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Current Board Members 2020-2021

CGPSA Board Member Biographies: 2020-2021


Chidera (Dera) Alim  is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Molecular Cellular and Integrative Physiology, with a designated emphasis in Biotechnology. Her research focuses on cardiovascular diseases on the molecular level, using mice and rabbits as model organisms. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Biology at Howard University; and her Master's in Physiology at UC Davis. Besides her research and the CGPSA board, Dera is a representative to the Graduate Student Association, and a mentor for the Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Entrepreneurship. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, dancing and playing board games.

Adilene (Ady) Bernal Sánchez is a first-generation second year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry Graduate Group studying the enantioselective synthesis of organosilicon molecules to produce stereogenic-at-silicon compounds via desymmetrization reactions. Ady holds a B.A. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Mathematics from Sonoma State University. Ady is passionate about STEM mentoring and works closely with many on-campus and off-campus groups to improve educational opportunities for first-generation and underrepresented minorities. Outside of her research, Ady enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her two German Shepherds. 


Tara Caso is a second year Master’s student in plant biology. She received her B.S. in Cellular/Molecular Biology and a minor in Chemistry from Humboldt State University. She is broadly interested in improving crops through cellular biology and plant biochemistry research techniques, with the ultimate goal of increasing global food security. She has held leadership positions in several undergraduate clubs and made a point of organizing activities intended to increase equity and inclusivity in STEM. This passion has followed Tara to graduate school in her work through the CGPSA as well as organizations such as Science Says, out in STEM (oSTEM), Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, ​​and Entrepreneurship (ESTEME), and Women in Life sciences at Davis (WiLD), all of which aim to improve the experiences of underrepresented students in STEM fields.

Katti Crakes is a DVM/PhD student in the School of Veterinary Medicine and the School of Medicine. She received her B.S. in Animal Science and Biology from Cornell University. Since coming to UC Davis, she has been a student between the SVM and SOM and serves as the current student President of the Graduate Group of Integrative Pathobiology (GGIP) as well as a member of the Veterinary Scientist Training Program (VSTP) executive committee. Her research and clinical interests are focused on translational models and harnessing host-microbe interactions to optimize gut health across species. Katti Crakes recently completed her dissertation entitled “Mapping Metabolic Pathways for Mucosal Health at the Host-Microbe Interface” which was awarded the Max Kleiber Research Dissertation Award for an unusually significant contribution to one or a combination of the areas of biochemistry, nutrition and physiology. She is now in the veterinary school on a small animal track with a pathology emphasis. In her free time, Katti enjoys snowboarding, spending time with her 3 fur children, and visiting National Parks around the US.

Ben Ruilin Fong is a first year PhD student in Comparative Literature. His research interests broadly focus on Chinese film, American literature and film, and early modern English theatre. He is currently researching how the transpacific co-production of Chinese films popularized a particular type of mass entertainment and formulae, and how the recent popularity of wangluo xiaoshuo (wangluo: online, network; xiaoshuo: novels) envisions the growth of Chinese mass entertainment and formulae in the global marketplace. Ben grew up in Beijing and has a BA in English and East Asian Studies from Brandeis and a MSt in English Literature (1550-1700) from Oxford. He is excited to listen to and advocate for Davis graduate students. Feel free to contact him at

Allison (Ally) Fulton is a third-year Ph.D. student in English with an emphasis in Science and Technology Studies. Her research examines the visual dimensions of early nineteenth-century women’s scientific-literary print networks. Alongside her studies and the CGPSA board, Ally is a reader for the Los Angeles Review, serves as a Graduate Writing Fellow, and co-runs the working and making group History of the Book and Material Cultures in the Digital Age. She holds a B.A. in English and Biology from Oberlin College. Outside of her graduate studies, Ally enjoys experimenting with book arts, playing ultimate frisbee, cooking, and hiking. 

Dorothy Hoang is a third-year Ph.D. student in Epidemiology. She researches prenatal risk factors of autism spectrum disorder. She is particularly interested in studying these associations by race to uncover how social determinants affect risk in certain populations. Dorothy holds a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior and a B.A. in Sociology from UC Davis. Alongside her current studies, Dorothy works as a clinical research coordinator at the MIND Institute where she follows environmental exposures of pregnant women and performs behavioral testing to assess the neurodevelopment of their children. She has been involved in various committees targeting recruitment and retention in higher education for students in underserved communities. She has also held workshops with aims of continuing dialogue about issues involving unpacking privilege, mental health and ability, and equity among many other social justice topics. She hopes to bring these experiences into her work with CGPSA to advocate for her peers and improve the campus climate.

Ryan Hodge graduated from University of California, Davis in 2016 with a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior. He then obtained an M.S. in Child Development here at UC Davis, and is excited to continue on in the HDGG doctoral program. Ryan’s research aims to apply positive youth development approaches to understanding adolescent socio-emotional and neurobiological development. Overall, his research aims to assess individual difference characteristics that may contribute to adaptive functioning and positive developmental trajectories. On the CGPSA board, Ryan hopes to improve communication between administration and the student body about the existing resources and services, in addition to addressing any of his peers’ needs that he encounters. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys hiking, cooking, and traveling.


Jill Huynh is a PhD student in School Organization & Educational Policy. Building on a decade of professional experience at colleges and universities, Jill's research questions revolve around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. She obtained a BA in Sociology and BS in Psychology at the University of Washington and earned her EdM in Higher Education at Harvard University.

Doreen Joseph is a second year Ph.D. student in Computer Science. She earned a B.S. in Cyber Security Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from George Mason University. Broadly defined, her research interests include network security, applications of machine learning in cyber security, securing the Internet of Things (IoT), and the design of cyber-resilient systems. Currently, she is pursuing research in graph-based deep learning for cyber security. Doreen is committed to public service and is eager to empower students who are underrepresented and marginalized in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). She aims to be a global advocate for accessible, inclusive, and equitable high-quality education for all. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, exploring nature, and exercising.

Hawa Kaba is a first year Master student in Health Informatics. She received a Bachelor in Global Disease biology from UC Davis.  Her passion towards healthcare comes from growing up in Mali and observing the inadequate healthcare services. She was introduced to research through the NIH Bridges program at UC Berkeley, then continued as an intern at the UC Davis Institute of regenerative medicine. With her knowledge of the One Health Concept and her skills from Health Informatics, she aspires to implement the Electronic Health Records system in Mali and other developing countries to solve the lack of communication between patients and health care workers. Hawa enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and debating about global challenges. 

Robin Kay studies epidemiology as a graduate student. While serving on the CGPSA Board, she intends to work with administrators to facilitate the delivery of quality educational experiences, and she hopes to collaborate with colleagues to allow the board to serve as a channel of communication between the Chancellor and the student body.

Andrew David King is a first-year student in the MA program in Philosophy. His current research interests are in ethics and political philosophy, aesthetics, American literature, and British Romanticism. Prior to coming to Davis, he earned a BA in Philosophy and English from UC Berkeley and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He previously served as Provost’s Visiting Writer and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Iowa, Research Assistant for the Walt Whitman Archive, and Global Academic Fellow at NYU Shanghai. When not squinting at blocks of text, he enjoys throwing the ball for his red heeler, Clementine. He invites UC Davis graduate and professional students to contact him with concerns for the board at

Gwyneth Manser is a third year Ph.D. student in the Geography Graduate Group (GGG). Her research interests include food studies, cultural geography, and health, and she is currently working on projects related to farmers market regulations, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional food systems. She holds a B.A. in anthropology and environmental studies from Emory University, and an M.S. in geography from Portland State University. In addition to her work with CGPSA, she serves as the vice-chair of the Graduate Student Affinity Group for the American Association of Geographers (AAG), and as a student representative on the GGG Executive Committee.


Joanna Mathias is a PhD candidate in Education with an emphasis in School Organization and Educational Policy in the Graduate Group in Education. Her research interests include the transition from high school to postsecondary education and the early years of postsecondary studies for socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Her dissertation work focuses on Career and Technical Education in California, specifically, stratification within CTE programs and its effect on higher education outcomes. Joanna is an advisor for Pi Beta Phi and co-chair of the School of Education Graduate Student Association. She has a BA in Economics from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a Master degree in Economics from North Carolina State University. She enjoys napping, reading, and spending time with her 5 cats.

Samantha Pereira is a second year PhD student in Political Science. She received her BA in Political Science and BS in Justice Studies with minors in Human Rights and Applied Research Methods at San Jose University. Her main research interests revolve around international human rights, and she hopes to one day work in an environment which allows her to create policies and programs to improve human rights conditions throughout the world. While in undergrad, Samantha utilized her various leadership positions to advocate for students and improve their overall experience while attending the university. She joined the CGPSA board with the intent to do the same for her fellow graduate and professional students at UC Davis and is excited to build upon work from last year’s board and tackle issues that have become especially troublesome during the pandemic. 

Daniel Speer is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry Graduate Group studying lipid molecules. They received their B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Their research investigates the physical responses of biomimetic soft matter systems (including vesicles and myelin figures) to chemical stressors and molecular machinery. They are constantly inspired to improve education and mentorship, and do so throughout multiple organizations on and off-campus. Outside of their studies, they enjoy surfing, skating, playing ultimate frisbee, and mildly excessive amounts of coffee.


Whitney Vangrin is a first year Master’s Student in the Art Studio Program and the recipient of the Provost’s Fellowships in the Arts, Humanities and Social Science at University of California, Davis. She received her B.F.A. from the Parsons School of Design in New York City. Her art practice works across mediums with an emphasis in performance and video. Equal parts physical and psychological, her performances question perceptions of authenticity, creating works that hinge upon reality and simulation while making allusions to cinema, ritual, and folk traditions. She intends to bring a creative perspective while serving on the CGPSA Board and is motivated by a desire to create a more fair and inclusive university environment.


Breanne Weber is a PhD Candidate in English with a designated emphasis in Science and Technology Studies. Her work explores early modern literature via the intersections of early scientific and alchemical epistemologies, the material book, and the digital humanities. Prior to beginning her PhD, Breanne obtained an MA in English Literature and a BA in English Literature and History from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Alongside her work with CGPSA, Breanne is the Performance Review Editor for the Marlowe Society of America, a graduate representative for the Oecologies Research Cluster, and co-leader of the working group History of the Book and Material Cultures in the Digital Age. In her free time, Breanne enjoys traveling, learning Dutch, reading YA novels, experimenting with early modern recipes, and making books.