Student Profiles

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Linguistics Ph.D. Student and Professional Development Peer Advisor Shawn Warner-Garcia

    By Patricia Marroquin, Graduate Division Communications Director
    July 11, 2014

    shawn warner garciaShawn Warner-Garcia with son Austin

    It was probably inevitable that Shawn Warner-Garcia would pursue an education in a communication-related field. Shawn’s mother is a speech pathologist and her father is a journalist. Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, she had many opportunities to travel with her family and her church, “which has cultivated my respect and enthusiasm for cultural and linguistic diversity,” she said. She is also a performer, classically trained as a vocal musician. Shawn calls upon all of these skills and passions in her roles as a UCSB 5th-year Linguistics Ph.D. student and the Graduate Division’s new Professional Development Peer.

    After graduating from high school, Shawn left the Sunshine State and moved to the Lone Star State, where she earned two degrees from two Texas universities: a BA in Language and Linguistics from Baylor University in Waco, and an MA in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin.

    When she moved to Texas she didn’t know a soul, but she soon met “some of the most wonderful friends and mentors.” Texans, she said on her website, “really do have a special brand of genuineness and camaraderie.”

    She ended up marrying “one of those amazing Texans,” Jonathan Garcia, who she says has been “incredibly supportive” as she pursues her Linguistics studies, specializing in Sociocultural Linguistics with interdisciplinary emphases in Language, Interaction, and Social Organization; Applied Linguistics; and Feminist Studies. The couple live with their 8-month-old son Austin in UCSB Family Student Housing.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Materials Ph.D. Student Leah Kuritzky Is Helping to Change the World of Lighting Forever

    By Kyle Crocco, Graduate Division Funding Peer
    May 19, 2014

    leah traffic lightLeah Kuritzky

    Meet Leah Kuritzky, a third-year Ph.D. student in Materials. She is going to change the world of lighting as we know it forever.

    Leah grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Chemistry, and is now a researcher on the cutting edge of solid-state lighting. Recently, she wowed the general public and other participants at the Grad Slam with a three-minute talk on her research on laser lighting applications.

    In her talk, Leah said lasers could be used to mitigate the energy crisis. Twenty-two percent of U.S. electricity consumption goes to lighting, she said. The current state of art in efficient lighting is the LED light bulb, but as we increase LED brightness, the efficiency drops.

    So how can you get high brightness, high efficiency, and low cost? Lasers. Her research is focused on the atomic scale of laser materials to improve efficiency, so that in the future we can reduce energy consumption and light the world.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • UCSB’s First Feminist Studies Ph.D. to Be Awarded on Sunday, to Carly Thomsen

    By Patricia Marroquin, Graduate Division Communications Director
    June 10, 2014 

    carly thomsen spencer bruttigCarly Thomsen

    Carly holds another honor as the 2014 winner of UC Santa Barbara’s Winifred and Louis Lancaster Dissertation Award for Social Sciences. Her dissertation, “Unbecoming Visibility Politics and Queer Morality,” focuses on tensions and estrangement among and between LGBTQ women in the Midwest and mainstream gay rights organizations.

    Carly – who will move to Houston after graduation for a two-year postdoctoral appointment at the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Rice University – praised her department and her advisor for their guidance throughout the program.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Deborah Barany

    By Torrey Trust, Graduate Division Academic Peer
    May 9, 2014

    barany watsonsbayDeborah Barany

    Deborah Barany, a third-year student in the new interdepartmental graduate program in Dynamical Neuroscience, is conducting research on how the brain integrates and organizes relevant information to produce successful action. Deborah recently participated in the Grad Slam - a campuswide competition for the best three-minute research talk. Her presentation wowed the audience and judges and she took home one of the top prizes. Deborah has an M.A. in Psychology from UCSB and a B.A. in Neuroscience and Mathematics from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Read on to learn more about Deborah's research and experiences in graduate school.

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

    The overall goal of my research in the Action Lab is to understand how the human brain controls goal-directed movement. My work so far has focused on using fMRI and machine learning algorithms to analyze the patterns of brain activity associated with different components of simple movements (for example, an object’s location, movement direction, or hand posture). By looking at these patterns, we can infer the large-scale representations of movement across many brain regions. Researching questions in motor control with fMRI and other neuroimaging techniques has quite a few practical challenges, but it ultimately allows us to better understand how the brain integrates and organizes relevant information to produce successful action, and how this underlying organization might differ in people with movement disorders.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

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

    By Kyle Crocco, Graduate Division Funding Peer
    June 2, 2014

    kara smootKara Smoot

    If 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.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Commencement Student Speaker Lucile Savary Wants You to Take Advantage of Your Time Right Now

    By Kyle Crocco, Graduate Division Funding Peer
    June 11, 2014

    lucile savaryLucile Savary

    You probably don't know Lucile Savary, a graduate student in Physics, who will be this year’s UCSB commencement speaker. For the past six years, she has been busy studying condensed matter theory, and in the fall, she will continue her research as a postdoc at M.I.T. She’s also a French citizen.

    Unlike other French citizens, Lucile decided to pursue her graduate studies in the United States, which is very unusual, since most French graduate students in the sciences stay in France.

    On the website for the Balent's Group, a research group in the Physics Department at UCSB that conducts theoretical studies of condensed matter, Lucille's interests are listed as “impurity effects in frustrated magnets,” “quantum order-by-disorder,” “quantum spin liquids in quantum spin ice,” and “quantum criticality in iridium pyrochlores.” I was eager to find out if this had anything to do with time travel or teleportation.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Grad Slam Winner James Allen

    By Torrey Trust, Graduate Division Academic Peer

    May 30, 2014

    james allen portraitJames Allen

    James 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.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: David Hallowell

    By Torrey Trust, Graduate Division Academic Peer
    January 31, 2014

    david hallowellDavid Hallowell

    David Hallowell, a second-year Ph.D. student in Education, is working on a project that he hopes will be a "game changer" for math education. David has a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior from UC Irvine and a Master's degree in Philosophy from Boston College. His research explores spatial reasoning in math and science education. David was also a Fulbright Fellow in Vienna, Austria, during the 2005-2006 school year. 

    When David is not playing with Legos and robots, exploring the night sky with his telescope, or preparing thought-provoking lectures for his sections, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Amanda, and two children. Read on to learn more about David's research, graduate school experiences, and future plans. 

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Lara Deek

    By Torrey Trust, Graduate Division Academic Peer
    January 24, 2014

    lara deekLara Deek

    If you use a smartphone, tablet, laptop, smart watch, or even Google Glass to access the Internet, then you know how valuable wireless networks are. However, with increasingly more individuals using wireless networks for transmitting and receiving data, these networks are becoming overcrowded (like the 405 freeway during rush hour). Luckily, we have students at UCSB working to solve this very problem.

    Lara Deek, a Ph.D. candidate in the Computer Science department, is conducting research on designing more efficient and powerful wireless systems for emerging wireless networks. Lara has a B.S. in Computer and Communications Engineering from the American University of Beirut. Read on to learn more about Lara's research and her plans for being at the forefront of innovation in wireless solutions.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Jonathan Jones

    By Torrey Trust, Graduate Division Academic Peer
    March 8, 2014

    jonathan jonesJonathan Jones

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

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

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

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

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Rachel Koltun

    By Torrey Trust, Graduate Division Academic Peer
    February 15, 2014

    rachel koltunRachel Koltun

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

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

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

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

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • UCSB Grad Student Matt Cieslak on Team Studying Concussion-Related Brain Injury in NFL-GE Funded Research

    By Patricia Marroquin, Graduate Division Communications Director
    January 26, 2014

    With Super Bowl a week away, football is on the minds of many fans of the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. While they are preoccupied with party planning, player stats, and office pools, investigators at UCSB’s Brain Imaging Center are doing innovative research into brain injuries such as the concussions sustained during football games.

    matt cieslakMatt Cieslak

    Officials of the Head Health Challenge, a $60 million research initiative begun last year through an alliance between the National Football League and GE, announced last week that the imaging center’s Director, Professor Scott Grafton, has been named the winner of a $300,000 research grant.

    The Head Health initiative aims to advance the development of technologies to detect early-stage mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) and improve brain protection. These first-round grants, awarded to 16 recipients out of more than 400 entries from 27 countries, support innovation in testing and treatments that could help not only football players, but also military service members and others who sustain such brain injuries.

    “Our effort is in developing imaging methods that serve as biomarkers for mild brain injury,” Director Grafton, a Professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said in an Office of Public Affairs and Communications news release. “Once you have a biomarker, you have a whole new toolbox for identifying appropriate therapies.”

    Helping to work on that toolbox is Matthew Cieslak, a 4th-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost.

  • On Land or at Sea, NOAA Winner Lindsay Marks Is Drawn to Science

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published August 28, 2013

    marks field underwater Lindsay Marks has done extensive dive surveys at the Channel Islands for her dissertation research.

    Whether collecting bowls of hail with her brother in New Zealand or samples of seaweed with other researchers in Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Lindsay Marks has had a curiosity about science throughout her life.

    That curiosity was fostered by her parents, college professors Rick and Joyce Marks, who made it their mission to expose Lindsay and younger brother Rob to the world through annual vacations to new places and even by living abroad, where they visited 33 countries in 13 months.

    Lindsay, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Ecology, Evolution, and Marine BiologyDepartment, recently learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries that she was among three graduate students nationwide to be awarded a Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship.

    Lindsay Marks has done extensive dive surveys at the Channel Islands for her dissertation research.The scholarship recipients are graduate-level scholars studying marine biology, coastal resource management, and maritime archaeology. They will receive an annual stipend of $30,000; an annual education allowance of up to $12,000; and are eligible for up to $10,000 to support a four- to six-week research collaboration at a NOAA facility. Doctoral students are eligible to continue the scholarship program for four years and master’s students for two years.

    The program, in its 13th year, is highly competitive. Lindsay was among about 250 applicants for the three awards. A panel of NOAA scientists reviewed and scored the applications based on such factors as academic excellence, recommendations, research, career goals, and financial need.

    The scholarship program “is an exceptional opportunity to develop the next generation of NOAA scientists at the start of their careers,” Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, said in a NOAA news release. “I am confident that these scholars and their research will provide new knowledge to enhance the work and mission of the National Marine Sanctuary System.”

    Lindsay’s dissertation research focuses on the impact a recently introduced invasive seaweed is having on local kelp forest ecosystems.

    Although this scientist spends a lot of time underwater for her research, she makes the time on dry land to cultivate relationships with other students. Because of their shared experiences, these friends are a great support network and a source of inspiration for Lindsay.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Ryan Bulis’ Master’s Thesis Is Not Your ‘Garden Variety’ Grad School Project

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published July 19, 2013

    Ryan Wildman
    Ryan Bulis' "Garden Variety" installation contains references to the "Green Man," or "Wild Man." Credit: Patricia Marroquin

    Ryan Anthony Bulis’ master’s project had its roots in kitschy garden statuary. Ryan, who earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in June, took an underutilized outdoor museum space at UCSB and transformed it into a whimsical attraction with items to catch both the eye and the imagination: lawn jockeys, gnomes, topiaries, even a curious “Green Man.” He calls his installation “Garden Variety,” but there’s nothing commonplace about it.

    Ryan explains the significance of each item to the garden, and the cultural differences in garden spaces throughout history. His research included looks at Roman gardens, Italian Renaissance gardens, English landscape gardens, Chinese gardens, and Japanese gardens. What intrigued Ryan was how gardens through the ages have had the power to unite the wildness of nature with the civility of mankind.

    Throughout the garden, Ryan has placed informational signage. In “The Garden and History” sign at the entrance, he writes:

    “The Garden is a familiar place. Biblically, paradise was described as the Garden of Eden, while Ancient Greeks saw the garden as a site for carnal celebration. Grecian garden parties were a way to honor Dionysus, god of wine, ecstasy, and madness. Shakespeare’s use of the garden in ‘The Winter’s Tale’ suggests that the garden is a place between the orgy of Dionysus and the purity of Eden. The understanding was that the garden was a private place where half-civilized behavior could take place while embracing one’s inner satyr.”

    The peaceful plot of fancy is tucked away at the top of a flight of stairs overlooking the UCSB Lagoon and is just outside the Art, Design & Architecture Museum. At the garden’s center is a rectangular bed of grass, filled with colorful ceramic mushrooms and gnomes, most of which Ryan created; a bright flowerbed; a trio of lawn jockeys; and scattered seashells. Around the edges of the garden are yet more statuary; interactive lawn games; wooden benches; topiaries and chia plants; and a “Green Man” mask hung on the brick wall.

    Ryan’s “Garden Variety” project was initially part of the museum’s “Inside Out: 2013 UCSB Master of Fine Arts” exhibition, held from May 25 to June 16. The exhibition displayed the works, in a variety of mediums and techniques, of graduating MFA students. Those 2013 Department of Art graduates are listed here. Although Ryan’s garden was meant to be temporary, it still stands. He said it is likely to remain up for the summer. Because of the openness and interactivity of the space, however, it is susceptible to theft and damage, which have occurred since its installation, Ryan said.

    Ryan, who recently earned his MFA from UCSB and holds a BA in Fine Art (2009) from UC Davis, says he’s fortunate to have secured a teaching fellowship at UC Santa Barbara for the 2013-14 academic year. He is teaching in the College of Creative Studies and for the Art Department.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Jennifer Guerrero: Scientist, Cook, Runner, and Role Model

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published April 26, 2013

    Jennifer Guerrero
    Jennifer Guerrero in the Daugherty lab. Photo Credit: Sylvia Lanati

    If it hadn’t been for a visit to the campus in 2009 for College of Engineering Graduate Study Preview Day, Jennifer Guerrero might not be working in a UCSB laboratory today doing important research on engineered enzymes that could potentially be used to treat patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

    While she was an undergraduate studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA (B.S., 2010), a professor there encouraged her to visit UCSB and apply to graduate school here. During her Preview Day visit to UCSB, she was impressed with the research being conducted here as well as the “highly collaborative atmosphere” she found between faculty and departments. In addition, it pleased her to hear from UCSB grad students that they were able to strike a good balance between their research work and their extracurricular activities.

    Jennifer—a native of Montebello just east of downtown L.A. and the daughter of two educators—returned to UCSB in the summer of 2010 as a participant in the Summer Doctoral Research Institute (SDRI) program before beginning her graduate studies here. The goal of SDRI, geared toward first-year underrepresented graduate students, was to provide students “with the opportunity to begin a course of research prior to fall quarter enrollment,” according to a welcome letter at the time by Graduate Division’s Admissions and Outreach Director Walter Boggan. “You will enjoy the benefits of hands-on mentoring, advance introduction to your respective program and departmental expectations, and early exposure to the professional academic environment that is UC Santa Barbara,” he wrote to them.

    The SDRI program enabled Jennifer to work for eight weeks in Dr. Patrick Daugherty’s lab identifying peptides that bind to Herceptin, an antibody used in the treatment of breast cancer. “Being able to rotate in the Daugherty lab for the summer allowed me to determine if the lab was a good fit for my graduate studies before choosing my advisor in the fall,” she said.

    Jennifer began her graduate studies in Chemical Engineering with an emphasis in Biotechnology armed with a newly won NSF fellowship, which she had applied to during her last year as an undergrad at UCLA. She attributes her success at winning the fellowship to her outreach efforts through such organizations as SOLES (a UCLA chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, or SHPE) and SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science). “The NSF review criteria are based on broader impacts in addition to intellectual merit,” she explained. “Having the NSF fellowship has allowed me to work on a project that is high-risk and maybe less likely to receive grant funding.”

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Physics Ph.D. Alum Kohl Gill: How His Career Path Took Him From Science Labs to Labor Rights

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published February 13, 2013

    Kohl GillUCSB Physics Ph.D. alum Dr. Kohl S. Gill addresses students in a Career Day Colloquium titled Physics, Policy, and Phoneson Jan. 29 at Broida Hall. Photo credit: Patricia Marroquin

    As a 22-year-old Caltech undergrad applying to UCSB’s Physics Ph.D. program, Kohl Gill had a specific career destination in mind and a clear route to get there. In his Statement of Purpose, he wrote:

    “As I entered Caltech four years ago, my intention was to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Physics leading to a doctorate and eventually to a position in academia or industry. Though I keep these options in mind, my experience here at Caltech has opened my eyes to a more personally rewarding alternative – a career serving our country in shaping science policy. When I asked Jack Smith about students considering science policy, the former astronaut and senator replied: ‘Before going into politics, become an expert in something else.’ I realize I will need a Ph.D. in Physics to effectively pursue my goal. More than just a degree, it is crucial that I contribute to a body of thorough, respectable research in a relevant field and acquire the contemporary expertise so necessary for policy decisions.”

    “This is not the typical Statement of Purpose to graduate school,” UCSB Physics Professor Mark Sherwin quipped to laughter from the audience as he introduced Gill for a Career Day Colloquium titled “Physics, Policy, and Phones” on Jan. 29 at Broida Hall. Kohl did go on to earn his Ph.D. from UCSB in 2005, and he did have that rewarding career in science policy in Washington, D.C. But as sometimes happens, one can decide to veer off the main career superhighway in pursuit of another passion. And that’s what Kohl S. Gill did when he founded LaborVoices, a Bay Area-based startup that aims to eliminate human trafficking and other labor abuses in India and elsewhere in the world using a simple device: a mobile phone.

    Gill made the most of his 7 1/2 years in graduate school at UCSB. When not working in Dr. Sherwin’s quantum information science research group, he took Punjabi courses (his family’s home language), studied Judo, and did volunteer work for Santa Barbara’s foster care program.

    Gill has always been passionate about two things: fighting corruption and advocating for transparency. So after earning his Ph.D. in 2005, he traveled to his parents’ native India, where he rented a place in a Delhi slum for $30 a month and worked there for a year as a transparency and governance fellow with the nonprofit Indicorps. In this role, he helped to enforce good governance as a volunteer paralegal advocate.  

    Back in the States, Gill spent several years in Washington, D.C., as a Senior Policy Analyst for the U.S. Department of Energy and a labor diplomat in the U.S. State Department focusing on international labor rights and corporate social responsibility.  “The bulk of what I did at the Department of Energy involved the science of science policy,” said Gill, adding that this is an “emerging field that analyzes how science is being done.”  The role, he said, involves “turning the microscope onto scientists ourselves and seeing how we work, why we work and don’t work together, and how innovation actually happens.”

    Weary of a 6-year-old long-distance relationship with his partner, 2003 UCSB Electrical and Computer Engineering Ph.D. alum Maura Raburn, Gill left D.C. and returned to California to reunite with her in the Silicon Valley city of Sunnyvale. It was there that encouragement from others and a strong desire to fight injustice led him to found LaborVoices in May 2010.

    LaborVoices collects anonymous feedback from factory workers via their mobile phones and other mobile technology on such issues as wages, treatment, and worker safety. The feedback is then sent to the companies that do business with these factories as part of their supply chains.

    “We help brands detect emerging risks and choose the best suppliers, help factories attract and keep the best workers, and help workers to help each other make better decisions, avoiding abusive situations,” Gill has said about LaborVoices.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Chicano Studies Ph.D. Recipient Carrasco Joins CNN as Political Commentator

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published November 7, 2012

    Dr. Tomas Carrasco with his doctoral co-chair, Dr. George Lipsitz.Dr. Tomas Carrasco with his doctoral co-chair, Dr. George Lipsitz.

    One by one, UCSB alum Tomas Avila Carrasco is ticking the boxes on his checklist of dreams and goals. Several months ago, Tomas made history when he and fellow UCSB students Jessie Turner and José G. Anguiano Cortez became the first grad students in the world to earn Ph.D.s in Chicana(o) Studies. This distinction helped him reach another milestone: a full-time tenure track position as an American Ethnic Studies Professor, at Santa Barbara City College. And now Dr. Tomas Carrasco, who is also an actor and co-founder of the comedy troupe Chicano Secret Service, can add yet another title to his resume: Online Political Commentator for CNN.

    How did Tomas, who was born and raised in Oxnard, get from Ph.D. to CNN? His journey from one acronym to the next involved an old friend of Tomas’: actor-comedian-film producer John Leguizamo, Tomas told the GradPost in a telephone interview recently. Tomas and Leguizamo became friends in the mid-1990s when both appeared in a short-lived Latino-oriented comedy-variety TV show on Fox, “House of Buggin’.” They remained friends, and the two men reconnected a few years ago when Leguizamo came to UC Santa Barbara to perform at Campbell Hall.

    At that time, Tomas told Leguizamo about his dreams to be a full-time ethnic studies professor and a political commentator. “I think America needs a smart Latino commentator talking about the demographic revolution,” Tomas said he told the actor. Leguizamo agreed that it was a great idea.

    Fast forward to this past summer, when Tomas made history with his Chicano Studies Ph.D., then accepted an offer to teach at Santa Barbara City College. Tomas shot an email to his friend Leguizamo, titling it: “Dr. Tomas ‘I Want What I Want’ Carrasco.” In Tomas’ email, he sought advice from Leguizamo on how he could get into “the national conversation as an intellectual and a commentator” for a news network. Leguizamo asked Tomas to meet him at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, where they discussed strategies for achieving his dream.

    Leguizamo put Tomas in touch with a senior editor at CNN. The editor was impressed with Tomas’ credentials and ideas for opinion pieces spanning topics in mass media, immigration, and pop culture. Since the editor was looking for new, fresh voices, he thought Tomas would be a perfect fit.

    Tomas, who expects his first article to appear within a month, describes the type of writing he will do as factual and very positive. He wants to help “change the image of Latinos and Latinas in America” to show that “we’re an economic pillar and that we contribute immensely to this economy.” Subjects he will explore include the demographic revolution involving Latinos and Asian Americans; the reasons Latino cultures (Cuban, Mexican, Chicano, Puerto Rican, etc.) affiliate themselves with certain political parties and candidates to “let America know that we are very diverse among the Latino community”; and the inequitable distribution of tax dollars to prisons versus education. Since Tomas will be doing his own research and prefers quality over quantity, he expects to write an article once every two to three months.

    Tomas points to his Ph.D. in Chicana(o) Studies as a big factor in getting the CNN job. Having that degree “goes along with my pitch that I’m cutting edge – academically, intellectually, and culturally,” he said.

    He also praises the mentors and faculty he worked with in his Ph.D. program at UCSB. Among those he thanks are Maria Herrera Sobek, Mario Garcia, George Lipsitz (“a humble man and one of the most well-known and respected scholars in the U.S.”) and Aida Hurtado (who as Luis Leal Endowed Chair of the Chicana(o) Studies Department “has created a very positive and nurturing intellectual community”).

    Tomas said he finds a similar “positive student culture” and vibrant energy at his new place of employment, Santa Barbara City College. At City College, Tomas teaches four classes: two classes of Racism in America and two classes of Chicano Studies.

    He enjoys teaching his Chicano Studies class, using the landmark book “Occupied America, A History of Chicanos,” by Rodolfo “Rudy” Acuna. Tomas intertwines media, local Santa Barbara history, and national politics. He said the beauty of teaching Chicano Studies is that he not only teaches history, but “we teach students to read the world, to become global citizens” by analyzing race, class, and gender. “I learned that at UCSB in the Ph.D. program,” Tomas said.

    Both the Racism in America and Chicano Studies classes are “hard topics,” Tomas said. So he uses some of his acting and performing skills along with satire to liven it up. At the same time his students are laughing, they are learning theories and analysis. He also teaches respect. “It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing; it’s about dialogue, about talking about issues in a very respectful context,” Tomas said.

    One of the next goals Tomas has set for himself is to parlay his online commentator role into an on-air commentator job, in which he would be called upon as an expert on immigration, media, and other issues.

    Through his teaching, mentoring, writing, performing, and commentating, Tomas said he wants to show that “it’s not bad to be different.” This multitalented scholar is an example of just that.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Peer Mentoring: Grad Students Discuss the Challenges and Rewards

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published October 26, 2012

    Grad student mentor Sameh Helmy assists Carmen SeguraGrad student mentor Sameh Helmy assists Carmen Segura

    The definition of “mentor” is a wise and trusted teacher or counselor, someone who shares their knowledge and wisdom with a colleague who is less knowledgeable. The definition implies that the mentee is the only one who benefits. But if you talk with mentors, you’ll quickly learn that they often gain just as much if not more from the experiences as those they’ve counseled. 

    That’s what we found when we interviewed several UCSB grad student mentors and a couple of their mentees. What follows, in a two-part series, are their accounts of peer mentoring experiences, from the challenges and obstacles to the triumphs and rewards.

    Interviews were conducted with UCSB grad student mentors Sameh HelmyHannah GoodwinLauren Winczewski, and Peter Burks; and mentees Carmen Segura and Briana McKoy.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Googling Emily Moxley: UCSB Ph.D. Alum Is on a Search for Knowledge at Google

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published September 6, 2012

    Emily Moxley earned her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UCSB in 2009Emily Moxley earned her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UCSB in 2009

    Enter “Emily Moxley” into the Google search engine, and you won’t find: “UC Santa Barbara Ph.D. alum who works hard, enjoys collaboration, is creative and curious. Making her mark in the traditionally male-dominated technology field as a Product Manager at Google.”

    It just goes to show that a Google search isn’t foolproof.

    While we were able to Google up some information about Emily, including her work on the Knowledge Graph at Google; her UCSB Ph.D. thesis, “Multimedia Annotation Through Search and Mining”; a Google video in which she and other executives explain how their search product Knowledge Graph works (view the video at the end of this article); even a photograph of her as a child with her first computer, we also learned about Emily the old-fashioned way: We interviewed her.

    Emily earned her Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UCSB in 2009, and her MSE in Electrical and Computer Engineering here in 2007. She came to UCSB from Princeton University, where she earned a BSE in Electrical Engineering in 2005 while finding time to serve as Princeton Class Treasurer for four years and as a member of the Graduation Committee to plan an event for 7,000 guests.

    Emily – who went straight from UCSB to a company many consider to be a dream employer, Google – says she enjoys applying what she learned in Santa Barbara to concepts in Silicon Valley that are used by “billions of people.”

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost

  • Chris Donlay: Pursuing a Linguistics Ph.D. Proves to Be Fulfilling for Former Top eBay Exec

    By Patricia Marroquin, UCSB GradPost 
    Originally published August 22, 2012

    Chris Donlay, doctoral student in Linguistics, documents Katso, a language in ChinaChris Donlay, doctoral student in Linguistics, documents Katso, a language in China

    Chris Donlay traveled the globe in his high-profile role as Vice President of International Corporate Communications for eBay. He was a voice for the online auction company, being quoted all over the world on such matters as Internet scams, PayPal outages, Asia expansion plans, patent suits, and controversial auctions for flu vaccine vials and facial tattoo ads. But no winning bid could give Chris what was missing in his life: a deep passion for his career. 

    As a child growing up in Kansas, Chris was fascinated with languages, learning several in school, an interest that served him well later in his international corporate career. Before coming to eBay in 2005, Chris worked at global PR company Hill & Knowlton in New York City; managed a start-up agency with a friend; and did corporate public relations for HBO.

    Chris’ main responsibility at eBay was to help the international sites. “When I started, there were 5, when I left 25,” he said. “The eBay concept is based on very American values, and so we had to find a way to communicate them in a way that would appeal to people in other cultures,” Chris said. The job necessitated frequent travel to Europe and Asia. “At one time I was flying to Shanghai once a month,” he said.

    He also handled other corporate issues such as acquisitions, financial announcements, and crisis communications, meaning “I was on call 24/7,” said Chris.

    The pace was hectic, “and frankly after 5 years I was burned out,” he said. “So I began to think about a new career, and quickly settled on Linguistics.” Chris – who holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science & East Asian Language and Culture from the University of Kansas and an MBA in Marketing/International Business from New York University – left eBay in 2006 to return to school. Believing he needed to learn the basics of Linguistics in order to credibly apply to a Ph.D. program, he enrolled at San Jose State University and earned a master’s degree in Linguistics in 2008. He entered UCSB’s Linguistics Ph.D. program later that year. Chris advanced to candidacy in June 2011 and expects to receive his Ph.D. in Spring 2014.

    Some colleagues were surprised at his big career turn. “But the people closest to me knew that I wanted a change,” he said, and Linguistics was a “natural evolution.” The move would also satisfy another one of his goals: to lead “a much less stressful lifestyle.”

    Earlier this month, Chris, 50, learned that he was one of six recipients of a doctoral dissertation research award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) as part of the agencies’ ongoing Documenting Endangered Languages program.

    The $15,078 award will assist Chris as he documents Katso, a language in China with just 5,000 speakers. His research project, "A Grammar of the Katso Language in Yunnan, China," under the direction of Dr. Carol Genetti, currently the Acting Dean of UCSB’s Graduate Division, will contribute to the understanding of language contact and change.

    Read the full article on the UCSB GradPost