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2015 Bouchet Scholars


Elaine Denny, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science and International Relations

Elaine Denny is a joint PhD candidate in Political Science and International Relations at the University of California, San Diego. Her research interests include micro-foundations of political mobilization and conflict, norms diffusion, human behavior, and human rights.  For her dissertation, Elaine studies why vulnerable populations frequently are less likely to be politically active than their wealthier or more secure counterparts – and what strategies may mitigate these effects.  Her research methods include lab, survey, and field experiments, geospatial analysis, and statistical modeling. Elaine’s professional background includes work at Amnesty International USA, as well as with NGOs in the U.S., Latin America, and Asia.  She has consulted for UNICEF and is lead survey designer for a DFID evaluation of social norms diffusion in Nigeria.  Elaine is a current fellow with the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and she has also been a Watson Fellow and Critical Language Scholar through the U.S. State Department. Elaine holds a MPP from the University of Michigan and a BA in chemistry from Williams College. She speaks Spanish, German, and Mandarin.


Yawo Ezunkpe, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Yawo Ezunkpe is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at University of California, San Diego. Yawo obtained his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (emphasis on Space Exploration and Transportation) with honor from San Jose State University. He went on to receive his Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering Sciences at University of California, San Diego. He has been working under the supervision of Professor Daniel M. Tartakovsky in the areas of Fluid Mechanics, and Applied and Computational Mathematics. Yawo’s dissertation focuses on stochastic analysis of fluid flows in domains whose rough surfaces are modeled as random fields. His work addresses some of the unresolved theoretical and practical questions concerning differential equations defined on random domains. It sheds new light on the ability of random roughness of a surface to induce its hydrophobicity. It has significant impact on biological flows and could be extended to other areas where surface roughness affects fluid flows, such as environmental engineering and nanoscale devices.


Marty Flores, Ph.D. Candidate in Biological Sciences

Marty Flores is a doctoral candidate in the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of California, San Diego. She received her Bachelor’s of Science in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics with a Minor in Mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. She then went to work at Stanford University studying genes critical to spermatogenesis and oogenesis from human embryonic stem cells. Following her love for research, she currently studies non-coding RNA as it relates to early B cell development. Using cutting-edge next-gen sequencing and genome editing techniques, she is identifying novel long intergenic non-coding RNAs and determining their functions in developmental progression. Outside of the lab, she has been involved in various committees in the Division of Biology including Admissions, Recruitment, and the Graduate Student Association. She has a keen interest in scientific outreach and raising scientific literacy. In this spirit, she has mentored high school students through the Research Scholars Program and advised them through a summer project in the lab. She also volunteers at the Ruben H Fleet Science Center participating in events aimed at adults and re-igniting their interest in science.


Lydia Hernandez, Ph.D. Candidate in Biological Sciences

Lydia Hernandez is a doctoral candidate in the Division of Biological Sciences at University of California, San Diego.  She uses the zebrafish model system to study cardiac morphogenesis and the molecular processes regulating atrioventricular canal (AVC) formation.  Her dissertation work investigates the role of Tmem2, a novel transmembrane protein, as a potential regulator of extracellular matrix in the context of heart development.  Her research aims to further the understanding of critical interactions between cells and their environment during organ morphogenesis.  Lydia received an American Heart Association Pre-doctoral Fellowship for her research on Tmem2.  In addition to her research, Lydia serves as a Graduate Teaching Mentor, training and guiding Instructional Assistants for the UCSD Division of Biological Sciences.


Don Johnson, Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry & Biochemistry

Don Johnson is a doctoral candidate in the Chemistry & Biochemistry department at UC, San Diego. Working under Dr. Mark H. Ellisman, Don works on developing methodologies for connecting data across multiple modalities. In particular, Don works on developing conductive epoxy resins for serial block face scanning electron microscopy (SBSEM). SBSEM is a novel electron microscopy technique aimed at collecting 3-dimensional images of a biological specimen. This technique commonly accompanies an array of other microscopy modalities, such as TEM, X-ray and light microscopy. This combination of modalities is commonly referred to as correlated microscopy.  In order to properly define a field of view for each technique, Don also works on the development of fiducial markers for correlating across these different modalities. These phosphorescent materials are ideal universal markers for establishing landmarks in a biological specimen. They are also capable of being useful targeting markers for labeling extracellular proteins. In the long-term, SBSEM could play a central role in whole volume collection, specimen mapping, and correlated microscopy.



Yiheng Yvonne Wu, Ph.D. Candidate in Music

Yiheng Yvonne Wu, composer and educator, received a B.A. in Music from Yale University and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Music Composition at UC San Diego. Her instrumental music explores fragmented forms and spatiality, while her research investigates how composer György Ligeti created critical perspectives through his music. Her dissertation, a work for solo piano with large chamber ensemble, explores ways the piano might transcend its percussive nature as its resonant body is extended across the stage by the surrounding instruments. In addition to teaching at the college level, Yvonne has been committed to working with at-risk youth, including tutoring and mentoring middle school girls in New Haven, co-leading a student-created, multi-arts performance project with San Diego high school students, and grant-writing for a nonprofit organization to help homeless teens. As a piano instructor, she has taught students of diverse backgrounds in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and San Diego.