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Meet Adi Khen

Describe your background: I was born in Israel but have been living in America since I was 4 years old. I’m originally from the Bay Area in Northern California and I moved here for college. I attended UC San Diego and majored in Environmental Systems (Ecology, Behavior & Evolution) with a minor in Spanish Literature; I received my Bachelor’s degree in 2014 and my Master’s in 2016.

Describe your area of research/ what program or department you are under at UC San Diego: I study coral reef ecology in Dr. Jennifer Smith’s Lab as part of the Marine Biology Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. My main research interests are the long-term ecological responses of coral reefs to global climate change. I am analyzing a time series of imagery taken over the last decade on Palmyra Atoll (located in the Central Pacific) to measure the growth, mortality, bleaching and/or recovery of corals and algae in the context of thermal stress. I plan to complete my Ph.D. by Summer 2021.

Describe your involvement in the UC San Diego community: I have been volunteering as a mentor and tutor at the Preuss School, UC San Diego (a charter middle and high school for first-generation, underrepresented minority students from low-income backgrounds) for the past several years. In addition to research and community outreach, I am also passionate about science communication through art. I am a self-taught digital scientific illustrator and many of my drawings of marine organisms have been incorporated into figures for academic journals, as logos for various organizations, or in infographics, conceptual diagrams, and other educational products. Please see my website here

Why did you choose UC San Diego?: I started participating in research during my first year as an undergraduate student at UC San Diego and found a sense of purpose in it. Coral reefs are incredibly important ecosystems in terms of biodiversity and productivity, yet they are currently threatened by climate change. I want to contribute to our understanding of them to help ensure their survival into the future. For that reason, I decided to become a graduate student at Scripps; it is a world-class oceanographic institution where I’ve been exposed to leaders in their fields as well as unique opportunities to grow not just as a scientist but also as a person.

Have you been awarded any fellowships or grants?:  I feel fortunate to have been awarded the Scripps First-Year Fellowship, the NSF-GRFP (National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program), and the Beyster Family Graduate Fellowship in Conservation and Biodiversity. My funding sources have been invaluable in supporting my research and giving me the chance to pursue my own interests, which I know will ultimately benefit me in any career I choose.

What has been your favorite part about your graduate experience at UC San Diego?: While I don’t necessarily have a favorite part, the wide range of experiences I have had is honestly beyond what I ever could have expected for myself: from watching my mentees at Preuss graduate from high school and continue onto college; the skills I’ve developed through the years-- from research to scientific illustration to aquarium/animal husbandry; and the connections that I’ve made with others in my community. All of it has been extremely meaningful to me and I hope to inspire others in that way, too.

Watch Adi's interview on YouTube