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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Summer 2015
Peer Advisor Availability

Professional Development Peer
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Mon-Thu: 10 a.m.-noon

Writing Peer & Funding Peer
Kyle Crocco

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

Communications Peer
Melissa Rapp

Mon: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Wed: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Diversity Peer
Charles Williams

By appointment

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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UC Santa Barbara Ranked No. 7 in the World in Leiden Ranking of Impact in the Sciences

UC Santa Barbara is on top of the world – again. 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. The university rose one spot from last year.

The Leiden Ranking offers insights into the scientific performance of 750 universities worldwide. A set of bibliometric indicators provides statistics on the scientific impact of the institutions and on their involvement in scientific collaboration. The 2015 ranking is based on Web of Science indexed publications from the 2010-2013 period. The rankings do not rely on subjective data that comes from reputational surveys or on data provided by the universities themselves.

The GradPost asked a few graduate students for their reactions to this prestigious honor. Here’s what they had to say. 

Mary Toothman was a semifinalist in the 2015 Grad Slam. Credit: Patricia MarroquinMary Toothman
Ph.D. student, Ecology, Evolution,
and Marine Biology

“Wow, awesome! But I am not surprised. While I participate in just a small bit of the incredible breadth of science research at the university, I am also aware of just how much research there is. I am fortunate to be a member of Cherie Briggs' lab, where we study the ecology of natural populations and communities, usually in response to disease invasion. Cherie holds a Mellichamp Endowed Chair, which places her in a cluster of biologists, engineers, and chemists focused on systems biology. This results in a group of labs studying very different systems from very different disciplines collaborating to solve real world problems, using empirical and theoretical methods. This is important because science can sometimes happen in a bubble, with related work being done in different disciplines, and never linking up. Collaborations like this are one of the main reasons technological, medical, and conservation advancements happen so quickly these days. I am so happy and excited to be a part of it.”

Keith Avery, top, and Dhilung Kirat.

Keith Avery
Computer Science master’s student

“I am very proud to hear that Leiden University has again recognized the excellence of UCSB’s sciences research community. Our community produces truly amazing work that helps shape the scientific world of tomorrow.”

Dhilung Kirat
Computer Science Ph.D. student

“It is a great honor for our university to be placed at No. 7 worldwide in an independent, transparent, and data-driven ranking. It is nice to have historic reputational scores, but what really counts is a measurable present-day impact in the field of sciences. The data says UCSB has excelled in this front in the recent years.”


For more information, read the Office of Public Affairs and Communications’ news release, the Leiden Ranking page, and the Leiden Ranking list.


Countdown to Commencement: 4 Graduate Students in the Spotlight

Graduating students in the spotlight are, from left: Kaia Joye Moyer, Gary Haddow, Jennica Rebelez-Ernst, and Joe Bergeson. Credit for Moyer, Haddow, and Bergesen photos: Spencer Bruttig, Office of Public Affairs and Communications

With 23 days left to go before the Graduate Division’s 2015 Commencement ceremony on June 14, the Office of Public Affairs and Communications is shining a spotlight on a few of the many graduation candidates that make UC Santa Barbara great. These students exemplify UCSB’s tradition of service, teaching, research, and excellence.

Below are its profiles of four graduate students. You may read all of the graduate candidates’ profiles on its “Meet the Class of 2015” page. Make sure to use the hashtag #UCSB2015 on your Twitter, Instagram, and other social media outlets when you post your photos and good wishes for the graduates. Your hashtagged posts will then show up on UCSB’s Commencement webcast page, where each Commencement ceremony will be live-streamed.

Congratulations to all of our graduates! We look forward to celebrating with you on Sunday, June 14, at 4 p.m. on the Faculty Club Green.

A Green Education: Kaia Joye Moyer

Kaia Joye MoyerKaia Joye is a graduate student in UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. This year, she will complete her Master’s of Environmental Science and Management with a specialization in coastal marine resource management. While at UCSB, Kaia Joye has been involved in many on-campus organizations, including the Bren development team; Brengrass, the official band of the Bren School; the Graduate Students Association; and the SciTrek program. For her master’s group project, Kaia Joye and a team of four other Bren graduate students developed a tool to assist in the design of TURF-Reserves, a type of spatial fisheries management proposed to combat overfishing in many small-scale fisheries. This research project gave Kaia Joye the opportunity to travel to the Philippines twice to present her research. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in environmental communication and education while teaching scuba diving on the side. “I cannot emphasize the inspiration that comes from being engaged in such a hardworking, diverse, passionate, and talented community that is found at the Bren School,” said Kaia Joye. “Bren provides a rigorous baseline curriculum that challenges students to understand the inherent interdisciplinary nature of environmental management. It was with this solid foundation that I was able to bolster and combine my seemingly disparate interests, to create a stronger and more unified strategy for approaching these multifaceted environmental problems.”

Bren and the U.N.: Joe Bergesen

Joe BergesenJoe is a Ph.D. student in UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Joe is a longtime Gaucho whose Ph.D. will be his fourth degree obtained here. As a student, Joe conducted research on the long-term environmental implications of the development of rapidly changing renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. He worked as a graduate student researcher and teaching assistant in many departments on campus, including the Bren School, the Technology Management Program and the departments of Geography and Geology. “My time at UCSB has given me numerous opportunities, including teaching and research,” said Joe. “As a Ph.D. student, I was able to jump right into some very exciting, international, policy-relevant research for the U.N., thanks to my well-connected advisor. I have also been given a lot of teaching experience, which has certainly inspired me to continue teaching as a professor, hopefully.” After graduation, Joe plans on continuing to research the relationship between climate change and the development of renewable energy. He will continue his work with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), working to produce a report on the environmental impacts of greenhouse gas mitigation technologies. In the long term, Joe hopes to become a professor of environmental science doing what he loves: teaching and research.

A Global Education: Gary Haddow

Gary HaddowGary is a Ph.D. student in UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. While pursuing his master’s degree in Education, Gary traveled to Liberian refugee camps in Ghana to interview refugee mothers about their views on their children’s future opportunities. He conducted his Ph.D. research in southwest Philadelphia, interviewing Liberian immigrants about their perceptions of identity and citizenship. Additionally, he has worked for four years as a teaching assistant in UCSB’s Department of Black Studies and has been highly involved in both the Graduate Division and the Gevirtz School. After graduating from UCSB, Gary plans to work with an international non-governmental organization focused on providing educational programs for refugees and immigrants. “My time at UCSB inspired me to want to change the world, or at least to change the lives of all those that I interact with and in particular of those that may live in countries that have been ravaged by war,” he said. Gary’s proudest accomplishment as a student has been serving as president of the Graduate Students Association because it has enabled him to help his fellow students in their daily lives, both socially and academically. In the long term, Gary plans to “help develop educational programs in post-war countries and foster the development of the next generation of youth.”

Ready to Give Back: Jennica Rebelez-Ernst

Jennica Rebelez-ErnstJennica is a doctoral student in UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. A longtime Gaucho, Jennica began studying at UCSB as an undergraduate in 2006 and has gone on to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a master’s program in School Psychology, and she is about to complete her Ph.D. in Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology. While an undergraduate, Jennica served as president of Iaorana Te Otea, UCSB’s Polynesian dance group. She also has worked as a preschool teaching assistant at the Orfalea Family Children’s Center on the UCSB campus and has been involved in research activities at the downtown Santa Barbara-based Storyteller Children’s Center for homeless preschool children. After graduating from UCSB, Jennica will begin a postdoctoral psychology fellowship with the San Diego Center For Children. “The school psychology faculty at UCSB have truly inspired me since I first was introduced to them during my third year of undergrad,” said Jennica. “I was given opportunities to participate in applied psychology research that inspired my career trajectory and I remain forever grateful for the education and applied psychology minor that served as my channel to connecting me with my true career passions.” Looking toward the future, Jennica hopes to become a school and child psychologist, a professor and a researcher in applied positive-based youth development and among diverse youths who have experienced maltreatment.


“My time at UCSB inspired me to want to change the world, or at least to change the lives of all those that I interact with and in particular of those that may live in countries that have been ravaged by war.”
– Gary Haddow, Ph.D. candidate, Gevirtz Graduate School of Education


Looking to Discuss Higher Education? Check Out UCSB's HEARC Group

Higher education is a complex machine, and even small changes to that machine can have a major impact on some of the many students currently in postsecondary education. The Higher Education Action and Research Consortium (HEARC), a collection of interdisciplinary graduate students from across campus, is dedicated to discussing the current higher education world both within and beyond UCSB.

Members of the HEARC Steering Committee were kind enough to answer a few questions to help graduate students decide whether they want to be involved with the organization.

The HEARC Steering Committee (from left): Back row: Jenna Joo, Micaela Morgan. Front row: Veronica Fematt, Akshay Cadambi, Priscilla Pereschica.

Can you tell us about the Higher Education Action and Research Consortium (HEARC)?

The Higher Education Action and Research Consortium (HEARC) is an interdisciplinary campus-wide graduate student organization, which provides a forum for the discussion of higher education research, policies, and trends. Through this effort, we hope to cultivate collaborative relationships across campus and with local colleges and universities.


How can students across disciplines benefit from attending a HEARC seminar?

Higher education affects students in all fields of study, and we want to be proactive about developing policies and providing a space to discuss higher education issues. Our hope is that HEARC can be an organization where graduate students, undergraduate students, faculty and staff from the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities share valuable insights in order to contribute to the higher education discussion. 

Dr. York of the Technology Management Program (TMP) presents to HEARC at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education.

Who can attend HEARC events?

HEARC events are open to all UCSB faculty, administrators, staff, and students who have an interest in and/or conduct research on issues pertaining to higher education. As members of the UCSB community and higher education system, we all have a stake in this discourse. 

How did HEARC originate?

Like most organizations, HEARC originated out of need. At the start of the 2013 academic year, graduate students from the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education were informed that a couple of members of our faculty had accepted positions at another institution. These professors were mentors and advisors to several graduate students who focused on higher education research. Following this announcement, several of us met with faculty to share our concerns and to express our need for a space dedicated to higher education. It was during this meeting that seven of us volunteered to work, as a team, to conceptualize a model for this space.

In conceptualizing a model, we were inspired by UCLA’s Research Apprenticeship Course (RAC) with Dr. Daniel Solórzano. Similarly to Dr. Solórzano’s RAC, we wanted HEARC to be an interdisciplinary and intercampus forum open to all interested students. Initially, we organized seminars based on our individual interests; however, as we continued to grow, we wanted to see what types of seminars members of our campus wanted to attend. So, we administered a campus survey to determine the topics and issues of interest to the larger campus community.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of key figures on our campus. Therefore, we would also like to express our gratitude to Drs. Michael Gerber, Richard Duran, Russ Rumberger, Michael Young, and Don Lubach for their continuous support and encouragement during the development of this organization and to the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education for their support as well.

What are some of the goals of HEARC?

The first goal was for HEARC to provide a space where students could discuss the current issues impacting access, affordability, and accountability practices in higher education. Today, public colleges and universities are under great scrutiny and encounter many challenges (i.e., tuition hikes, enrollment caps, privatization, etc.), which affect some populations more than others. Therefore, HEARC wanted to provide a forum where scholars could discuss these issues, share their findings, and collaborate.

Dr. Rios of the Department of Sociology presents to HEARC in a GGSE classroom, which enables greater discussion among attendees.Another goal was to provide students with opportunities to meet the stellar faculty on our campus and learn about the newest research coming out of UCSB. To this end, HEARC organizes seminars featuring UCSB faculty who share their latest research and/or projects and then lead a group discussion with HEARC seminar participants. HEARC also organizes seminars with campus administrators and professionals (e.g., deans, chancellors, grant writers, research analysts, center directors), which focus on their leadership roles and responsibilities and appeal to graduate students who are interested in pursuing careers outside of the professorship and/or are interested in the organizational structure(s) of the university.

Lastly, HEARC was very deliberate about welcoming undergraduate students to our events. Most HEARC members work directly with undergraduates in some type of mentoring capacity, and we recognize that most undergraduates have a vague understanding of what research and graduate school entails. Thus, we welcome undergraduates at our seminars so that they can see another side of academia and interact with faculty and graduate students outside of the traditional teacher-student relationship. 

What do you hope to have students come away with from the seminars you hold?

Overall, we want students to leave more informed and knowledgeable about the issues affecting higher education today. We also want to stimulate a dialogue across campus about higher education research and policies. As a campus organization, we strive to provide students with opportunities to learn more about topics that may be relevant to their studies, work, and life experiences. For example, many of our guest presenters this past year were selected from student responses we received through a survey that we developed and administered during the fall quarter.

Also, our seminars are held in classrooms to allow for a more intimate and casual conversation between presenters and participants. Participants are able to ask questions and make comments throughout the presentation, which opens the door for a more natural discussion. Thus, our seminars provide participants with a chance to network with presenters, peers, and staff. In fact, several participants have kept in touch with our presenters, and some undergraduates have walked away with research assistantships. Graduate students, on the other hand, get to meet people with shared interests from other departments, and sometimes it’s nice to step away from one’s department to engage in a conversation about something other than your own research. 

Who are the members of HEARC?

Currently, there are five graduate student members who make up the HEARC Steering Committee. Each of us has relationships with different groups and networks on and off campus. As an organization, we capitalize on each other’s networks, skills, and research interests to plan and organize seminars. See all contact info and bios on the The HEARC Steering Committee.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Yes, we would like to reiterate our commitment to organizing events of interest to all members of the UCSB community. So, if someone knows of potential guest speakers or ideas that would align with our mission, purpose and scope, we would love to hear from you. We are also open to event collaborations with other organizations and departments. Also, if you are a graduate student who would like to join the HEARC Steering Committee, please email us as well.

We can be reached through email at


Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Karly Miller, Fulbright Scholar, Shows the Power of Listening

Karly MillerKarly Miller at Big Sur. Photo courtesy of Karly MillerThird-year marine science doctoral candidate Karly Miller has wanted to study the ocean for as long as she can remember.

Her desire to learn more about the ocean led her across the globe to places as far flung as New Zealand, Ecuador, and Peru. She went on to be selected to represent the United States as a Fulbright Scholar for the 2015-2016 academic year, studying the interactions between tourism and artesenal fisheries in Bahia Malaga on the Pacific Coast of Colombia.

Reading about her passion to study the ocean, you might have guessed Karly grew up in Hawaii, California, or another coastal habitat. But you would be wrong. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. To make up for the lack of an ocean front view in Ohio, she started diving in quarries as a teenager. By 18, she had become a divemaster, and at age 20 she was certified as an Open Water Scuba Instructor

GradKarly's journey to study the ocean really started when she won a McNair scholarship and attended the University of South Carolina, where she earned a B.S. in Marine Science and a minor in Environmental Studies and Spanish in 2009. While there, she did a summer abroad in Ecuador and a semester in New Zealand. Later, she earned a certificate studying Geography and the Environment at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru in 2011.

I met Karly at the Coral Tree Café to talk about her life as a graduate student and her research as a Fulbright scholar. We sat outside and she told me about the book that changed the way she thought about the oceans, the importance of listening, and also about how she ended up as a summer Wildfire Education & Prevention Corps Volunteer in North Dakota.

Isla PalmaIsla Palma, Bahía Málaga, Colombia. Karly's favorite escape in the field. Photo Credit Karly Miller

Let’s start with your research. What are you doing exactly?

I study how tourism development affects the social and ecological importance of fisheries in coastal subsistence-based communities. People and the environment are inextricably linked and I’m interested in studying how changes in the community and development affect these relationships in coastal settings.

Karly in FloridaOhio natives, Karly Miller, left, and her sister, Lindsay, in Florida where they first saw the ocean. Photo courtesy of Karly Miller

How do you end up studying something like that?

When I was 12, I started reading “Song for the Blue Ocean” by Carl Safina. That book really opened my eyes and motivated me to study the ocean. When I was younger I went through different phases of what about the ocean I wanted to study, but after reading that book it felt more important to me. I still wanted to be a marine scientist but I wanted my work to help influence marine conservation. 

In college I expected to show up, work hard, and become a marine scientist – but I didn’t realize I’d have to decide what sort of marine scientist. So I studied a lot of different things throughout my degree, from chemical oceanography to fisheries policy and education outreach. 

When I finished my degree I was still committed to marine conservation, but felt somewhat torn about the path forward. I felt like so much of the dialogue in marine conservation made people the problem in a very binary way ... assuming that to protect the ocean we need to remove people. While pollution and overfishing are the result of people, people are also a part of the ocean and depend on it for their well-being. So that set me on a path to look for a way to integrate marine conservation and social development.

EstuaryMangrove estuary in Bahia Malaga. Credit: Karly Miller

Let’s talk about your Fulbright. Tell me more how you came to choose Bahia Malaga on the Pacific Coast of Colombia to study?

Last summer I was a little burnt out and struggling to sort out the best path forward with my research – so I decided to take a break and go to Colombia. My plan was to try not to worry about work while I was there. I didn’t make many plans, but knew I wanted to visit the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and decided to head to the Pacific first. Looking at a map, there are just two roads that reach the coast, and it's all deep green – you have to look hard to see signs of people. I didn’t know where I was going really, but ended up in the towns around Bahía Málaga, where there is a developing tourism economy that exists alongside traditional fishing and farming practices. 

I managed not to think about work but couldn’t help my curiosity and fascination. I traveled a bit more in Colombia but pretty quickly returned to spend the rest of my trip learning (and relaxing). This gave me enough to go on so that once I got back to Santa Barbara I was able to merge my existing research with the questions that arose while in Colombia. I didn’t have much time before the Fulbright deadline but I was able to get all the pieces together and that really kicked off the development of my proposal and research plans. Since then I’ve been back to Colombia twice, and I had actually just arrived to Colombia when I got the good news about the Fulbright. 

Karly as volunteerKarly Miller doing volunteer work in Peru. Photo courtesy of Karly MillerHow will you be representing the U.S.? You have had some previous experience as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar.

Yes, before I came back to grad school I was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Lima, Peru. My official duties were to go to attend a university, give presentations about my life in the U.S. to local Rotary Clubs, and to work with them in their service projects. We had day-long health clinics and distributed water filters in the poorest neighborhoods of Lima that are still without many of the basic public services. I worked with children’s homes and the elderly, and participated in community events. 

These were an important part of my time in Peru, but I think the most important thing I was able to do as a Rotary Ambassador was to build relationships, and to listen. Being from the U.S., people already know all about our music and our movies, about our food and our politics. The U.S. has a reputation of power and arrogance and so to show up and listen, to be humble and to learn, to be human and make mistakes, laugh at myself, and try again – that was the most important thing I think I could do while I was there. 

Ladrilleros, ColombiaRainy day in Ladrilleros, Colombia. This is where Karly will be living while doing field work. They get up to 314 inches of rain a year! Photo courtesy of Karly MillerThis will be true in Colombia, too. We work hard to try to become experts in what we do, and I would love to think that I have something to offer these communities, but I am there to learn from them. 

For all the years that I’ve studied the oceans, Colombians know much more than I do about their environment, and about their community. So I will go and listen, learn, and I hope to take some of what they know and make it available to the world, in publications. I want to help strengthen their voice and the management of their resources.

So how did you end up a Wildfire Education & Prevention Corps Volunteer one summer? That’s a far cry from Marine Science.

After my first year of undergrad, I was thinking about the best way to spend the summer and I heard about the Student Conservation Association – a volunteer program where students do conservation work somewhere in the United States. There were hundreds of positions available and somehow I wound up with an offer to be part of a wildfire prevention corps – in North Dakota, essentially the geographical center of the continent. 

It seemed the opposite direction from my studies, but I decided to go for it since I knew my career would keep me coastal. Through this position I learned about wildfire management, got to work on Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, and explored a part of the country I would otherwise know nothing about.

So, let’s talk about your graduate school life. What do you do to have fun?

Mostly I like to spend time with people and to be outside. In Santa Barbara I like being with friends and paddleboarding, scuba diving, hiking, or walking the Bluffs in Ellwood. I also like to explore new places and get to know new people while traveling. I started traveling alone years ago because I couldn’t find anyone to go with me and now I really enjoy it.

I’ve traveled mostly in Central and South America, but also once to Europe. I like walking around in old cities, but I mostly enjoy seeing the landscape. I’ve come to really appreciate the long bus rides for this reason; there isn’t ever enough time to see all the places I’d like to stop, but by bus you can at least watch as they pass by through the window.

Any advice would you give to an incoming graduate student?

Karly Miller, middle, with the love and support of her sisters. Photo courtesy of Karly MillerThere is no right answer; doing a Ph.D. is a lot about finding a path where there isn't one, and that means everyone will see things just a little differently. This is the beauty and uniqueness of thinking about new problems, and the challenge and benefit of working with others.

I've been surprised at how much I feel like I just have to figure things out on my own – and yet I couldn't actually do any of this alone. Anyone's success is the product of the whole system – not just their advisors but also their peers, students, administrators, and staff – and not just within the academic system.

The importance of a personal support network is way overlooked, I think. I'd bet almost no one would get a Ph.D. without the love, support, and patience of friends, family, and partners. 

What do you hope to be doing after graduate school?

I would like to be a professor, so that I can teach and connect with the world through individual students, as well as to continue research with the hope of contributing to the larger intellectual world.


For UCSB Linguistics Ph.D. Student Daniel Hieber, a Second-Place Win in Inaugural UC Grad Slam Was the ‘Icing on the Cake’


UCSB Linguistics Ph.D. student Daniel Hieber receives a check for $3,000 from UC President Janet Napolitano for his second-place win in the UC Grad Slam. Credit: Robert Durell, UCOPWhen UCSB Linguistics Ph.D. student Daniel Hieber heard his name called as the second-place finisher in the inaugural UC Grad Slam in Oakland on Monday, he was ecstatic. But “at the same time,” he said, “it felt a bit like icing on the cake” as he stepped onto the stage to accept a $3,000 check and shake the hand of UC President Janet Napolitano. “I was already so happy to have represented my department, my school, and my field of study in the competition and done as well as I had,” Danny told the GradPost. “So it was all just fun and celebration from there!”

Danny was among the 10 champions, one from each of the University of California campuses, to present in the UC Grad Slam, a competition for the best three-minute research talk for a general audience by a graduate student from the UC system. In UCSB's competition, Danny had triumphed through a preliminary round, a semifinal round, and the Finals to become UC Santa Barbara's Champion. The UC-wide event was held in Oakland, and live-streamed at this website, which now features a video recording.

Danny’s talk, “Renaissance on the Bayou: Reviving the Chitimacha Language,” focused on his work in helping to revive a language in the Louisiana bayou, Chitimacha, whose last native speakers died in the 1930s. He has reconstructed the language, even creating a Rosetta Stone audiotape that tribal members now listen to in their cars. Danny was the only competitor in the UC Grad Slam not in a science, technology, or engineering field.

After all the students had presented, and took a quick break for lunch, the results were revealed. The judges – who included a venture capitalist, the mayor of Oakland, and a UC Board of Regents member – selected Alex Phan of UC San Diego for the third-place award (a $1,000 prize); Danny for second place; and Ashley Fong of UC Irvine as the recipient of the inaugural “Slammy” and a $6,000 cash prize. (The list of all the speakers and their talk titles may be found here.) You may access all the video talks at this UC webpage, and Danny’s video presentation begins here.

We spoke with Danny about the experience of preparing and competing in the historic UC Grad Slam. Here’s what he shared with us.

Winners of the inaugural UC Grad Slam are, from left, Alex Phan of UC San Diego, third place; Ashley Fong, UC Irvine, first place; and Daniel Hieber of UCSB, second place. Credit: Robert Durell, UCOP

What was the whole UC Grad Slam experience like for you, from the beginning to the end of the day?

I was amazed at the enormous amount of work and preparation it took to pull off the event – it’s not as spontaneous as it looks! We started with a technical rehearsal at 8 a.m. (which was a good thing because there were more than a few glitches!), and each of the participants did a dry run of their talks twice. The final event went without a hitch – UCOP did a fantastic job with the whole thing. Then we had about two hours free before the actual event, so I did what’s become my Grad Slam tradition – grab a latte from Starbucks and pace in front of a mirror rehearsing my talk. I got a good 20 practice runs in that morning! (One of the nice things about doing such a short talk – you get a lot of practice.)

The nervousness didn’t kick in until the first presentation started, because then you can just see the minutes counting down to your talk – the waiting’s the hardest part. On the other hand, for an academic, what better way to calm down than to get to watch some fantastic talks on really cool research! So I actually had a lot of fun watching the talks. I was more excited than nervous by the time I actually got up to speak. I couldn’t be happier with how well the talk itself went. Every phrase, every gesture came out just the way I wanted it, and I could tell the audience loved it. Even if I hadn’t placed, I would have been proud of that talk and gone home happy.

Afterwards the presenters had a very brief period to snatch some food from the lunch buffet between questions and good wishes from everybody there, then we were whisked away for pictures just before the awards ceremony. I was probably just as nervous during the awards ceremony as during my talk! When Janet called my name for second, I was ecstatic, but at the same time it felt a bit like icing on the cake – I was already so happy to have represented my department, my school, and my field of study in the competition and done as well as I had. So it was all just fun and celebration from there!

Was the UC event a different experience for you from your competition in the UCSB Grad Slam? If so, in what ways?

The biggest difference for me personally was knowing that this was the first time my family and most of my friends would be watching. They all live on the East Coast, so I was thrilled they’d get to watch the event live. I was imagining them all watching when I went up to present. It was great to get to finally share something about my work in grad school with them.

What was it like to engage in conversation with UC President Janet Napolitano on stage? Were you nervous?

Janet was great fun, and helped keep us presenters relaxed with some good laughs. I was glad to have her at the event, and appreciate her taking the time to emcee the whole thing. Her last question to me was what did I picture myself doing in five years, and the last part of my answer was that I hope to be a research academic, continuing to work with indigenous communities on language revitalization, and that I’d even love to stay within the UC system and get a position there. She laughed and made a gesture like she was jotting that down for later. :)

What is your reaction to having won second place in the inaugural UC Grad Slam?

I’m incredibly proud to have represented the humanities and social sciences and gone toe-to-toe with STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] :) I hope that both this win and my research itself shows that humanities and social sciences really can make an impact in the same way that the hard sciences do.

What does this award mean to you?

The thing that meant the most to me throughout the entire Grad Slam competition was getting to share my research with so many interested people, not just because it’s my passion and I love it, but because it was a chance to teach hundreds of people about language endangerment and the amazing work indigenous communities are doing to revitalize their languages. That’s ultimately why I do what I do.

For more information about the UC Grad Slam, read the UC Office of the President’s article and its UC Grad Slam page; and a San Francisco Chronicle article

The 10 graduate student competitors, each one a Champion from their UC campus, pose with UC President Janet Napolitano. Credit: Robert Durell, UCOP


2 UCSB Grad Students Help Organize Fundraising Effort for Quake Victims in Their Native Nepal

UCSB students who are leading Nepal earthquake relief fundraising efforts are, from left, undergrad Shekhar Paudel; and Ph.D. students Pawana Shrestha and Dhilung Kirat. Credit: Spencer Bruttig, Office of Public Affairs and Communications

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal on April 25 left three UC Santa Barbara students shaken. For the two graduate students and one undergraduate student, the devastating temblor that has claimed the lives of thousands of people was personal, as it occurred in the country of their births.

Now these students – doctoral students Pawana Shrestha and Dhilung Kirat; and undergrad Shekhar Paudel – have organized a fundraising campaign to assist in relief and recovery efforts. Mindful of the need for long-term assistance and the importance of empowering local organizations, the students have set up a fundraising site on Crowdrise, with all proceeds going to Shikshya Foundation Nepal. Shikshya is a local nonprofit organization based in Nepal’s Lalitpur district.

“Thousands of people have lost their lives, tens of thousands have been injured and over a million have been rendered homeless,” Pawana Shrestha, an Electrical and Computer Engineering doctoral student, said in an Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) news release. Pawana is from the capital city of Kathmandu, where her family lives.

“In the long run, massive amounts of financial and human resources will be required for the reconstruction of damaged infrastructures,” she said. “The road to recovery for Nepal will be a long and difficult one.”

Dhilung Kirat, a Computer Science Ph.D. student, said in the release: “Past experiences of relief efforts, such as during the Haiti [earthquake] relief, have shown that the long-term relief and recovery efforts are more effective when local organizations are empowered instead of international charity brands. I grew up in one of those remote villages in Nepal. I have experienced the remoteness and the disconnect from the outer world while growing up, and I can only imagine the devastated community after such a massive earthquake. I hope our fundraising effort will help ease the current relief efforts and long-term recovery efforts of those remote communities.”

“We want to show capable people what they can do to help,” said Physics undergrad Shekhar Paudel, who moved to the United States with his family a few years ago and has relatives still living in Nepal.

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, whose research as a professor of Linguistics focuses primarily on Nepal, said in the release: “The efforts of these three Nepalese students in the face of the momentous challenges in Nepal are truly impressive. Like so many other UCSB students, they have a strong ethos of service and a deep commitment to their home country.”

Dean Genetti added: “I am impressed that they have also used their research skills in selecting a highly regarded Nepalese foundation to receive the funds that are raised."

For more information about the fundraising effort, read the OPAC news release and view KEYT's video interview with the students. Additional information about the Shikshya Foundation may be found at Tax-deductible contributions may be made at  


Beyond Academia Career Exploration Conference at UCSB on May 15

The Beyond Academia conference at UC Santa Barbara is a one-day event aimed at preparing graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in all stages and disciplines to pursue a wide range of career options after graduate school. Inspired by the Beyond Academia conference started at UC Berkeley in 2013, the UCSB event will feature speakers and panels that expose attendees to a variety of skills relevant to pursuing a career outside of or alongside academia. Whether you are on the job market or just starting to explore career options, come learn about potential careers in a variety of sectors and specialties.

Beyond Academia UCSB

Friday, May 15, 2015

8 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Loma Pelona, UCSB Campus

Registration is FREE, but space is limited. Click here to sign up.
Registration closes on Friday, May 8.

In addition to a keynote speaker address, the event will feature workshops and panels that have been planned specifically with both HFA-SS and STEM Ph.D. students in mind. Workshops in the morning are skills-based and have broad applicability to students in all fields. Panels in the afternoon explore specific industries and interests and are split up into HFA-SS and STEM tracks so that students can hear about more specific career options. Click here to see the full schedule.



Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Selvi Ersoy Pursues Science 'Theatrically'

Selvi ErsoySelvi Ersoy. Photo courtesy of Selvi ErsoyFifth-year doctoral candidate in microbiology Selvi Ersoy is many things to many people and most of these things are awesome. To women in science and engineering, she’s known as the Co-President of WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering). To her undergraduate students, she’s known as the most enthusiastic TA ever (and winner of the 2014-2015 Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award). To fans of the 2015 Grad Slam, she’s known as the finalist who asked, “Is your doctor killing you?”

Selvi grew up in Cupertino, California (yes, that Cupertino) to a Turkish father and an American mother. She was named Selvi, which means tall and beautiful in Turkish. When someone like me says she’s halfway there, someone else always chimes in “Halfway there? Selvi’s not tall.”

Selvi had plans other than science when she was younger. She loved to dance, to sing, and to participate in musical theater. She scoured schools for theater programs. But after her mother strongly implied that success in the theater arts would be a failed experiment, she went on to pursue science “theatrically,” earning a B.S. in Genetics at UC Irvine with a minor in Medical Anthropology. She received her M.A. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at UCSB on her way to her doctoral degree.

I had seen Selvi at the Grad Slam preliminary and final rounds and found her to be one of the most animated and funny presenters. She turned out to be just as animated and funny during our interview. We talked about everything from what she learned during her "lost year in grad school" to her yoga progress to why she loves teaching (and why her students love her back). She also had some good advice for future Grad Slam competitors.

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

Selvi in CabaretSelvi in Cabaret. She can still do that kick. Photo courtesy of Selvi ErsoyWhen I was growing up I was really, really into musical theater. I loved it. I was in lots of musicals. I loved dancing and I was taking dance lessons, vocal classes, doing drama club, and theater. As a junior in high school, I looked into all the college dance and performance programs. When I told my Mom, she was just like, “No, you’re not going to do that. You need to do something practical.”

So, let’s talk about your research now. Apparently, you kill a lot of mice. How would you describe your research in such a way that doesn’t make you look like a killer?

I study how the host influences bacterial antibiotic resistance and the genetic mechanisms of those changes in bacteria.

Good, concise answer. You participated in the 2015 Grad Slam and made it all the way to the finals. Why did you get involved?

I thought, “What would be more fun than giving a three-minute pitch in front of people and being funny?” That seemed like a blast to me. The cash prizes were also a huge incentive, and clearly a big motivator. I think I would have done it if there weren’t the cash prizes, but I may not have worked so hard.

Getting to preparation. How did you work so hard?

For me, I practiced my pitch every time I was alone. I’d just start saying it out loud. Sometimes I’m in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, saying “Is your doctor killing you?” you know, doing all the hand motions. Thinking, “Oh my god, I hope none of my roommates are hearing this.”

Selvi making it simple at the 2015 Grad Slam Finals. Credit: Sonia Fernandez

What advice you would give future participants so they can win?

I practiced a lot and I tried to get advice from people. After each round, I tried to hear what people were saying to make it clearer. One of the problems with my pitch was that it was a little complicated. I tried so much to simplify it.

If you want to be a champion, just make it as simple as possible.

That’s good advice. On the subject of advice, what advice would you give to an incoming graduate student now that you’re in your fifth year?

Student Spotlight LogoI thought when I started grad school that people were just going to tell me what to do, tell me how my project was going to work, you know, tell me what I’m going to figure out and I would just do x, y, z and be done. Working in a lab, it’s not like that at all. It’s very open-ended. There’s not a clear path. You really need to work early on to figure out what your path will be. That’s your best chance for success.

If you’re going to succeed and finish grad school and escape with your sanity, you have to take everything that you’ve done, everything that didn’t work or that was a setback, and somehow think of it in a positive light. I spent a year doing stuff that just didn’t work. The only way I could reconcile my effort was to say I gained a lot of practice with my bench work, that I now knew how to set up an experiment very efficiently.

So it seems like you learned how to handle stress. How do you relax?

Selvi doing aerial yogaSelvi doing aerial yoga. Photo courtesy of Selvi ErsoyI’m obsessed with yoga! I started in grad school. My labmate said, “Let's do some yoga at the Rec Cen.” It was good exercise. I felt physically stronger. Then I started going to a studio (Better Days Yoga in Goleta). Instead of once a week, I went all the time. When things weren’t working out in my lab, I could go to yoga and see my improvement there.

You recently won the Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. Tell me more about your teaching experience? What has helped you become “outstanding?”

I generally teach upper-division genetics courses: 101 A and B. I also teach the bacterial pathogenesis lab. What I like about teaching, especially when I get to teach genetics and bacterial pathogenesis, is the subject. I find it very interesting.

When I started teaching, I got so excited before my first class. While coming up with my lesson plan, I remember thinking, “How am I going to explain this to my students?” When I got to class, I just said, “Hey everybody, I’m so happy to be here!”

Selvi Ersoy and her labmate Jessica Kubicek-Sutherland at the April 2014 UCSB TEDx conference. Photo courtesy of Selvi ErsoyThat’s something that all my students wrote on my evaluations, even to this day: “Super enthusiastic TA!” I think since I was so excited about teaching, the students got more enthusiastic to be in class.

Because of that, I started getting lots of emails from students asking questions about class. They felt really comfortable emailing me. I wrote back detailed responses about how to solve problems. And then I started getting more personal life questions from students like, “I’m thinking about applying to grad school. What do you recommend?” “What do I do after I graduate?” or “How do I find a research lab?”

I really care about all my students. I try to learn as many names as I can. I make an effort. And I bully them into writing good evaluations. Just kidding. “You better write me good reviews, guys!” (She laughs).

Who has helped you along the way?

Selvi Ersoy in the lab, perfecting her bench work. Photo courtesy of Selvi ErsoyMy parents were the ones that told me, “No to theater. Yes to science.” They always said, “You’re really good at math, you’re really good at science, you should do those things.”  They also had high expectations and I felt I had to meet those expectations. I didn’t hate that. I’m really happy with that guidance.

My labmate Jessica Kubicek-Sutherland also helped break me in to grad school. She told me, “This is what’s going to happen.” What to expect and not to expect. I think if I had been alone, I may have just dropped out. I was really glad to have her there to help me out. I was her little mentee.

Also, my advisor made me grittier and tougher, and I appreciate that. I need to be able to handle things when I’m not perfect, when I screw up.

What is the one thing you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

I’m definitely planning on getting a postdoc position for a few years to do my research. Depending on how that goes, I might go on to be a professor. 


Graduate Students Association 2015 Election Results

GSA logoThe Graduate Students Association (GSA) elections are finished. Here are the 2015 results for candidates, graduate fee initiatives, and campuswide fee initiatives.

Congratulations to everyone who won!

2015 GSA Officers:

President - Aaron Jones

Vice President of Budget and Finance - Greg Maier

Vice President of Communications and Records - Quintarrius Shakir

Vice President of Academic Affairs - John Kaminsky

Vice President of External Affairs - Yanira Rivas Pineda

Vice President of Student Affairs - Kathy Swift

Vice President of Internal Affairs - Samantha Powers

Vice President of Committees and Planning - Timothy Irvine

Graduate fees reaffirmed:

  • Childcare Grant Fund
  • Grad Student Emergency Relief Grant
  • Night and Weekend Parking

Campus-wide fees passed:

  • Arts & Lectures Support Fee
  • Career Services Open Access Fee Increase
  • Child Care Center Support Fee
  • Coastal Fund Initiative
  • Events Center Support Fee
  • Office of Student Life Support Fee

For more information about the officers and fees, review the GSA 2015 ballot.


4 UCSB Graduate Students Win 2014-2015 Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards

Winners of the 2014-2015 Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Awards are, from left, Mario Galicia Jr., Keith Avery, Selvi Ersoy, and Jeremy Chow. Photos by: Patricia Marroquin

Four UCSB graduate student teaching assistants who are passionate about what they do were honored on Thursday, April 23, for their efforts in the classroom and beyond.

Chancellor Henry Yang and Academic Senate Chair Kum-Kum Bhavnani present Mario Galicia Jr. with the award.The Academic Senate annually recognizes the vital role that teaching assistants play to the teaching mission of the university. The Senate's awards honor the contributions of graduate student TA’s to the teaching and learning process of UC Santa Barbara.

This year’s recipients are: Keith Avery (master’s student, Computer Science); Jeremy Chow (Ph.D. student, English); Selvi Ersoy (Ph.D. student, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology); and Mario Galicia Jr. (Ph.D. student, Education).

At a reception in the winners’ honor before the awards presentation, Mario Galicia – who will receive his Ph.D. this year – told the GradPost that since his doctoral studies are coming to an end, this award is “like coming full circle.”

Selvi Ersoy with Chancellor Yang.“It’s really nice to get validated for your work,” added Mario, who spoke about his research in Preliminary Round 6 of the Grad Slam earlier this month. “It’s practicing what you preach, putting it into the actual classroom, and then having somebody say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job,’” he said. Mario called it “the greatest honor we can get as a graduate student” to have the award come from the Academic Senate, knowing that the faculty were the ones looking at the applications. “It’s always nice to know that what you’re doing is right.”

Selvi Ersoy, who was a finalist in this year’s Grad Slam, was excited and “extremely happy” to learn she had won this award. “I feel like I always try really hard for my students,” she said at the reception. She said her dedication to teaching is not dependent upon an award. “But I think it was a nice validation of how much I do try to be an effective teacher.”

Keith Avery, who is in his sixth quarter of TAing, said it has been “an Keith Avery with Chancellor Yang and Chair Bhavnani.extremely rewarding experience for me the whole time I’ve been doing it.” He is thankful, he said, “for everyone who’s helped me here – my students, my advisor, other people involved in my life.”

He likes the one-on-one approach of working with students during office hours. “I really enjoy connecting with the students. It’s important to me for them to understand what I’m trying to get across. I make that a priority when I’m doing my teaching and also in personal meetings.”

Jeremy Chow jokingly told his students and others offering him congratulations that this award had to be some sort of a hoax, since he’s only in the second year of his Ph.D. program. Although he was surprised, he said the honor is “unbelievably rewarding.”

The award shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to Jeremy, who had taught high school before coming to UCSB; and taught at the graduate level while pursuing his master’s degree.

Jeremy Chow with Chancellor Yang and Chair Bhavnani.“Teaching is a passion of mine,” Jeremy said at the reception. “That’s what I want to do for the rest of my career, as I imagine so many of us do. We so rarely in our teaching fields get some sort of commendation or understanding of the efforts and energies that we put into our teaching. This is a wonderful opportunity for the university to recognize educators who are invested in educating our students.”

The Academic Senate also honored six professors with Distinguished Teaching Awards; and three other professors won Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards.

For a list of all the winners, and to read comments made about them, go to the Academic Senate’s webpage on the 2014-2015 winners. Also, read the Office of Public Affairs and Communications news release and view its photo slide show.

Congratulations to everyone!