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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Summer 2014
(Email for availability)

Professional Development Peer:
Shawn Warner-Garcia

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco

Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

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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Dissertation Thesis Writers: What's Your One-Liner?

frustated manIf you ever had trouble describing your life's research, for a little levity and brevity you might want to check out, the dissertation humor site.  Created by Angela Frankel (, a senior at Harvard College, her site is a place for thesis writers to sum up their "years of work in one sentence" with mostly humourous or sad results (depending on your level of cynicism).

Here are two recent one-liners to give you the flavor of the submissions.

"Women mathematicians in film are young and exceedingly attractive; male mathematicians in film are old, white, and socially inept (except Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park)."
"Whether Liberal, Conservative, or indifferent to politics, the Nasa natives hated it when other people stole their lands."

For more about Angela and her site, check out the Slate article "College Students' Thesis Topics Are Hilarious, Depressing" by .



Meningococcal Disease Prevention and Response: Message from Dr. Mary Ferris

The following is a message from Dr. Mary Ferris, executive director of UCSB's Student Health Service, to the campus community regarding meningococcal disease prevention and response:

January 9, 2014

To: Campus Community

From: Mary Ferris, MD, Student Health Executive Director and Campus Physician

Re:  Meningococcal Disease Prevention and Response

Dear Community Members,

I hope that your winter break was a relaxing one, and that you are ready for the new quarter.

Although we have not had any additional cases of meningitis among UCSB students since late November, the campus is still considered to be experiencing an outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease.  We know from previous outbreaks that cases can occur over several months, so it is important that we, as a community, remain attentive.

Please continue to be alert for the symptoms of the disease as well as the healthy habits that you can use as a precaution against spreading the disease, given its potential serious outcomes.


Symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, accompanied by any of the following: severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing, increased sensitivity to light, confusion, and rash. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.


Meningococcal disease is transmitted through direct exchange of respiratory and throat secretions by close personal contact, such as coughing, sharing drinks, and kissing, or being in close proximity for an extended period (e.g., roommates).

This infection is not spread by casual contact (e.g., classroom contact), touching doorknobs or other surfaces, or by breathing the air where a person with the disease has been.  To help prevent the spread of meningococcal and other infectious diseases, everyone is urged to follow these precautions:

•    Always cough into a sleeve or tissue, wash hands frequently, and use hand sanitizer often.

•    Do not share anything that comes into contact with the mouth or nose, such as drinking glasses, water bottles, eating utensils and smoking materials.

Student Affairs has created educational posters with these messages that we encourage you to post widely.

As the Chancellor and I communicated in our December 23 message, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with support from the university and state and local health officials, is submitting an application to the Food and Drug Administration to expedite access to the serogroup B vaccine currently licensed for use in Europe, Australia and Canada. There are several additional steps that need to be taken before the vaccine is approved for use at UCSB during this outbreak.

As a reminder, the CDC has posted a Q&A on their web site about the current situation at UC Santa Barbara and has a designated email for serogroup B vaccine questions.

We will continue to send out timely notices and post updates and additional information on our Student Health site as more specific information becomes available.

I wish you all the best for the coming quarter,

Mary Ferris, M.D.

Executive Director, Student Health Service


It’s All About You: Oxford Dictionaries Names ‘Selfie’ the Word of the Year for 2013

A student snaps a selfie in the Exxopolis Luminarium at UCSB in April 2013. Credit: Patricia MarroquinYou know the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, one type of picture has become so popular that Oxford Dictionaries has proclaimed it the Word of the Year for 2013.

It’s “selfie,” which Oxford defines as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam, and uploaded to a social media website.”

Chances are good that you have taken at least one selfie, but the chances are even greater that you have self-snapped on more than one occasion.

“It seems like everyone who is anyone has posted a selfie somewhere on the Internet,” Oxford says on its blog. “If it is good enough for the Obamas or The Pope, then it is good enough for Word of the Year.”

Homer Simpson credit: Matt GroeningThe word isn’t new. Oxford says the earliest usage it could find was in 2002, when someone apologized for the posting of a blurry self-image on an Australian Internet forum.

Early social media and photo-sharing venues for the word include Flickr and MySpace, Oxford says. 

As the word’s popularity has grown, so have the offshoots, such as “helfie” (a picture of one’s hair); “welfie” (a workout selfie); and "legsie" (a photo of outstretched legs).

Here at UCSB, selfie-taking abounds. Special events such as the Luminarum and the Storke Tower Snow Day present the perfect opportunities for selfies.

Students record a rare "snow day" in Storke Plaza by taking selfies. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

For more information, including what words “selfie” beat out for the top title, view Oxford's blog post and its entertaining infographic below.


December 2013 Meningococcus Update 

The following is a message to the campus community from UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang and Student Health Executive Director Dr. Mary Ferris:

December 23, 2013

Dear Community Members,

We are writing with an update on the efforts to obtain approval to use a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine at UC Santa Barbara. The vaccine for serogroup B is currently licensed for use only in Europe, Australia and Canada.

While we are reassured that no additional cases of meningococcal disease have occurred in community members since November 21, 2013, the nature of the disease and the cases at Princeton University this fall support moving forward with vaccination. The University has been working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health officials to expedite access to the vaccine. 

Following a CDC site visit to campus earlier this month and a careful review of the historical epidemiology of the disease at our University and in the local community, the CDC with support from our University, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the California Department of Public Health, will be moving forward with an Investigational New Drug application (IND) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since this vaccine is not licensed in the United States, it is considered “investigational” and requires a special process in order to use it, similar to the one that took place at Princeton University earlier this fall. The IND would allow access to the serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for those identified by medical and health officials as being at increased risk.

The University would offer the vaccinations to community members identified by the IND as being at increased risk. Although the process is continuing to move ahead as rapidly as possible, there are still many steps that need to take place, including determining the population to receive the vaccine.

The CDC has posted a Q&A on their web site about the current situation at UC Santa Barbara and has a designated email for serogroup B vaccine questions.

The health and well-being of our students and campus community is our highest priority. We will continue to send out timely notices and post updates and additional information on our Student Health site as more specific information becomes available.

We hope you have a safe and restful break and look forward to the start of the new quarter.


Henry T. Yang
UC Santa Barbara

Mary Ferris, MD
Student Health Executive Director
UC Santa Barbara


Most Instagrammed Locations and Cities of 2013: How Many Have You Photographed?

The most Instagrammed locations ranged from Bangkok's Siam Paragon to L.A.'s Staples Center. Credit: Instagram

The mission of online photo and video sharing service Instagram is to “capture and share the world’s moments.” Judging by its calculations, some parts of the world are captured and shared a lot more than others. As the year winds to a close, social networking site Instagram has released its most Instagrammed locations and cities of 2013.

Central Park. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe No. 1 location isn’t one you would expect. “The Siam Paragon – a massive shopping complex, movie theater, and aquarium in Bangkok – was our top spot, edging out 2012’s most-Instagrammed place, Bangkok’s International Airport,” Instagram said on its blog. “Suvarnabhumi Airport dropped to No. 9, while the Eiffel Tower dropped off the Top 10 list altogether.”

Some familiar places were new to Instagram’s list this year: Orlando, Florida’s Walt Disney World; New York City’s High Line and Central Park; and the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas.

Three of the top 10 locations are in California, proving just how photogenic our great state is: Disneyland in Anaheim; and Staples Center and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

“In the course of the past year, we’ve seen Instagram continue to grow across the globe,” the blog post said. “We’ve been amazed to see the community thrive in places like Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil. Sixty percent of Instagrammers are now sharing photos and videos from outside of the United States, so we wanted to also share the most-Instagrammed cities in the world.”

Three of the top 10 most Instagrammed cities are in California. You’ll find photos ranging from selfies to sunsets in Los Angeles (No. 3), San Diego (No. 8), and San Francisco (No. 10).

Most Instagrammed locations and cities include, from left: Los Angeles; Disneyland; and San Diego. UCSB, right, aspires to be on the list. Credit: Patricia Marroquin (L.A., Disneyland, San Diego); UCSB Housing (sandcastle snowman).

While UCSB didn’t make the top 10 location list, it’s no slouch when it comes to being Instagrammed. We did a search on Instagram for the hashtag “ucsb,” and discovered a whopping 106,277 posts. 

Staples Center. Credit: Patricia MarroquinGrad students, how many of the locations and cities below have you Instagrammed?

To read more, go to Instagram’s Most Instagrammed Locations and Cities of 2013 blog post. You can also view Instagram’s 2012 list.



1. Siam Paragon, Bangkok

2. Times Square, New York

3. Disneyland, Anaheim, California

4. Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas

5. Disney World Florida

6. Staples Center, Los Angeles

7. Central Park, New York

8. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

9. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok

Entrance to the Mirage Love Theater, Las Vegas. Credit: Patricia Marroquin10. The High Line, New York


1. New York

2. Bangkok

3. Los Angeles

4. London

5. São Paulo

6. Moscow

7. Rio de Janeiro

8. San Diego, California

9. Las Vegas

10. San Francisco


At the time of publication of this article, we found more than 106,000 Instagram entries with the #ucsb hashtag.


Thanksgiving: Practicing Gratitude

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." ~G.K. Chesterton

Happiness blocksCredit: Microsoft Office

Practicing gratitude (e.g., giving thanks) is a great way to improve how you feel and increase your level of happiness (see "The Neuroscience of Why Gratitude Makes Us Happier").

Take time this Thanksgiving to share what you are thankful for. Better yet, make this a weekly or daily habit. It will improve your mood and the mood of the people you share with.

Here are some resources to help you practice gratitude:

What are you grateful for?


Advice for First-Year Graduate Students

As a first-year student, you are probably familiar by now with the whirlwind that we call graduate school. Now, it's time to be proactive and make the most out of your first year in graduate school.

The Chronicle logo

In the Chronicle of Higher Education article, "Your First Year in a Ph.D. Program," Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong share their tips and advice for making the most of your first year experience. Here is a list of what they recommend:

  • Make sure you know your departmental requirements and what milestones you need to complete.
  • Get involved in your department (e.g., attend events, take on a leadership role, participate in organizations).
  • Create a support group.
  • Make use of the professional development opportunities offered by your department and university (see the GradPost Events page to stay up-to-date on the latest events).
  • Make sure your advisor is a good fit for you and your research. If he or she is not a good fit, start looking for another advisor as soon as possible.
  • Join professional organizations and follow their news.
  • Talk with and learn from advanced doctoral students.
  • Build your network.

I found Vick's and Furlong's advice to be very helpful and straightforward. I recommend reading the full article to learn more about how you can make the most of your first year in graduate school.

If you have questions or need additional advice, feel free to contact any of the Graduate Division Peer Advisors.


Your Research Matters

Too many times I have talked with graduate students who are truly passionate about their research but feel that their research is not something worth sharing with a general audience.

Yet, all research matters - whether you are exploring racial tensions on plantations, examining the intersection of literacy and cognitive science, or developing biomedical devices using less expensive technologies. So, how can you change your mindset to start realizing the value your research brings to the general public?

First, stop differentiating between disciplines (e.g., "I'm in a Humanities discipline, people don't really care about my work. They care more about Science."). This just puts you in an "us versus them" excuse mindset and allows you to get away with being a victim of your discipline.

Second, figure out how your work impacts the world. Keep asking yourself, "Why do people care about my research?" rather than focusing on "Does my research matter to the general public?" Think about the broader impact of your work. A good friend of mine had trouble sharing the value of her research on wireless networks. Could you imagine if wireless networks broke down or, on the flip side, became more powerful? Think about how many students use wireless devices in classrooms around the world. That has a huge impact in education alone.

If you are in a Humanities discipline, you are conducting research that gets at the very foundations of what it means to be human (take that Scientists!). If you are in Education, well that's easy, none of us would be here without high quality educational experiences.

Third, think about how your research can appeal to peoples' emotions and intellectual curiosity. The general public is not typically a big fan of numbers and data analysis. Instead, people want a story that they can connect with - one that warms their hearts or sparks their intellectual curiosity (see Making it Stick: Emotion Matters). How does your research do this?

Fourth, and finally, share your research (in plain English) with the public. Present at conferences and talk with friends, family, and anyone else who will listen. The more you talk about your research and negotiate what you are trying to say, the better you will understand the impact of what you do.


Meningococcal Cases Update 

The following is an updated public health message from Student Health Executive Director and Campus Physician Dr. Mary Ferris. This is an update to an initial campus notification. For further information, visit the Student Health website and Student Health's Meningitis Health Alert Health Advisory page. Also, view a video interview below, conducted today, Nov. 21, with Dr. Ferris.

November 21, 2013

To: Campus Community

From:  Mary Ferris, MD, Student Health Executive Director and Campus Physician

Re: Meningococcal Cases Update

Three cases of meningococcal disease in UCSB students have now been confirmed. Two of the cases are recovering well, and the other remains under treatment. We now know that the first two cases were caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroup (type) B. UCSB is working closely with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, the California Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate these cases and prevent further spread of disease. Close contacts of the cases have been notified and are receiving prophylactic treatment.

At this time, Public Health has not made any recommendation to cancel activities or scheduled events on campus. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates. 

Members of the community are urged to seek urgent medical attention for symptoms that could be meningococcal disease: high fever, severe headaches with vomiting or sensitivity to light, unusual rash or mental confusion.

Preventing the spread

There are several ways that the community can help to prevent the spread of infectious illnesses. We recommend that students and community members:

  • Avoid sharing eating utensils, cups, water bottles or other items contaminated by the saliva or respiratory secretions of others.
  • Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Stay home when sick and avoid other people who are ill, if possible.


The meningococcal vaccines licensed in the United States provide protection against four different serogroups (types) of the meningococcal infections (A, C, Y, and W-135). There is currently no licensed vaccine in the United States that protects against serogroup B, so students who have been vaccinated against bacterial meningitis are still vulnerable to infection with serogroup B.

There is a serogroup B vaccine, that is not licensed in the United States and has not been evaluated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and efficacy. Santa Barbara County Public Health, UCSB, CDPH and CDC have already had preliminary discussions about the vaccine, and will be closely monitoring the situation involving Princeton University, where the use of the vaccine is being planned.

Meningitis immunization is still recommended for any student who has not had this shot at age 16 or above. It is available at Student Health Tuesdays 9 to 11 a.m. and Fridays 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. along with annual flu shots. We will also be offering these shots at the UCEN for students on Tuesday, Nov. 26,  from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

UCSB Student Health is open for Urgent Care and Appointments weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with later opening on Wednesdays at 9 a.m. After-hours and weekend care are available near the campus at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and several urgent care centers. A full listing of locations, including directions, is available on the UCSB Student Health website (

Questions and answers can be found on the UCSB Student Health website along with an informative video interview with Dr. Mary Ferris (

  • Students with urgent questions and concerns can contact our Advice Nurses, in person on a drop-in basis or through confidential email at the Student Health Gateway website.
  • Parents are directed to visit the UCSB Student Health website, where information will be continually updated. Parents with urgent questions may call Student Health at 805-893-5339.

Further information can be found on these website links: UCSB Student Health, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, California Department of Public Health, and  Centers for Disease Control (CDC)





Important Public Health Notice Regarding Meningococcal Disease

The following is an important public health message from campus physician Dr. Mary Ferris and Dr. Charity Thoman, Deputy Health Officer at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. For further information, visit the Student Health website and Student Health's Meningitis Health Alert Health Advisory page.

November 18, 2013

To: Campus Community 

From: Mary Ferris, MD Student Health Executive Director and Campus Physician; and Charity Thoman, MD, MPH, Deputy Health Officer, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department

Re: Important Public Health Notice

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has just confirmed a second case of meningococcal disease in UCSB students in the past week, which can cause meningitis and other life-threatening complications. While this does not qualify as an outbreak, we advise all students, faculty and staff to be aware that sudden symptoms of very high fever, severe headache and stiff neck, unusual rash, with vomiting should prompt you to seek urgent medical attention.

Dr. Mary FerrisWhile we do not believe the campus community is at risk from this disease, we want to alert everyone to its presence so that we can help students who may be affected by these developments.

UCSB Student Health is working with the Public Health Department to notify and treat anyone who is found to be at risk from their contact with the affected students. Close contact is exposure to the ill person’s respiratory secretions through sharing of eating utensils, cigarettes, kissing, or close face-to-face prolonged contact.  To prevent the spread of all infectious disease, frequent hand-washing and avoiding sharing of drinking cups and smoking devices is recommended.

Meningitis immunization will provide protection from some strains of this infection. Students are advised to check their past medical records to determine if they have had this shot at age 16 or above. If not, Student Health has the meningitis vaccine available on a walk-in basis Tuesdays 9 to 11 a.m. and Fridays 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. along with annual flu shots. We will also be offering these shots at the UCEN for students on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The cost of these shots is 100% covered by Gaucho Health Insurance, and for other students can be billed to your BARC account. Public Health laboratory testing has determined that the first case of meningococcal disease at UCSB was caused by a strain not included in the vaccine. Further testing is being conducted.

This disease rarely affects older adults, and at this time no immunizations are recommended for non-students. Faculty or staff who may have been exposed to the infected individuals and are determined to be at any risk will be notified.

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