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Professors for the Future: Meet the 2017-2018 Fellows (Part One)

Group Photo of Professors for the Future at UC Davis
Thursday, November 16, 2017 (All day)

2017-2018 Professors for the Future Fellows

Professors for the Future (PFTF) is a year-long competitive fellowship program designed to recognize and develop the leadership skills of outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have demonstrated their commitment to professionalism, integrity, and academic service. The program is designed to prepare UC Davis doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars for an increasingly competitive marketplace and a rapidly changing university environment. 

This year's cohort of fellows includes students and postdoctoral scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines and graduate programs.  In this three-part spotlight series, we'll be getting to know our PFTF fellows and their projects.


​Reem Al Olaby
Postdoctoral Scholar

Research Interests: Neurological disorders, Autism, Genetics, Epigenetics, Drug Discovery, Clinical Research

PFTF Project Title:  Scientific Research: Project Management and Planning (SR-PPM). 

PFTF Project Description: The project is a 3-hour training workshop dedicated to the graduate and postdoctoral students working in the scientific research field (medicine, biology, chemistry, agriculture, engineering, etc.). It aims at equipping the graduate students with the tools needed to plan and manage the scientific project efficiently.

What inspired or drove you to pursue this project? Project management is not included in the curricula in science disciplines, even though it will have a significant role in achieving quality deliverables. Getting equipped with the suitable project management skills, will help reduce from the difficulty level of developing a scientific research project and managing it. In addition, one of the key determinants of success in any project is the ability to identify the correct project constraints and plan accordingly. That is why I felt that SR-PPM would be an important program to initiate for the benefit of all graduate and postdoctoral fellows who are working in the science discipline.

Maha Alshehab, UC Davis Graduate Student​Maha Alshehab
Ph.D. Candidate, Food Science

Research Interests: Encapsulation technology 

PFTF Project Title:  "What Can Art Do For You? Improving the Graduate Experience Through Art"

PFTF Project Description: The overall objective of this project is to introduce the graduate community to art as a medium to acquire critical skills and practices. This includes communication and public speaking skills, practices of mental health and well-being, and improvement of key cognitive processing skills. This project will be realized through partnerships and collaborations with UC Davis resources including faculty, professionals, and members of the graduate community.  

What inspired or drove you to pursue this project? My interest in the arts began at childhood with naturally driven desire to explore and create where I found joy and comfort in various expressions of art. Hence, the personal motivation behind this project is to explore art beyond my current hobbies. In this stage of my life where work and achievements hold the greatest value, sacrificing personal happiness seems justifiable, thus artistic hobbies are marginalized. "Value has a value only if its value is valued." - Bryan Dyson, the former CEO of Coca Cola. Understanding the value of art in its various forms as a component of the success of the graduate experience will allow the incorporation of this creative element into daily practices. 

BernNadette Best-Green, UC Davis Graduate Student​BernNadette Best-Green
Ph.D. Candidate, Education
Research Interests: 
Teacher Education, Urban Education, Language, Literacy and Culture

PFTF Project Title:  "A Guidebook to Marketing Your Unique Teaching Potential: Developing Relevant Course Offerings from Your Doctoral Research"

PFTF Project Description: My  project will lead to the development of a manual that seeks to enhance the experience of UC Davis graduate students and post-doctoral scholars by generating resources designed to aide these individuals to develop relevant course offerings (and/or enhance existing courses) from insights gained through their graduate studies and dissertation research.

What inspired or drove you to pursue this project? A common challenge experienced by many advanced graduate students, recent graduates, and post-doctoral fellows gave an impetus to the proposed development of "A Guidebook to Marketing Your Unique Teaching Potential: Developing Relevant Course Offerings from Your Doctoral Research." I began observing that many advanced graduate students, recent graduates, and post-doctoral fellows felt unprepared to engage faculty hiring committees in detailed conversations about courses that their doctoral research uniquely qualifies them to teach. 

Vladimir Diaz-Ochoa, UC Davis Postdoctoral ScholarVladimir Diaz-Ochoa
Postdoctoral Scholar
Research Interests
: Host-Pathogen Interactions, Innate Immunity and Microbial Pathogenesis

PFTF Project Title:  "Cultivating Creativity, Authenticity and Resilience to Optimize Research Productivity"

PFTF Project Description: A common challenge that many graduate students face is a striving to overcome feelings of inferiority. This is due, in part, to the inherent rigor of graduate training that demands a candidate reach a high level of mastery in their respective field.  This project aims to develop a training experience that will empower graduate students to cultivate skills and practices that help them to effectively overcome feelings of inferiority. 

What inspired or drove you to pursue this project? My interest in the project is driven by personal experiences in mitigating the effects of imposter syndrome. I am also interested in learning how effective mentoring strategies impacts research productivity. As a future professor, I want to lead a strong and productive research program and therefore I want to understand how feelings of inferiority could affect my future trainees that are carrying out the research. As such, for my own professional development, I see this project as an opportunity to discern which specific skills are the most effective at helping trainees overcome feelings of inferiority. Overall, developing this project will help me to work on something that I am passionate about that also has the potential to impact my future success as a research mentor in a significant way.

Debbie Fetter
Ph.D. Candidate, Nutritional Biology

Research Interests: Nutrition Education

PFTF Project Title:  "Social Media Boot Camp"

PFTF Project Description: The social media boot camp will comprise of a 5-part workshop series throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. Each session will invite an expert in the topic area to speak for 40 minutes and then lead a 20-minute activity where participants can utilize the new skill(s). Session topics will include: 1) The importance of social media; 2) Building your personal brand; 3) What to post (and what not to post); 4) Find and connect with your virtual audience; and 5) Harnessing teachable moments.

What inspired or drove you to pursue this project? I was inspired to create a UC Davis virtual community where we can support each other in the mission to bring our research and educational training to others in an accessible and enjoyable way.

Want to Learn More About Professors for the Future?

Graduate Studies will be accepting nominations for the 2018-2019 Professors for the Future Fellowship Program starting next month. Fellows design and complete a project that benefits other graduate students or postdoctoral scholars on campus, participate in program-sponsored activities throughout the year, and receive a $3,000 stipend.

Learn more about the eligibility criteria and selection process by visiting the PFTF website.