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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Spring 2015
Peer Advisor Availability

Professional Development Peer, Shawn Warner-Garcia
Monday: 10 a.m. to noon
Wednesday: 10 a.m. to noon
Friday: 10 a.m. to noon

Funding Peer, Kyle Crocco
Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Writing Peer, Ryan Dippre
Monday: 1:30 to 4 p.m.
Tuesday: 9 to 11 a.m., 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Communications Peer, Melissa Rapp
Monday: 1 to 5 p.m.
Thursday: 2 to 4 p.m.

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


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Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Sara Sutherland Discusses Madagascar, Motherhood, and Motivation

Sara Sutherland works on fisheries research in collaboration with the Bren School.

Sara Sutherland is a fifth-year Ph.D. student in UCSB's economics department. She is charismatic, driven, and lucky – she is about to graduate! Sara grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, and completed a bachelor's degree in Psychology at Michigan State University. She completed her M.A. in economics here at UCSB and now teaches business and environmental accounting for UCSB's Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

Sara shares how studying in Madagascar fueled her fascination with conservation; why a boy named Jack motivates her; and how she avoided near disaster on a camping adventure in The Everglades.

Is there any particular event or events that had a big impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?

While studying abroad in Madagascar, I witnessed environmental degradation and resource depletion on a massive scale. I am very grateful for this experience, which helped me to understand the urgency of the conservation effort in preventing resource depletion, but also the need for consideration of groups or individuals that depend on the resource for livelihoods. After I returned to Michigan, I began looking for graduate programs that address the issues I found both concerning and fascinating.

Sara and her two-year-old son, Jack.

I was initially inspired to attend graduate school by my experiences with travel, but I have really evolved as a researcher by continuing to expand my experience over time. I have really had to enhance my time management skills and efficiency since having my son, Jack, two years ago.

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

There has been a good deal of research on the impacts of rights-based management (quota allocation) in fisheries and other natural resources, but there is a deficiency of economic research addressing the political process of fisheries reform and determinants of stakeholder’s positions on fishery regulation.

When reading about the Alaskan Halibut and Sablefish Individual fishing quota program, I was surprised to find that rights-based management was first proposed as a potential management regime in 1988, but was not implemented until seven years later. I came to find that this was due to disputes over allocation, concerns for small fishing communities, and other program characteristics.

I found this very interesting and decided to examine the issue further. The first two chapters of my dissertation examine determinants and outcomes of political participation in the formation of rights-based management in fisheries. Rights-based management of fisheries refers to the allocation of a year’s total allowable catch of a given species to individuals or groups of individuals.

In my papers, public participation in the management of fisheries takes the form of attending meetings or writing letters to the management body. I first address the determinants of meeting attendance and whether the meeting attendees are representative of the entire stakeholder population. My second chapter examines determinants of stakeholder position on rights-based management.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

A roller coaster. There have been many highs, such as advancing to candidacy, getting data to answer my research questions, and watching myself evolve as a teacher. This year, I have seen the results of my work in the form of several conference acceptances, which has been exciting. There have been slower periods too, when my research was not progressing as fast as I would like. I also had a really weak math and economics foundation coming into the program, making the first couple of years of graduate school very difficult (to say the least). I had to learn to push on and stay determined despite setbacks.

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

I wish I were more familiar with the process of conducting academic research – some ideas don’t work out. That is part of the process. It's OK to quit and go back to the drawing board.

What do you like most about grad school and what do you like least?

I love developing new ideas and learning. I hate being broke. Santa Barbara is an expensive town to live in. It would be ideal if TA-funding and fellowships more closely matched graduate student budgets.

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

For me, it is all about the small victories ... they can keep me going for months. I have been even more motivated since having my kid in my fourth year of grad school. As a parent, you want to make your kid proud and do what you can to provide them with the best future possible. Providing for him not only monetarily, but also working to secure the future of our natural resources, are very important to me.

Who are your mentors?

I would have to say my advisors, Chris Costello and Gary Libecap. Their work has paved the way for environmental and natural resource economists, and, in a way, changed the way we address problems in these areas. They are able to approach problems in a unique way and come up with practical solutions in a way that is relevant and that influences policy. In a way, I would say that Gary and Chris have both inspired me and taught me how to "think."

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am really just happy I have made it this far. Five years ago, I didn’t understand how to develop ideas into actual papers and research projects. I now have four papers in the works. I consider having a child an accomplishment, but finishing graduate school in a reasonable amount of time under these circumstances is certainly notable in itself.

What do you do to relax?

Sara enjoys a break from studying this winter in Utah.Relax? Don't have time for that in grad school! On the day to day, I like to hang out with my kid and garden. … I am also really into creating things – this year’s projects include building a garden from a palette, sewing a scarf and curtains, and building a bookshelf. I really enjoy hiking and camping. Being without cell phone service is very relaxing.

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

I hope to stay in academia so I can continue to do research and to teach. I have learned to love the process of coming up with ideas and constantly learning.

What advice would you give to current grad students?

If this is your passion, keep going. It is a long process ... but you can get through it. You are capable, and are here for a reason. 

I also think that having a nice balance between work and “real life” is important. For me, this requires being mentally present in what I am doing. When I first had Jack, I would find myself stressed about work when I was spending time with him, and missing him while I was at work. Life has become a lot more pleasant since I acknowledged this and made a conscious effort to live in the moment.

I do my best to strive for a work-life balance. I go to yoga weekly and make sure to take time to get outdoors. I have created a lot of great (non-academic) memories while in school. ... Although spending time with Jack is my favorite, just this year I have flown all over the country for weddings.

My most recent adventure was a camping trip to The Everglades and the Keys after a Florida wedding. We rented a skiff boat, drove through The Everglades to the coast, and found ourselves a Key to camp on for the night. When we woke up in the morning, our boat had washed up on the beach 50 feet from the water! We had two hours to get the boat back into the water so I could make the rehearsal dinner that evening (don’t worry, with the help of some logs and leverage, we did it). It was a new experience, and I love that.

Sara almost missed a wedding rehearsal dinner after a boating mishap in the Florida Keys. All went well, however.


UCSB’s Materials and Chemical Engineering Graduate Programs Ranked Among Top 10 in the U.S.

U.S. News & World Report has released its list of 2016 Best Graduate Schools, and once again, two UC Santa Barbara graduate programs are among the cream of the crop, ranking in the Top 10 in the nation. UCSB’s Materials program was ranked No. 2 (after Massachusetts Institute of Technology) on the overall list; and No. 1 among public institutions. Chemical Engineering’s graduate program was listed at No. 9 on the overall list, tied with the University of Delaware and Georgia Institute of Technology. It was ranked No. 5 among public universities.

In addition, UCSB’s College of Engineering was ranked No. 23 in the nation (in a tie with the University of Maryland, College Park).

“We’ve known for many years that our graduate students and faculty are among the best in the world, and the new rankings by U.S. News & World Report are a confirmation of that status,” said Carol Genetti, Dean of the UCSB Graduate Division. “We are proud of all of the UC Santa Barbara graduate programs and the impact they have on our students, our campus, our community, and around the world.”

The Materials Research Lab building. U.S. News & World Report ranked UCSB's Materials Department No. 1 among public institutions. Credit: George FoulshamRod Alferness, Dean of UCSB’s College of Engineering, said: “The consistent top ranking of our Materials Department and our other highly ranked departments demonstrate the success of UCSB’s interdisciplinary approach. Our rankings reflect the impact our engineering graduate programs have on the research community. They are particularly significant given that UCSB has a relatively small but highly selective pool of students and faculty.”

Matthew Gebbie and Gregory Su are among that selective group of exceptional students. Matt and Greg, both fifth-year Materials Ph.D. students, were recently selected to attend the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting this summer. For them, it’s no surprise that their department ranks so highly.

“To me, the biggest benefit of having the UCSB Materials Department do so well in the national rankings is the high level of graduate student talent that this honor enables us to attract,” Matt said. “I am confident that my fellow Materials Department students are among the brightest and most passionate young scientists in the country, and I look forward to seeing future graduate classes carry on this tradition.”

UCSB Materials Ph.D. student Matthew Gebbie traveled to Granada, Spain, in 2014 on a research trip.Matt theorized about why he thinks UC Santa Barbara’s Materials program has continued to rank so well. “I think our consistently high ranking is linked to our graduate students and departmental culture. The graduate student culture rocks! In the Materials Department, my fellow grad students and co-workers are supportive, fun to be around, and have very diverse scientific interests and hobbies. A particular strength of UCSB is our collaborative interdisciplinary environment. On several occasions I have bounced ideas off of friends who are in other focus areas and got unique perspectives that then added a ton of value to my work. With the complex problems that we are studying in modern scientific research, I feel that a collaborative environment like we have in the Materials Department at UCSB is essentially a requirement for producing high impact research.”

Matt also praises Materials’ excellent professors. “In general, the UCSB Materials Department faculty encourage us to pursue a well-rounded education that involves getting out of the research lab to become involved in outreach programs, student organizations, and even just to generally have interests away from work. We also have a ton of professional development activities that give us extra experience with professional skills like public speaking or expose us to career options outside of academia. What this does is enable us to stay excited about our science and generate creative new ideas that we would not produce in a less diverse environment.”

“I think our consistently high ranking is linked to our graduate students and departmental culture. The graduate student culture rocks! In the Materials Department, my fellow grad students and co-workers are supportive, fun to be around, and have very diverse scientific interests and hobbies."
– Materials Ph.D. student Matthew Gebbie

UCSB Materials Ph.D. student Gregory Su“It is very exciting to hear that UCSB Materials is (once again) ranked so highly for its graduate program,” Greg says. “The Materials Department at UCSB undoubtedly deserves such recognition. I have been a graduate student here for several years, and I must say that it is really no surprise that the Materials Department achieves such exemplary ratings. Our department brings together excellent faculty, motivated students, outstanding research facilities, and a very collaborative working environment that promotes creativity and productivity. And as anyone who attends UCSB knows, there is also that added bonus of the sun, beach, and mountains that few other university campuses can compare to! I think all of these aspects allow members of the department to enjoy a good work-life balance while being very successful.”

The six graduate disciplines that U.S. News & World Report ranks each year are evaluated on such factors as standardized test scores of newly enrolled students, employment outcomes for graduates, and acceptance rates. But because each graduate program is different, the rankings methodology varies. Not all fields are ranked each year. This year’s list did not include updated rankings of graduate programs in the humanities; social sciences; biological and physical sciences, including chemistry; mathematics; physics; and statistics.

For more information about the U.S. News rankings, read the Office of Public Affairs and Communications new release. Also, read U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 Best Graduate Schools article and its rankings by category. You may also read last year's GradPost article on the U.S. News rankings.

"Our department brings together excellent faculty, motivated students, outstanding research facilities, and a very collaborative working environment that promotes creativity and productivity. And as anyone who attends UCSB knows, there is also that added bonus of the sun, beach, and mountains that few other university campuses can compare to! I think all of these aspects allow members of the department to enjoy a good work-life balance while being very successful.”
– Materials Ph.D. student Gregory Su


4 UCSB Ph.D. Students Chosen to Attend Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting This Summer in Germany

Attending the 2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting this summer are, from left, UCSB Ph.D. students Stacy Copp, Nikki Marinsek, Matthew Gebbie, and Gregory Su.

Four UC Santa Barbara Ph.D. students will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this summer to meet and mingle with 70 Nobel Laureates on a picturesque island in Germany. The four – Stacy Copp of Physics, Matthew Gebbie and Gregory Su of Materials, and Nikki Marinsek of Dynamical Neuroscience – are among 672 young scientists from 88 countries selected to participate in the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting June 28 to July 3.

Researchers listen to lectures by Nobel Laureates. Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate MeetingSince 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine have convened annually in Lindau, located at the common border of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, for open and informal meetings with students, postdocs, and young researchers. The Laureates lecture on the topic of their choice in the mornings and participate in less formal, small-group discussions with the students and postdocs in the afternoons and some evenings. The program is administered by ORAU (Oak Ridge Associated Universities) and is sponsored by ORAU, Mars Incorporated, and the National Science Foundation.

The UCSB students went through a highly competitive, multi-stage application process. First came an application, letter of recommendation, resume, and an essay explaining how attending the meeting could benefit their education and research. Once chosen as a UCSB nominee, the next stage involved national selection by the meeting’s sponsors (55 U.S. applicants were chosen), then the final international selection by the Lindau Council. UCSB was 4-for-4 this year, with all of the university’s nominees named participants for the 2015 meeting.

The GradPost interviewed the four 2015 Lindau participants to get their reactions to being selected and what they are most looking forward to; as well as two previous UCSB attendees, who described their experiences and offer advice to this year’s exceptional group. Here’s what they had to say:

Stacy Copp

Stacy CoppStacy is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Physics whose research focuses on tiny fluorescent clusters of silver atoms that are encapsulated by DNA. “I am studying how the sequence of DNA selects clusters of varying colors, and I am also using DNA as a tool to arrange these clusters on the nanoscale. Metal clusters are exciting because they exhibit properties that are characteristic of both molecules and metals, and their interactions are little-studied. We are hoping to explore these properties, with an eye toward applications in sensing, imaging, and optical materials.”

Stacy first learned about the Lindau Meeting in 2013 from her co-advisor. But that year the meeting focused on Chemistry, which was outside of her discipline. When she saw that this year’s meeting was interdisciplinary, she applied to be a UCSB nominee. Stacy said the final round of competition focused on academic and research achievements as well as broader scientific interests.

She’s honored to have been selected. “I feel a great responsibility to learn as much as I can from the experience and to bring what I learn back to my scientific community,” she said.

“I am especially looking forward to the opportunities that this Lindau Meeting will offer to discuss the ‘big picture’ of science,” said Stacy. “As a fourth-year graduate student with one more year until graduation, I am thinking quite a bit about my next step as a postdoc, in part because I want to be sure that my future research will help to answer important scientific questions that will make this world a better place. This meeting will give me the opportunity to engage with some of the world's most accomplished scientific leaders, as well as the leaders of tomorrow. I am looking forward to the ideas we will come up with together and to the vision that we will create for our future.”

Matthew (Matt) Gebbie

Matthew GebbieMatthew is a fifth-year student pursuing a Ph.D. in Materials Science in the area of Molecular and Biomolecular Materials. His research focuses on the chemistry and physics of solid-liquid interfaces, specifically, he says, on “two technologically important classes of materials: ionic liquids (relevant for numerous energy storage applications) and adhesive proteins (relevant for biomedical applications, like surgical glue). While these materials have very different applications,” he said, “I have discovered several fundamental similarities in the nano-scale physics that determine the behaviors and properties of these materials.”

Matt first learned about the program two years ago when a student in his research group, Steve Donaldson, was chosen to attend that year’s meeting, which centered on Chemistry. See our 2013 GradPost article and read Steve’s impressions and advice below. Matt decided to apply for the university-level competition when his advisor, Professor Jacob Israelachvili, offered to nominate him.

“On a personal level,” Matt says, “this award came at the perfect time: right as I am seriously preparing to embark on my own career as an independent researcher. I know that the Lindau meeting will reignite my passion for basic scientific discovery. This is important, because basic scientific research aims to tackle very ambitious and complicated problems, so meaningful progress can take many years and requires tons of excitement and perseverance.”

Although he is “deeply fascinated by technical aspects of my scientific work,” it is the “human element” that is one of his favorite parts about science. “I always relish meeting other researchers from diverse backgrounds, and I love learning about the stories behind history’s greatest scientific discoveries, so I am most excited about these two aspects of the Lindau meeting,” Matt said. “In particular, I will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get direct perspectives on some of the largest scientific discoveries in recent history, directly from the mouths of Nobel laureates.”

In a happy coincidence, Matt learned that Gregory Su, another Materials student who entered UCSB at the same time, was also selected. Matt didn’t know that Greg had even applied. “Greg was one of the first students I met at UCSB, we were roommates for two years, we have both been heavily involved in the UCSB student group Graduate Students for Diversity in Science, and we have spent many hours hiking and rock climbing together. So I’m not only excited to be traveling to Germany with Greg, but I’m thinking that there may really be something to the idea of being a well-rounded and diverse scientist!”

Nikki Marinsek

Nikki MarinsekNikki is a third-year Ph.D. student in Dynamical Neuroscience, a new interdisciplinary program that aims to understand the neural systems that support cognition and how they change over time. She uses a combination of behavioral and neuroimaging techniques to research what happens in the brain when individuals form, evaluate, and update explanations.

She was “happily surprised” to pass the first two stages, “but I tried to remain cautiously optimistic until the final stage of the selection process. When I found out I was selected to attend the meeting, I was overwhelmed with excitement and appreciation, which hasn’t worn off yet.”

She says she is “deeply grateful” for “such an extraordinary opportunity to learn from top scientists and interact with researchers from around the world,” and she intends to make the most of it.

She looks forward to hearing the Laureates’ lectures and meeting fellow young researchers. “This year is the interdisciplinary meeting so I am also looking forward to learning about topics that are outside the sphere of my own research. I also hope to form new research collaborations with other scientists.”

Gregory (Greg) Su

Gregory SuThe fifth-year Materials Ph.D. student researches organic electronics, or using carbon-based materials for applications in a variety of electronic applications such as solar cells, transistors, and memory devices.

Greg learned about the Lindau meeting a couple of years ago when other UCSB students were chosen for the honor, and he “heard great things about the experience.” He said that this year, his advisor encouraged him to apply, and he was fortunate to get through all of the application stages and be selected to attend.

“I feel incredibly privileged to have received this honor,” Greg says. “As a graduate student who has attended several conferences, one where all the speakers are Nobel Laureates is truly unique. Personally, the Lindau Meeting will not only allow me the chance to advance my scientific career, but also make personal connections and friendships with fellow students from around the world. And, of course, the chance to travel somewhere new is always something I look forward to!”

He also looks forward to meeting and interacting “with so many Nobel Laureates who have been pioneers in the field,” he said. “It is often difficult to meet senior scientists at many conferences, so the concept of Lindau is especially unique in that regard. Additionally, meeting fellow peers in science will surely be beneficial to our future careers.”


Leah Kuritzky, far right, enjoyed lunch with Nobel Laureate Robert F. Curl Jr. and fellow members of the American delegation in Lindau in 2013. The delegates are, from left: Nicole Ostrowski from the University of Pittsburgh, Kim Gonzalez from Rice University, and Lara Jazmin from Vanderbilt University. Curl and two others were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996 "for their discovery of fullerenes."In 2013, Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student Steve Donaldson and Materials Ph.D. student Leah Kuritzky were among the U.S. delegation to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. For them, the experience was inspirational, and the contacts and interactions with both the Nobel Laureates and other fellow researchers were invaluable.

“I gained a new perspective on Nobel Prize winners – they are normal people who happen to be great scientists,” Steve said. “In general, they didn't win their Nobel by seeking after it.”

“We spent each morning listening to lectures by the Nobel Laureates,” says Leah. “In the afternoons the Laureates who had presented held breakout Q&A sessions in locations around the island. The evenings were filled with cultural events and dinners like Korean night and German night. The trip ended with a boat trip with the Laureates to Manau island (also on Lake Constance), which was absolutely lovely.”

Meeting and socializing with the Nobel winners was obviously a highlight for Steve, but he says he also enjoyed making new friends from such countries as Denmark, Scotland, Nepal, Italy, and Switzerland.

His advice to the 2015 UCSB winners: “It’s a busy and long week but take advantage of the opportunity and meet as many people as you can, both Nobel winners and your young researcher peers. Also, enjoy the German food and beer!”

Leah agrees about the importance of making connections. “Hundreds of students and young researchers from all over the world will be at the meeting, so sometimes it feels like a lot of competition to get time with the Laureates,” she says. “But in reality, these young researchers are probably the best resource you'll meet in Lindau because as part of your generation, they will be in your scientific network for your entire career. They give you business cards for the meeting – give them all away!”

For more information, visit the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting page.


Nominations Now Open for 2015-2016 GSA Officers!

GSA LogoYou can nominate yourself or another graduate student to serve as a GSA officer for the 2015-2016 academic year. All you have to do is complete the nominations Google form.

ALL positions are up for election, so nominate any grad student or yourself:

  • GSA President ($2000 quarterly stipend)
  • VP Internal Affairs ($1500 quarterly stipend)
  • VP External Affairs ($1500 quarterly stipend)
  • VP Student Affairs  ($1500 quarterly stipend)
  • VP Budget and Finance ($1500 quarterly stipend)
  • VP Academic Affairs ($1500 quarterly stipend)
  • VP Communications and Records ($1500 quarterly stipend)
  • VP Committees and Planning ($1500 quarterly stipend)  

Here are the position descriptions.

If you are interested in emailing any current executive officer to learn about the position or to ask any questions, here is the contact information.


Serving and participating in GSA is extremely rewarding and provides you with a great opportunity to represent and advocate on behalf of your fellow graduate students.

If you have any questions, please email


The 2015-2016 GSA Officer Elections shall be held, beginning Monday, April 20 and ending Thursday, April 23. You will be able to vote both online (link to be provided when available in April) and in person at the GSA Lounge in the Multi-Cultural Center during normal business hours.

Elections are conducted in conjunction with the campus's election commission. More details will be forthcoming as they are made availabile.


Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Ph.D. Candidate Zach Geiger is Bringing the "Wow" to Physics

Zach Geiger relaxingZach Geiger relaxing. Photo courtesy of Zach Geiger.Meet Zach Geiger, a fourth year Experimental Physics Ph.D. candidate at UCSB. When he’s not working with lasers in the lab or chilling on Goleta beach, he can be found helping put the collective “wow” back into science for students in the local Santa Barbara area as part of the Physics Circus.

Zach found his love for physics while growing up in Moorpark, California in Ventura County. He was fortunate to have been inspired by a great high school physics professor Craig Carlyle, a retired engineer, who liked to teach physics through demonstrations. In his class, Zach discovered the wonder of physics in action and not just as equations on paper.

Zach later went to study at UC San Diego where he earned a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in Mathematics. Now he’s studying experimental physics at UCSB, using cool words like “quantum computation” to describe some of his work, and wowing kids with science as part of his other work in the Physics Circus.

Tell me about your involvement with Physics Circus?

The Physics Circus actually started 20 years ago. It was developed by a faculty member, Jean Carlson, and another grad student.

Today, it’s taught as a class. They always need volunteers to help. So when I was a first year grad student I volunteered to work with the previous coordinator, Karina Roitman. When she left, she recommended me to take over the coordination position. I’ve been the coordinator for a year and a half now. I help set up events, manage volunteers, maintain demos, and teach physics concepts to children.

Physics CircusZach bringing the "wow" at the Physics Circus. Photo coutesy of Zach Geiger.

Why did you get involved?

Student Spotlight LampI love seeing the spark go off in a child's mind. Something like levitating a racquet ball, shooting a ring with an electromagnet--it is visually striking. Kids don’t get to experience that in regular classroom settings. Whenever you do it correctly, you get a collective gasp from the audience. I really like when that happens. On some level you reach them and inspire them. 

That sounds fun. What do you do in your own research?

Smoking MeatsZach Geiger relaxing with his meat smoker. Photo courtesy of Zach Geiger.My group (led by Dr. David Weld) uses lasers to trap atoms in order to answer questions fundamental to quantum mechanics. Things like nonequilibrium quantum dynamics, quantum mechanics of condensed matter systems, and quasicrystals. Some people call what we do quantum emulation. Basically, we’re building a quantum computer. Certain systems are beyond classical computation and simulation, so we recreate the physics of those systems in a system that is easier to study and understand.

That sounds like a lot of work. What do you to relax?

I like to go to the beach a lot. At Goleta beach, you can go to the beach with a beer or cocktail and just unwind. I also like to cook a lot.  But what I really like is BBQ. I built my own smoker. Making smoked meats is a lot of fun. It’s a passive experience, so it’s great to relax. You can smoke meats for 4-5 hours, and then you get to enjoy the tasty results.

You’ve been a grad student for four years now. Any advice for people just starting out?

At least in Physics, people tend to push themselves really hard. From my experience, I learned that grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t always be sprinting. The first year broke me in terms of my workload...the work I did for professors, teaching, and classes. You need to give up on being a perfectionist. For example, you can spend a lot of time reading and never try out anything in the lab. But you have take that advice with a grain of salt. As my professor also jokes, six months in the lab can save you an afternoon in the library.

What are you proud of as a grad student?

Zach Geiger in the labZach Geiger in the lab he help to build with Physics students Kurt Fujiwara, Ruwan Senaratne, and Shankari Rajagopal. Photo courtesy of Zach Geiger.Building up our lab. Understanding how everything works in the lab. It’s personally gratifying. When I joined the lab in December 2011, it was the professor’s first year also. There was no lab. We had to build it from scratch. Before I arrived, our space used to be conference rooms. The only thing we had at the start was a box of computer parts. My first job was to build a computer.

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

I still want to be working on interesting and challenging problems. I want not to be bored.  If I was working on fun and challenging problems ten years from now, I would be very happy.

For more on the Physics Circus, read The Current article, "A New Kind of Circus."


Lightning Talks Feature Student, Faculty Presenters from Across Disciplines

"Enlighten us, but make it quick." That's the theme of the UCSB Center for Spatial Studies' annual Lightning Talks event, which took place last Wednesday, February 25, in the Mosher Alumni House. At the event, students, faculty, staff, and friends were challenged to give engaging and accessible 3-minute talks related to spatially flavored topics. Among the presenters were graduate students from Geography, Music, and Education, as well as one very fluffy Great Pyrenees dog (who, incidentally, is not a graduate student). Read on to find out more about what Chinese calligraphy, geo-linked soundscapes, and experimental game spaces have in common. (Click here to view the full program. All photo credits: Shawn Warner-Garcia.)

Tommy Dickey, assisted by Hot Rod LinkinTommy Dickey (with Hot Rod Linkin)
Professor and Secretary of the Navy/
Chief of Naval Operations Chair in Ocean Sciences
Department of Geography
"Polar Bears and Great Pyrenees Dogs: A Matter of Scale!"

How similar are Great Pyrenees dogs and polar bears? They are both large, white, and fluffy. They can both run at top speeds of around 25 to 30 mph (meaning they could keep up with world-record-setter Usain Bolt who tops out at about 27 mph). And they both rival otters and red pandas in their ability to participate in painfully adorable viral videos.

David Gordon
Graduate Student
Ph.D. in Music/M.S. in Media Arts and Technology
"Linking Sound, Image, and Place"

David Gordon loves to hike. So much so that he created the Open Spaces project, a work-in-progress that will consist of a series of five immersive, interactive audiovisual simulations that combine over 20,000 geo-linked photos to day-long audio recordings of the natural environments in which the photos were taken.

Skona BrittainSkona Brittain
Math Circle Leader
SB Family School
"More Than Four Colors"

Skona Brittain told the story of King Guthrie, who had too many sons and not enough creative ideas on how to divide up his kingdom in socially equitable ways. The King’s consultation with the court wizard led to “the four color conjecture,” which maintained that any map in a plane can be colored using four colors in such a way that regions sharing a common boundary (other than a single point) do not share the same color.

Yingjie Hu
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Geography

"Metadata Harmonization in Spatial Data Infrastructures"

How do you solve a problem like too much metadata? With smart technology, of course. Yingjie Hu has developed a learning machine program that is able to take an existing metadata classification system (such as the one used by in order to extrapolate and apply the same standards to other metadata imported into the system. This leads to better metadata harmonization in spatial data infrastructures. And when metadata is harmonized, everybody wins.

Todd Bryan
Senior Developer, Operation McClintock
Marine Science Institute
"Wedding Cake Geoprocessing for Web GIS"

Todd Bryan has a lot in common with grad students: He likes things that are fast, free, and open-source. That’s why he is developing a web app that runs geo-spatial analysis for non-expert users on a platform that circumvents the expensive, unreliable, and slow ArcGIS server system. By creating a series of execution tiers that increase in capability, users can keep their analysis as close as possible to their data source.

Amy Shadkamyan-Talamantes
Environmental Health and Safety
"UCSB Business Continuity"

Amy Shadkamyan-Talamantes' mantra is simple: be prepared. In her work with UCSB’s Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S), she manages the risks to the university posed by adverse disruptive events (such as natural disasters) by developing contingency plans. To date, EH&S has developed 88 contingency plans and will roll out a large enhancement project by the end of 2015. As Amy summed up: Darth Vader didn’t have a contingency plan for the Death Star, and we all know how that turned out.

Selena DalySelena Daly
Fulbright Post-Doctoral Scholar
Department of French and Italian
"Mapping the Italian Avant-Garde: Futurism in Space and Time (1909-1944)"

Futurism was kind of a big deal around the beginning of the 20th century. Begun in Italy and eventually spreading to over 40 countries worldwide, this avant-garde movement celebrated all aspects of advanced technology and urban modernity. Selena Daly wants to track the spatial propagation of futurism using geo-temporal data taken from letters, performances, exhibitions, and publications in order to better understand the growth and change of both the hubs and the peripheries of the movement.

Bernard Comrie

Department of Linguistics, UCSB and
 Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig)
"Go West, Young Man: Consistency and Inconsistency
 in Cognitive Representations of Cardinal Directions"

If you plop Bernard Comrie down in a strange city and give him cardinal directions, he is pretty confident that he can find his way around. However, when he relocated from the eastern coast of England to the western coast of the United States, he realized that his auxiliary cognitive model of cardinal directions (which equated east as “toward the sea” and west as “away from the sea”) only caused confusion when trying to navigate the highways of Los Angeles.

Keith ClarkeKeith C. Clarke
Department of Geography
"Why is the U.S. not metric?"

The United States is one of three countries that is not metric-compliant (the two others are Myanmar and Liberia). However, Keith Clarke argues that the U.S. is in fact metric, we are just in denial about it. The metric system is used in science, education, manufacturing, and the military, and even our more common measurement units of feet and yards are defined in terms of their metric counterparts. Keith is currently working to re-establish the U.S. Metric Board to supervise a voluntary transition to the metric system.

Jeremy Douglass
Assistant Professor

Department of English
"Experimental Game Spaces:
 Virtual Visions, Architectures, and Dimensions"

Video games aren’t just for entertainment (or annoying your significant other). Many of the game spaces that users immerse themselves in are 3D virtual worlds that creatively manage players’ relationships to the in-game architecture. Jeremy Douglass is studying how experimental game spaces – especially those which create physical impossibilities – are offering new ways of imagining and relating to space and architecture.

William YimWilliam F. Yim
Independent Aviation Consultant
"Chinese Calligraphy"

Calligraphy is one of the highest forms of artistic expression in Chinese culture, and William Yim wants everyone to know about its beauty, complexity, and importance. In a poignant multimodal presentation, Yim explained about its history and prominent place in modern-day China.

David A. Hallowell
Doctoral Student

Gevirtz Graduate School of Education
"First-Grade Students and Geometric Diagrams: What do they notice?"

Every school year, grade-school children encounter 2D geometric diagrams on posters, worksheets, and textbooks. But what happens when you add 3D geometric shapes into the mix? That’s what David Hallowell wanted to know, so he interviewed 36 first-graders as they participated in a shape-matching task as part of his dissertation research. Not surprisingly, he found that context and structure matter a lot, and students often had trouble with how projected surfaces were represented on 3D objects when they had primarily been exposed to 2D diagrams. As a result, David recommends that teachers slow down conversations in geometry lessons in order to draw attention to less-noticed aspects of geometric shapes.

Kim YasudaKim Yasuda
Department of Art, Spatial Studies
"Light Works: Isla Vista"

What do you think of when you think of Isla Vista? Kim Yasuda has three words: public research lab. When Kim moved from Santa Barbara to Isla Vista in 2004, she noticed several elements that have given the community its party-hard reputation: streets are poorly lit while liquor stores are well-lit, and staple items (such as eggs and milk) cost more and alcohol costs less compared to other parts of town. So she began the First Fridays project to bring art installations, performances, light works, live music, improvisation and dance to Isla Vista’s Perfect Park as a late-night alternative destination for Friday nights.

Steve Miley
GauchoSpace Lead
College of Letters of Science
"Beyond the Locked Gates"

Locked gates are no deterrent for Steve Miley. He has been going beyond the locked gates of backcountry trails in California, using a geotracking device on his bicycle to track his explorations of hidden locales. By tracking his progress and coverage, he can get a big-picture (and bird's-eye) view of the different roads he has traveled.

Videos from all of the Spatial Lightning Talks will be posted to the website in the near future!


Santa Barbara Museum of Art Invites Gevirtz to Explore New Educational Partnerships 

Gevirtz School members visit the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and listen to artist-in-residence Alejandro Cartagena. Credit: George YatchisinA contingent of faculty, staff, and students from UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School, along with teachers from its Harding University Partnership School, recently met with Santa Barbara Museum of Art Director of Education Patsy Hicks to discuss forging new educational partnerships. The group sat in the museum’s Family Resource Center interactive educational space currently designed around the theme “Where Art Meets Science” to discuss just that – how the museum could be a lab for the furthering of STEM education, teacher preparation, and educational research.

“The museum sees this meeting as just the first step in a process of discovery,” Hicks says. “While we already have a host of educator events and workshops and student programs, we are always looking for ways to expand our impact in the community. Connecting with the Gevirtz School seems an avenue for even greater reach.”

This meeting featured artist-in-residence Alejandro Cartagena from Monterrey, Mexico. Cartagena showed some photographs from his serial series Car Poolers, and discussed educational assignments he developed for San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Hicks suggested Gevirtz School students and researchers could work with artists such as Cartagena as just one advantage of a SBMA-GGSE partnership.

Beyond that, Hicks was receptive to numerous types of collaboration, even mentioning that graduate students could come in and design a “program” in the Family Resource Center interactive educational space, a hands-on way to turn theories of education into action.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art,” says Lilly Garcia, Director of STEM Outreach at the Gevirtz School. “Their existing education programs are so robust – from lesson plans to outreach programs, from English Language Learner Focus Tours to creating ways to use art to address the new Common Core standards – that we know this partnership will benefit our students in immeasurable ways.”

Editor’s Note: This article is republished with permission from the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. Article and photo by George Yatchisin, Communications Coordinator, Gevirtz School.


Reminder: Final Call for Design Submissions in the 2015 Grad Slam Logo Competition

The deadline to submit designs for the 2015 Grad Slam logo competition is this Friday, February 27.

Prize: The winning designer will receive $250.

Designs should be submitted as a PDF by email to Robert Hamm.

See the original call for submissions for more details.


Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Jessica Bradshaw

Jessica enjoys the outdoors.Fifth-year doctoral candidate Jessica Bradshaw is using her research to make a difference in the lives of people of all ages. Jessica is a student of the UC system, having finished her BA in cognitive science at UC San Diego in 2007, and her MA in counseling psychology at UC Santa Barbara in 2012. Now a doctoral candidate working through her predoctoral clinical internship at Rady Children’s Hospital through the UCSB/VA Internship Program, Jessica plans to use the knowledge learned pursuing her Clinical Counseling and School Psychology degree to better understand the subtle signs of autism in young children.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Orange County but grew up in Corona, California (repping the IE!). I have spent most of my life in Southern California, aside from a brief East Coast tour I did for three years before graduate school. After undergrad I moved to Connecticut to do research at the Yale Child Study Center. It was a great experience and I encourage all Californians to get a taste of something different before settling in the best state in the country (California, of course).

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

My research aims to identify discernable behavioral characteristics of autism spectrum disorder and map the corresponding neurological mechanisms at the earliest possible age. [In 2013, Jessica was among a UCSB contingent that traveled to Sacramento to meet with state legislators to discuss the value and impact of UC research.] Autism spectrum disorder is a social disability that is typically diagnosed between 3 and 5 years of age, yet behavioral intervention techniques for infants as young as six months of age have been suggested. Early behavioral intervention, and correspondingly early identification, is critical for optimal outcome. The first step in understanding developmental psychopathology is to map a particular behavioral or neurological construct in typical development. Stemming from this perspective, my dissertation investigated clinical correlates of social smiling in 6- to 9-month-old typically developing infants.

Another aspect of my research is early intervention. In collaboration with Dr. Lynn Koegel and the Koegel Autism Center, we have investigated the use of Pivotal Response Treatment for infants exhibiting symptoms of autism spectrum disorder as young as six months of age.Jessica, center, with advisors and fellow graduate students at the APA conference in Hawaii.

The development of autism spectrum disorder in the infant and toddler period has been an interest of mine since my undergraduate work at UCSD. My interests stem from a general interest in developmental psychology, cognitive science, and social neuroscience, as well as a keen appreciation of clinical psychological and the necessity to translate basic science findings for clinical use in diagnostics and intervention. It is a fascinating venture to pinpoint symptoms of ASD years before the hallmark symptoms of the disorder appear.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

Any graduate student will attest to the fact that grad school is a rocky ride. In clinical psychology the journey is also personal. We have to watch ourselves do psychotherapy on film in front of a group of other students and our supervisor – learning can’t get more terrifying than that!

I was fortunate enough to receive a predoctoral fellowship from the Autism Science Foundation, which helped set the stage for my own independent research. This fellowship allowed me to focus on my research without having to TA or work on other projects.

What do you like most about grad school and what do you like least?

Relationships. The personal and professional relationships I have built with friends and colleagues have been invaluable to my graduate experience. I would not have made it through graduate school without my friends and family. My cohort has been there for me in personal crises, and our discussions have helped me grow as a researcher. I have also so enjoyed collaborating with other graduate students and labs on research. Psychology is much more collaborative than some other fields and intellectual discussion, collaborative projects, and cross-disciplinary ventures have been a huge part of my professional development.

I always say that clinical psychology is like doing two graduate programs. One minute I am coding infant smiling frame-by-frame in the lab, the next I am doing therapy in juvenile hall with adolescents struggling with gang involvement and drugs. Although I love both clinical work and research, it can be exhausting!

Jessica, left, enjoys a summer concert with two of her fellow grad students.What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?

My motivation is twofold. First, helping the families. The stress of some families with children with ASD and other special needs is unimaginable. The overarching goal of my research is to improve quality of life for everyone affected by autism. Second, I have always been motivated to learn more in order to answer the important questions. Actually, even coming up with the important questions can be a challenge.

Who are your heroes and/or mentors and why?

I have learned so much from all of my mentors: Fred Shic and Kasia Chawarska at Yale, and Bob and Lynn Koegel at UCSB. Fred and Kasia took a chance on me when they let me enter the world of autism research as a young, naïve student fresh out of undergrad. I still have not stopped learning from them. My graduate advisors, Bob and Lynn, trusted my research ideas and supported me, both personally and professionally, to the end.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I think I am most proud of the services I have been able to provide for families and the local community. As a clinical researcher, the majority of my work has been interacting with parents of infants and toddlers. I am proud of each thank you letter and holiday card I receive from my families.  

Jessica, left, loves to travel with friends to conferences in places like Madrid, Spain.

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

Good food and good beer are guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Live music and records are my favorite hobbies. Rock climbing used to be a big part of my life and is something I am always trying to do more of.

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

I hope to be on faculty somewhere continuing autism research, but that’s a boring answer. How about…I hope to be making enough money to go to as many concerts as I want, to taste as much local beer as I can, and to have a really cute dog (preferably a pug).

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

Complain less! Venting can be therapeutic, but also toxic. So vent as you need to, but too much negativity can be counterproductive. 


A Valentine from the GradPost to You: Happy Doodle Day!

Credit: Lisa Slavid, PeadoodlesLisa Slavid says she has “always doodled in the margins of everything.” So when we requested her doodles for the pages of the GradPost as a Valentine’s Day gift to our graduate students, she was only too happy to oblige.

Slavid is the Coordinator of Organizational and Performance Management for Housing & Residential Services at UCSB. Her role involves strategic planning, leadership development, and best-practices research. She has worked in the field of Student Affairs and Housing & Residential Services at UCSB for two decades in a variety of roles, including Resident Director, Student Leadership Coordinator, and Coordinator of Strategic Initiatives. Her passion, she says, is to help people and organizations reach their highest potential.

This Student Affairs professional holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College (art, with a focus on oil painting and photography, was one of her majors there) and a master’s degree in Counseling from Santa Clara University. Slavid has also been a Semester at Sea sailor. She has traveled as a member of the staff on three academic voyages, twice as Dean of Students, and she sits on Semester at Sea’s board of trustees.

A Peadoodle created especially for UCSB graduate students by Lisa Slavid.While doodling has always been a part of her life, it was about five years ago that “the doodles wanted to be drawn front and center, and the ‘Peadoodles’ just started coming,” she said.

At first, Slavid’s whimsical creations were centered on puns about food. Now her artwork has been extended to include animals and inanimate objects.

In a 2012 interview with Semester at Sea, she talked about the hundreds of Peadoodles she has drawn. “Even in simplicity, there is a lot of complexity with these little guys,” she said.

“I keep them sweet, positive, and mostly innocent,” Slavid told the GradPost, “and I love that people send me suggestions as well.” Our suggestion for a (Pea)h.D.-related Peadoodle produced the one you see here, a labor of love from Slavid to UCSB graduate students. Some previously drawn Peadoodles with words of love and encouragement are also shown here.

You can enjoy more of Slavid’s “Peadoodles” at the Peadoodles Facebook page and on the Peadoodles blog. Semester at Sea also published a Q&A with Dean Slavid.

Happy Doodle Day, er, Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone from the GradPost … and from Lisa Slavid’s Peadoodles!

All Peadoodles by Lisa Slavid

Dean Lisa Slavid, right, enjoys a light-hearted moment with Quincy Goodwin, center, of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Siettah Parks from the University of Wisconsin Madison, during a Fall 2012 Semester at Sea voyage. Credit: Melinda LaBrie, Semester at Sea

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