50 miles away. More information on GHI is available here, including how to print a temporary identification card.


From 'Broken' to 'New Beginning': Ph.D. Student Mario Galicia Reflects on His Beloved Tragedy-Stricken San Bernardino

Mario Galicia Jr. Credit: Patricia MarroquinExactly one week ago tragedy struck my hometown of San Bernardino. I wish to first send out my condolences to the families, loved ones, and all others affected by the recent disaster out of San Bernardino. Losing someone we know and love is never an easy thing. Having lost several family members and friends to various forms of gun violence, I am sensitive to what some of those grieving are going through.

I never thought that my experience with losing loved ones to gun violence would be relevant to my existence as a student at UC Santa Barbara, until we experienced our own mass shooting in Isla Vista in May 2014. At that time, I found myself consoling students in my classes – much as I had been consoled in my time of grief – by offering a space for these students to express their grief. As a university representative I also suggested additional resources available to help them through their process. Over the past year and a half I have tried to make peace with the fact that regardless of where my family and I choose to live in the U.S., we will more than likely have to deal with some type of gun violence affecting our community.

Last Wednesday while playing with my children, I couldn’t shake the thought of calling my mom. My mother and I speak regularly on the phone, and now that my children are old enough to communicate, they also get on the phone and chat with their "Nana" for a little while. So, as I strategized my day to figure out a good time to call mom, I began receiving text messages, emails, and social media alerts regarding a mass shooting that had occurred in my hometown of San Bernardino. My heart sank as my thoughts turned to the family members and friends who live in San Bernardino. I immediately called my mother but was unable to get through to her. I decided to try her back in a couple of minutes; I figured she might be on the line with someone else, checking in on her as well.

Mario Galicia Jr. in his senior year of high school in San Bernardino. Photo courtesy of Mario GaliciaSoon after, when various reports stated that the gunmen involved in the mass shooting were on the loose, my anxiety rose. I picked up my phone and kept dialing until I was finally able to get through to my mom. She explained to me that they were all OK. They were a little frightened, and confused, about what was going on, and why. My mother explained to me that all of the local government buildings and schools had been placed under "lockdown," including a school one of my nephews attends. I later spoke with him and he told me that nothing traumatic had occurred. Most people on campus, he said, were just following the news – online or through social media.

I’m relieved that my family is safe, but my heart still aches. It aches because as a human being, I can’t help but empathize with someone else who has experienced a loss of life. It seems that my whole life I have been dealing with death as well. Prior to moving to San Bernardino, my family and I lived in a southern section of the Rampart District in Los Angeles. All I can really remember about our neighborhood was the violence. I remember the violence, either associated with drugs, gangs, or police brutality. Matter of fact, one of the main reasons our family moved out of Los Angeles was due to this violence. As a result, I was raised in San Bernardino from the time I was in second grade.

Although once popularly known as the site of the first McDonald’s restaurant and where Taco Bell’s founder opened his first fast-food stand, in addition to being home to the Little League Western Regional tournament, San Bernardino today struggles to move past its 2012 bankruptcy. Its residents struggle to find hope, motivation, and inspiration – in anything – to help them get through the day.

Mario Galicia Jr. played in the Little League in San Bernardino in the 8th grade. Photo courtesy of Mario GaliciaOver the last 6 months, the Los Angeles Times has published three articles detailing some of these conditions: "Broken City," (June 14); "No Room at the Inn for Innocence," (July 22); and the latest, "San Bernardino: Broken" (November 6).

As someone who grew up in a working-class household, I understand the financial difficulties that many families face in San Bernardino today. Struggling to find where one might get their next meal, struggling to find stable housing, stable employment, stable relationships. Always struggling.

An important question still exists: "What is going to be done to help San Bernardino move forward?" San Bernardino, like many other working-class cities, needs help. San Bernardino needs other communities to open their hearts and offer their support (emotional and fiscal). We need to rally behind San Bernardino, use this tragedy to bring some much-needed national attention to other social issues that have long plagued the residents of this once-thriving Inland Empire community. The residents of San Bernardino need more investment toward creating, and sustaining, permanent employment opportunities for its residents. They also need better funding for their public schools and after-school programs. Children need to feel like their communities believe in them and their futures. Parents need to feel like they can provide for their children.

One way to show our youth that we believe in them is by investing in their futures. Many civic leaders (Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Paolo Freire, Carter G. Woodson, Cesar Chavez, Malala Yousafzai, to name a few) have long argued that literacy is the key to freedom: physical or otherwise. I believe that much like the Phoenix, San Bernardino will rise from its ashes to forge a "new beginning." I believe it will do so because the people of San Bernardino have the heart and the resilience to do so. I send my love and warm wishes, from one SB to another SB.


Editor's Note: Teaching Assistant Mario Galicia Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. He was the 2015 Graduate Division Commencement student speaker and previously was the Graduate Division's Diversity and Outreach Peer Advisor.


Graduate Student Spotlight: Tanya Das Finds Success by Starting Small

Tanya DasIt’s probably no coincidence that Tanya Das, a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, is studying nano-optics. She’s been finding success by starting small for a long time. This strategy has allowed her to attempt new things as diverse as hip-hop dancing and science writing, while working her way toward her degree.

You could say STEM was a family tradition for Tanya. Growing up in Rochester, Michigan, she had a father with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, a mother with an M.S. in Computer Science, and an older sister pursuing medicine as a surgeon. So while you might not be surprised to learn Tanya went on to earn a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at the University of Michigan, you might raise an eyebrow to find out she became a published poet at the same time.

Tanya, as I came to learn, had a variety of interests both in and out of academia. We sat down in the Graduate Student Resource Center to talk about her research in nano-optics, one of the best places to get cupcakes in Santa Barbara, and how starting small can lead to bigger success.

Let’s start with your research. How would you best describe your research to someone in an elevator who wasn’t in your field?

I study how light interacts with nano-scale objects. Most of the previous research in this field has been on how changing the properties of the object affects the interaction. Instead, I look at how changing the properties of the light affects the interaction, specifically the light polarization, or the direction of the electric field. 

You’ve been in school five years now. What advice would you give to a new graduate student?

Grad Spotlight logoGrad school is pretty straightforward when you start: you take classes, there are lectures, homework, and exams, so lots of structure. But the moment you finish classes, things become completely open-ended. That’s when it’s important to impose your own structure on your schedule. You need to identify what your specific research goals are and then break them down into small, manageable steps in order to make progress. Without this, it’s very difficult to get anywhere in your research.

You seem to have a lot of extracurricular interests (e.g., poetry, dancing). Can you tell me about them and also how you manage to structure your schedule to pursue them and graduate school?

I’ve always been a very curious person. In undergrad, I took film, creative writing, and religious studies classes. In grad school, I’ve taken hip-hop and dance classes and I’m taking an acting class right now. For me, the best way to manage my time is to start really small.

For example, I once thought I wanted to be a science writer. At a conference where I was presenting a talk on my research, there happened to be a science writing workshop, so I gave it a try. I got to learn about techniques of science writing, and I also volunteered as a science reporter at that conference and wrote brief news articles on the scientific talks being given. I got a small taste of what it might mean to be a science writer, and even though it was only for a few days, the experience helped me hone my personal and career goals.

So basically, I like to explore things in small ways. When I discover something I like, I dig deeper. That way, I make the most of my time that I spend outside of research.

How do you relax from all your structure?

Tanya BreakfastCulinary adventure in cooking breakfast. Credit: Tanya DasI really enjoy reading. I’ve recently gotten into nonfiction and I’ve been going through all of Atul Gawande’s books. He’s a surgeon at a hospital in Boston and I’m currently reading his book called “Complications.” I feel like I’m learning secrets about my sister’s life by reading it. And I really enjoy cooking. I’ve tried all kinds of dishes. I enjoy making complicated things from scratch, like pizza, samosas, and fresh pasta. I love the process of cooking because it’s fun and creative. And at the end you get something delicious to eat, unlike research, where you might get one small result after months of hard work that you can’t eat.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

When I’m feeling really down, I treat myself to sushi, cupcakes, and the Gilmore girls. I especially like Enjoy Cupcakes at the Santa Barbara Public Market. They have a variety of really good mini-cupcakes in interesting flavors

What’s in high rotation on your playlist these days?

I’ve been listening to the NPR Tiny Desk Concert series. One performer I discovered through them is Sylvan Esso. They do electronic stuff with a good beat but with soft vocals on top.

Who helped shape who you are today? 

Friends at danceTanya and her best friends at the junior year homecoming dance. Photo courtesy of Tanya DasWhen I was in middle school I fell into this group of five friends. We grew up together and have stayed incredibly close over the years. They are my best friends in the world, but we do completely different things. One friend recently started her own company to guide actors in building their careers, one is an ESL teacher, one is a medical writer, one works for the Boy Scouts of America, and another works in the radio business.

They are all incredibly kind, curious, and passionate people. They’ve kept and continue to keep me grounded and have opened up my mind to so many things outside of engineering and science. I’m better for them.

What would people be most surprised to know about you? 

When I was in college, I won third place in a poetry contest. I was completely mortified when the poems were published with my name because they were supposed to be published anonymously. In the long run, it turned out well, as it forced me way out of my comfort zone and to own up to my identity as a writer.


Zion ParkTanya at the top of Angel's Landing with some college friends on a camping trip at Zion National Park. Photo courtesy of Tanya Das

What is your biggest accomplishment in life and why?  

During my fourth year of graduate school, I decided I wanted to get involved in some meaningful volunteering, and in particular, something outside of science because I felt I wasn’t giving enough value to my interest in writing at the time. I contacted a volunteer coordinator at Partners in Education, a Santa Barbara nonprofit that coordinates many volunteer efforts in Santa Barbara County, and she helped set me up a weekly poetry workshop at the local juvenile probation center in Goleta. I started completely from scratch with the poetry workshop and made up my own structure, lesson plans, and rules. 

SnowmanTanya making a snowman named "Francois" in Michigan. Photo courtesy of Tanya DasNervous barely captures my level of fear when I arrived at the center for my first workshop. I wasn’t sure how the kids I was working with would respond. I was afraid they would be rude, dismissive, and extremely uninterested, but they turned out to be the complete opposite. 

I had to stop after a few months because I didn’t have the time to balance research, classes, and a weekly poetry workshop, as it was pretty taxing. But it is something I hope to return to later if I get the time, and something I am proud of myself for pulling off.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

I’m interested in careers outside of academia relating to science policy, science education, and generally bridging the gap between science and society. When people hear I’m an engineer, they always say, “That’s hard,” and it really bothers me that science has this elitist status with the general public. I want to change that by making science a level playing field, and convince people that anybody can understand science. 

My immediate goal after graduate school is to pursue a position in a science policy fellowship. I feel that there are not enough scientists contributing their expertise to positions outside of science. 


California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education a Huge Success at UCSB

About 1,300 students attended the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education and its accompanying recruitment fair on UC Santa Barbara's Sciences Lawn. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

On Saturday, November 7, thousands descended upon the UC Santa Barbara campus as the university hosted the biannual California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education. About 220 private and public universities from throughout the nation joined more than 1,000 undergraduate and master's students in an all-day event designed to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds (low-income, first-generation college students; and African-American, American Indian, Latino, Filipino, Pacific Islander, and Asian American students in non-professional degree programs) to doctoral-level study. The majority of the student participants in the Forum, now in its 25th year, were members of the University of California and California State University system.

Recruiters from Mills College, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and Kansas State University speak with students about graduate education opportunities on their campuses. Credit: Patricia MarroquinAfter a welcome by UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang kicked off the plenary session, held on the Sciences Lawn, with his own welcome and a personal testimony of the importance of diversity in graduate education. Following Chancellor Yang was keynote speaker Dr. Victor Rios. Dr. Rios provided a riveting account of his rise from a marginalized graduate student at UC Berkeley to his current position of full professor and educational ambassador to the White House. Rios emphasized the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity and the trend in higher education to diversify both student and faculty populations – a trend that students in attendance were encouraged to take advantage of by pursuing a graduate education.

Following the morning plenary session, students attended informational workshops held in nearby classrooms. Topics included how to finance graduate education; how to write a winning statement of purpose; demystifying the GRE; the relationship of the master’s degree to the Ph.D.; how to prepare for the GRE; and the role of undergraduate research in graduate admissions.

The main event of the day was the recruiter fair held from noon to 3 p.m., also on the Sciences Lawn. This is where all 215 universities set up tables with representatives to promote and share information on graduate programs to potential students.

Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! Actually, nothing scary here. These are just some of the college and university mascots and freebies displayed at recruiter booths at the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education on Nov. 7 at UC Santa Barbara. Credit: Patricia MarroquinAdditional workshop sessions on the aforementioned topics were held in the afternoon for students interested in attending more than one session. The Forum concluded with discipline-based workshops. Disciplines included social sciences, engineering and computer science, behavioral science, physical sciences and math, business and management, life science, education, health and human services, fine arts, and humanities.

Several students from UCSB's McNair Scholars Program participated in the recruiter fair alongside visiting students from across California. They spoke of the importance of the Forum to them.

“The Forum provided the route for me to explore my future," said Buki Akinyemi, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a biopsychology major. "Talking to different graduate program reps about their experiences in grad school and struggles to success made me want to achieve that high level as well. The future is looking pretty promising as the faces of higher ed are changing to look more like me.”

Joshua Hudson, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a Sociology and Global Studies double major, also praised the Forum: “The Diversity Forum impacted me a lot because it showed me that people from underrepresented communities – including myself – have the opportunity to go further into higher education and make a difference in academia.”

UC Irvine Ph.D. students, from left, Sean Drake and Soledad Mochel, spoke about the keys to success and survival in graduate school during a Forum workshop. Credit: Patricia MarroquinFor Victoria Melgarejo, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a Linguistics and Spanish double major, the event "made me realize how important it is for students of color to be represented, not only in graduate school, but later in academia.”

And Ema Angeles, a UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and Anthropology major, called the Forum "a great experience that helped me answer questions, meet with graduate schools, and feel prepared to move onto the next step in my education. It was great to realize the diversity that is about to enter academia.”

A large event of this magnitude required support from university leadership. Chancellor Yang, the UCSB Graduate Division, and McNair Scholars Program were key in the coordination and implementation of the Diversity Forum. In addition to university leadership, more than 150 UCSB student volunteers helped with various logistical issues during the day. The Graduate Division would like to give a special thanks to these volunteers, who helped to make the event a success. For a snapshot of the day's events, view the video below.

“The Forum provided the route for me to explore my future. Talking to different graduate program reps about their experiences in grad school and struggles to success made me want to achieve that high level as well. The future is looking pretty promising as the faces of higher ed are changing to look more like me.”
– Buki Akinyemi, UCSB McNair Junior Scholar and a biopsychology major