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2017 Bouchet Scholars

Mojegan Azadi 

Mojegan Azadi, Astronomy

Mojegan Azadi  is a PhD candidate in Astronomy at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences in University of California, San Diego. She is interested in studying the physics and evolution of supermassive black holes living at the center of galaxies. Her dissertation focuses on multi-wavelength investigation of supermassive black holes and the galaxies in which they live. Mojegan uses observational datasets from the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the Magellan telescope in Chile as well as data from various space-based telescopes to identify supermassive black holes. In her research she addresses fundamental questions such as what physical mechanisms trigger supermassive black holes activity in some galaxies, what types of galaxies host active supermassive black holes and what impact supermassive black holes have on their host galaxies. Mojegan is also a co-leader of the Graduate Women in Physics group, an organization committed to help graduate students navigate academic and professional challenges, and prepare for successful academic careers. Her contributions for various outreach and advocacy efforts have had positive impact on undergraduate and graduate women in physics at UCSD.

Daniella Gagliuffi 

Daniella C. Bardalez Gagliuffi, Observational Astronomy
Daniella C. Bardalez Gagliuffi is a doctoral candidate in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, part of the Physics Department at University of California, San Diego. She studies brown dwarfs which are celestial objects intermediate between stars and planets with insufficient mass to sustain hydrogen fusion in their cores, which is the nuclear reaction that powers stars. As a consequence, brown dwarfs cool and dim over time, harboring atmospheres that resemble those of giant planets like Jupiter. Her dissertation explores the frequency with which brown dwarfs are found in systems of two compared to isolation, since this statistic holds a clue to the formation pathway producing brown dwarfs. Her research contributes a new technique to identify and characterize such binary systems. Her long-term research goals are to characterize brown dwarf and planet formation pathways.

Jessica Blanton 

Jessica M. Blanton, Marine Microbiology

Jessica is a doctoral candidate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Her work investigates the diverse microbial communities (microbiomes) that live within a number of marine organisms including bony fishes, elasmobranchs, lancelets and sponges. Her primary methodology involves bioinformatic analysis of DNA sequences to tease apart the form and function of microbial genomes in these host-associated marine microbiomes. Her work has been highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, with her most recent publication bridging the fields of microbiology, bioinformatics, and natural product chemistry to uncover a microbial source of potentially toxic compounds in the environment. In addition to peer-reviewed publications, Jessica’s passion for microbiology has been recognized with awards from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Claude E. ZoBell Fellowship for Microbiology. She hopes to bring that passion to a career focused on non-model organisms, a focus which will expand our understanding of the vastly different ways by which animals and the microbial world interact.

Jason Dorwart 

Jason Dorwart, Theatre and Dance

Jason Dorwart is a doctoral candidate in the Joint PhD program in Drama & Theatre at University of California San Diego/ University of California Irvine. He studies representations of disability in theatre and film. His dissertation looks at the history of portrayals of disability in performance, theorizing the disabled body as occupying a liminal space between life and death. He draws examples from the plays of Martin McDonagh, portrayals of the Elephant Man, horror films, the freak show, and recent plays written specifically for disabled actors. His dissertation postulates that this perception of the disabled body as inhabiting a permanent state of liminality contributes to the dearth of working disabled actors despite the ubiquity of characters with disabilities. Other scholarly interests include August Wilson, Irish theatre, and film criticism. Jason helped to develop and perform in the Workplace Interactive Theatre Project, a diversity initiative opening discussions about hiring practices in higher education. He has also served as the Lead Editor of TheatreForum, the scholarly theatre journal at UCSD. For his second issue as Lead Editor, he recently finished curating a special issue focusing on disability in performance and has implemented a system for featuring theatrical representation of marginalized social identities in future issues. For this work, he was recently recognized with the UC San Diego Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action and Diversity Award.

Melissa Galang Han 

Melissa Galang Han, Educational Leadership

Melissa Galang Han is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at the University of California, San Diego and California State University, San Marcos. Melissa studies the impact of democratic learning environments on underrepresented elementary student communities. Her dissertation work, Listening to Elementary Student Voice: A Compass for Leadership and Increasing School Connectedness, examines how two third grade democratic classrooms with a high population of Black and Latino students created space for student voice to be heard and enacted in leadership. Melissa invited a focus group of third graders to be co-analyzers in the interpretation of the data collected from interviews and classroom observations. Her research contributes to a growing literature on how school connectedness is affected when elementary students have a substantive voice in the decisions that adults make about their school experiences. Her long-term research goals are to shed light on how educators can strengthen their ability to listen, question, research and collaborate with elementary students so students are treated not only as children but as people whose needs, rights, and experiences are taken seriously. Melissa is a 2014 awardee of the Janet Hageman Chrispeels Doctoral Fellowship in Educational Leadership. 

Andrew Janusz 

Andrew Janusz, Political Science

Andrew Janusz is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He studies the relationship between race and political representation in Brazil.  While over half of the Brazilian population is of African descent, Afro-Brazilians hold a minority of elected political offices at the local, state and national levels. His dissertation research investigates the institutional and cultural impediments to Afro-Brazilian political representation.  Moreover, he evaluates how the political underrepresentation of Afro-Brazilians in the Brazilian congress impacts policy outcomes. His long-term research goal is to explore the political significance of race in Brazilian politics by elucidating its causal effect on political outcomes.

Dae Kang

Dae Kang, Bioengineering

Dae is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. He currently conducts clinical engineering research under the mentorship of Dr. Todd Coleman (Department of Bioengineering) and Drs. Robert Owens and Atul Malhotra (Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine). His current work focuses on a two-pronged approach leveraging advances in wearable sensors and clinical analytics for the objective and non-invasive assessment of sleep and sleep disorders. Specifically, Dae’s dissertation investigates how statistical machine learning can operate on limited physiologic sensing to provide insights on sleep architecture variability in patients with obstructive sleep apnea, the most clinically relevant sleep disorder. His long-term research goals are to continue implementing novel engineering tools for elucidating the clinical implications of sleep dynamics, and more broadly to improve continuous health monitoring and healthcare operations. Dae’s scholarly awards include the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the NHLBI RO1 Research Supplement to Promote Diversity, and membership as a Bernard and Sophia Gordon Engineering Leadership Scholar. Motivating Dae’s research endeavors is a passion for mentorship. He is an active mentor in the engineering community at UCSD, and has worked closely with the UCSD Summer Training Academy for Research Success (STARS) and the UCSD Center for Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence, and Advancement (IDEA) to advocate for educational opportunity. As a mentor and educator, Dae focuses on galvanizing student growth by encouraging curiosity, resourcefulness, and applied tinkering.

Daniel Klein

Daniel Klein, Physics

Daniel Klein is a doctoral candidate in the physics department at UC San Diego. He is a member of the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. His research focuses on the the top quark, the heaviest known subatomic particle. His projects include measuring the unique properties of the top quark, and using the top quark to search for potential physics beyond the Standard Model. His thesis project is a search for evidence of the supersymmetric top quark partner in data from the CMS experiment. Daniel is also highly active in scientific outreach in the San Diego area. He co-directs the UCSD Young Physicists Program, a group that engages schoolchildren with physics concepts through demonstrations and interactive experiments. In addition, he has collaborated with several local clubs and institutions to bring physics demonstrations to underprivileged and underrepresented communities throughout San Diego county.

Tavina Offut

Tavina Offutt, Chemistry/Biochemistry

Tavina Offutt is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego.  Her dissertation work is centered on gaining insight into the dynamics of proteins that are implicated in cancer, and harnessing this knowledge to the end of drug discovery.  Since proteins are dynamic in nature, it is important to understand these dynamic characteristics in targeting them with drug molecules.  Computational tools such as of molecular dynamics (MD) simulations can provide snapshots of how the atoms within the protein move over time.  These MD conformations can provide insight into the function of proteins, and reveal novel “druggable” pockets.  Her research utilizes MD to model the flexibility of two important cancer targets: protein kinases and p53.  Using these models, her research assesses if including different MD snapshots enhances virtual screening against potential protein kinase inhibitors.  She also uses MD to understand how p53 behaves when cancerous, and how its normal function is restored in the presence of a drug candidate.  Her long-term goal is to understand how the conformational landscapes of proteins under normal conditions and in diseased states differ.
Dianne Pater

Dianne Pater, Division of Biological Sciences

Dianne Pater is a doctoral candidate in the Division of Biological Sciences at University of California, San Diego. Under the mentorship of Dr. Julian Schroeder, Dianne studies how plants respond to environmental stresses at a molecular and whole plant level. Her dissertation work examines natural variations in the crop plant Brassica napus that can be used to identify water use efficient accessions. By examining whole plant physiology, her research has demonstrated the use of stable carbon isotope measurements to screen for water use efficiency in diverse variants within the species, and has identified accessions with high maximum carboxylation rates that translate into higher photosynthetic carbon assimilation. This research adds to tools that plant breeders and scientists can use to identify crops that will perform well under drought or other environmental stresses. In addition to her research, Dianne has been active within the community as a member of the Division of Biological Sciences Diversity Committee, representing UCSD at conferences such as SACNAS and ABRCMS. Her dedication to teaching excellence has been recognized through her work as a Graduate Teaching Mentor and receiving her department’s TA Excellence Award. She will begin a position as a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor at Amherst College, beginning in Fall 2017.
Claudia Rafful

Claudia Rafful, Public Health

Claudia Rafful, MSc, is a PhD student in the UCSD-SDSU Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health, Global Health Track. She received her MSc in Substance Misuse from the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and BS in Psychology from the Universidad de las Américas, Puebla in Mexico. She has worked at the Mexican National Institute of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in socioepidemiological studies related to substance use and mental health. Claudia completed her international practicum comparing the role of public health in drug policies in Mexico and Uruguay. Specifically by contrasting the “Narcomenudeo law”, which stipulated the specific drug quantities considered as personal use (vs. drug trafficking) and the legalization of the commercialization, distribution and use of cannabis, respectively. Her dissertation research is focused on the impact of involuntary drug treatment on HIV risk behaviors among people who inject drugs in Tijuana, Mexico. Her research interests are evidence-based drug policy, implementation research and global mental health.