When it comes to economic growth and educational excellence, California has a secret weapon: its 56,000 University of California graduate students.
They are the workhorses behind UC’s prowess in education and research — helping teach undergraduates, conducting original research and making discoveries that result in a new startup every two weeks.
The whole state would benefit, in fact, if Sacramento lawmakers helped UC expand its graduate student enrollment, university officials say.
On Wednesday, 26 Ph.D. and master’s students will take a break from their books and beakers to visit with state lawmakers and give them first-hand insight into their work and why it merits more state investment.
The contributions from graduate students are often overshadowed by undergraduate peers in the classroom and UC’s renowned faculty, but UC’s master’s and doctoral students are critical to advancing academics, research and scholarship.
“People who have never been part of a graduate program are often not aware of the vital role our master’s and Ph.D. students play within the university — or the enormous wellspring of talent they bring to the state,” said Pamela Jennings, UC executive director of graduate studies.
In the classroom, grad students lead the seminars, labs and small group discussion sections that allow students, even in large lecture classes, to have individualized attention from an instructor.
They also make it possible for UC to vigorously pursue its research agenda. They develop and drive original avenues of inquiry, while also handling much of the day-to-day grind for faculty research.
Their outsized contributions are hardly limited to the university, however.
Collectively, UC graduate students are an enormous brain trust for the state, spinning out knowledge and innovation in critical areas from education to energy.
They also contribute to a highly skilled workforce, and hatch the new technologies and companies that create jobs for all Californians — not only those with graduate degrees.
And, unlike tenured faculty with secure careers in academia, they are more likely to take the risk, time and effort to launch startups from the fruits of their research.
By giving lawmakers a taste of their efforts — in vital areas such as improving retention in STEM education, creating cheaper solar cells and combating childhood asthma — graduate students hope to demonstrate that they are an investment well worth making.
Meet your Graduate Student Advocates
Ph.D. Student, Food Science
2016 UC Davis Grad Slam Champion
Ryan’s research could revolutionize California’s food and agriculture industry while simultaneously fighting climate change. The fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Food Science graduate group works with Assistant Professor Christopher Simmons to convert biological food waste into electricity. Dowdy’s solution involves taking unwanted sludge from the campus’s anaerobic digester and processing it through microbial fuel cells. Learn more about Ryan in his 2018 graduate student spotlight.
Ph.D. Student, Cultural Studies
Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean and Chancellor
As the Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean and Chancellor (GSADC), Jeanelle is no stranger to advocating on the behalf of UC Davis Graduate Students. In her current role, she has focused her efforts on graduate and professional student retention and has been actively involved in several campus diversity efforts including GDoPx and the Women/Nonbinary Scholars of Color Inclusion Project. Learn more about Jeanelle in her GSADC profile.
A fourth generation California rice grower, Telha's resaerch is focused on the sustainable nutrient management of rice. He identified his faculty mentor early in his graduate career, stating "I knew if I wanted to pursue graduate studies, then there's only one person that I wanted to work with, and that was Dr. Bruce Linquist, the UC Cooperative Extension Rice Specialist, at UC Davis." Learn more about Telha in his 2017 Grad Slam Finalist Spotlight.
Grad Slam Showcase Participants
Ph.D. Student, Geology
2017 UC Davis Grad Slam Finalist
A fierce enthusiast of #SciComm, graduate student Carina Fish frequently tweets about her experience as a graduate student working at the Bodega Marine Lab. The Harvard alumna was "I was exposed to marine science research at a critical age of 15 through an incredible opportunity of a semester abroad program in the Bahamas." Learn more about Carina in her 2017 Grad Slam Finalist Spotlight.
Maci's research evaluates the feasibility and economics gene-editing and standard breeding in dairy and beef cattle. Maci holds a B.S. in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The two-time UC Davis Grad Slam finalist was invited to present at the first-ever Graduate Research Advocacy Day Grad Slam Showcase along with fellow 2017 finalist Carina Fish. Learn more about Maci in her 2018 Grad Slam Finalist Spotlight.
About UC Davis Graduate Studies
Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes 99 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.
UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.
For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.