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Graduate Peers Hours

Spring 2014

Academic Peer:
Torrey Trust

Mon: 1 to 4 p.m.
Tues: 1 to 4 p.m.
Wed: noon to 3 p.m. 

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun


Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco


Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

Tues: 10 to 11 a.m. &
2 to 6 p.m.
Wed: 9 to 11 a.m.
Thurs: 10 to 11 a.m. 
Fri: 9 to 11 a.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 Ph.D. Alum, Discovery Channel TV Show Host, ReAllocate Founder Mike North to Be Keynote Speaker at 2014 Graduate Division Commencement

Dr. Mike North will deliver the keynote address at Graduate Division's 2014 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, June 15.The Graduate Division is pleased to announce that 2006 UCSB Ph.D. alum Dr. Mike North – an innovator, a science TV show host, and the founder of the nonprofit ReAllocate – will be the keynote speaker for the division’s 2014 Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, June 15.

Dr. North has been involved in all aspects of technological innovation – from inventing new materials and technologies in a cleanroom to creating cutting-edge prototypes on Discovery Channel’s “Prototype This!” TV program. He is an energetic and charismatic science and technology advocate who inspires grade-schoolers to CEOs.

Dr. North holds three degrees from UCSB: a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 2001; a Master of Science in Materials in 2002; and a Ph.D. in Materials with an emphasis in nanotechnology in 2006. His Ph.D. project involved studying the natural adhesive found on the pad of a gecko’s foot and designing and fabricating the world’s first synthetic adhesive that can be turned on and off electronically.

“I'm stoked to return to UCSB as speaker for the Graduate Division’s Commencement,” Dr. North said. “Having been ‘out in the wild’ for seven years, I have come to understand all of the ways that UC Santa Barbara prepared me for a modern-day career. Not only is UCSB a top-ranked school academically, but the extreme culture of collaboration that exists throughout this university also represents where our society is and needs to be directed in order for us to continue to innovate and build a better world.”

Dr. Mike North is an inventor, scientist, and engineer.Dr. Carol Genetti, Dean of the Graduate Division, said: "I am thrilled to be able to highlight Dr. North at this year’s Commencement ceremony. In addition to his distinguished scholarship, he is a sterling example of how UC Santa Barbara’s graduate alumni are transforming the campus ethos of interdisciplinarity, collaboration, and entrepreneurship into creative careers of tremendous impact."

Dr. North’s scientific interests include such specialties as biomimetics, micro/nanofabrication, nanoscale microscopy and micro/nanomechanical characterization. His investigations in these areas have been published in leading scientific journals, including Advanced Materials and Nature.

He also has a knack for building large-scale avant-garde art, such as fire-breathing 90-m.p.h. dragon ships and classic BMWs loaded with computer-controlled fire-blasting cannons.

Soon after he received his Ph.D. from UCSB, Dr. North’s unique mix of engineering and artistic skills got him noticed by the Discovery Channel. The network called upon him to develop the concept for and act as co-host of the television show “Prototype This!” In the 2008-09 series, Dr. North led teams of inventors, builders, and engineers to create never-before-seen spectacles of engineering in short periods of time. These experts from all areas of science, technology, and manufacturing built creations ranging from six-legged all terrain vehicles to 30-foot-tall waterslide simulators to lifesaving firefighting equipment.

Dr. North co-hosts the Science Channel show “Outrageous Acts of Science,” and is currently in production with the Discovery Channel for his own new online show in which he travels the world finding top innovators across all disciplines, “catching them while they are still in the making.”

His advisor when he was a UCSB student, Mechanical Engineering Professor Dr. Kimberly Turner, was thrilled to hear the news that Dr. North will be the keynote speaker.

“Dr. North is definitely one of those students who continues to have lifetime lasting impact on me,” she said. “It was clear from the first time I met him, as a UCSB undergrad, that he was destined for great things. He is definitely a man with passion for discovery, and a deep humanitarian side as well. From the highly engineered ‘fire-breathing dragon’ art car he built to take to Burning Man, to the first reversible gecko-based adhesion, Mike takes on everything at full speed. I cannot wait to hear what he has to tell our graduates, and I can be certain it will be energetic and profound.”  

During his multi-faceted career, Dr. North has contributed his innovative ideas to the toy industry as the Chief Technology Officer at Nukotoys Inc., a company dedicated to “redefining toys for today’s digitally fascinated kids and their engaged parents.” And through his design firm, North Design Labs, he invents new materials and technologies.

Dr. North is most passionate, however, about the nonprofit he founded in 2011, ReAllocate. The organization leverages a volunteer network of high-level technologists, designers, and innovative thinkers to holistically address real-world problems. ReAllocate assembles teams of world-class talent and pairs them with issues faced in developing and disenfranchised parts of the world. By providing the structure, strategic partnerships, and funding necessary to address these issues, ReAllocate is executing innovative and effective solutions to a wide range of problems. Its motto is “World Class Talent, Real World Solutions.”

Dr. North also teaches a graduate course at UC Berkeley called “Cooperative Innovation.” In it, students learn to use their skills of empathy, creativity, collaboration, and storytelling to make a difference in the world. Seeking to broaden the reach of his class, which has 15 students, he is shooting the course like a reality TV show. He hopes by making these ideas more widely available through the Internet, people can learn and be inspired to take their skills and reallocate them.

Dr. North followed in his sibling’s footsteps when he came to UC Santa Barbara. “My older brother [Trent Northen], now with his own lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, also attended UCSB, and I'd be lying if I said that those trips down to visit him in IV in the early ’90s weren't part of the inspiration for coming to UCSB,” he  said. “Although when I finally left, it was the mountains that I would come to miss. I had some of my best ideas for my work in the cleanroom on hikes in those mountains!”

The 2014 Graduate Division Commencement will be held on Sunday, June 15, at 4 p.m. on the Faculty Club Green. Grad students, registration is open for 2014 Commencement; the deadline to register for the ceremony is Friday, May 2. For more information and to register, visit Graduate Division's Commencement page.

Dr. Mike North delivered a talk at TEDx Black Rock City during Burning Man in 2012. Credit: John David Tupper, Creative Commons Noncommercial


U.S. News & World Report Ranks UCSB’s Chemical Engineering, Materials Programs Among Nation's Best

Credit: Sonia FernandezUC Santa Barbara’s Chemical Engineering and Materials programs have once again made the top 10 lists of best graduate programs among the nation’s universities, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Graduate Schools rankings released today.

The College of Engineering’s Materials program ranked No. 2 on the overall U.S. News list, and placed No. 1 among public institutions. UCSB’s Materials program shares second place with Northwestern University and the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign. Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed the No. 1 spot.

UCSB’s Chemical Engineering program was ranked No. 8 on the overall list, and No. 4 among public universities.

The College of Engineering moved up one notch this year, to No. 19 on the overall list. It ranked No. 11, tied with the University of Pennsylvania, on the public universities list.

“Our graduate programs are a great source of pride for the campus," said UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti. Credit: Patricia Marroquin“The latest rankings confirm UC Santa Barbara’s leadership role in graduate education across a wide spread of disciplines,” Dr. Carol Genetti, Dean of the UCSB Graduate Division, said in an Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) news release. “Our graduate programs are a great source of pride for the campus and our students are known for their extraordinary impact on their disciplines and on our broader society. I am truly gratified to see this recognized at the national level.”

 “This upward trend in our rankings shows that UCSB’s impact in engineering and the sciences is recognizable on a global level,” Rod Alferness, Dean of the College of Engineering, said in the release. “We continue to be dedicated to the success of our engineering students and faculty. Our graduate programs are becoming known as the best in the world, and students seek out the unparalleled opportunities they find at UCSB.”

U.S. News does not rank all programs each year. Rankings for graduate programs in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Biological Sciences, such as Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Computer Science, and Physics, were not updated this year.

For more information, read the full OPAC news release; and U.S. News & World Report’s article.


Santa Barbara Science Columnist and UCSB Grad Alum Wants to Feature Grad Students' Research

"Mad Science" columnist and UCSB grad alum Rachelle Oldmixon. Credit: Al JazeeraA 2013 UCSB master’s alum who is the science columnist for the Santa Barbara Sentinel wants to hear about grad students’ great work. Rachelle Oldmixon, who writes the Sentinel’s “Mad Science” column, says: “I would like to encourage graduate students with interesting work, recent publications, or upcoming dissertations in the science fields to contact me if they would like news coverage of their work.”

Rachelle received her master’s degree in Psychological and Brain Sciences at UCSB in 2013. “During my time with the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, I was a member of the Developmental and Evolutionary Psychology area,” she said. “I worked under Alan Fridlund researching how the personalities of jury members might affect their decisions in a criminal case. Were I to continue with the Ph.D., I likely would have begun integrating more of my personal interest: hormonal influences on cognition. However, I felt that my calling was in science outreach and communication rather than research.”

Rachelle also works with Al Jazeera America as an on air co-contributor to its science and innovation show “TechKNOW.”

The Sentinel columnist said she is looking to highlight research by UCSB grad students that is “local, interesting, and engaging.”

The Sentinel publishes “every other week from pier to peak.” Grad students who wish to share their research with Rachelle can reach her at


Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Jonathan Jones

At UCSB, we're fortunate to have pristine beaches line our campus. We're even more fortunate to have graduate students, such as Jonathan Jones, who are working on preserving our beautiful oceans.

Jonathan is a first-year doctoral student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science. His research focuses on ocean acidification and how oceans are changing as a result of increased carbon dioxide emissions (check out his blog to learn more).

Jonathan earned his undergraduate degree in biology from the College of the Holy Cross, a small liberal arts college in Worcester, Mass. He spent the last two years conducting long-term biological monitoring in the Pacific Northwest.

Read on to learn more about his research and what he has learned in his first quarter at UCSB.

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

Jonathan JonesI am currently researching the decrease in ocean pH resulting from increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the phenomenon known as ocean acidification. Specifically, I am interested in the seasonal variability of coastal pH and how marine phytoplankton are affected by fluctuating pH and temperature conditions. I became interested in this area of research my junior year of undergraduate study during a summer internship at Olympic National Park.

I spent that summer, and the next three, hiking the rugged coastline of the National Park monitoring sea stars, tubeworms, amphipods, razor clams, surf smelt, mussels, barnacles, intertidal temperature and pH. Leaving the blustery snowstorms of New England for the warm marine layer of the Olympic Peninsula was a welcome change. Before joining up with a Ricketts-esc crew of biologists, I was unaware that jobs like mine even existed. Not long after I began work in this position, I started brainstorming about how I could make the beauty and excitement of that first summer last a lifetime. This experience sparked my interest to know more, to look deeper into the field, and to pursue a career in Ocean Sciences.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

Jonathan and a colleague searching historic sea star monitoring plots for Pisaster ochraceus. Every year they count the total number of sea stars and measure the longest ray of each. It was during one of these counts where they identified the “sea star wasting disease” in Olympic National Park.Graduate student life has been awesome so far. The Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science (IGPMS) graduate student cohort is a great group of young professionals that showcase the talent and creativity of the Marine Science Program. I am proud to be counted amongst their ranks.

I started my first quarter in the IGPMS program directly after completing the scientific diver program, a course offered through the university that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend. Between diving, taking classes, writing proposals, and trying to hone some instrumental expertise, I have been both busy and extremely satisfied with my decision to return to school and pursue my research interests.

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

Jonathan braving the high tide at Rialto Beach to try to collect surf smelt. This sardine-like fish is a food source for many Pacific salmon.Given the fact that ocean acidification is a relatively new topic of research in marine ecology, I am constantly motivated to keep myself informed as the field grows. The direct connection to human economy is great motivation for my research and I plan to use my time at UCSB to broaden the scientific and local communities’ knowledge of shifting baselines in marine ecosystems. Although the topic of ocean acidification can seem mechanistically abstract, the resulting implications for marine resources are highly tangible.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and describe why.

I am proud of being selected by the UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Coastal Fund to continue my research at Stearns Wharf, where I am currently monitoring local ocean pH. To be chosen by your peers to represent the community through research is a great honor and I look forward to contributing to the collective effort of conserving the UCSB coastline.

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, collections, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do? Along these same lines, what makes you happy?

Intertidal temperature fluctuates with both tidal cycle and season. Here, Jonathan is downloading and replacing a temperature sensor, one of several located along the Washington coast.I enjoy SCUBA diving, seeing a good movie with my girlfriend, reading a great work of fiction, and long walks on high energy rocky coastlines. Although white sand beaches with gently lapping tides are beautiful in their own right, I am rather fond of the grey-blue cacophony of the morning high tide crashing against the rocks of the intertidal. I feel most inspired and also most mortal when I stand a few feet above the incredible power of the ebbing tide.

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

I am a bit of a science fiction/fantasy literature fanatic. Three favorites: "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", "The Kingkiller Chronicles," and "Anansi Boys." That is all I will say on the subject here, but as my lab manager Julia knows, I am always willing to discuss a great piece of fiction and even share suggestions for a good read from time to time.

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

Jonathan getting ready to run pH samples in the Passow Lab.I hope to be living and working near the ocean where my nieces and nephews can come peer over the edge of a tidepool and scour the beach for glass floats. Beyond that, I hope to stay in the field and out from behind a desk as much as possible.

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

With only one quarter under my belt, I am in the market for taking advice, not giving it. I do, however, advise current and future students from all disciplines to get out into the ocean. Take a trip to the islands, sign up for a SCUBA class, visit the REEF touch tanks, or volunteer at the Sea Center downtown. With the ocean in our backyard, there is no better place than UCSB to experience the wonder of the sea!

Anything else you'd like to add?

Check out my website to keep up-to-date with my research:


Graduate Division Hires UCSB Ph.D. Alum Robert Hamm as Coordinator of Graduate Student Professional Development

Dr. Robert Hamm is Graduate Division's new Coordinator of Graduate Student Professional Development. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division has hired a Ph.D. alum to serve graduate students’ professional development needs.

Dr. Robert Hamm assumed the role of Coordinator of Graduate Student Professional Development this week, working out of the Graduate Student Resource Center in the Student Resource Building. Dr. Hamm comes to UCSB from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of English for seven years. At LSU, he taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Shakespeare, Early Modern British literature, and print culture/the book trade; and won awards for his teaching. In addition, Hamm directed undergraduate theses and served on dissertation committees.  

Hamm holds two bachelor’s degrees – in English Literature and French Literature – from Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport. He earned his Ph.D. in English Literature from UCSB in 2004, and held a post-doc at UCSB for a year before joining the LSU faculty.

In his role as Coordinator of Graduate Student Professional Development, Hamm will assist in establishing priorities, setting goals, and developing campus best practices in order to implement effective graduate student professional development services. He will help to develop and present workshops; and will advise graduate students on matters related to academic success, professional development, career preparation, work/life balance, and campus resources. Among the events and initiatives he will assume a big role in planning and managing are: Graduate Division New Student Orientation; fellowship receptions; Graduate Student Showcase and the Grad Slam; and Commencement.

Hamm will also be working collaboratively on various initiatives with other campus units and staff members, including the new Career Services Assistant Director and Coordinator of Graduate Student Services, John Coate.  Read our GradPost article on Coate.

Hamm grew up in Shreveport, La., and spent more than a year pursuing post-graduate studies in Paris after earning his bachelor’s degrees. Back in Louisiana, Hamm decided he wanted to focus on Early Modern Studies for graduate work. “UCSB had a particularly good graduate program,” Hamm recalled. “When it came time to decide where to go, I narrowed down my offers to campuses within the University of California: Berkeley, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. After visiting the three campuses and meeting with faculty and graduate students, I chose UCSB.”

Having been a grad student at UCSB, Hamm offers his perspective on how students can make the most of their time here.

“I would encourage students to get out of their home departments whenever possible and seek out the exciting work that other graduate students and faculty are doing at UCSB,” he said. “Engaging with unfamiliar areas of campus helps not only to build community, but it can also have unintended benefits for one’s own research and areas of interest.”

Dr. Carol Genetti, Dean of the Graduate Division, said: “We are thrilled to be able to add Robert Hamm to the Graduate Division staff! He has energy and experience, as well as a strong dedication to ensuring that our graduate students have effective resources for finding the career paths that really work for them. I am confident that he is going to do great things for our campus – watch this space!”

In his role, Hamm hopes to engage students in activities and intends to seek out and respond to their ideas.

“I hope to make Career and Professional Development an active and inviting resource to help UCSB’s graduate students to succeed in their studies and to embark on meaningful careers in academia and the public and private sectors,” he said. “In addition to continuing the wonderful resources that are already in place, I plan to organize regular discussions, seminars, and workshops on topics related to personal and professional development. I also want to invite our students to suggest topics or identify activities to help them advance in their studies and into their careers.”

Hamm and his wife, Julie Mickelberry, Vice President of Public Policy and Community Engagement at Planned Parenthood Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties, met while both were studying at UCSB. They have an “extremely energetic and curious” 7-year-old son named Finley who “has really taken to life in Santa Barbara,” he said. The couple are “passionate about food, so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I’m particularly interested in baking and home-brewing. I also enjoy hiking and am glad to be back on the Santa Barbara trails.”

Students can meet with Hamm in his office in the Graduate Student Resource Center (1217 in the SRB); and he can be reached by phone (805-893-2671) and email (

Welcome to Graduate Division, Robert!


Towbes’ First Fellow, 1992 UCSB Ph.D. Alum Tracy Pintchman: Religious Studies Professor, Goddess Guru, and Grateful Award Recipient

Dr. Tracy Pintchman earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from UCSB in 1992.The goddesses were smiling on Tracy Pintchman back in 1992 when she earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from UC Santa Barbara. The native New Yorker had written her dissertation on the historical evolution of a Great Goddess figure in orthodox Hindu texts. Even before she finished it, a publisher, SUNY Press, expressed interest in turning it into a book. “I had a book contract within nine months of finishing my Ph.D.,” Dr. Pintchman said in referring to what would become the 1994 book, “The Rise of the Goddess in the Hindu Tradition.” Dr. Pintchman was doing the right research at the right time. “As one of the peer reviewers noted,” she said, “in the early 1990s, goddess studies were ‘a growth industry.’”

The female deity she wrote about proved to be a “green” goddess for Dr. Pintchman, as it earned her some cash from the book deal. This research as well as her other excellent doctoral work at UCSB also helped lead to a job offer before she completed her Ph.D. of a tenure track position at Loyola University Chicago.

Tracy grew up in New York’s Westchester County in a largely secular Jewish family, the youngest of three daughters. Her father headed up public relations for Reader’s Digest Corporation and her mother was an office worker. Tracy had no ties to Chicago when she headed to Loyola in 1992, and she had not imagined staying in the Windy City more than a few years. But today, 22 years later, Dr. Pintchman is still at Loyola University Chicago, as a Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the International Studies Program. She has won teaching awards; and has written, edited, or co-edited seven books. Married for 18 years to another Loyola professor, Dr. William C. French in Theology, whom she met shortly after moving to Chicago, Dr. Pintchman has two children: Noah French, 11, and Molly French, 13.

If not for a Towbes fellowship – which is marking 25 years of awards to UCSB students – Tracy would have probably gone to Harvard. She earned her master’s degree in Religious Studies from Boston University in 1987. When she decided she wanted to pursue her Ph.D. in the discipline, her advisor suggested UC Santa Barbara. “I applied to Religious Studies Ph.D. programs at just two universities, Harvard and UCSB,” Pintchman said. “While I was accepted to both, the funding I received at UCSB was much more robust than what Harvard offered. I liked both programs, but getting the Towbes Fellowship support at UCSB was for me the deciding factor.”

Pintchman was the very first Towbes recipient, in the 1987-88 academic year.

“I remember I got a phone call from the then-Chair of the Religious Studies Department at UCSB, Phil Hammond,” Tracy recalled. “He told me I was being offered this fabulous fellowship. I did not really know anything about it.” Soon after coming to Santa Barbara, Pintchman was fortunate to meet Michael Towbes and his late wife, Gail, for lunch, where they discussed a mutual interest in music.

“The fellowship supported me fully for four years through teaching and research assistantships,” Pintchman said. “I took one year off in the middle of my Ph.D. program to study in India, and that year was supported by a different fellowship. So I was able to complete my doctoral program in five years without having to take out any student loans or work at McDonald’s.”

While studying at UCSB, Tracy’s “work-life balance” skewed heavily toward the “work” side, by her own choosing.

“The professors in the Religious Studies Department were fabulous teachers and mentors,” she said. “I did coursework the first two years, and I remember I was studying or writing papers much of the time.  Learning Sanskrit consumed a lot of energy. After I returned from my year in India, I spent two years writing my dissertation. So I didn’t have much time to enjoy living in Santa Barbara.”

Only a month before leaving California for Chicago, she went swimming at a Santa Barbara beach for the first time. “My dissertation was done at that point, so I decided it was OK to have a little fun,” she said.

“The outstanding scholars in the Religious Studies Department set the standard when I was there, and I simply tried to do what they were doing. I learned how to teach by watching great teaching in action."
Dr. Tracy Pintchman

At Loyola University Chicago, Dr. Pintchman specializes in the study of Hinduism, with a focus on gender issues, Goddess traditions, and Hindu women's rituals. She has held grants from the American Academy of Religion, American Institute of Indian Studies, and the National Endowment of the Humanities. In addition to Loyola, she has also taught at Northwestern University and Harvard University, where she was a visiting scholar in the Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School in 2000-01. She’s currently doing research for a book on transnational influences on a Hindu Goddess temple in Michigan.

Dr. Tracy Pintchman visits the Parashakthi Temple in Pontiac, Mich., in July 2013 with her family: husband Dr. William C. French; son Noah French; and daughter Molly French. Dr. Pintchman is writing a book about the temple.

For some, career paths take twists and turns in new and unexpected directions. But not for Pintchman, who knew exactly what she wanted to do when she was a graduate student.

“My goal then was to do pretty much what I have been doing for the last 22 years: to work as a professor in a university setting where I could teach, write, and think.” 

Awards such as the Towbes helped her achieve that goal. “Graduate fellowships like the Towbes Fellowship can help attract hardworking, committed graduate students and enable them to finish their programs in a timely manner with minimal distraction,” she said. “Fellowship support is probably more important in humanities doctoral programs than in many other kinds of graduate programs. Professors in the humanities do not earn the kinds of substantial salaries commanded by lawyers, business professionals, scientists, or medical doctors, so completing graduate studies somewhat quickly and without taking on a great deal of debt is important.”

Dr. Tracy Pintchman says she "read what my professors were writing so I would understand the standards of scholarship in my field."Dr. Pintchman also attributes her career success to her UCSB professors. “The outstanding scholars in the Religious Studies Department set the standard when I was there, and I simply tried to do what they were doing. I learned how to teach by watching great teaching in action,” she said. “Being able to serve as a teaching assistant in several classes also helped a great deal. So I had a handle on teaching by the time I started my job at Loyola. I read what my professors were writing so I would understand the standards of scholarship in my field. Barbara Holdrege and Gerald Larson were my main faculty mentors, and they were incredible; they were supportive, but they pushed and challenged me as well.”

Dr. Pintchman has some simple and straightforward advice for current grad students. “Stay focused, work hard, and don’t get distracted by department politics,” she said. “Watch what the best professors in your department do in the classroom, and read what they write. That will help you figure out how to be a professor yourself. Remember that a dissertation doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be done if you are to ever get out of graduate school and start your career. So just do it. And maybe go to the beach more than I did.”

“I applied to Religious Studies Ph.D. programs at just two universities, Harvard and UCSB. While I was accepted to both, the funding I received at UCSB was much more robust than what Harvard offered. I liked both programs, but getting the Towbes Fellowship support at UCSB was for me the deciding factor.”
– Dr. Tracy Pintchman, Professor of Religious Studies
at Loyola University Chicago and UCSB Ph.D. alum


Library’s 7th and 8th Floors, Including Graduate Study Room, Are Closed for a Few Weeks

Due to construction, the UCSB Library has temporarily closed its 7th and 8th floors, starting Monday, Feb. 17.

The 8th floor Graduate Study Room will be closed until about March 14. See the chart below for all closings.

During the closure, all stacks, study space, and restrooms on these two floors will be inaccessible. If you require any collection materials from those floors, they can be retrieved for you by Library staff.

You can request collection materials directly from the Library Catalog or use this form on the Library website after Feb. 17. Items are retrieved every two hours on a daily basis and held at the Circulation Desk.

The Graduate Study Room on the 2nd floor of the Library will remain open during this time.

For more information about construction, see the additions and renovations page.

Library Renovation ScheduleCredit: UCSB Library



Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Rachel Koltun

Rachel Koltun, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in the Materials department, is conducting research and designing projects to explore solutions to real world problems, such as the depletion of fossil energy sources. Rachel is also the co-founder of SciiX (Science and Industry Exchange for women), a student organization that brings female scientists in industry to UCSB to engage in discussions and share their experiences. Outside of the lab, Rachel enjoys exploring the beautiful natural environment of Santa Barbara.

Read on to learn more about Rachel's graduate school experiences and research.

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

In college, I became interested in alternative energy after I started to understand that it is one of the fundamental technological issues of our generation. In an undergraduate class, I did a project on thermoelectric materials and became interested more generally in the nature of basic science with potential applications to current real world problems.

My thesis project is on thermoelectric materials. When there is a temperature difference across a thermoelectric material it generates electricity with no moving parts. I work on designing novel materials to be more efficient thermoelectrics. It is more of a proof of principle project using thin films to precisely engineer materials. Thin films themselves cannot generate a lot of electricity, but by growing thin, very high quality materials, we can better understand the fundamental concepts behind making these materials on a larger scale.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

Rachel KoltunRachel Koltun setting up a high temperature electrical measurement in the thermoelectrics lab.Graduate life has been a growing experience in many different ways. I have grown out of a typical student life and now treat graduate school as more of a job. It is nice to still have flexibility in my work schedule, but at first, it was difficult to maintain a good balance and I overworked myself a lot. Now that I understand that, I am happier and more productive when I take the time off that I need and I do not worry about what other people are doing as long as it works for me.

It is good to get in good habits now since old habits are hard to break. Being a graduate student at UCSB is really great because people are very open and collaborative. Talking with and collaborating with other people here is where I see my biggest improvements.

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

Knowledge. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know. Going to graduate school has made science much more accessible to me, so it is easier to get excited about different projects. Also, UCSB does a lot of outreach to industry, so that helps me look one step ahead of grad school.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and describe why.

A mixture of brute force and cleaning: Rachel and a lab mate pose while doing maintenance on the ultra high vacuum equipment where they grow their high quality samples. They are wearing respirators to protect against particulates and Arsenic dust.During my second year in grad school, it started to sink in that I rarely interacted with women professors and hardly ever saw women come in as invited speakers. This made it difficult for me to see where I could go in science. To remedy this, I reached outside my academic bubble and founded a student group with another graduate student in my field: SciiX.

SciiX, Science and Industry Exchange for women, reaches out to women in industry to share their experiences with graduate students. Typically these women have Ph.Ds, so we are on a similar track to them. Many of our mentors received their Ph.Ds from UCSB, which makes it even easier to connect and identify with them. Interacting with these successful women in science has been a great motivator in my graduate career. Also, it turns out that our speaker series is useful to both men and women who are considering careers outside of academia. The candid discussions we have been able to foster has been very insightful and we have held a number of successful events.

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, collections, pastimes, favorite places to go, favorite things to do? Along these same lines, what makes you happy?

Rachel working in the cleanroom facilities on campus to prepare samples for measurement.To relax on the weekends, I like taking slow mornings: going for a run, eating a nice breakfast, and reading a good book. Going on hikes with friends has also been a nice way to disconnect from grad school and take in my surroundings. Just hanging out downtown and enjoying the fact that I live in beautiful Santa Barbara is often enough to recharge me.

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

I hope to know what I want to be when I grow up! I imagine that I will be doing scientific research in some capacity. However, I am sure that I will not be able to predict my career trajectory. Hopefully I will be more settled down to a specific city and company/institute.

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

My biggest piece of advice for graduate students is to get into good working habits now and try to find a work/life balance that works for you. Old habits die hard. If you create a work ethic that is unsustainable for you, you will not enjoy your work and you may burn out.


Why I Love UCSB: A Special Valentine’s Day Video

Students in UCSB's Modern Dance I class show their love for the university.

Graduate Division Assistant Dean Christian Villasenor with his wife, Briana, and youngest son Matias.It’s easy to love UCSB, for so many reasons.

We love it for its natural scenic beauty; for the excellent quality of education; for its talented scientists, dancers, musicians, athletes, researchers, faculty, and staff.

And, of course, we love our exceptional graduate students.

The Office of Public Affairs and Communications has created a “love letter” in the form of a video.

Students, faculty, and staff tell the world why they love UC Santa Barbara.

The video, shot by Spencer Bruttig, features some familiar faces: Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti; and Graduate Division Assistant Dean Christian Villasenor, along with his wife Briana and youngest son, Matias.




Enjoy the video, and Happy Valentine’s Day from The GradPost!





Win $2,500 at the 2014 Grad Slam!

Interested in winning up to $2,500 to support your research? Enter to participate in the 2014 UCSB Grad Slam:

The Grad Slam is a campuswide competition for the best three-minute research talk. The grand prize is $2,500. Two runners-up will receive $1,000. And, the top four presenters in each preliminary round will receive a $50 gift card to the UCSB bookstore (that's a 1 in 2.5 chance of winning!). 

This is a great opportunity to show off your research and to perfect your elevator pitch. The Graduate Division is providing additional support this year to help you design an award-winning presentation. Jeffrey Hanson, an instructor in the Writing Program, will be hosting three workshops to help you design and facilitate an engaging presentation that captures the attention of the general public. The Graduate Division Peers will also be available for one-on-one meetings to review your presentations and provide feedback. 

The deadline to apply to present is Saturday, March 15. For more information and to apply, visit:

Additional Resources:


2014 Grad Slam flier