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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Fall 2015
Peer Advisor Availability

Writing Peer
Kyle Crocco

Mon, Wed: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Funding Peer
Stephanie Griffin
Mon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Wed: 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Fri: 9-11 a.m.

Professional Development Peer
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Mon-Thu: 10 a.m.-noon

Communications Peer
Melissa Rapp

Mon: 12-2 p.m.
Wed: 12-3 p.m.

Diversity Peer
Charles Williams

Tue, Thu: 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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UCSB Is Ranked No. 8 on List of Top 50 Best Value Graduate Engineering Programs of 2016

UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering’s graduate programs have that perfect formula for the success of its students: access to labs, libraries, and other key resources; opportunities to take part in professional research projects with faculty members; a top-tier worldwide reputation; affordable tuition; and multiple career connections to industries in the region and beyond. It is this winning formula that has prompted Value Colleges to rank UC Santa Barbara No. 8 on its list of Top 50 Best Value Graduate Engineering Programs of 2016.

As in other rankings this year, such as U.S. News and World Report and Washington Monthly, UC campuses were high on the list. Four of the top 10 graduate engineering programs on Value Colleges' list are University of California institutions. The three other campuses are UC Berkeley, No. 2; UC San Diego, No. 5; and UCLA, No. 6.

Value Colleges based its rankings on three metrics: U.S. News & World Report 2016 Best Engineering Graduate Schools (UCSB was No. 23); cost of tuition (data collected from the National Center for Education Statistics); and PayScale’s 2016 College Salary Report, which ranks UCSB No. 7 (annual salary data reported for entry-level engineers at $67,600 and mid-level engineers at $131,000).

In its article, Value Colleges stated what makes UCSB a “prime place” for students to pursue their graduate engineering education:

“What sets UC Santa Barbara apart from the other University of California system institutions on the Best Value list? Aside from one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, including its own beach and an extensive system of biking and hiking trails for students’ physical and mental health? Well, one thing worth mentioning is UCSB Engineering’s dedication to ‘convergence,’ with more than 20 interdisciplinary research centers and a robust system of corporate connections that creates a pipeline from the laboratory to the real world. Seeing as synchronicity is the state of modern engineering and technology, UCSB –  a ‘Public Ivy’ with affordable tuition and top-tier reputation – is a prime place for graduate students to prepare for engineering careers that will provide a sound return on investment.”

For more information and to read the complete list, read Value Colleges’ “Top 50 Best Value Graduate Engineering Programs of 2016.”

The GradPost interviewed several engineering graduate students to get their reactions to the honor and find out what they think makes UCSB’s graduate engineering programs so special. Here’s what they had to say:


Chris Sweeney, Computer Science Ph.D. student

"UCSB has provided me with a unique experience in grad school because of the breadth of research and the interaction between different departments and labs. My lab, the Four Eyes Lab, ranges in topics from computer vision to data visualization to augmented reality to social modeling, and we have a very close relationship with the Media Arts and Technology department. This crossover has influenced my research by exposing me to different applications and areas that I never would have otherwise encountered, and I think everyone benefits from this sort of interaction."

Kelly Ibsen, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

"I am a non-traditional grad student, having worked for several years before deciding to pursue my Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. I picked UCSB because I knew it would provide both diverse research opportunities and an outstanding core engineering education, both of which are essential for a successful career in industry."

Morgan Vigil, Computer Science Ph.D. student

"I have been very pleased with my education in the Computer Science Department at UCSB. I have been well supported in my journey toward becoming an independent academic and I have been given numerous opportunities to pursue research that is cutting edge and personally meaningful. I feel confident that the guidance I am receiving from the Computer Science Department will serve me well as I continue in academia."


Justin Pearson, Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. student

"UCSB has a very special place in my heart, and my UCSB education continues to serve me well. I'm very proud to be a part of such a respectable academic community, and I'm pleased to see UCSB's Engineering program ranked highly."


Sean Gilmore, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

"I am very excited about the opportunities presented for me here at UCSB. Being a part of a rapidly rising department and school places me at the center of cutting-edge scientific research. It is great to hear that the university is being recognized for the merit and value it provides to its students."



Julia Fisher, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student

"I have only just started my graduate career at UCSB but I do not doubt the intent of the Chemical Engineering graduate program. The graduate program enables the passionate and curious to totally immerse themselves in engineering. We may enter as students, but we leave as peers; we become leaders in the engineering community."


Retired NASA Astronaut Jose Hernandez, ’86 Master’s Alum, Is Named UCSB’s 2015 Distinguished Alumnus

Jose Hernandez spoke of reaching for the stars in his Commencement address to UCSB School of Engineering graduates in June 2014. Credit: Mike EliasonCalifornia-born José Hernandez didn’t learn to speak English until he was 12 years old. Young José would travel throughout the state for nine months out of the year to farms, where he would work in the fields alongside his siblings and immigrant parents to pick strawberries, cherries, cucumbers, grapes, and tomatoes. In December 1972, a fascinated 10-year-old José sat in front of his family’s old black-and-white console TV to watch Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan make the last walk on the moon. It was at that moment that José decided: “I want to be an astronaut.” Despite his determination and the excellent graduate engineering education he later received at UC Santa Barbara, NASA rejected him for the astronaut program 11 times. But Hernandez didn’t give up, and the 12th time was a charm. In his 40s, he was finally accepted into the program, and he reached his dream to fly in space as an astronaut.

The Stockton boy who overcame many challenges grew into an adult with numerous achievements to his name. Among them: At Lawrence Livermore Lab, Hernandez co-developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system to aid in early detection of breast cancer. He founded his own engineering consulting firm, Tierra Luna Engineering. He created a nonprofit foundation that aims to ensure opportunities for children to pursue their educational and professional goals regardless of perceived obstacles. A San Jose middle school was named after him. He has received six honorary doctorate degrees. He was UCSB School of Engineering’s Commencement speaker in June 2014. And he has written a biography (no ghostwriter, he says; “I wrote every single word”) called “Reaching for the Stars,” which will be made into a movie next year directed by Alfonso Arau (“Like Water for Chocolate,” “A Walk in the Clouds”).

It is because of these achievements and others that the UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association has named Hernandez (M.S., Electrical and Computer Engineering, 1986) UCSB’s 2015 Distinguished Alumnus. Hernandez, 53, will be honored on Saturday, Oct. 24, at an awards luncheon in Corwin Pavilion.

The ceremony also will commemorate UCSB’s new designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). An HSI is a college or university in which Hispanic enrollment comprises a minimum of 25 percent of the total enrollment of undergraduate and graduate students. UCSB was named a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and is the only HSI that is also a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.

Jose Hernandez tweets about the successful separation of the Mexican satellite from the rocket.“We are very excited to have José Hernandez return to campus to help us kick off the campaign to raise money for Dreamers’ scholarships,” George Thurlow, UCSB’s assistant vice chancellor for alumni affairs and executive director of UCSB’s alumni association, said an Office of Public Affairs and Communications news release. “José’s story is an inspirational one for all alumni and for all Californians. His work today with Latino youth is even more inspirational.”

Hernandez was at Cape Canaveral in Florida this week to assist his Tierra Luna Engineering client, Mexico, in the launch of its Boeing-made communications satellite aboard a Lockheed-made rocket. He took some time away from his duties (which included tweeting about the launch in both Spanish and English from his account, @Astro_Jose) for a phone interview with the GradPost. He spoke about the Distinguished Alumnus honor; the mammography technology he co-developed; his father’s winning “recipe”; how UC Santa Barbara prepared him for his career; what he thinks of space movies; which actress he would like to portray his wife in the upcoming film about his life; and more.

Jose Hernandez tweeted from Cape Canaveral at the launch of a Mexican communications satellite on Friday, Oct. 2.


Hernandez called the Distinguished Alumnus award “a great honor.” Said the retired NASA astronaut: “I’m very happy, very humbled to be recognized in this fashion.”

The additional celebration of UCSB’s new designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution will make this occasion extra special for Hernandez.

“To be recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, you have to have a student body that’s 25 percent or more Hispanic,” he said. “And the fact that the school has reached that milestone is a great testament to the commitment that the university makes in its strategy to have a diversified population. The designation is a tangible metric that basically demonstrates the fact that the university is committed to diversity and is a welcoming institution for everybody. And so I’m very happy to be participating in the recognition of that milestone.”

Hernandez knows a thing or two about milestones. When he shared his dream of becoming an astronaut with his father, Salvador took José to the kitchen table, sat him down, and presented his five-ingredient recipe for success. That recipe was smart and sophisticated for a man with a third-grade education, and it came to serve José well.

The recipe: 1. Decide what you want to be in life. 2. Recognize how far you are from that goal. 3. Draw up a detailed roadmap of where you are and where you want to be. 4. Prepare yourself with the appropriate education, because “there’s no substitute for an education.” And 5. Develop a strong work ethic – the same strong work ethic that went into harvesting crops. “Always deliver more than what people ask of you,” Salvador told his son. 

NASA astronaut Jose HernandezHernandez has followed that recipe throughout his life. He realized that to become an astronaut would require an advanced engineering degree. So upon earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, he chose to pursue his graduate studies at UC Santa Barbara after discovering that UCSB was among the Top 5 schools for electrical engineering.

His education at UCSB prepared him for his job afterward at Lawrence Livermore Lab.

“My undergraduate program at the University of the Pacific prepared me to be a good engineer in the sense of giving me the basic tools,” he said. But it was at UC Santa Barbara, he said, that he learned and honed skills in research.

“I got a great opportunity to do research at the graduate level at UCSB and that allowed me to become an even better engineer when I went to work for Lawrence Livermore Lab,” he said.

Hernandez said his acquired research skills “allowed me to flourish as an engineer.” He also attributed those skills “to being able to latch onto a project.” He did just that as one of the two investigators to develop what was then the first full-field digital mammography system for the early detection of breast cancer.

He said when he’s asked what is the proudest moment of his professional career, “a lot of people expect me to say being an astronaut and going into space.” But in reality, Hernandez said, it’s the mammography technology he co-developed. The system, he said, produced images far superior to the film screen technology that was being used then and opened up a new area of study called computer-aided diagnosis.

“So I have no doubt that the technology that we co-developed at Lawrence Livermore Lab has saved hundreds if not thousands of lives,” he added. “And I attribute a lot of that – the skills to be able to develop that – to the research skills that I acquired as a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara.”

Along with learning research skills at UCSB, Hernandez acquired writing skills. He wrote research reports and took technical writing courses. That skill has been put to use at Lawrence Livermore Lab, at NASA, and in his work as the author of his biography, “Reaching for the Stars.” He is proud to say that he had no ghostwriter and that he “wrote every single word.”

“They say engineers can’t write. But I was able to write that book,” he added.

The crew of the 2009 STS-128 mission on the shuttle Discovery. Jose Hernandez is second from left.The book details his life from the age of 6 on and includes, of course, his persistent efforts to get accepted into the astronaut program and his 14-day STS-128 mission into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 2009.

Hernandez says director Alfonso Arau picked up the option for his book and plans are to start shooting the film in April 2016.

Hernandez says he’ll be one of the executive producers of the movie and he will have a voice in who will play him and his wife, Adela.

Several actors and actresses are being discussed for those roles, he said. Hernandez said if he had his wish, his 12-year-old son, one of the Hernandezes’ five children, would play the role of José as a young boy. “He’s the spitting image of me at that age,” Hernandez said. Actor Michael Pena, who played the lead role in “Cesar Chavez,” is reportedly being considered for the role of Hernandez as an adult.

Hernandez said he jokingly told the producers that “if they get Eva Longoria to play my wife, I will be more than happy to take acting lessons and play myself. My wife didn’t appreciate that comment.”

We asked Hernandez what he thinks about space movies these days. Are they all entertainment and no reality?

“I think they’re fun entertainment,” he said. “I read the book, ‘The Martian,’ so I’m very excited to see the Matt Damon movie. Although movies are never as good as books. There are a lot of things that are left out. I’m afraid I’m not going to enjoy ‘The Martian’ as much as I enjoyed ‘Interstellar’ or ‘Gravity’ because I didn’t read those books.”

“Gravity,” he said, “was very unrealistic in what happened. The only thing they got right was the scenery. The scenery was exactly how I remembered it.” As for “Interstellar,” “It was even more unrealistic, but it makes you think about time travel, so I really enjoyed it,” Hernandez said.

“Any time we have the opportunity to expose the public to space and to space travel in a popular way, I think it’s very good,” the former astronaut said. “It informs the public about space exploration.”

And it just may inspire other 10-year-olds to dream of “reaching for the stars.”


The UC Santa Barbara 2015 Distinguished Alumnus award luncheon begins at noon on Oct. 24. The cost is $25 per person, and the public is welcome. For tickets or reservations, call Mary MacRae at 805-893-2957 or go to the Eventbrite page.


Jose Hernandez's Reaching for the Stars foundation helps children pursue their educational and professional goals.


Thrive at UCSB: Key Graduate Student Resources Introduced at Graduate Division Orientation

There was a packed house at Corwin Pavilion on Wednesday for the Graduate Division's New Graduate Student Orientation. Credit: Patricia MarroquinNew Graduate Student Orientation kicked off on Sept. 23 with a warm welcome from Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti. She encouraged graduate students to maximize their time at UC Santa Barbara, and introduced many of the Graduate Division's resources dedicated to this end. “How can you live a rich and productive life here to fuel your success and reach your career goals?” she asked.   

Dean Genetti praised UCSB’s graduate programs, citing the success of graduate-level research as a crucial factor in UCSB achieving its recent ranking as a top public university. “Graduate students are making the discoveries we are known for,” she said. She emphasized the “very competitive” nature of graduate admissions and that only “the best” are selected. 

“How can you live a rich and productive life here to fuel your success and reach your career goals?”
–Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti

Genetti encouraged incoming students to build a network of a wide variety of mentors across campus, and to be a mentor for others. “The boundaries between all of the departments on campus are porous,” she explained. “There are no two units that don’t collaborate on research here.”  Genetti emphasized that students can get involved across campus and cited the 16 Interdisciplinary Doctoral Emphases as one avenue to do so.

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti told new graduate students about one of the division's signature annual events, the Grad Slam, and encouraged them to take advantage of the beauty surrounding them for a good work-life balance. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Dean Genetti also highlighted some key resources for graduate students. She displayed helpful sections of the Graduate Division website, including the Academic Services and Career and Professional Development pages. She encouraged all to get involved in the annual Graduate Student Showcase, the centerpiece of which is the Grad Slam.

In addition to professional resources, Genetti encouraged new students to live a well-rounded life, taking advantage of our beautiful campus, nearby beach, sports and recreation, cultural life, and all UCSB and Santa Barbara have to offer. She mentioned her favorite California trips outside of Santa Barbara, including the famous Mendocino Redwoods and San Francisco.

In closing, Genetti encouraged students to frame their graduate experience in a positive way: "See your time here as a steppingstone to a productive professional life," she suggested.

Keynote Address: Thrive in Grad School

Dr. Turi Honegger admitted that grad school is stressful, but that some stress is good, and there are ways to deal with the bad stress. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn his keynote address, Turi Honegger, Clinical Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, emphasized that grad students shouldn't get caught up in the pressure to work an 80-plus-hour week: "You can also be a person in grad school," he said. He shared research proving that a well-developed “approach for balance” leads to higher quality work.

He admitted that graduate school is stressful, but you can channel that stress in a way that propels you forward and motivates you. He quoted an ancient Nordic saying, as well as explained his "Three Pillars of Thriving in Grad School."

Three Pillars of Thriving in Grad School:

  • Know thy self. What drives you? Where does your motivation for graduate school come from? When do you trust yourself or second-guess yourself? How much structure versus non-structure? What are your healthy coping mechanisms and what are your unhealthy coping mechanisms?
  • Relationships. Stay in touch with friends and family. Remember the difference between Formal Authority vs. Personal Power: We all have personal power even if your formal position in the department is the newest person there. Create intentional community: Think about who you really want to get to know, to meet some folks who you really like.
  • Physical health and mental wellness. Forty hours a week of consistent work has shown to be more effective long term than a 60-hour week.

“What we attend to becomes our reality.”
–Ancient Nordic saying, presented by Dr. Turi Honegger

A panel of graduate students answered questions from new students. From left, Matt Gebbie, Dan Boulos, Wu Ti, Jennifer Guerrero, and speaking, Samantha Powers. Credit: Patricia Marroquin Dr. Honegger then moderated a panel composed of five graduate students. The grad students shared personal reflections to help new students and fielded audience questions. Graduate students on the panel were: Dan Boulos, Theater and Dance; Matt Gebbie, Materials; Jennifer Guerrero, Chemical Engineering; Samantha Powers, Communication; and Wu Ti, Education.

Advice From Graduate Student Panel:

  • Budgeting: Form a good system for budgeting your income.
  • Staying connected: Make an effort to get out and be around peers. It's important to counteract the social isolation and long hours of working alone inherent to many graduate programs. Try working in a local coffee shop.
  • Associate Dean Don Lubach discussed the resources available through Student Affairs. Credit: Patricia MarroquinTime management: Do what works for you. This may mean keeping typical hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., for example, or varying hours according to when you can be most productive. Don't compare yourself to others, or the amount of time they seem to be working.
  • Maintaining balance: Make use of the Recreation Center and its programs. Stay active by running and biking in the area, joining a team, or enjoy the ocean. Many of the panelists made time to work out first thing every morning. Walk around the labyrinth on campus, or explore hiking in the area.
  • Avoid a propensity to over-commit yourself: You don’t have to do it all now – you will have years to take advantage of all opportunities. You can get involved in extracurricular activities after fully adjusting to student life.
  • Career goals: It’s OK to realize that the non-academic path is not necessarily your end goal. You can be open to putting your Ph.D. to work in other ways.
  • Wellness: Use CAPS as a resource and refer stressed peers to CAPS when it seems needed.

Dr. Mary Ferris from Student Health introduced the center's doctors and showed a video about Student Health. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIntroduction to Campus Resources

Student Health Plan (Gaucho Health Insurance):  

  • Primary care visits, labs, X-ray, drop-in Urgent Care (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays) are available for no charge at UCSB Student Health. 
  • There is no charge for Advice Nurses or the 24-hour Nurseline.
  • A full pharmacy is available, as well as referrals to outside specialty doctors (Aetna Network).
  • For services outside of those on campus, the health plan carries a $400 annual deductible, $200 emergency room co-pay, and 80 percent coverage in-network (50 percent otherwise). 
  • Co-pay for outside specialty visits: $25; $15 mental health, but first three visits are free (Student Health or CAPS can provide referrals to community therapists).


  • UCSB's library features graduate student only study areas; pick up key at the service desk.
  • Construction on new library is in progress, and is set to open Jan. 4, 2016.
  • A lot is online now on UCSB's databases, but you should still visit the library at least once during your career here!

Student Affairs and the Graduate Students Association (GSA):

GSA President Aaron Jones and other executive members explained some of the GSA's resources. Credit: Patricia MarroquinAssociate Dean of Students Don Lubach and Aaron Jones, President of GSA, encouraged us to engage in the campus community. GSA resources include:

Resource Centers:

Dave Whitman of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity told new students about the center's services and events. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn the final half hour of the orientation, we heard from Dave Whitman regarding the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity's services. Habiba Simjee detailed the role of Undocumented Student Services and her work as Counsel for the UC Undocumented Legal Services Center.

Finally, Robert Hamm, Director of Graduate Student Professional Development for the Graduate Division, briefly discussed the Graduate Student Resource Center and introduced the graduate peers. Stop by the GSRC office in Student Resource Building 1215 to gain help with funding, writing, and professional development.

Dean Genetti made closing remarks and the now well-informed graduate students headed out to a delicious catered lunch on the Campus Green.

New graduate students enjoyed lunch on the Campus Green at the conclusion of the orientation program. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

"See your time here as a steppingstone to a productive professional life."
– Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti


Getting to Know You: Introducing Our 2015 Incoming Graduate Student Cohort

UC Santa Barbara welcomes 841 new graduate students into its ranks this week. Here, we break down the statistics on our incoming graduate student cohort and introduce you to several of our new students. All infographics created with Piktochart.

At UCSB, there are a variety of gender and sexual identities represented in our student population. From the current demographic data we have collected on the incoming graduate student class, 53 percent of students identified as men and 47 percent identified as women. Starting with the Fall 2017 admissions cycle, graduate applicants to UCSB will have the option to choose among six gender identities listed on admissions forms: male, female, trans male, trans female, gender queer/gender non-conforming and different identity. Additionally, all current UC students will be able to update their gender and sexual identity through the UCSB Registrar if they would like to.

Most of the incoming graduate students are between the ages of 23 and 30, but our youngest incoming student is 20 years old and our oldest is 66 years old.


Map creation by Patrick Hall; map template by Kevin Ross


Map template by GunnMap

Our new graduate students are coming from 44 different countries – from China to Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia to South Africa, Mexico to Morocco – representing nearly every continent. In fact, roughly one-third of incoming students (272, to be exact) are coming from places outside the country. Our U.S. students hail from 42 of the 50 states, but nearly half of them are California natives.

The most popular disciplines that our new graduate students chose were Environmental Science and Management (90 new students), the Teacher Education Program (88 new students), and Electrical and Computer Engineering (87 new students). By division, the most new graduate students are in Engineering (226), Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences (175), followed by Education (131) and Humanities and Fine Arts (124).

We asked several of our new grad students to tell us more about themselves, including what degrees they will be pursuing, their favorite things to do, and what they are looking forward to most about graduate school. Read on to find out what we learned. 

Amanda KaczmarekAMANDA KACZMAREK was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and has lived in various locations in Florida, Ohio, and New York. As Amanda put it, “I had what people tend to politely refer to as a ‘difficult’ childhood, which has made me a very independent and resilient person. I hear that can come in handy for grad school!” Amanda earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Ohio State University. At UCSB, she will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. Her research interests focus on moral decision-making and morality as a social behavior.

A first-generation college student, Amanda said that she is looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other social scientists and to pursue her own research. When she’s not working on research or working out, she likes to watch movies, play video games, read, and crochet. She also loves to tap into her artistic side as a beginner Scottish Highland dancer as well as her nerdy side through her love of Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and Marvel movies.

Jenny SelvidgeJENNY SELVIDGE grew up just outside of Boston. She was actually born in the Bay Area, so moving back to California feels like coming back to her roots. She said that she has always felt very connected to Boston and that the move out to California will be a big shift for her and her family – especially because she will have to drive or fly to see snow now! Jenny earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Materials Science and Engineering, and she will be continuing her studies here at UCSB pursuing a Ph.D. in Materials. Jenny said that she loves the broad applicability of her field, and she is looking forward to taking on the new challenge of studying optoelectronic materials, which are materials that interact with both electricity and light (such as lasers, LEDs, and solar cells).

Jenny said that she is really excited that her department and the university as a whole seem very committed to diversity. “As a woman in STEM, it can sometimes feel a little bit lonely, since there are many more men than women. But I knew the Materials Department here was for me when I came and the students in the Graduate Students for Diversity in Science group ran an event especially welcoming to women, people of color, and other groups of people historically underrepresented in STEM.”

In addition to joining a thriving community of scholars, Jenny is looking forward to exploring the indigenous trees of the different parts of the state. As she put it, “I think part of the reason that trees fascinate me so much is that they are so perfectly engineered by nature to fit their environment, just like the work I strive to do.”

Luke RosedahlGrowing up on a 21-acre farm in the middle of Minnesota, LUKE ROSEDAHL spent a lot of time outdoors, reading, and managing a small vegetable growing business. His dad was a firmware engineer for IBM and his mother was a stay-at-home mom who homeschooled Luke and his two brothers. Luke said he loved being homeschooled “because it allowed me to focus on what I liked doing.”

He comes to UCSB with a degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and he will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Dynamical Neuroscience. For his research, he is interested in modeling the brain. He said he became interested in this area because he “always loved math, and the modeling/mathematical approaches towards neuroscience really seemed to be gaining momentum and opening a lot of new doors.”

Luke has quite a variety of interests and aspirations outside of his studies. In addition to his love of outdoor activities and enjoying good food and spirits, he said that people are often surprised to find out that he is a competitive ballroom dancer. In fact, he even travelled to Israel last spring for a West Coast Swing competition. The thing he’s most looking forward to in Santa Barbara? “Learning to surf! I have always wanted to surf, but growing up in Minnesota there wasn’t ever the opportunity!”

Michelle GrueMICHELLE GRUE’s dad was in the Air Force, so she moved around a lot as a kid – from California to Texas to England and then back to California. She spent her high school years in Santa Barbara County, so “in many ways, attending UCSB is like a homecoming for me.” She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing from Pepperdine University and will pursue an M.A./Ph.D. combination in Education at UCSB. She said that she also plans to add emphases in Writing Studies and Black Studies, “as long as they don’t overly detract from also being a mom of an eight-month-old baby.”

Her research interests are focused on how universities can better leverage their existing infrastructure and technologies to more adequately aid students from minority backgrounds integrate into the academic world.

Michelle said that she is very excited about diving back into academia. “I know it’ll be a humbling experience, but I’m that nerd who loves hunting down resources, writing multiple drafts until it’s as right as I can make it, and sharpening my mind against the iron of my fellow students and of my professors. I have to admit, I’m also going to enjoy ‘me’ time away from my baby.”

In her free time, Michelle loves reading, traveling, and the occasional trip down the Netflix rabbit hole. She also said that she enjoys “hosting parties that inevitably wind down to a few good friends chatting about the problems of the universe or fun philosophical topics like how we view time, and Disney movies.”

Petra PeršoljaPETRA PERŠOLJA comes from the relatively young country of Slovenia. When she was six years old, she told her parents that she wanted to play the piano. “My mom is an economist, my father used to have a truck company, and my two little brothers are excellent in sports. To this day we don't know where I got the idea. ... Although my country is not economically very stable, and finding a job as a pianist there would be quite impossible, my parents always encouraged me to follow my dreams.”

Petra earned her first bachelor's degree in Education at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and then pursued her second bachelor's degree in Piano Performance at Rowan University in New Jersey. She recently completed a master's degree in Music at the University of Hawaii and will be starting her Doctor of Musical Arts program at UCSB in Piano Performance.

During the time Petra spent at the University of Hawaii, she picked up surfing and hopes to be able to continue that hobby here in Santa Barbara. She enjoys nature, traveling to new places, and extreme sports such as skydiving and shark-cage diving. And would you believe that Petra is also on level 63 in Skyrim?

Rick ThomasRICK THOMAS grew up in Santa Clara, California, as the third of four children. His childhood was spent mostly playing soccer and reading. He said that he has loved the outdoors for as long as he can remember and has always known that he wanted to work in a facility that helps the planet in some way. Rick holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities, both from UC San Diego. At UCSB, he will be pursuing a Master's in Environmental Science and Management. His research interests are broad, which is something that drew him to the Bren School, as it focuses heavily on interdisciplinary approaches.

Rick said that he is most looking forward to the natural surroundings that UCSB and Santa Barbara have to offer. “I think the combination of mountains and oceans is something special, and you definitely have to take advantage of it while you are here.” In addition to his love of the outdoors, Rick also enjoys music (he plays a left-handed violin!) and juggling and has written a few fantasy novels that he hopes to publish one day.

Shriniwas PatwardhanSHRINIWAS PATWARDHAN wants to become an engineer who creates technology to make human life better. Growing up in Pune, India, his parents encouraged him to be devoted to his studies but also committed to character development. He comes to UCSB with a Bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pune, and he will be pursuing a Master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. His research will focus on Communications, Control and Signal Processing in the field of biomedical implants and prosthetic devices. “I have seen the effects of the high price of medical care in emerging countries like India. I want to make a change in this by contributing to the world of low-cost technology in the medical field.”

Shriniwas is looking forward to “the wonderful and open research environment and the beautiful campus. It should be a joy to work in a building situated right on the coast.” In his free time, he enjoys playing Indian classical music on the mandolin and also participating in theatre.

Tara ClarkTARA CLARK grew up in the Garlic Capital of the World – Gilroy, California. As Tara said, “I come from a very low-income, single-parent household where I faced the daily struggle of worrying about how we would put dinner on the table. ... In order to distract myself from fear and worry, I decided to focus all of my time on school instead of on the daily tribulations that I encountered.” These experiences helped her develop diligence and self-discipline, which enabled her to earn an Associate of Arts from Gavilan College upon graduating high school at an Early College Academy. Tara then completed her Bachelor of Arts degree at UCSB in just two years, majoring in Philosophy and Linguistics and minoring in Education.

As our youngest incoming graduate student at 20 years old, she will start as a Ph.D. student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, where she hopes to “gain the essential knowledge and experiences in order to become a school leader who will effectuate necessary changes in the world of education through reform methods.”

Although Tara has lived in Santa Barbara for two years already, she said that there are still lots of places that she would like to explore. She enjoys meeting new people, being crafty, and staying active. According to Tara, “The number one thing that surprises people about me is my maturity despite my age. I am young in years, but old in resilience.”


UC System Ranked No. 13 on Reuters’ Top 100 World’s Most Innovative Universities

At UC Santa Barbara, we pride ourselves on our innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and practices. That innovation was recognized this week, when the global media firm Reuters named the University of California system No. 13 on its inaugural list of the Top 100 World’s Most Innovative Universities.

“The Reuters Top 100 World's Most Innovative Universities gets to the essence of what it means to be truly innovative,” Reuters said in its announcement. “The institutions recognized here most reliably produce original research, create useful technology, and have the greatest economic impact. They are the surest bets for anyone seeking to invest in and create real innovation.”

Reuters noted that the UC system is one of the leaders in direct investment in startups. "It has various incubators and accelerators on its campuses, and has established a $250 million venture capital fund, as well as campus-based seed funds for prototypes,” Reuters said.

Innovation has a special meaning for UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti. “When I think of the word ‘innovation,’ I think of graduate students,” she said. “Their fresh perspectives, boundless creativity, and ardent conversations with faculty are the very roots of this award. It’s exciting to be at the start of the academic year and think that we are on the verge of so many new discoveries. I can’t wait to hear about them, in this year’s Graduate Student Showcase!”

Stanford University was ranked No. 1 on Reuters’ list, followed by MIT (No. 2) and Harvard University (No. 3).

Reuters’ methodology employed 10 metrics. Among factors considered were academic papers, which point to the volume and impact of research being conducted at a university; and the volume and success of patent filings, which indicates the importance an institution places on protecting and commercializing its discoveries. Also taken into account was the use of cited discoveries in the corporate and academic worlds.

At the Graduate Division’s 2015 Commencement ceremony, keynote speaker David Marshall, UC Santa Barbara’s Executive Vice Chancellor, spoke of the value of research done at UCSB.

“Whatever our disciplines or career paths, we must argue for the value of voyages of discovery, voyages that take us through history to the origins of the universe, voyages that take us to the future,” he said. “We must demonstrate the value of what we do. But we must not lose sight of the value that may not be visible. Unsuspected Nobel Prizes, untold strokes of genius. … This is the work that makes our university worth defending.”

Said Reuters in its article: “Whether they're in the top five or near the end of the list, all 100 universities in this ranking are among the best in the world. Thomson Reuters reviewed hundreds of universities to produce this ranking, and the ones that appear here are the most elite.”

For more information about UC’s innovation honor, read University of California’s “UC ranked among top innovative universities”;  Reuters’ “The World’s Most Innovative Universities” and its article, “Universities lead in innovation, Asia a rising power.”


OISS Workshop Focuses on the International Student Experience

Simran Singh, OISS Director, presenting statistics on international students. Credit: Charles WilliamsThe Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS) hosted its annual staff workshop, “Supporting International Students,” on September 9.

The workshop provided information on immigration law, campus policy concerning international students, and social issues surrounding the international student experience. The event targeted UC Santa Barbara faculty, administrators, and staff. It is typically held a week before the International Graduate Student Orientation, also known as Graduate Cultural Awareness, Laws, and Immigration, or CALI, Training).  

After the welcome address by OISS Director Simran Singh, UCSB Global Studies undergraduate student Alagie Jammeh shared his experience as an international scholar from the Gambia. The segment provided an opportunity for the audience to understand the social and cultural challenges that many international students encounter.

Alagie illustrated how OISS has been instrumental in alleviating difficult legal and social issues. "When I had a problem with my scholarship from the Gambian government," he said, "OISS staff were able to tell me what I needed to do and how to make this thing work." He continued, "International students can just come in to OISS, tell them what is needed, and they will be able to help with almost anything."   

Alagie's experience aligns with the approach OISS Director Singh encourages in her office: "We're here to help and assist them in every aspect. Whether it is cultural adjustment, academic, mental health issues, or immigration issues, we tackle the whole gamut of international student challenges."  

"International students can just come in to OISS, tell them what is needed, and they will be able to help with almost anything."
– Alagie Jammeh, UCSB international student from Gambia

Singh hopes domestic students at UCSB know that befriending an international student could be an invaluable learning opportunity. "A simple hello can be a first step toward a great friendship," Singh explained. She encouraged cultural exchange between domestic and international students and believes lessons learned through these friendships can be as valuable as those learned in the classroom. Singh recommended that domestic students speak slowly at times and ask questions to increase communication efficiency with international students, especially during initial conversations.

Presentations during the half-day workshop included: 

  • One Student’s Story: Navigating Cultural Conflict, Expanding Global Awareness (Alagie Jammeh, international student, and David Whitman, Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity)
  • UCSB’s International Students by the Numbers (Simran Singh, OISS Director)
  • Addressing Academic Integrity in International Education (Ko Kashiwazaki, Assistant Judicial Affairs Coordinator)
  • Introduction to H-1B (Tanya Plant and Jason Hopkins, OISS Staff)
  • Hosting J-1 Visitors 101 (Martha Ledesma and Jason Hopkins, OISS Staff)
  • Hiring International Students" (Layla San Jose and Nancy Doan, OISS Staff)

Jason Hopkins, OISS Staff, explains the H-1B visa. Credit: Charles Williams

Supporting international students has become an increasingly important issue for UCSB. During the "UCSB's International Students by the Numbers" segment of the workshop, Singh presented statistical data to provide context regarding the international student experience in both the United States and at UCSB.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the country saw an all-time high of 887,000 international higher education students in 2014, accounting for four percent of enrolled higher education students. California led the nation with 121,647 international students, generating $4 billion for the state's economy. International students added a total of $26.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2014.

Last year, UCSB’s incoming class saw an increase in the following international student categories: freshmen, transfer, master's, and doctorate. Doctoral students comprised the largest increase, up 57.7 percent from 2014. UCSB expects a total of 933 international students on campus in 2015. China accounts for the vast majority of incoming international students at 76.6 percent. India is second with 7.7 percent, and the United Kingdom is third at 7.3 percent.

In regard to field of study, a clear majority emerged among international students, with 74 percent majoring in STEM-related fields. Humanities placed second with 19 percent.

For more information on OISS, visit its website, email, or call 805-893-2929.

"We're here to help and assist them in every aspect. Whether it is cultural adjustment, academic, mental health issues, or immigration issues, we tackle the whole gamut of international student challenges."
– Simran Singh, Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars


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

UC Santa Barbara continues its impressive upward trajectory, rising to No. 8 on U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 list of the “Top 30 Public National Universities” in the country. The distinction represents a jump of two spots from UCSB’s position last year and is UC Santa Barbara’s highest ranking in the history of the magazine’s annual listings.

On U.S. News’ list of “Best National Universities,” which includes both public and private institutions, UC Santa Barbara also moved up from last year – to No. 37 from No. 40. Among University of California institutions, only UC Berkeley and UCLA ranked higher than UCSB. Other UC campuses on the Top 30 list are UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Davis.

U.S. News’ ranking system involves assigning universities and colleges to categories. The category of national universities that UCSB was placed in includes only those institutions that focus on faculty research and offer a variety of undergraduate majors, in addition to master’s degree and doctoral programs.

It is those excellent UCSB graduate programs and their extraordinary graduate students that helped lead to this high honor, said UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti.

“This new ranking is a tribute to the UCSB’s unique combination of visionary leadership, entrepreneurial spirit, and strong sense of esprit de corps,” said Dean Genetti. “Our graduate students are essential to the success of our teaching and research missions and have directly contributed to this advancement in ranking. I’d like to express my thanks to all of our students for their creativity, dedication, and sheer hard work: Thanks, everyone, for helping to make this institution great!”

There’s more good news for UC Santa Barbara in the magazine’s 2016 “America’s Best Colleges” guidebook. UCSB placed No. 6 among public universities on U.S. News’ list of institutions that offer students the best education value. And UCSB’s College of Engineering ranked No. 18 among public universities in the category of “Best Programs at Engineering Schools Whose Highest Degree is a Doctorate.”

For more information, read the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications’ news release, “The Cream of the Crop” and last year's GradPost article; and see U.S. News & World Report’s complete list.


Graduate Division Hosts Scholars for 2015 Summer Research Program

ARC/SC/UC LEADS 2015 Scholars with members of the Graduate Division staff. Credit: Patricia Marroquin 

From June 22 to August 14, the Graduate Division held its annual Academic Research Consortium (ARC)/California Pre-Doctoral Sally Casanova (SC)/UC LEADS Scholars Program. The annual program hosts college undergraduates from across the country for eight weeks in an effort to simulate the graduate school experience and encourage participants to consider applying for graduate school at UC Santa Barbara. The program centers on individual research projects under the supervision of a faculty member and a graduate student mentor, and culminates in each student presenting in a public forum.

In addition to research, students also participate in Graduate Record Examination (GRE) preparation workshops, professional development sessions, and social activities designed to engage students with the surrounding Santa Barbara community.

Scholars were selected in a competitive application process. After completion, students raved about how the program exposed them to the possibilities associated with graduate school. They felt increased self-confidence, not only in preparing to apply to graduate school but also in succeeding as graduate students.

ARC Scholar Diana Chagolla commented on the program’s impact. “Prior to participating in UCSB’s ARC summer program, I was slightly intimidated by the graduate school application process," she said. "After having participated, I feel qualified to proceed on the path of applying for graduate school and obtaining a Ph.D. in Education." 

“My research experience at UCSB was an unforgettable one," added UC LEADS Scholar Markus Walker. "Being able to work so closely with my faculty and graduate student mentors was truly an honor. Not only that, but the people in the program made the experience that much more worthwhile.”

From left, summer scholars Brianna Demirci, Newton Nguyen, Kuang Wei, and Michael Young. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

For the first time, the program partnered with the Office of Undergraduate Research to have the scholars blog about their research and summer experiences. Read the students’ summer blogs here:

ARC Scholar Blog                                      
California Pre-Doctoral Sally Casanova Scholar Blog

UC LEADS (Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees) Scholar Blog

The program would not have been a success without the assistance of key Graduate Division personnel: Dean Carol Genetti; Assistant Dean Christian Villasenor; Director of Admissions and Outreach Walter Boggan; Assistant Director of Admissions and Outreach Haley Orton; Outreach Assistant Director Roxanna Van Norman; and Diversity and Outreach Peer Charles Williams. 

A special thanks goes to Van Norman, who has been with the program since its inception in 2012, but has recently transitioned to a new position on campus. Her leadership made the summer research program an enjoyable experience for all students and her professionalism contributed greatly to the program’s success over the last four years.

The 2015 summer scholar participants are listed below. For more information about the Graduate Division’s program efforts, see the outreach page and read GradPost articles about the three previous summer programs here:  

The 2014 program
The 2013 program
The 2012 program

“Prior to participating in UCSB’s ARC summer program, I was slightly intimidated by the graduate school application process. After having participated, I feel qualified to proceed on the path of applying for graduate school and obtaining a Ph.D. in Education."
– Diana Chagolla, ARC summer scholar


2015 Academic Research Consortium Scholars

Diana Chagolla: San Diego State University

  • Major: Sociology
  • Faculty Mentor: Rebeca Mireles-Rios
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Tiffany Ibarra 

Michael Young: University of North Texas

  • Major: English 
  • Faculty Mentor: Linda Adler-Kassner
  • Graduate Student Mentor: John Soboslai

From left, summer scholars Sarath Pathuri, Kevin Dervishi, Brandon Hendrickson, Kelly Pham, and Gauree Chendke. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Brianna Demirci: California State University, Channel Islands

  • Major: Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Josh Schimel
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Ken Marchus

Mario Espinoza: California Polytechnic State University

  • Major: Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • Faculty Mentor: Gerardo Aldana
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Rudy Mondragon 


2015 California Pre-Doctoral Sally Casanova Scholar

Yvonne Sohn: San Francisco State University

  • Major: French
  • Faculty Mentor: Catherine Nesci  
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Alexandra Magearu


2015 UC LEADS Scholars

Newton Nguyen: UC Berkeley

  • Major: Geophysics 
  • Faculty Mentor: Frederic G. Gibou  
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Arthur Guittet 

Kelly Pham: UC Irvine

  • Major: Mathematics 
  • Faculty Mentor: Padraic Bartlett 

 Markus Walker: UC Merced

  • Major: Computer Science
  • Faculty Mentor: Matthew Turk 

Kevin Dervishi: UC Santa Barbara 

  • Major: CCS Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Stu Feinstein 
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Sarah Benbow

Brandon Hendrickson: UC Santa Barbara 

  • Major: Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Susan Mazer 
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Kristen Peach

Sarath Pathuri: UC Santa Barbara

  • Major: Biochemistry 
  • Faculty Mentor: Norbert Reich  
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Clayton Woodcock

Gauree Chendke: UC Santa Barbara

  • Major: Biology
  • Faculty Mentor: Samir Mitragotri 
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Tyler Brown

Kuang Wei: UC Santa Barbara

  • Major: Physics 
  • Faculty Mentor: Jean Carlson 
  • Graduate Student Mentor: Chantal Nguyen


From left, summer scholars Yvonne Sohn, Mario Espinoza, Diana Chagolla, and Markus Walker. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


UCSB Rises to No. 14 in Washington Monthly’s 2015 List of Top 100 National Universities

UC Santa Barbara, described as “in the top echelon,” has risen a spot in Washington Monthly magazine’s annual list of Top 100 National Universities. The 2015 list has UCSB at No. 14, up from No. 15 in 2014 and No. 22 in 2013.

UC campuses were prominent on the list, with six of them making the top 20.

“As it has in previous years, the University of California system dominates our national university rankings, with a combination of research prowess and economic diversity among undergraduates,” Washington Monthly said in the introduction to its College Guide and Rankings.

Washington Monthly's rankings as compared to U.S. News & World Report's list.The magazine ranks four-year U.S. colleges on three measures. “Upward mobility” takes into account enrollment and graduation rates of students of modest means at reasonable prices. “Research” factors in universities’ success at creating new technologies and ideas that drive economic growth and advance knowledge. And “service” considers institutions’ efforts at encouraging students to give back to the country by joining the Peace Corps or the military; or performing community service.

UC Santa Barbara “is in the top echelon of its state’s universities, serving students of variable income and ability,” wrote Mamie Voight, director of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education, and Colleen Campbell, a senior policy analyst at the Association of Community College Trustees. “Yet 38 percent of Santa Barbara students are low income, compared to only 15 percent at Penn State, and Santa Barbara charges low-income students about half as much.”

UCSB was also ranked No. 17 in the magazine’s “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings in the Western Schools category.

For more information, read the Office of Public Affairs and Communications’ article, “In the Top Echelon”; University of California’s “UC dominates Washington Monthly’s college rankings”; Washington Monthly’s “A Different Kind of College Ranking”; and the magazine’s full list.


Special Expanded Dissertation and Thesis Filing Workshop Offered on September 2

Whether you are just beginning to write your dissertation/thesis and wondering about formatting, or you are close to filing and need to know about policies such as copyrighting and embargoing, the Graduate Division has you covered. Rickie Smith and Shawn Warner-Garcia will offer an expanded and redesigned workshop on formatting and filing your dissertation/thesis on Wednesday, Sept. 2, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Student Resource Building Multipurpose Room.

The workshop will consist of three parts:

  1. Formatting Pre-Checks (10-10:30 a.m.). Graduate Division Academic Advisors will be available to do pre-checks and to answer your filing questions one-on-one. To take advantage of this portion of the workshop, bring a printed copy of your dissertation/thesis preliminary pages (e.g., title page, signature page, abstract) as well as a few pages of the body.
  2. The Filing Process (10:30-11 a.m.). This portion of the workshop will cover the ins and outs of the electronic filing process including deadlines, leaves of absence, embargos, copyrights, and document distribution. Rickie will also familiarize participants with additional online resources and tutorials.
  3. Formatting Information and Q&A (11 a.m.-noon). This part of the workshop will explain the formatting requirements for filing your dissertation/thesis and how to use the online templates. Rickie and Shawn will also answer questions and troubleshoot formatting issues that participants are experiencing.

If you plan to attend one or several parts of the workshop, please RSVP by filling out this form.

Did you know? The Graduate Division also offers information and advising on dissertation/thesis filing both online and on a walk-in basis at their office in Cheadle Hall.

Check out these online resources:

You may also contact Rickie Smith to set up an advising appointment.