Graduate Mentors

Maribel Patiño

Year: 3rd year graduate student, 5th year MD/PhD student 
Department: Neuroscience Graduate Program, Medical Scientist Training Program
Current Lab: Ed Callaway 
Research Interests: neurotechnology development, cortical inhibitory circuits, neuropsychiatric disorders
Ask me about: MD/PhD programs, summer research programs, undergraduate research fellowships, funded post-baccalaureate programs, NIH diversity supplements, PD Soros fellowship
Something about me: Grew up in California, undergrad at UC Berkeley (go bears!), NIH PREP at UPenn, MSTP at UC San Diego. Non – science interests include anime, punk/emo rock, cats, and puzzles. Trying to learn how to skateboard. 

Mini Contreras

Year: 2nd year Graduate Student
Department: Neurosciences
Current Lab: Nicola Allen
Research Interests: I am interested in the role of astrocytes in experience-dependent plasticity.
Ask me about: Undergraduate summer research experiences, application materials, science communication
Something about me: I was born in San Diego but I grew up in Mexico. I majored in Biotechnology Engineering at Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, Mexico. I came to grad school straight from undergrad as I gathered enough research experience to go straight into it thanks to my summer research experiences. Some of my interests include spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, working out, spending time with my fiancee, my dogs, friends, and family.

Kevin Lamont White Jr.

Year: 5th year graduate student
Department: Neuroscience
Current Lab: Gentry Patrick
Research Interests: Neurodegenerative disease, learning and memory
Ask me about: Grant applications, scientific internships, conferences, networking
Something about me: I hail from St. Louis, MO. I love to party and dance. Jazz music makes me happy and I love to meet new people in general.

Christian Cazares

Year: 5th year graduate student
Department: Neuroscience
Current Lab: Christina Gremel
Research Interests: Alcoholism and Decision-making
Ask me about: Graduate applications, travel awards, DSPAN, NSF-GRFP, Ford Fellowship, undergraduate funds, interviews, post-baccalaureate programs
Something about me: I was born in Mexico and somehow ended up in California where I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Cognitive Science. I took time off to do research at UPenn, and now I’m back in California to focus on Neuroscience. Besides the brain, I love playing videogames, skateboarding, watching sports and chilling with friends. 

Jillybeth Burgado

Year: 3rd year Graduate Student
Department: Neurosciences
Current Lab: Nicola Allen
Research Interests: I am interested in the role of non-neuronal cell types, specifically astrocytes and microglia, in development and disease. My current research focuses on studying factors produced by astrocytes in the context of healthy aging and neurodegenerative diseases. I am also interested in stress responses in the brain and body, infectious diseases, and public health.
Ask me about: Undergraduate research, application materials, post-bac opportunities
Something about me: I was born in Puerto Rico and spent most of my childhood in Central Florida. I majored in Neuroscience and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating, I worked at the CDC in Atlanta in an infectious disease laboratory. I love travelling, camping/hiking, rock climbing, and rollercoasters.

Pamela D. Rivière Ruiz

Year: 5th year graduate student
Department: Cognitive Science
Current Lab: Dr. Lara Rangel Group, Neural Crossroads Laboratory
Research Interests: I love to think about neural circuitry (all the networks and sub-networks that make up the brain). Particularly, I like to explore how the unique biophysical features of single cells–combined with how these cells are wired to neighboring neurons– impacts the patterns of electrical activity of the microcircuit they are a part of. To investigate these questions, our lab uses in vivo electrophysiology in rodents to record the electrical activity of individual cells and populations of cells.
Ask me about: Graduate applications, navigating courses and gaining research experience!
Something about me: I grew up in Puerto Rico to a Haitian dad and Puerto Rican mom. My favorite hobbies include drawing and playing soccer and tennis and my immediate goals in life involve learning computational modeling of neural networks!

Michael Preston

Year: 2nd year graduate student
Department: Neurosciences
Current Lab: Bradley Voytek
Research Interests: Systems and cognitive neuroscience. Neural computation. Oscillations. BCI.
Ask me about: PhD applications, NIH Postbaccalaureate Research Program (Postbac IRTA) 
Something about me: I am originally from Towson, MD. I studied neuroscience at American University, then worked as a postbaccalaureate researcher at the NIH. I enjoy running/hiking, cycling/mountain biking, gardening, and cooking.

Caroline Jia

Year: 4th year MD/Ph.D, 2nd year graduate student
Department: Neuroscience
Current Lab: Sung Han
Research Interests: I am interested in pain signaling and understanding the neural networks associated with different types of pain. In general though, I find all of neuroscience and medicine fascinating and exciting.
Ask me about: MD/Ph.D applications, undergraduate research scholarships
Something about me: I am originally from Los Angeles, went to UCLA for undergrad, and enjoy rock climbing, swimming, taekwondo, and doing urban dance on the side.

Sammi Sison

Year: 3rd year Graduate Student
Department: Neuroscience
Current Lab: Gene Yeo
Research Interests: Stem cell modeling of neurodegenerative diseases
Ask me about: Finding an undergraduate research experience, navigating undergraduate research, grad school applications, grad interviews, grant writing
Something about me: I grew up in a small town outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For undergrad, I attended the University of Wisconsin Madison (go badgers!) where I majored in Neurobiology and worked in a fruit fly neurogenetics lab. After I graduated, I worked as a lab tech for 2 years where I used stem cell models to study neurodegenerative diseases. I love hiking, yoga, gardening, and spending time with my dogs. I also enjoy cooking and a new hobby of mine is learning about my Filipino heritage through cooking and trying new foods.  

Brianna Marsh

Year: 2nd year Graduate Student
Department: Neuroscience
Current Lab: Maksim Bazhenov
Research Interests: Computational Neuroscience, Modeling, Epilepsy
Ask me about: Conferences, Summer Internships, Grant Applications, Being a woman in all male workplaces!
Something about me: I grew up in St. Louis and attended the University of Kansas for undergrad. I am Irish and Puerto Rican, and embrace both! Lover of tea and meditation to help with anxiety. 

Chiaki Santiago

Year: 2nd year Graduate Student
Department: Neuroscience
Current Lab: Byungkook Lim
Research Interests: Addiction, Systems and Computational Neuroscience
Ask me about: PhD applications, applying for and attending conferences, grant applications, networking
Something about me: I hopped around a lot when I was a kid and visited my family and attended school in the US and Japan. I ended up staying mostly in the East coast and grew up in CT. For undergrad, I went to Vanderbilt University and majored in Neuroscience. For non-science hobbies, I enjoy surfing, painting, cooking, and watching movies.  

Akshay Nagarajan

Year: 1st year Graduate Student
Department: Cognitive Science
Current Lab: Andrea Chiba
Research Interests: learning and collaboration, self-regulation in children, designing constructionist learning environments, robotics, and haptics
Ask me about: International internships, graduate applications, undergraduate research, conferences
Something about me: I am originally from Mumbai in India, where I did my undergrad in electrical engineering. After graduating, I took up teaching and research positions at several research labs at Amrita University in India and Stanford University, and the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in the USA. I have worked on projects to design water carrying robots in villages, drones for medical delivery, and to teach rural women plumbing skills using haptic simulators. In the last four years, I switched to research in maker education to foster a sense of agency in children and to bring equity in education. And have designed constructionist learning programs and set up makerspaces for children in rural communities in India. I enjoy hiking, cooking, playing soccer, and caring for injured eagles, owls, snakes, civets, and dogs, among other non-human animals. 

Eena Kosik

Year: 1st year Graduate Student
Department: Cognitive Science
Current Lab: Bradley Voytek
Research Interests: Neural oscillations, parasympathetic nervous system, cognition, neurological and psychiatric disease
Ask me about: PhD apps, making posters, undergraduate research experience, undergraduate honor’s thesis, how to make the most of your gap years (between undergrad and grad school)
Something about me: I grew up in Santa Barbara and can’t seem to get away from the UC system. I studied Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley and did an honors thesis using EEG to study prediction in the brain. Post undergrad, I took 3 years off and was a clinical research coordinator at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center studying the neurobiological basis of emotion in neurodegenerative disease. Now I’m excited to be at UCSD studying neural oscillations in Dr. Voytek’s lab. Outside of research, I love running, cooking, yoga, and am recently trying to pick up piano!