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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Fall 2014
Peer Advisor Availability

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia
Tue: 10 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m. to noon, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Diversity & Outreach Peer:

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco
Wed: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Thu: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre
Mon: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Tue: 9 a.m. to noon, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Wed: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Communications Peer:
Melissa Rapp
Wed: 9:45 to 11:45 a.m.
Thu: 1 to 5 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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In Career Pathways Series Kickoff, 3 UCSB Ph.D. Alums Share Their Biotech Career Success Stories  

Speaking at the inaugural Career Pathways event, which focused on the biotechnology field, were, from left, Brent Gaylord, Miguel de Los Rios, and Patrick Johnson. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

The saying goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In the case of UCSB Ph.D. alum Miguel de los Rios, the journey began with a single hand drawing.

Miguel de Los Rios still has the original drawing he used to pitch his big idea. "I should frame it," he said.Armed only with a vision, a simple sketch, some naivete, and even a few aspirin, Ph.D. student De Los Rios was able to found a biotech startup, Chimeros, that launched his successful career in the biotechnology industry.

De los Rios was one of three panelists, all grad alums, who shared their biotech career success stories in the May 16 kickoff of Graduate Division’s Career Pathways series. This new series will give graduate students the opportunity to hear from graduate alumni about how they navigated the road to various types of careers. Future panel sessions will highlight careers in such areas as academia, industry, nonprofits, and government, and all will focus on the skills that alumni found to be critical to their success.

In welcoming the panel and the more than 50 graduate students in attendance, Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti expressed her hope that these events “will help all UCSB graduate students to realize the broad variety of opportunities that their graduate degrees are creating and the steps they can take to move forward in the direction that best fits their life goals.”

Dr. Pierre Wiltzius, the Susan and Bruce Worster Dean of Science and Professor of Physics, served as the moderator of the lunchtime discussion, which delved into such issues as the challenges and rewards of launching a startup; the qualities and traits important for success in biotech; and the differences in style and operation between a small startup and a large biotech or pharmaceutical firm.

The panelists were:

Miguel de Los Rios
Ph.D., 2005, Biophysical Chemistry, UCSB; B.S., Cell and Developmental Biology, 1998, UCSB
Vice President of Research, Senesco. Previously Vice President of Research and Development, Fabrus Inc. (On May 16, 2014, Fabrus became a wholly owned subsidiary of Senesco Technologies.) Sole founder in 2003 of Chimeros Inc., a venture-backed biologics therapeutic company (Chimeros was acquired by Fabrus in 2012.) At Chimeros, he was Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer.

Patrick T. Johnson
Ph.D., 2000, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, UCSB; B.S., 1994, Biopsychology, UCSB
Senior Director, Business Development, Allergan. Previously, Vice President of Development and Director of Cell Biology, Chimeros.

Brent S. Gaylord
Ph.D., 2004, Materials, UCSB; B.S., Chemistry-Material Science Engineering and minor in Mathematics, United States Air Force Academy.
Co-founder (with Patrick Dietzen and world-renowned UCSB material scientist and Professor Guillermo Bazan) and Director Dye Development, Sirigen. In fall 2012, BD (Beckton, Dickinson and Company) acquired Sirigen Group Limited.

The biotech panel members, from left, Brent Gaylord, Miguel de Los Rios, and Patrick Johnson, chat with Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Each panelist gave brief biographical introductions, explaining how they got to where they are today and sharing lessons learned on the journey, before answering questions.

Patrick Johnson said he enjoyed his graduate studies at UCSB. Credit: Patricia MarroquinPatrick Johnson told the audience that when he came to UCSB as an undergrad in 1990, he “had no clue what I even wanted to major in.” In 1994, he said, after three or four switches in his major, he earned an undergraduate degree in biopsychology. He fell into a master’s degree program after that because, he said, it was “the best of all my options at the time and I was able to advance my knowledge in my potential career opportunities by continuing my education.” He had a “great time” pursuing his master’s degree and transitioned from it to a Ph.D. program.

Don’t feel like you have to know what you want to do

But even after he earned his Ph.D., he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted to do. “Don’t feel like you really ever should,” Johnson advised. “Sooner or later something will click and then hopefully you’ll follow that path.”

So Johnson stayed on at UCSB as a postdoc for several years, receiving a teaching fellowship and grant money.

Miguel de Los Rios simulates the drawing he shopped around to investors. Credit: Patricia MarroquinMeanwhile, Johnson’s friend and fellow UCSB grad student, Miguel de Los Rios, had an idea. “The idea that I had had nothing to do with the work I was doing at UC Santa Barbara or with my Ph.D.,” De Los Rios said. “There were no professors or projects running at the time at the campus who could help me develop the idea.” His friend, Brent Gaylord, had just finished his Ph.D. and started his own company, Sirigen, founded on research and work being done on campus. Gaylord encouraged De Los Rios to pursue his dream.

De Los Rios put pen to paper, sketched out the idea, and set out to turn that idea into reality.

“I started to meet with everyone I could possibly meet in the community to talk about my idea,” De Los Rios said. He talked with high-tech investors, former Amgen employees, and angel investors; and attended investment conferences and venture capital meetings. Patrick Johnson was among those friends who also helped.

“My first real break was when I called up a Tier 1 venture capital firm,” De Los Rios said in an interview after the panel session. He called Versant Ventures, which had previously been active in Santa Barbara. “So I think they were keen to talk to folks from UC Santa Barbara.”

“One of their more notable investments in Santa Barbara was Inogen,” said De Los Rios. Inogen is an oxygen therapy product company founded by three UCSB students, based on a winning idea that came out of the UCSB Technology Management Program’s business plan competition.

Grad student Miguel met with Camille Samuels, managing director at Versant Ventures who recently left Versant to join Bay Area-based venture capital firm Venrock.

“She spent two hours with me at her office,” said De Los Rios. “And she just tore me apart. The idea, everything. It was this eye-opening experience as far as what I needed to do, what I needed to learn before I could have a conversation with a VC [venture capitalist].”

‘Communication is an important part of how you drive your inner visions’

De Los Rios said he is thankful for the “hard, informative, constructive criticism” he received. “Most people can’t even get three minutes with a VC. And to have someone of her caliber spend two hours with me completely changed how I did everything.”  

The conversation, he said, “shaped my pitch, how I approached investors, and it made me think about the future of the company and what things I needed to figure out. It basically gave me the tools to go forward and actually try to present the company in a feasible way.”

Another person who played a big role in helping De Los Rios get started was Santa Barbara attorney David Lafitte of Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth. De Los Rios said  Lafitte “really didn’t understand everything I was talking about, but he liked how I said what I said.”

“He took a big risk and basically offered a line of credit to me” of about $150,000, De Los Rios said.  “What a fantastic mentor in those early years. I think that was another defining moment for what allowed Chimeros to launch.”

The panel members enjoy a laugh with the session's moderator, Dr. Pierre Wiltzius. Credit: Patricia Marroquin“Communication,” De Los Rios said during the panel session, “is an important part of how you drive your inner visions and your life forward. So always be cognizant of how other people perceive what you’re saying.”

So what was De Los Rios’ big idea? Here’s how he explained it to us:

“We figured out how to make protein building blocks self-assemble into nanocages that are exactly 32 nanometers in diameter. While controlling that assembly process, we can encapsulate any drug payload of choice. When the protein nanocage is fully assembled, with the drug payload encapsulated, we can now decorate the surface with a variety of targeting molecules or peptides to direct the nanocage to organs or tissues of choice.” Useful applications, he said, include oncology (such as prostate cancer) and metabolic disorders (diabetes; liver and kidney disorders).

Why the name Chimeros? De Los Rios coined the name from “chimera,” a monstrous, fire-breathing creature in Greek mythology that has the parts of three animals – a lion, a snake, and a goat.

“The idea was that all the parts come together for a unique organism,” said De Los Rios. “In our case, we were making something called a ‘chimerasome,’” a term he created for the company’s technology.

As a grad student in those early startup days, De Los Rios funded the company on a shoestring, using his monthly stipend of $1,200 to pay for such things as his grad student research, the experiments he conducted in his garage, and living expenses including his food, which consisted of a lot of Top Ramen.

“It was a very tough time,” said De Los Rios, but he doesn’t regret it. He is also thankful to his advisor, Dr. Kevin Plaxco, for keeping him grounded and urging him to finish his Ph.D.

‘We were naïve; we just did what we thought was right’

As young grad students and postdocs pursuing their dreams, “We just didn’t take no for answer,” Patrick Johnson said during the panel discussion. “We just did what we thought was right. We were naïve. Which is very helpful to be naïve. Because you don’t realize some of the challenges you’re up against,” he said.

“So I encourage you not to let knowledge get in the way,” Johnson added to laughter from the audience.

At a certain point, Johnson said, he realized he had to “take a leap of faith.” Johnson, who was helping out Miguel with the startup, said he had “a nice, cushy position” as a postdoc at UCSB and could have stayed a long time.

But he finally made the decision to leave the position and join De Los Rios’ startup full time. “You’ve got to balance the risk and the reward at the same time,” he said.

“We had a very fun time working for the company,” Johnson said. “It really was a very rewarding endeavor. We had no experience in the biotech industry.”

During his time at UCSB, Johnson took advantage of a course through the Technology Management Program that included biotech speakers. The goal was to have one person from each sector of the biotech industry come and talk every week for the entire academic year.

You never know where networking will lead you

Johnson said, “That’s how we got to meet Roy Hardiman [a UCSB alum and then an executive at Genentech], who has continued to engage with the campus.

“You never know where introductions are going to lead you,” said Johnson, adding that he was fortunate to meet a lot of these biotech individuals, including executives from Amgen.

“I finally got experience in the biotech industry through Miguel,” Johnson said. “We created our own experience. And then after that, it’s a little easier to meet people, to know what the industry’s like, to know what to do next. And then I was recruited out of our company to Allergan, where I’ve been for the last four years.”

Johnson worked on both the science side and the business side at Chimeros. “And now,” he said, “I’m all business at Allergan, where I look at new technologies, acquiring companies, bringing new therapeutics into the spectrum of our product offerings.” He’s currently doing all of that from an office in San Diego, where the company moved to stay competitive and to be in one of the big hubs of biotech activity.

Brent Gaylord is co-founder of Sirigen. Credit: Patricia MarroquinBrent Gaylord took a different path to the biotech industry and the founding of Sirigen, one that started within UCSB.

“My graduate work here at UCSB was definitely a product of the interdisciplinary nature of the research that goes on,” said Gaylord, who worked with researchers from Physics to  Chemistry to Biology.

Sirigen was founded by grad students Gaylord and Patrick Dietzen, and UCSB material scientist and Professor Guillermo Bazan. The company’s technology is based on Nobel Prize-winning research conducted by Professor Alan Heeger in conductive plastics and creates the potential for the development of novel dyes that are four to 100 times brighter than conventional dyes. Sirigen is another success story for the TMP program. Dietzen and Gaylord won the business plan competition in 2003, founded the company shortly afterward, and licensed all the key intellectual property exclusively from UCSB.

“One thing that’s definitely clear: There’s technology and then there’s that commercial plan,” said Gaylord. “And I think sometimes as scientists, you don’t appreciate the value of having a clear business plan or commercialization plan. Because they’re two very different things and both are very important. But sometimes you tend to focus very much on the technology.”

“We built a support network,” he said. “And I think that is so critical – meeting other people who are doing the same thing.” The company partnered with the UCSB technology transfer office “because we had to ultimately license that technology back,” Gaylord said.

For Gaylord, launching a career with a startup “was definitely for me a career choice. Because at the time I had been offered a position at Dupont to do central research there. Do you take the classic job or do you create your own destiny and try something?” He made the decision: “Let’s give this thing a try.”

Nuggets of knowledge from the biotech experts

Other advice, tips, perspectives, and reassurances from the panelists included:

  • Get your elevator pitch down. You must be able to communicate your big picture idea when you arrive at the elevator with the president of the company. You’ve got 30 seconds.
  • “Where you can take opportunities to present your research and talk and get in front of people, take every opportunity to do so.”
  • “If you have a good idea, and you have a good plan, and you have the right people, I think there’s always a way to make it happen.”
  • “You get told no a lot. It requires a lot of tenacity to keep going.”
  • “Sometimes you look at startups as cool and glamorous things, but it’s hard work.”
  • You’ve got to go where the jobs are. “The moral of this story is, ‘If you want to fish, go where the fish are.’”
  • Other career avenues include patent attorneys (“very much in high demand”); communications; and investor relations. All of these benefit from someone with a science background.
  • Being versatile and creative and having a can-do attitude are crucial when working in smaller companies. The “I’m just this” types don’t get very far.
  • “I think it’s becoming increasingly more important for even a scientist to be able to communicate specifically in a business environment.”
  • In any company it’s all about shareholders. You’re trying to drive that.
  • On the difference between working for a small company and a large company: “Before it was: We could make a decision and go take action. But we never had the resources to do anything. And now we’ve got all the resources we need but it’s impossible to make a decision and get a consensus. You spend a lot more time in meetings and working with other colleagues and trying to pull things together” in a big company.
  • “I would never trade in my graduate career or my postdoc for anything. Because you’re learning the entire step of the way. And that learning is invaluable.”

At this point in Miguel De Los Rios’ career, he’s having “a fantastic time.” He has worked on the science side of things, then shifted to the business side, and now he’s back on the science side again. He’s paying it forward, helping companies out of UC San Francisco, UC San Diego, and UCSB launch. “I’m certainly a nerd at heart. And happy to be a nerd,” he said.

“I think the story of how you start a company involves not just one person but usually a large network, a support group, so to speak, in many different aspects,” he said.

If De Los Rios could give one piece of advice to Ph.D. students who wish to get into the biotech industry, it would be simply this:

“Never give up.”

More than 50 graduate students attended the inaugural Career Pathways panel session, which focused on the biotechnology industry. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


The Next Miss California Might Be UCSB’s Kara Smoot, Master’s student in Music and Vocal Performance

Kara Smoot Miss CAKara Smoot performing at Miss California 2013. Credit: Kara SmootIf you don’t know Kara Smoot now, you probably will very soon. She’s a second year Master’s student in Music and Vocal Performance, Miss Ventura County for 2013, Miss Tarzana for 2014, and could be Miss California 2014. Oh, and did I also mention she can sing in eight different languages?

If there were just one phrase I could use to describe Kara, it would be hardworking. She’s been working hard ever since she was 14, when she got her first job at Chick-fil-A. She earned money to help her family and applied herself in school to earn scholarships for college. Her hard work paid off with a scholarship to Pepperdine University, where she earned a B.A. in Music. 

It was also at Pepperdine that Kara turned her love for music into a passion for singing opera. Her passion paid off in yet another fellowship; this time to study music at UCSB. Now she’s set to graduate this June with a Master’s in Music and Vocal Performance. But instead of kicking back and enjoying her accomplishments, she’ll be competing to be the next Miss California, between June 24-28. Talk about busy.

When I met Kara in the Graduate Students Association lounge for this interview, she had just finished working with her interview coach for her Miss California competition. Over the course of the next hour, she told me all about her love of opera, about competing in pageants, and her life as a grad student.

How did you become interested in opera?

I joined chorus as an elective in middle school. When it came time for college, I had to make a choice. There were only two choices for vocal performance at Pepperdine: musical theater or opera. Originally, I thought I wanted to teach music or maybe become a choir director. But my experience with choir had exposed me to classics, so I felt more inclined to classical based performance: opera.

How many different languages do you sing in?

Seven to eight, not including English. I sing the four standard: English, Italian, German, and French. And some less standard, such as Czech, Russian, Spanish, and Latin. 

Kara Smoot Die FledermausKara Smoot performing in Die Fledermaus. Credit: Kara Smoot

What are your musical goals?

I want to become an international opera singer and perform with major opera companies. However, it’s extremely competitive. Right now, I’m transitioning from performing and studying at the university to auditioning for Young Artists Programs at different opera companies. In the Young Artists Programs, you get more coaching and training for performance, and you can make connections so you can be invited to sing for opera companies.

You also compete in beauty pageants. Are there any parallels to opera?

The work ethic. You need one to be a musician and a [pageant] title holder. It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice. You have to put the music or the organization above yourself. It [opera] has also given me the tools to be successful in pageantry. I’m able to work well under pressure.

You have to think on your feet. You can rehearse something forever and then something always goes wrong in performance and you need to be able to think on the spot. It’s the same for a title holder. Things go wrong and you have to bounce back in a split second.

How did you get started doing beauty pageants?

Chrisy AlcarazChrisy Alcaraz, Miss San Fernando Valley 2011 and Miss Sierra Nevada 2013. Credit: CG Photography. At Pepperdine, my best friend and sorority sister, Chrisy Alcaraz, competed in pageants. She enlightened me about what pageants were about. I got to see her process, her passion. It inspired me. 

You competed for Miss California in 2013, when you were Miss Ventura County. What did you learn from that and what advice would you give to those competing?

It was a great experience. I would say: know what you have to do to prepare, take every day one step at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed preparing for a pageant. Try to enjoy the process. Absorb everything.

Kara Smoot doing volunteer work. Credit: Kara Smoot.

I understand you are competing again for Miss California as Miss Tarzana. What is your platform?

It’s called Voices for the Arts. I’m raising awareness for Arts education in schools. I work with socially and economic disadvantaged children, serving as a mentor, and teaching music and voice lessons. I work primarily at El Camino Elementary.

Let’s talk about your life as a graduate student now. What is the one thing that most people are surprised to find out about you?

That I managed to survive two years of grad school without caffeine.

What one piece of advice would you give to an incoming graduate student?

I was surprised by how much free time there is in grad school. I would tell a student to be careful and use their time to study and get work done.

You’re so busy. What is the your most favorite thing you do to relax?

Health and fitness. I take workout classes. I love reading books about health and nutrition. It’s also important to unplug from devices and to enjoy the outdoors. I’ve done outdoor boot camps and work out with my personal trainer, or run the stairs at SBCC. Most of the time though, I work at the Santa Barbara Athletic Club and Fit Buddha, off of State Street.

What is your biggest accomplishment in life and why? 

Graduate Student Spotlight logo

Starting to work when I was 14. My parents were laid off in my teens and I had to apply myself in academics to be able to get a scholarship. I earned a scholarship to Pepperdine and was fully funded at UCSB.

Who was the biggest impact or influence on you and helped shape who you are today?

All of my music instructors from middle and high school who believed in me, fostered my music, and encouraged me. Also Louise Lofquist, who I worked with as an undergrad at Pepperdine, and my vocal coach here, Dr. Linda DiFiore.

What do you plan to do after graduate school?

Hopefully I’ll be Miss California 2014. If I win, I’ll prepare for the Miss America competition and to become Miss America 2015. Outside of pageants, I have engagements to sing with the Mediterranean Opera Studio in Sicily. Also, I’m training this summer at the Lyric Opera Studio Weimar, Germany. And I plan to keep working on learning new languages, learning new opera roles, and auditioning for Young Artists Programs.

To learn more about Kara's music career, visit her website. You can find her Miss California facebook page here.


History Grad Student, Other Volunteers Create Memorial Wall in The Arbor 

Student volunteers worked throughout the night to paint a memorial wall in honor of UCSB students lost in the Isla Vista tragedy. Credit: Melissa Barthelemy

Melissa BarthelemyA campus message wall has been repurposed into a memorial wall paying tribute to the UCSB students lost in the Isla Vista tragedy. Paying out of pocket to get this time-sensitive project going, History grad student Melissa Barthelemy says she and other volunteer artists “battled raccoons, skunks, and ferrel cats simultaneously (literally) until 1:30 a.m.” in The Arbor to finish the first phase of "We Remember Them: A Place of Healing at The Arbor."

“This project will continue to grow,” she said. “In the afternoon we will have copies of beautiful enlarged photos of the memorial events displayed at our station.” Melissa said “these two undergrads, in particular, were close to the victims and are proud to have pulled this art piece off.”

GSA is sponsoring a booth at the exhibit. It will be open today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and depending on the number of volunteers, it plans to keep it open much longer. In a news release, the GSA said: "The motivation behind this is that we as graduate students want to reach out and support our undergraduates, as well as each other, during this difficult time. This is a place where we can come together to mourn and to help heal our community. It is also going to be focused on drawing attention to the actual victims of the Isla Vista tragedy, something that has paled in comparison to the media’s focus on the perpetrator."

"There is a large wooden exhibit that will feature chalk walls that can be written on, as well as art materials where the community can write cards to the families, thank you cards to the people and groups who got us through this difficult week, and view photographs, such as those from the Isla Vista Memorial Paddle Out," the news release stated. "What we need the most are volunteers to help staff this booth. Ideally two volunteers per one hour shift. If there are enough volunteers to support keeping the booth open for more days this week, that would be fantastic. If you are interested in dedicating an hour of your time to an important cause by staffing the booth or volunteering in some other way, please email Melissa Barthelemy at

Melissa invites everyone to come out to The Arbor to view and pay your respects at the memorial wall.


UCSB and Division of Student Affairs Create Emergency Resources Websites

Counselors were on hand at the memorial service last Tuesday at Harder Stadium. Credit: Patricia MarroquinIn the wake of the Isla Vista tragedy, the UC Santa Barbara Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) has created a website titled “Isla Vista Tragedy Support Services.”

Departments across the campus, as well as University partners, are making resources and information available to support the campus community. OPAC has compiled these resources and listed them in a directory. The directory includes information and resources for students; for faculty and staff; and for alumni and the community.

Among those resources is a new website created by the Division of Student Affairs, titled “Student Emergency Resources.” The site contains up-to-date Academic Advising and Financial Aid information, as well as a list of easy-to-access Counseling resources.

OPAC requests that if you know of other resources to add, please send an email to


GSA President Invites All UCSB Grad Students to a Special Graduate Town Hall Meeting June 3

Dear UCSB Graduate Community,

GSA will be hosting a Graduate Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, June 3, from 7 p.m. to whenever it winds down. There have been various memorials, meetings, and sessions to help all of us who are grieving move forward, but it seems there has yet to be a solely Graduate Student Forum to discuss anything and everything. As such, we believe this could be a very useful and cathartic organizing of our wonderful community. This event will ONLY be for graduate students – no faculty, no counselors, no admin, just us doing whatever is needed to continue the healing process.

We, as graduate students, interact with undergraduates in our labs, sections, as Associate Profs, and they have become our mentees, our friends and our family. It seems that most of us have been putting the needs of our undergrads first and have tried to maintain a strong front to support those most directly affected by this horrible tragedy. But WE need our time to heal, WE need our time to come together, and WE need to do this as a united community.

I hope that this message is not just seen as another one of the many emails that have gone out; rather, this is our attempt to utilize OUR community of graduate students, and work through the process of moving forward with our lives while remembering and using the recent events to create the positive change we all are hoping to see in the future.

Feel free to RSVP on our Facebook event page so we can have a good head count:!/events/449091521902026/?ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular. OR just show up.

The meeting will take place following the GSA Assembly meeting from 6 to 7 p.m., which I encourage everyone to attend as we will be distributing the Excellence in Teaching Awards and the Dixon-Levy Award for service to the graduate community. Come celebrate those teachers and community members who have made such an amazing impact on the lives of the UCSB community at large!

Dinner will be served from Isla Vista Deli Mart at the beginning of the meeting, however we are buying extra to accommodate those who can only attend the townhall meeting.

So, please join us from 6 to 7 p.m. (Assembly) and 7 p.m. to whenever (the Town Hall Meeting). I really think that is something that will benefit everyone who comes.

Come as a group or by yourself. We want to further cement the bonds of our community and expand the support network that we present to each other.

Best wishes and don’t hesitate to send any questions or comments to me at this  or at

Thank you,

President Gary Haddow on behalf of your GSA Officers


Message from UCSB Chancellor Yang About Steps Taken to Enhance Safety

"We will continue to draw strength and comfort from each other and we will become an even stronger university and community," UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang said at the memorial service Tuesday in Harder Stadium. Credit: Sonia Fernandez

May 30, 2014

Dear Community Members:

In the days since the tragic events in Isla Vista, I have been spending much of my time talking with and listening to our students and parents, as well as members of our dedicated faculty and staff. Dilling and I have also been walking through Isla Vista at night to be with our students. I want to update you now on steps the University has taken to enhance safety.

  • Our UC Police Department, with additional police officers from our sister UC campuses, has increased its presence on campus and extended saturation patrols in Isla Vista through Commencement. Such intense efforts will continue to be strengthened in in close collaboration with the increased efforts of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and otthe fall quarter, her local law enforcement.
  • We have increased CSO patrols in Isla Vista, with extended hours; this is in addition to the 24/7 free CSO safety escort service.
  • The University is completing a comprehensive lighting and security assessment and has been installing additional lights across campus. Also, we have recently committed additional funds to Santa Barbara County for more lighting in Isla Vista.
  • We have implemented a new parking policy that limits weekend and after-hours access to our parking facilities to only UC Santa Barbara affiliates.

Finally, our UC Police Department wants to remind us all that we each play an important role in keeping our community safe. They are asking that if you “See Something, Say Something,” and report suspicious activity (911 for emergencies; 805-893-3446 for UC Police; 805-681-4100 for Isla Vista Foot Patrol). Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to call the CSO service at 805-893-2000 for a free safety escort at any time.

I am extremely proud of the way our community has come together during these difficult days to support each other and to remember and honor all the victims of last week’s tragedy. We are showing the world what it means to be a Gaucho. United in our efforts, I am certain that we are building a stronger university.


Henry T. Yang


Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Grad Slam Winner James Allen

Graduate Student Spotlight logoJames Allen, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science (IGPMS), is conducting research that has the potential to transform how ocean ecosystems are studied. James is using satellites rather than boats to collect data about phytoplankton in the ocean. He hopes to use his research to examine how the ocean is changing as a result of climate change.

James' passion for sharing his research with a wider audience is inspiring. Not only did he win the Grand Prize after competing in three grueling rounds of the 2014 Grad Slam, he also hopes to be the next Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

James has a Bachelor of Science degree in Geoscience - Meteorology from the University of Tennessee at Martin. Read on to learn more about his research and grad school experiences.

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

James AllenJames AllenMy research involves using satellites to measure the optical properties of the ocean. By looking at how light scatters and gets absorbed in the surface of the ocean, I hope to be able to more accurately measure the relative abundance of differing sizes of phytoplankton. With this information, we can more effectively measure how entire marine ecosystems are changing over time, how the ocean’s ability to export carbon from the atmosphere to depth is changing, and, ultimately, the ocean’s role in climate change for the future.

I’ve always been interested in weather and climate, and becoming a meteorology major as an undergrad really sparked my interest in climate change science. The idea of using satellites and remote sensing to do science and measure global changes blew my mind! I knew that would be how I wanted to contribute to our understanding of Earth’s changing climate. An internship doing research at NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program convinced me that I wanted to be a part of the amazing science that was happening in oceanography. Now, instead of looking up at the sky to forecast the weather, I’m looking down at the water to measure the changing ocean, and I couldn’t be happier.

What was it like to participate in the Grad Slam?

James Allen grad slam winnerGraduate Division Dean Carol Genetti with the Grad Slam 2014 winners: James Allen, center, grand prize winner; and runners-up Damien Kudela and Deborah Barany. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe Grad Slam was an amazing experience! One of my goals in life is to be able to educate the public about climate change while showing them just how awesome science can be, and the Grad Slam was the perfect opportunity to learn many outreach skills. Every step of the way, from the public speaking workshops beforehand, to each progressive round, many experienced people were there to guide me and help me become a better presenter.

Talking to the public is completely different from talking to a lab group, especially with a three-minute time limit. It involves a fine balance of getting your ideas out there, keeping them relevant and interesting, and all the while making sure everything is clear and concise. You learn a lot about yourself, too; we all have our strengths when it comes to presenting, and there are many paths we can take to play to these strengths to make an effective presentation. There were many amazing talks all throughout Grad Slam, and each person had their own style that showed that they had an idea, and they wanted to communicate it to as many people as possible.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

James Allen conducting researchJames collecting water samples in a Niskin bottle on the R/V Shearwater out in the Santa Barbara Channel.I feel like I’m really in my element here. There’s so much great work being done by people that are really passionate about what they do. It’s fun to be able to talk to other grad students across a wide variety of fields that are exploring and searching for answers to problems that you’ve never even thought about before.

I’m also surrounded by great mentors and friends! I’m lucky to have such a great advisor, Dr. David Siegel, who really pushes me to be the best scientist I can be. I’m very grateful for the fact that I’m housed in both Marine Science and Geography, so I’ve made a lot of friends in both areas that have made adjusting to grad life very easy.

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

I’m hugely interested in doing outreach and getting the public more interested in science. I always say that I want to be the next James Hansen, Bill Nye, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, but maybe I can be cheesy and say that I want to be so good at what I do that someone in the future can say, “I want to be the next James Allen."

James showing off a lab coat.I have an insatiable curiosity to learn more about the world around me, and if I can spark that interest in more people, I feel like I can say I’ve done my job. There is so much out there that we haven’t even begun to think about, and everyone has the potential to become an explorer in their own right and bring new perspectives to the table. We just need more people to spark that curiosity and help people realize that science is a way to open doors to the world around them.

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

It might not seem very big here, but it would probably be the fact that I was able to TA for the first time. I’ve never been able to formally run my own sections before, and it was really exciting to be able to get up in front of a classroom and help teach really interesting topics in my field to students. I was so nervous at first, but by the end of the quarter, I was pretty comfortable with it. I spent a lot of time working getting my lectures set up, and it may have cut into my research time a bit (sorry, Dave!), but it was totally worth it, and I’m really happy that I was able to do it. I’m excited to be able to TA again soon!

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?

James Allen and group on a hikeJames and some of his Geography cohort hiking in Santa Barbara.I love to explore new areas! I grew up in West Tennessee, so having mountains and ocean around me all the time is an entirely new experience. I really like hiking and backpacking, and there are a lot of great trails in this area that I look forward to exploring. I’m warming up to biking (here’s a secret: I just learned how to bike when I arrived here last summer!), and I can’t wait till I get good enough to try mountain biking, or at least try biking longer stretches on bike trails by the ocean. I also really love predicting the weather and forecasting for severe storms, but it’s pretty hard to do that for sunny Santa Barbara. Maybe the El Nino regime shift will change that later this year, and I can finally play around and dance in the rain again.

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

James Allen at a waterfall in Big SurJames at a waterfall in Big Sur.I hope to still be doing some great research with some added public outreach. Will I be teaching at a big university? Presenting at national lectures or in Congress? Talking on TV or the radio about the next big topics in science? Who knows. But I’m excited for whatever the future will bring!

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

There’s so much great advice in previous Spotlights that it’s difficult to come up with something new! I would definitely say that interdisciplinary work really has the potential for amazing research. Different fields have their own ways of looking at problems, and while you might not necessarily use their methods, sometimes a new perspective is all you need to get through a difficult block that’s holding you back! Also, it’s a really good excuse to meet some amazing people outside of your field and make some new friends!


‘We Do Not Walk Alone,’ UCSB Grad Alumna Capps Says In Leading Moment of Silence on House Floor

Rep. Lois Capps led a moment of silence on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, Congresswoman and UCSB alumna Lois Capps (MA, 1990) of the 24th District led a moment of silence on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. “The nation stands with UCSB,” she said on her Facebook page.

“Together we have taken the first steps toward making sense of the senseless,” the congresswoman said on the House floor. “But it will be a long journey. We have many questions. And over the weeks and months ahead, perhaps more will be posed than we can answer. But we will work through it together. And while we all struggle to make sense of this tragedy, I want to thank you, my colleagues, and the communities across the nation for your prayers, your kind words, and your support. This act was fueled by hate. But in the wake of this tragedy, we as a nation have shown that in a dark time, we do not walk alone. We do not grieve alone. So we will not have to heal alone.”

View her speech and the moment of silence in the video below. View the congresswoman's news release here.


1,500 Proud Gauchos Take to the Water for Memorial Paddle Out

About 1,500 people turned out for a Memorial Paddle Out in honor of the six UCSB students: George Chen (Computer Science); Katherine Cooper (Art History & Classics); James Hong (Computer Engineering); Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (Undeclared); David Wang (Computer Engineering); and Veronika Weiss (Financial Math and Statistics).

Enjoy this beautiful paddle out video and this second touching video as well.


IV Memorial Paddle Out from julia Olson on Vimeo.




20,000 Hearts Were United at Memorial Service to Honor Six UCSB Students

Richard Martinez, father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, made an impassioned plea to the crowd to take action against gun violence. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

It was a touching and emotional afternoon on Tuesday at the Memorial Service, “Our Hearts Are United,” in Harder Stadium. About 20,000 people came to pay their respects and honor six students struck down in the Isla Vista tragedy: George Chen (Computer Science); Katherine Cooper (Art History & Classics); James Hong (Computer Engineering); Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (Undeclared); David Wang (Computer Engineering); and Veronika Weiss (Financial Math and Statistics). There were impassioned pleas, humorous recollections, tears, and laughter. Dignitaries, including UC President Janet Napolitano, UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, and UC Board of Regents Chairman Bruce D. Varner, spoke eloquently. Soothing and beautiful music was heard from the UCSB Young Artist String Quartet; Vocal Motion; and BFOM. The crowd – of all ages, ethnicities, and walks of life – was united in its grief.

To read more about this moving service, see the UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications’ article, “We Remember Them.”

More than 20,000 people attended the Memorial Service on Tuesday. Photos by Patricia Marroquin

Scenes from the Memorial Service on Tuesday at Harder Stadium. Photos by Patricia Marroquin

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