Graduate Division

Public Impact Fellowship

Section 1

Overview

Public Impact Fellowships highlight and support doctoral or MFA students whose current research has the potential for substantial impact in the public sphere. Ideal candidates will be involved in research designed to significantly improve or enrich the lives of Californians and/or national and global communities.

All Schools are eligible to nominate students to compete for a total of 14 fellowships. Four Public Impact Distinguished Fellows will each receive $12,000. Ten Public Impact Fellows will each receive $1,000. Awarded students may choose to accept their awards during Winter or Spring quarter, or over both quarters, at their discretion. 

School nominations must be submitted to the Graduate Division by 12:00pm on Friday, October 25, 2019Students should consult with their program's graduate affairs staff member before applying, as Schools and programs typically set earlier internal deadlines.

Please use the following forms in preparing nominations:

Award Info

Graduate Division Public Impact Distinguished Fellowships: $12,000 to be used as a stipend

Graduate Division Public Impact Fellowships: $1,000 to be used as a stipend

Students who receive full $12,000 awards may not be appointed as ASEs during the award period, but may be appointed as GSRs. Students who receive $1,000 honorable mention awards may be appointed as ASEs or GSRs.

Eligibility

For UC Irvine Public Impact Fellowships, nominees must, at minimum, meet the following criteria:

  1. Have a minimum graduate-level UCI GPA of 3.7
  2. Be a current, full-time doctoral or MFA student 
  3. If a doctoral student, be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. by October 25, 2019
  4. Conduct research that has critical public impact. (Examples of relevant research include studies that aim to improve economic opportunity and well-being, health care, social justice, political participation, cultural engagement, and scientific or technical solutions to pressing social issues.)
  5. Be willing to have research spotlighted/featured on both the Graduate Division’s and UCI’s website, brochures and social networks, and be able and available to effectively communicate and discuss their research in lay terms with prospective donors, legislators and/or their staff, and the media during winter and spring quarters.
  6. If selected as a finalist, students must be available to give a brief in-person presentation to the selection committee, with no visual aids, immediately followed by a brief interview, on Monday, November 18, 2019. Remote participation is not permitted.
  7. If selected as an awardee, students must be available to attend a lunch in early Winter Quarter and accompany the Vice Provost and Graduate Dean to Sacramento for Graduate Research Advocacy Day in the event they are selected to participate.

Application Process

Schools are asked to collect nominations from each department and forward the most promising nominees, based on merit and the potential public impact of the student's research. There is no limit to the number of nominations. The final selection committee will consider several factors when choosing the awardees, including each student's presentation, interview, ability to convey their research to a broad audience, academic record, letters of recommendation, degree progress, and potential research impact.

Instructions for Students

  • Complete the Student Information Form and save it as a Microsoft Word document (please save as "IMPACT APP - SID#.doc", e.g. "IMPACT APP - 12345678.doc")
  • Please email the following materials to your program’s graduate affairs staff member:
  1. Completed Student Information Form saved as a Microsoft Word document using the naming convention described above
  2. PDF of the completed Student Information Form with your signature.
  3. Your current CV
  4. Letter of recommendation from your primary faculty advisor/PI

Instructions for Programs/Departments

  • Complete the Nomination Form and save it as a Microsoft Word document (please save as "IMPACT NOM - SID#.doc", e.g. "IMPACT NOM - 12345678.doc")
  • Print the Nomination Form and obtain the Program Graduate Advisor’s and Associate Dean’s signatures.
  • Please create a single PDF file for each nominee in this order:
  1. Nomination Form (signed by the Program Graduate Advisor and Associate Dean)
  2. Student Information Form (signed by the student)
  3. CV
  4. Letter of Recommendation from the student’s primary faculty advisor/PI
  • Please save this new PDF file as "IMPACT - SID#.pdf", e.g. "IMPACT - 12345678.pdf"
  • When all documentation is complete, please send an email to Turner Dahl containing the following documents for each nominated student:
  1. The completed Microsoft Word (.doc) Nomination Form
  2. The completed Microsoft Word (.doc) Student Information Form
  3. PDF of the complete nomination packet (to include all bold items listed above)

Contact Information

Please direct any questions to Turner Dahl at tdahl@uci.edu or (949) 824-0490.

Deadline

School nominations must be submitted to the Graduate Division by 12:00pm on Friday, October 25, 2019. Students should consult with their program's graduate affairs staff member before applying, as Schools and programs typically set earlier internal deadlines.

Notes

  • Students who receive full $12,000 awards may not be appointed as ASEs during the award period, but may be appointed as GSRs. Students who receive $1,000 honorable mention awards may be appointed as ASEs or GSRs.
  • For students already receiving financial aid, acceptance of a Public Impact Fellowship may affect their overall financial need-based support package. In such cases, students are encouraged to consult with the UCI Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. 
  • Students should review the terms of any funding that they have accepted for AY 2019-2020 to ensure that they are eligible to receive additional fellowship funding before applying.
  • Previous winners (full awardees and honorable mentions) are not eligible for this year’s competition.

Current Fellows

Melissa Thone, Chemical Engineering

Public Impact Distinguished Fellow

Degrees:

  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2020
  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, UC Irvine, MS, 2016
  • Chemical Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology, BS, 2014

Research:

Novel production of cellular particles for personalized therapeutics and vaccines for cancer.

Biography:

Melissa Thone is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Young Jik Kwon’s laboratory in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at UCI. During her undergraduate career, she was actively involved in research and co-authored an article in the journal Nano Energy. In May 2014, she was awarded as an Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar and graduated Summa Cum Laude. In her transition year from undergraduate to graduate school, she volunteered at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, NYC to develop a better understanding of cancer treatment options and specifically what improvements could be made through her future research.

She joined the Bio-Therapeutics Engineering Laboratory at UC Irvine in 2015 to pursue her PhD in designing personalized therapeutics for cancer. In her first year, she was awarded as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow for her proposed project and potential as a future leader. More recently, she was awarded as an ARCS Scholar. In her research, she is investigating novel methods of production of extracellular vesicles (EVs) for personalized medicine. As an example of one application, she has developed a cancer vaccine with promising preliminary studies. She believes that the future of effective drug delivery requires a personalized approach, and hopes that her design will translate to provide a proactive approach to preventing cancer.

In her free time, Melissa seeks to improve her skills as a teacher and communicator of science through certificate programs and training opportunities. She contributes to the UCI community by participating in mentoring (Competitive Edge, DECADE Plus) and leadership roles (DECADE Education Chair, President of department Graduate Student Association). She also enjoys playing intramural sports and studying Spanish. After graduating, she hopes to facilitate and improve the global partnerships of the USA by completing a research opportunity abroad. Her career goal is to become a professor at a leading research institution.

What this fellowship/award means to me:

My dream has always been to make a difference in cancer treatment. The Public Impact Fellowship will enable me to share my work with others and advance the project, making translation of our vaccine to the real world an even closer reality. I also hope to inspire youths to pursue STEM and research in creative treatment options for the future.

Significance of my research to California:

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in both California and the world. While many groups are actively working to improve treatments, often times symptoms are developed at later stages leading to poor prognosis. Development of a controllable and effective cancer vaccine would provide a proactive chance to take on cancer, leading to reduced cancer rates and better quality of life for patients globally. Our studies provide critical insight into how this may be accomplished.

Kay Linker, Anatomy and Neurobiology

Public Impact Distinguished Fellow

Degrees:

  • Anatomy and Neurobiology, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2019
  • Neuroscience, UC Los Angeles, BS, 2014

Research:

How the brain’s immune system contributes to adolescent vulnerability of increased cocaine use after nicotine exposure.

Biography:

Kay Linker is a PhD. Candidate in Dr. Frances Leslie’s laboratory with co-advisorship from Dr. Marcelo Wood. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from UCLA. While at UCLA she was a research assistant in Dr. Kate Wassum’s laboratory where she studied how dopamine contributes to maladaptive reward seeking behaviors. From these studies, she won the Dean’s prize in undergraduate research. After graduating she entered the INP program at UC Irvine, where she receives advisorship from Dr. Frances Leslie and Dr. Marcelo Wood. This collaborative environment has pushed her research to be more interdisciplinary, which has allowed her to tackle tough scientific questions. Her current research focuses on the surprising role of the brain’s immune system in increased cocaine use in adolescence after nicotine exposure. Her data open exciting new therapeutic targets for tackling the deleterious effects of teen nicotine use, which is critical as teen e-cigarette use increasing at an alarming rate. Kay has been invited to present this work to both general and scientific audiences. Scientific outreach has been an important part of her graduate career. She regularly speaks at UCI symposia, and at the UCI Center for Addiction Neuroscience symposium she won first prize for my presentation. She has spoken at the organization Brews and Brains, where a video of her presentation was one of few selected to be posted on their website. In addition, she helped found the science blog, Recreational Science, where graduate students and post docs at UC Irvine post about relevant science articles and their translational potential. She was also recently invited to speak on a Translational Addiction Neuroscience Panel, where she will be the only graduate student speaking amongst senior faculty.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

The Public Impact Fellowship will allow me the financial means to continue my research, and extend my scientific communication projects. This fellowship provides me the freedom to dedicate all of my time to understanding how the immune system causes increased drug use in adolescence, and collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to move toward clinical therapies.

Significance of My Research to California

E-cigarette use is increasing in California, and it is therefore vital to understand how nicotine affects the adolescent brain. I am working with a California based pharmaceutical company, Plexxikon, to develop therapies for addiction. Plexxikon has created a drug, PLX3397, which removes microglia from the brain. I have worked with them extensively to demonstrate that this PLX3397 suppresses drug motivation, while not altering learning, natural reward, anxiety and other behaviors. At Plexxikon clinical trials with PLX3397 were focused on Alzhiemer’s disease. Since my research has shown such promising results with addiction-like behaviors, Plexxikon is now moving forward to investigate clinical efficacy of PLX3397 in addictive like behaviors.

William Thrift, Materials Science and Engineering

Public Impact Distinguished Fellow

Degrees:

  • Materials Science and Engineering, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2019
  • NanoEngineering, UC San Diego, BS, 2013

Research:

Making small molecule sensors more like the sense of smell by developing new methods in nanomanufacturing and machine learning based sensing.

Biography:

Will Thrift is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Regina Ragan’s laboratory in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at UCI. He earned a bachelor’s degree in NanoEngineering from UC San Diego where his research focused on developing an ultrasound triggered cancer therapy and detection platform. After his graduation from UCSD, he worked for Bayer Healthcare where he supported the manufacture of Kogenate, a life-saving hemophilia drug. After working in the war on cancer and the treatment of hemophilia, Will turned towards fighting antibiotic resistant bacteria for his PhD research at UCI. His research focuses on the development and implementation of optical biosensors for medical diagnostics. He has developed a (patent-pending) nanomanufacturing method and several machine learning methods for small molecule sensing. His work has earned the support and recognition of the National Science Foundation, Nature Nanotechnology, and the Department of Energy. Beyond research, Will is dedicated to mentorship and science communication. He has mentored six undergraduate students from five different majors who have gone on to publish their own academic papers. Finally, He is a writer for KPCC’s the Loh Down on Science, where he writes about advances in sensors, optics, and artificial intelligence. Episodes that he has written air about every other week and can be heard on the radio or your podcast app.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

I was thrilled to learn that I won the public impact distinguished fellowship. The funding provided by this award will allow me to take more risks in my research and tackle bigger problems. The award reminds me that people really are interested in learning about my research, and that reporting my results to the public can be as fulfilling as getting the results in the first place. I am honored to have been selected; I would like to thank my mentor in all things research, Regina Ragan, and my mentor in science communication, Sandra Tsing Loh.

Significance of My Research to California:

Nearly 10,000 cases of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections afflict Californians every year. My research focuses on building sensors to detect and monitor these bacteria early, ideally before the patient even knows they are sick. With early detection: we can identify infections before the bacteria has time to develop some of its antibiotic resistance pathways, we can monitor the bacteria to ensure that antibiotics fully destroy the infection so that new resistances aren’t developed, and we can identify which antibiotics the bacteria will be most susceptible to. Eventually, my technology or one of its successors will be in every Californian’s home, giving parent’s peace of mind over their children’s health and fundamentally change how we treat bacterial infections.

Rachel Rosenzweig, Materials Science and Engineering

Public Impact Distinguished Fellow

Degrees:

  • Materials Science and Engineering, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2020
  • Materials Science and Engineering, University of Washington, BS, 2015

Research:

How bio-inspired insect wing nanotopography serves as antimicrobial surfaces

Biography:

Rachel Rosenzweig is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Albert F. Yee’s laboratory in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Washington where she was awarded as a Mary Gates Research and Leadership Scholar from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Her current research involves applying materials science techniques to engineer both antibacterial and antifungal surfaces for commonly contaminated medical devices that too often cause global catastrophic infections in hospital patients. She engineers nano-scale spiked surfaces on medical device materials that mimick natural spikes found on antibacterial insect wings and studies their biophysical killing mechanisms. Rachel has participated in public outreach at UCI Applied Innovation including the Beall New Venture Business Plan Competition, where her team was awarded Honorable Mention, Wayfinder start-up incubator program, and Venturewell entrepreneur workshop program. She currently also works as a Science Writing Fellow for National Public Radio’s the 'Loh Down on Science' radio show, Vice-President for the Society of Women Engineers- Orange Country division, and Rocket Science Tutor for a local high school to increase recruitment and engagement of underrepresented STEM communities. She aims to engineer infection combating solutions in the academic health care field while striving for impactful translational research efforts in technology commercialization.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

I was beyond grateful to learn I received this fellowship to not only support my research, but to spread both academic and government awareness of bio-inspired solutions to this huge health care problem. This award will help recognize the importance of our interdisciplinary research done in the School of Engineering's AFYee Lab funded by the Department of Defense’s medical research program with our collaborators in the School of Medicine, School of Physical Sciences, and the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

 

Significance of My Research to California:

There are 1.7 million annual cases of hospital acquired infections due to contaminated medical devices leading to almost 100,000 deaths and $20 billion in health care costs in the US alone. Current overused solutions of antimicrobial chemicals have led to the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which has been declared by the World Health Organization as a dominant threat to global health with annual death rates predicted to surpass Cancer in the next 30 years.

My research investigates how natural antibacterial nanotopography found on insect wings (i.e.dragonflies, butterflies, and cicadas) can be applied to medical device materials as well as the nanotopography's biophysical mechanisms. Such insect wings possess arrays of nano-scale spikes 1000x thinner than human hair and small enough to disrupt the growth and motility of both infectious bacteria and fungi. These bio-inspired physical surfaces are ideal candidates for antimicrobial methods without the use of chemicals that leads to AMR. 

Alma Nidia Garza, Sociology

Degrees:

  • Ph.D., Sociology, University of California, Irvine (Expected)
  • M.A., Social Science (concentration in Demographic & Social Analysis), University of California, Irvine
  • M.S., Sociology, Oklahoma State University
  • B.A., Government, University of Texas at Austin
  • B.B.A., Marketing, University of Texas at Austin

Research:

Treading Borders: How College and Community Cultures Shape the Upwardly-Mobile Experiences of Mexican-Origin Students

Biography:

Alma is a doctoral candidate in the department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine.  She integrates research within education, race/ethnicity, class and culture to understand the academic experiences of first-generation college students. Beyond identifying factors affecting college accessibility and retention, her work explains how students draw on class and ethnic resources to navigate high school and post-secondary institutional cultures.  In addition to broadening understandings of first-generation college students' upwardly mobile trajectories, Alma also assesses how these pursuits shape students' perceptions of their ethnic and working-class origins.  She draws on both quantitative and qualitative research techniques in her analyses.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

Given the longitudinal nature of my dissertation, I am grateful that the Public Impact Fellowship will assist me with the data collection and analytical components of the study.  Moreover, this award also represents a collective understanding among educators that funding studies, which seek to improve the academic experiences of underrepresented college students, carries a high priority.

Significance of My Research to California:

My research suggests there is often a tradeoff involved when seeking to maximize one’s academic performance in college while preserving a sense of ethnic identity, particularly for minority students from working-class backgrounds.  Because this study addresses how institutions can enhance minority student inclusion, it bears unique relevance for a state equipped with some of the most comprehensive systems of higher education in the nation and that is also home to the greatest number of Latinos in the country.  In 2014, the Public Policy Institute of California reported that just over half of high school students in California came from a disadvantaged background. Although these students may pursue post-secondary schooling across a wide-range of institutions, my research encourages programming and policy efforts that allow students of disadvantaged backgrounds access to a rigorous academic experience, which simultaneously honors both their ethnic and class identities, regardless of the type of institution they attend.

Tera Dornfeld, Planning, Policy and Design

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • · Urban Planning and Public Policy, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2019
  • · Biology, Purdue University, MS, 2011
  • · Biology, Cornell College, BA, 2007

Research:

How are citizens involved in decision-making about Urban, Neighborhood Parks?

Biography:

Tera Dornfeld is a Ph.D. candidate advised by Dr. David Feldman in the Urban Planning and Public Policy Department at UCI. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell College in Iowa. While at Cornell, she designed two independent research projects. These projects allowed her to assist a professor studying sea turtle hatchling predation at a Costa Rican marine research station. While working with him, she was invited to join the research station’s team. She spent the next year developing field research techniques and building relationships with National Park guards and international Earthwatch volunteers. From these successes, she was offered a fully-funded master’s at Purdue University. Her thesis pioneered a monitoring program for a second species of turtle at the same research project. Her master’s thesis has opened additional research opportunities for graduate students and has enhanced volunteer experiences with nesting sea turtles. After graduation from Purdue, Tera created a community outreach program for the sea turtle project. Her work was funded, in part, by Earthwatch’s Neville Shulman Small Grant.

Her current research at UCI focuses on Environmental Justice in urban parks. High-quality parks enrich citizens’ lives by providing physical, mental, social, ecological, and economic health benefits. However, poor and communities of color predictably lack high-quality parks. This is unjust. Tera’s work examines how across the city, park quality can be improved when citizens are included in decision-making about parks. Inclusion helps ensure that the health benefits of parks are available to all citizens. Her research has earned support and recognition from UCI: dissertation data collection grants, summer funding, and the Dean’s Award for Community Engagement. Additionally, she is a UCI Pedagogical Fellow and in her free time she volunteers tutoring English-language learners in reading comprehension, increasing their confidence and skill, before taking the GED exam. She is also the board secretary for a non-profit that funds community-driven, park improvements.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

The Public Impact Fellowship will ensure that I have the financial means to remain In Absentia until I complete my dissertation research. Additionally, as a Public Impact Fellow, I will be part of a team that can help examine my conclusions and promote the ‘Best Practices’ resulting from my completed dissertation. Being a part of this team ensures that all Fellows’ work will have a positive impact on lives locally and nationally.

Significance of My Research to California:

Presently, my research focuses on critically-acclaimed park systems in the Midwest. I am learning how citizens engage to create high-quality parks that make health benefits available to all. Upon completion of my dissertation, I will generate a series of best-practices that can be models for parks across the US. In California, especially in many LA neighborhoods, people have a high need for parks but parks in their neighborhoods are often lower-quality. LA is noted as a site of environmental injustice. I hope to share my findings with park directors in LA and perhaps guide creation of institutions that include citizens in decisions that improve park quality. This can be one mechanism to confront environmental injustice. Broadly, my findings address inequality throughout the city by providing a mechanism for other public services to include citizens and thereby improve quality of service delivery.

Alexandra Perebikovsky, Physics and Astronomy

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • Physics, University of California, Irvine, PhD, Expected 2020
  • Physics, University of California, Irvine, BS, 2016

Research:

Development of smart, engineered microenvironments for stem cell-based regenerative medicine.

Biography:

Alexandra is a doctoral candidate in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, where she heads the CD microfluidics and stem cell MEMS team in Professor Marc Madou’s BioMEMS laboratory. While pursuing her bachelors degree at UC Irvine, Alexandra worked in the BioMEMS lab to develop lab-on-a-disc assays, with a particular interest in bringing point-of-care (POC) systems to remote, resource poor environments. During her undergraduate, Alexandra received several UROP and SURP grants, and a multidisciplinary-design fellowship. She also spent two summers mentoring international students from the Gifted Student Association to increase STEM participation. As a PhD student, she continued her passion for POC, working with rural health kiosks in India to develop portable compact disc assays to replace traditional biomedical labs and doctors offices. In the beginning of her PhD, she was part of a collaboration between researchers at UCI, UCLA, and a startup, MicrobeDX, to develop an ultrafast antibiotic susceptibility test on a spinning microfluidic platform. In less than one year, not only did she automate and improve the performance of the test, she presented at over a dozen investor meetings and helped receive several prestigious grants for the project, including a CARB-X and SBIR award. She currently has 4 pending patents from this research. For her doctoral thesis work, Alexandra is investigating how specific nanomaterials and physical forces, such as electromagnetic and mechanical forces, can be harnessed to control neural stem cell regeneration for treatment of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. As a graduate student, Alexandra received an ARCS fellowship and an NSF GRFP honorable mention for her thesis research. She is also an Artiman Beta fellow, a member of Sigma Xi, and a member of women in physics.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

I am honored to receive a Public Impact Fellowship. This award will help me continue to conduct scientific research that is both publicly significant and clinically relevant. As a public impact fellow, I will strive to bridge the gap between academia and the public, translating my benchtop research into meaningful medical technology.

Significance of My Research to California:

California is one of the world leaders in stem cell research and has allocated millions of dollars to stem cell-based medicine for treatment of neurological disorders. I believe my research, which looks at how physical forces and nanotopographies influence the growth and fate of neural stem cells, provides a much needed, interdisciplinary approach to this problem. By combining biochemistry along with cutting edge engineering solutions, we can improve our control over stem cell differentiation and get closer to discovering treatments for neurological diseases.

Tania DoCarmo, Sociology

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • Sociology, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2020
  • Sociology, UC Irvine, MA, 2017
  • Anthropology, University of North Texas, MS, 2012
  • Social Science, Washington State University, BA, 2009

Research:

How international human trafficking law impacts disadvantaged populations in Cambodia and the United States.

Biography:

Tania DoCarmo is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department at UCI. She also has an MA in Sociology (2012), and an MS in Anthropology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from Washington State University in 2009. As part of her studies at UCI she also works closely with faculty in the Criminology, Law & Society department, and completed a graduate concentration in Law, Society & Culture with UCI Law in 2017.

Prior to graduate school, Tania worked over ten years for non-profits and nongovernment organizations in Brazil, Cambodia and the United States in human rights, sexual violence, and human trafficking. During this time, her work primarily focused on capacity building and encouraging collaboration among counter-human trafficking organizations. Her current research interests include the globalization of law, migration, and how international law plays out on the ground. For her dissertation she is analyzing historical legal documents to explain why contemporary human trafficking law did not emerge until 2000 when trafficking is such a longstanding issue, and how this law translates into practice in Cambodia and the United States. In addition to the dissertation she is also involved in an ongoing study of asylum-seeking immigrants being detained in US detention centers.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

My previous experience on the field is what motivates my research. Having worked for programs overseas, I understand the difficulties of addressing complex problems with limited resources, and the hurdle of accessing quality research that is both practical and relevant. For this reason I am proud to represent UC Irvine as a Public Impact Fellow so my research can be shared with a wide audience. Funding from the fellowship will help cover research expenses associated with the dissertation.

Significance of My Research to California:

Human trafficking and labor exploitation are global problems that impact disadvantaged populations all over the world, including California. Though many if not most cases go unrecognized and/or unreported, 1,331 cases of trafficking were reported in California in 2016 (Ca Dept. of Justice).  The public impact of this study includes increasing our understanding of how trafficking laws impact disadvantaged populations, how these policies can be improved, and how practitioners might improve counter-trafficking programming both abroad (such as in countries like Cambodia) and here in California and the United States.

Hamsa Gowda, Biomedical Engineering

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • Biomedical Engineering, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2020
  • Biomedical Engineering, UC Irvine, MS, 2018
  • Chemical Engineering, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, BS, 2014

Research:

Developing a fast, portable, automated system for detecting bacterial contamination in water sources.

Biography:

Hamsa is a PhD candidate in the Biomedical Engineering Department. She is co-advised by Dr. Marc Madou in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, and Dr. Sunny Jiang from the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. She received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering (bioengineering track) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). While at UMBC, Hamsa was part of both the Meyerhoff Scholars Program and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholars Program. These programs focused on providing underrepresented students with opportunities and support to get involved in research early. At UMBC, she conducted on-going biomedical research centered around sensor and medical device, while supplementing it with unique summer research experiences that explored other areas of science at various universities such as UC Berkeley and the Johns Hopkins University. Upon entering graduate school, her main goal was to work on translational and application-based research, focusing on designing medical devices and microfluidic technology for point-of-care settings. With the mentorship of her advisors, she has been working on an interdisciplinary project that utilizes technology from the biomedical realm to design a portable microfluidic system capable of quickly detecting  bacterial contamination in environmental waters. Outside of the lab, Hamsa is an Invention Transfer Group Fellow at Applied Innovation which has allowed her to explore the areas of technology transfer and commercialization. Hamsa is also the Vice President of Outreach of the Graduate Association of Biomedical Engineering Students.  She focuses on collaborating with K-12 community organizations to hold STEM outreach events to get students and families excited about science and engineering.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

I am honored to be a Public Impact Fellow. I am very passionate about this project and feel that this fellowship will help increase awareness about water contamination and testing. The need to test water sources quickly and often is crucial to protect communities locally and abroad. I know this opportunity will help me connect with the public, industry and other experts in the field to further develop my portable system into impactful technology for the community.

Significance of My Research to California:

California is home to surfers, beach-goers, and fishers all who utilize the natural waters for recreational and fishing purposes. Sewage discharge and storm water runoff are some of the sources that have the potential to disseminate waterborne pathogens into these natural water sources. Without careful monitoring, contamination and spread of these pathogens can cause outbreak of disease, especially gastrointestinal illnesses. Developing fast, reliable, quantitative monitoring systems for pathogen detection can improve our water quality analysis by catching and reporting contamination early, ensuring pathogen levels remain below mandated thresholds, and providing a sense of safety to California’s communities.

Joanna Yau, Education

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • Education, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2019
  • Education, UC Irvine, MA, 2016
  • Psychology, University of Southern California, BA, 2012

Research:

How texting can help teens cope during stressful situations

Biography:

Joanna is a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Stephanie Reich’s Development in Social Context Lab at UCI’s School of Education. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern California. Her research examines how technology affects teens’ wellbeing, interpersonal relationships, and learning. Currently, she is exploring whether texting can help teens cope during stressful situations. Joanna’s work has appeared in journals such as the Journal of Research on Adolescence and the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and has been featured by the popular press (e.g., Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News). In addition to presenting at research conferences, she shares about developmentally appropriate media use for youth at parent workshops in Los Angeles and Orange County and on the Jacobs Foundation’s Blog on Learning and Development.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

I am honored to receive the Public Impact Fellowship. The Public Impact Fellowship furthers my development as a researcher who is actively engaged with the community and aids in the completion of my Ph.D. As a fellow, I also hope to inspire and support students, especially those from backgrounds that are underrepresented in higher education, to pursue discovery through research.

Significance of My Research to California:

There are over 3.5 million teens in the state of California. As smartphone use continues to rise for adolescents of all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, parents, educators, health care professionals, and policymakers are concerned about the impacts of media on emotional wellbeing. Studies have examined the risks of media, but smartphones also offer great potential for improving wellbeing. When in-person support is unavailable, adolescents can instantly reach out to others through texting for advice and encouragement. Texting may be especially empowering for teens that experience a lot of stress but have little in-person support, such as immigrant youth. Texting may also be a great tool for youth with anxiety and depression, who could benefit from getting immediate support anytime and anywhere. If phones offer connections during stressful situations, then adolescents have a great mental health resource right in their back pockets.

Alyssa Frederick, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Public Impact Fellow

Education

  • D. Biological Sciences, UC Irvine, Expected 2019
  • Fulbright Fellow, Victoria University of Wellington, 2013
  • S. Marine Biology, American University, 2012

Research

The impact of climate change and disease on abalone, an important fishery, across the Pacific Ocean

Biography

Alyssa Frederick is a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolution where she studies the impact of climate change and disease on important fishery species in California and Aotearoa New Zealand. She is currently a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she is working on pressing science policy issues. Alyssa earned her B.S. in Marine Biology from American University, where she researched the impact of nitrogen pollution on the mangrove forests on Guam. Upon graduating, she was a Fulbright Fellow at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where she continued her work on nitrogen pollution, focusing on the impacts to endemic coastal species. As a PhD candidate, Alyssa’s work has spanned the worlds of research, public outreach, and management and policy. Her scientific research assesses the impact of threats to an ecologically and culturally important group of marine animals, abalone. This work is critically important right now, as the red abalone fishery in California has collapsed, and climate change is causing disruptions in shellfish fisheries worldwide. Alyssa has interned with NOAA twice (currently through NSF’s GRIP) where she incorporated her research into management policies of black abalone, an Endangered species. She has worked with fishery industry, aquaculture facilities, non-profits, and community stakeholders to design research that meets priorities and needs for the conservation of these species and future sustainability of fisheries in light of climate change. She is also passionate about science outreach and public service. This work has been supported by National Geographic, NSF, the Southern California Academy of Sciences, UCI OCEANS, and the Newkirk Center, among many others. Alyssa created a novel partnership with Crystal Cove State Park to educate the public about local abalone species, and partnered with a small business to raise awareness and funding for a local restoration group. She has written extensively for the public about science, having published articles with Science, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, and Rapid Ecology, in addition to being interviewed for columns published by AAAS. During her PhD, she created and currently directs and hosts the podcast Turn of the Tide, which focuses on the scientific work of underrepresented early career women in science.

What the Public Impact Fellowship means to me

The fellowship bolsters the public profile of my research and outreach, while giving me some financial freedom to continue my extensive outreach and public service work. As a Public Impact Fellow, I will continue to write for the public about pressing scientific issues, produce a podcast to highlight the role of underrepresented women in science, and serve as a science policy fellow in that nation’s capital.

Significance of my research to California

The red abalone fishery was an iconic activity in California, with entire northern CA towns building an economy on the fishery. It is also of incalculable cultural value to Native Nations. In 2017, the red abalone fishery was closed for the first time in history, and in 2018, an announcement was made that it will remain closed for another two years. The closure has been largely attribute to decline of kelp and other environmental changes happening in our rocky intertidal environments. My research examines the physiological decline of abalone during severe climate change events. As we move forward into a changing future, research on animals’ ability to cope with environmental change is essential to making important decisions about management and conservation, and I partner with agencies making those decisions to ensure that my research meets those critical needs.

Sarita Rosenstock, Logic and Philosophy of Science

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • Logic and Philosophy of Science, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2019
  • Mathematical Behavioral Science, UC Irvine, MA, 2016
  • Mathematics and Philosophy, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, BA, 2012

Research:

How mathematical methods used in geographic districting reflect democratic values.

Biography:

Sarita Rosenstock is a PhD candidate in Logic and Philosophy of Science at UCI, where she is finishing her dissertation entitled ``Structure and Equivalence in Physical Theories” supervised by Jim Weatherall. Her research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary, but unified by a desire to elucidate how formal mathematical methods give insight into real-world systems. In 2018 she received the UCI Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student Award. In the summer of 2018, was awarded a fellowship to the Voting Rights Data Institute at Tufts and MIT, where she began the work that led to this fellowship project. Outside of academics, Sarita serves as the executive officer for the newly founded campus organization, The Feminist Illuminati of UCI. She leads a diverse group of undergraduates in a coordinated effort to combat hateful rhetoric on campus and promote intersectionality and inclusivity on campus. In December 2017, the group received the UCI Inclusive Excellence Spirit Award of $5000, which they used to bring Teen Vogue Executive Editor Samhita Mukhopadyay to talk about feminist activism to a group of about 50 undergraduates.

What this Fellowship/Award Means to Me:

I aim to develop a precise and nuanced understanding of the nature of geographic districting and its relationship to democratic values. Geographic districting is poorly understood both theoretically and computationally, and this ambiguity creates an ideal political environment for biased actors hoping to pass gerrymandered maps. For me, this project represents a new development in my scholarly work, in which I turn my mathematical and philosophical skills towards social problems of immediate practicality. The public impact fellowship supports me in this endeavor, as well as provide legitimacy to this new philosophical project. 

Significance of My Research to California:

California is leading the way towards a more just implementation of districting practices. It is one of the only states in which an independent commission, rather than the state legislature, decides on the maps, and is extremely transparent in its process, providing public data to facilitate analyses. It is also one of the hardest to analyze, given its high population, since the space of all possible maps is computationally intractable even for smaller states. California’s public data and commitment to aligning its practices with democratic values make it a promising place to explore this topic.

Megan Brooker, Sociology

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees:

  • Sociology, University of California Irvine, PhD, expected 2019
  • Sociology, University of California Irvine, MA, 2015
  • Public Affairs, Washington State University, MPA, 2010
  • Anthropology, Haverford College, BA, 20005

Research:

How social movements influence and are influenced by institutional politics.

Biography:

Megan Brooker is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at UCI. She completed a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Haverford College and wrote her undergraduate thesis on women’s NGOs in Nepal. She earned a master’s degree in Public Affairs from Washington State University where she began ongoing research on Iraq Veterans Against the War. Her current research examines the interaction between institutional politics and grassroots activism in the United States. She has published work on the emergence of Indivisible, a nationwide network of progressive activists working to stall the Trump agenda, and on the characteristics and outcomes of social movement coalitions. Her dissertation uses qualitative and comparative methods to investigate the ways social movement claims were incorporated into electoral politics during the 2016 presidential election and the consequences of their inclusion – or exclusion. At UCI, Megan has been named a Podlich Fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy and Pedagogical Fellow with the Division for Teaching Excellence and Innovation. She has served as a mentor for undergraduate and graduate students through the DECADE PLUS, Graduate InterConnect, and Competitive Edge programs.

What this Fellowship/Award Means To Me:

I am honored to receive the Public Impact Fellowship. Social movements provide an organized form through which people can participate in democratic governance, air their grievances, and seek political change. Historically, this is how we’ve seen progress on issues related to labor, women’s rights, and civil rights. The Public Impact Fellowship will help me to continue my work to better understand how grassroots activism shapes social and political change.

Significance of My Research to California:

My research shows how political actors respond to grassroots activism through the electoral system, a matter of public importance for any democracy. Through social movements, people of all political persuasions can influence political officials, electoral outcomes, and public policy – but such actions are only sometimes successful. California has historically been and continues to be a hotbed of activism on both the political left and right. By shedding light on the means through which the general public can influence politics, my research demonstrates the power of political participation and reveals lessons about how to most effectively advocate for social change in California and beyond.

Emily Sumner, Cognitive Sciences

Public Impact Fellow

Degrees

  • Cognitive Sciences, UC Irvine, PhD, Expected 2020
  • Cognitive Sciences, UC Irvine, MA, 2018
  • Brain & Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, BA, 2015

Research

Understanding how children explore the world and make decisions

Biography

Emily Sumner is a PhD candidate in Cognitive Sciences in Dr. Barbara Sarnecka’s lab. She studies the importance of independent exploration for children’s psychological development. She came to UCI in 2015, after earning her bachelor’s degree with high honors in Brain & Cognitive Sciences from the University of Rochester. During her time at Rochester, she researched children’s language development with Dr. Celeste Kidd. As a graduate student, over 500 children have participated her studies so far. Her research has found that children are more interested in exploring and learning than winning prizes than adults are. Currently, she is investigating the benefits (not just the risks) of independent and autonomous experiences for children’s development. Emily is committed to mentoring women and underrepresented groups in the field of cognitive sciences. As a graduate student, she has mentored over 30 undergraduates. In her free time, Emily enjoys training for & running marathons.

What this Fellowship Means to Me

It’s an honor to be a recipient of the Public Impact Fellowship. Not only does it support my research, but it also highlights & validates the importance of this topic. 

Significance of my Research to California

Today’s children spend nearly all of their time directly supervised by adults. Although there has never been a safer time to be a kid in America (crime rates have gone down across the board), many adults have come to see all public spaces as inherently unsafe for children. Some states are moving toward greater restriction and criminalization of parents who allow their children out of their sight. For example, in Illinois it is illegal for a child under the age of 14 to be left home alone, even for a minute. Rhode Island recently considered a bill that would make it illegal for a child under the age of 12 to get off of a school bus without an adult waiting for them. Scientific evidence on this topic is scarce, which means many of these policies are based of off fear and intuition rather than empirical data. Some states are moving the other direction. Utah, for example, became the first state to pass a ‘Free-Range Parenting Law’, guaranteeing parents that no one will be able to arrest or investigate them for the simple act of letting their kids play outside, wait briefly in a car under safe circumstances, or walk to school. While California does not have any policies regarding this issue, it’s likely that we will consider bills on this topic in the near future. And when we do, it’s important that we have data to inform us on which policies are best for the millions of children and parents that live in our state. My dissertation research aims to bring much needed empirical data to this national conversation.

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