Meet the Ambassadors
Our ambassadors represent the core of STEM*FYI and come from an incredible diversity of backgrounds and experiences.
This cohort of 15 ambassadors span 11 STEM departments and include 14 ambassadors who are underrepresented in STEM or identify as people of color, as well as six first-generation students. Read more about our ambassadors below!
Shannon O’Brien (she/her)
Ph.D. candidate in Integrative Biology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
Hi, I’m Shannon! I’m a first-generation student in the biological sciences. As a Chancellor’s Fellow and Ford Foundation Fellow, I study the behavioral ecology of South American rodents called tuco-tucos (they look like potatoes with giant yellow teeth!). I’m a huge advocate for making the sciences more accessible to everyone. If you’re interested in getting involved in outreach groups such as Expanding Your Horizons, Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS), or Be a Scientist, come talk to me! If you want to hone your skills as a science writer or graphic designer, talk to me about joining the Berkeley Science Review. If you want to see cute pictures of my dog, Bunny, or recap episodes of The Golden Girls, I’m the lady to talk to!
Hari Prasanna Das (he/his/him)
Ph.D. candidate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
Hello, I am Hari Prasanna! I am an international student from India in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. I study the application of machine learning to tackle climate change, particularly via making buildings smarter and energy efficient. I love mentoring students and participate in events that motivate diversity and inclusion in STEM. I love hiking and volleyball.
Roya Firoozi (she/her)
Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering
Hi, I’m Roya! I am a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering. My research interest lies in optimization, learning, predictive control and their applications in collaborative robotics. As a refugee and a first generation student, my life mission is to advocate for universal and accessible education for all.
Gwen Hanley (she/her)
Ph.D. candidate in Physics
Hey, I’m Gwen! I work up the hill at Space Sciences Laboratory studying how Mars is losing its atmosphere. More specifically, I’m investigating what processes provide ions enough energy to escape from Mars’ gravity. I’m also a coordinator for a peer-led sexual violence and harassment prevention training called Respect is Part of Research, and I work with a couple of informal groups to advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism in physics, astronomy and the Earth and space sciences. To relax, I like to play video games (alternating between Animal Crossing and Witcher 3 right now), bake, and watch TV with my cat, Gandalf.
Tatiana Gamez (she/her)
Ph.D. candidate in Earth & Planetary Sciences
I study chemical oceanography and geophysics using numerical modeling techniques and taking a biogeochemical approach to understanding toxins produced by harmful algal blooms. My family is from Bogota, Colombia, but I grew up in Austin, Texas! I am working with the Society for Women in Physical Sciences, Society for Women in Marine Science and the GeoLatinas as a mentor and coordinator. I genuinely enjoy writing grant proposals, so I am actively involved in organizing workshops to assist others in this admittedly daunting process. Please reach out if you’d like to chat about different fellowships to apply for, or would like someone to read over your proposal (or just to say hi)! When I would like to de-stress, I turn to yoga, running in the beautiful Oakland hills, and ceramics.
Arianna Avellán (she/her)
3rd year Ph.D. candidate in Materials Science and Engineering
Hey, I am Arianna! I was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador before moving to the US in my teens. I am currently investigating different synthesis methods to make mucoadhesive particles for drug delivery purposes. I am also involved in other organizations like Latinx Association of Graduate Students in Engineering and Science (LAGSES) and Getting Into Graduate School (GIGS). I am a huge advocate for the advancement and retention of Latinas in STEM. If any of this sounds interesting, then feel free to reach out to me. In my free time I like to go to the beach, take nature walks, do yoga and drink coffee. I also like to watch thriller or true crime movies/shows.
Alina Nguyen (she/her)
4th year Ph.D. candidate in Integrative Biology
Hi, I’m Alina! I study how chemical treatments affect the brain and behavior of Xenopus laevis frogs. My parents came to America as refugees from Vietnam, and some time along the way they met in Minnesota and I was born 🙂 I grew up surrounded by the beautiful lakes in Minnesota and spent most of my childhood outdoors. I was curious about how and why the animals I encountered behave and that’s how my interest in science began. My goal, through education, is to promote inclusion and increase representation of minority groups in STEM.
Marie Pelagie Elimbi Moudio (she/her}
Ph.D. candidate in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research
Pelagie is a PhD student in the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research department. Her research interest lies in modeling decision support systems to aid natural resource management focusing on forests management.
Cara He (she/her)
4th year Ph.D. candidate in Integrative Biology
My name is Cara He and I was born and raised in Oakland, California. I am a 4th year graduate student in the Hayes Lab, where we study developmental endocrinology, which is how hormones impact development. Building a strong, supportive community where everyone feels that they belong is very important to me. I enjoy caffeine (especially in the form of cold brew), good food and talking about animals.
Jackie Galvez (she/her)
2nd year Ph.D. candidate in Integrative Biology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
Hi friends! My name is Jackie and I’m a 2nd year student in the Integrative Biology department. I’m originally from the Los Angeles area and am the first in my family to pursue an advanced degree. I study dietary specialization and niche partitioning in Cameroon crater lake cichlids. Basically, I’m interested in what fish eat, how they eat it, and the connections between diet and evolution. In addition to research, I’m very passionate about K-12 science education. I’m involved in two programs here at Berkeley, Bay Area Scientists in Schools (BASIS) and Expanding Your Horizons (EYH), which provide grad student-led STEM lessons and workshops to K-8 students. Feel free to reach out to me about these programs! My non-science interests include bullet journaling, hiking, thrift shopping, and spending too much time (and money) at coffee shops. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about the enneagram or the latest episode of the Bachelorette, I’m your gal!
PhD Student in Architecture
Hi, I’m Yasaman! I’m a PhD student in Architecture. My interdisciplinary research seeks to build dynamic links between architecture and structural engineering. My focus is on developing new efficient and sustainable workflows for construction of concrete gridshell structures that sync architectural, structural and construction elements from early stages of the design. In my free time, I hike, paint and watch TV series. I enjoy talking about plants, hand crafting and decorations!
Theo McKenzie (he/him/his)
4th year Ph.D. candidate in Mathematics
Hey! My name is Theo and I’m a fourth year math PhD hailing from Brooklyn, NY. I study probability theory and combinatorics, focusing on graph theory. Specifically, I’m interested in using linear algebra to control the expansion of networks. I’m also the lead instructor for Pre-Calculus at Mount Tamalpais College (formerly the Prison University Project) at San Quentin State Prison. If you’re interested in the program or other programs at the prison, let me know. I’m a squash player and am in the Cal Squash Box League. I’m also interested in basketball and soccer. If you’re interested in the Premier League or want to play an online chess game, shoot me an email!
Kurtresha Worden (she/her)
6th year Ph.D. candidate in Molecular and Cell Biology
Hey, I’m Kurtresha! As a sixth year PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology and HHMI Gilliam fellow, I study how immune cells in the brain are regulated and influence behaviors. I’m first-gen and care about making science more accessible and inclusive for everyone. I’m a committee chair for Expanding Your Horizons at Berkeley, an annual STEM conference for middle school girls in the East Bay. I enjoy all things creative from painting and drawing to music and movement, and have designed for several issues of the Berkeley Science Review, a grad-student run magazine. Having grown up in the *real* NorCal, I love being outside, especially hiking or backpacking in the Sierra Nevadas. I’m also a big fan of animals and drinking matcha every day 🙂
Christian White (he/him)
3rd year PhD student in Civil & Environmental Engineering
What up! My name is Christian and I’m a 3rd Year PhD Student in Civil & Environmental Engineering originally from South Carolina. My research is focused on the microbial interactions fueling anaerobic ammonium oxidation (anammox), a microbially mediated process used for nitrogen removal from wastewater. I am the Outreach Coordinator for the Black Graduate Engineering & Science Students (BGESS), so if you’re interested in BGESS or outreach please feel free to reach out. In my spare time I love playing/watching sports, listening to new music, cooking, traveling, and gardening!
Laura Craciun (she/her)
6th year PhD candidate in Molecular and Cell Biology
Meet the Graduate Student Coordinator of STEM*FYI
Ali Bhatti (he/him)
2nd year PhD student in Science and Math Education (SESAME)
Hello! I’m Ali. I was born in Pakistan and as a child, I immigrated to the United States with my family. We settled in Englewood, NJ and I consider myself a proud New Jerseysan. My identity is very much influenced by my cultural and religious upbringing as a Pakistani-Muslim growing up in the US post-9/11. I was always the “Muslim” kid in my classes and growing up in the tri-state area only accentuated that label. However, once I got to college, I began to see how my faith, culture, and science (particularly biology) were mutually reinforcing and connected. Now, as a grad student, I’m continuing to see those personal connections, which has led me to become interested in the science identity development of other students in STEM. Outside of being a grad student, I love sports, so you can catch me on the basketball court missing wide open 3’s or turning off the TV in frustration as my favorite teams (Nets, Mets, AC Milan) maintain their mediocrity.