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Fellows 2009-2010

PFTF Group Photo 2009-2010

Graduate Ally Coalition

Abigail Boggs

For my Professors for the Future project and as part of my position as this year’s Graduate Student Assistant to the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Chancellor (GSADC), I’ve spent the year working closely with representatives from the campus resource centers to continue the work of the Graduate Ally Coalition (GAC) and, more particularly, to institutionalize this organization for years to come. More...

GAC was first formed in the fall of 2008 when graduate students at UC Davis recognized that graduate students nation-wide, and particularly students from historically marginalized groups, are dropping out at an alarming rate, often for reasons that could be avoided with timely prevention or intervention strategies. In response to this phenomenon, the student leaders decided to start a program to train graduate students to serve as peer resources within each graduate group and department on campus. GAC’s importance at UC Davis and within the UCs has become all the more apparent during the rise of visible hate crimes directed at communities of color and queer communities at UC Davis and beyond over the last several months. I joined GAC three weeks before the fall 2009 training and helped to develop the curriculum and implementation strategy for the event. In total, forty participants were trained representing a very wide array of graduate groups and departments. After the training, GACs core organizing group started preparing for the following year and I started on my main task – institutionalizing GAC so that it can have a solid future.

The first step for institutionalizing GAC has been to work out a solid membership structure for the core organizing group and a group of community partners and resources. GAC has thrived this year thanks to the tremendous efforts of several graduate students including Brook Colley, the graduate student researcher (GSR) at the Women’s Resources and Research Center, George Sellu of the Student Recruitment and Retention Center, and Malaika Singleton, the chair of the Graduate Student Association. We’ve also been fortunate enough to work with undergraduates from the Cross Cultural Center and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, and staff from Services for International Students and Scholars and the Campus Violence Prevention Project. Our community partners range from the Student Disability Center to the Teaching Resource Center.

Another aspect of institutionalization has been moving beyond just the fall training to include other activities that the core can take on to impact graduate student life on campus. The fall training provides students with basic information about campus resources and teaches them strategies for understanding and assisting students who face challenges or barriers due to their racial or ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, age, socioeconomic status, ability and religion or are facing issues of sexual harassment or stalking. The training focuses on a discussion of privilege and marginalization and provides strategies for bystander intervention and ally development. Additionally, a major GAC accomplishment this year was writing a list of nine recommendations for improving the campus climate for graduate students. These included advocating for GSRs for campus resource centers, prioritizing graduate student mentoring and creating a space for graduate students on campus. This list of recommendations was endorsed by the Chancellor’s Graduate and Professional Student Advisory Board and the Office of Grad Studies’ Retention Taskforce. It has also been discussed with the Chancellor and with the Dean of Graduate Studies. Several of the recommendations are in the process of being implemented. The GAC core also helped run several events throughout the year including a pizza social, a workshop on graduate students and mental health, and graduate student of color mixers.

Lastly, the final steps for institutionalizing GAC have been formally including GAC in job descriptions and securing funding. I’ve taken several steps to accomplish these goals. First, GAC has been written into permanent job descriptions for the GSADC, the vice chair of GSA, GSR positions at the WRRC and SSRC, and the English GSA. And finally, GAC has secured a one thousand dollar line-item from the GSA and seven hundred dollars from the Office of Graduate Studies to continue its vitally important work into the future. I am hopeful that GAC will have a long future advocating for and directing providing services for graduate and professional students at UC Davis.

Scientific Leadership & Management Workshop

Hiutung Chu

Scientists devote years of training to become well-educated and well-trained researchers with the goal of managing a research lab of their own. And while it is crucial for scientists to be able to think and work objectively and critically for an intellectual pursuit, effective leadership and management abilities are equally necessary skills to effectively run a successful laboratory. More...

However, management and leadership courses are not a part of the graduate training curriculum and many scientists lack the opportunities to formally develop scientific leadership and management skills. Thus, the aim of my project is to develop a Scientific Leadership & Management workshop series designed to enhance the professional development of graduate students and post-doctoral scholars engaged in research. The workshop is aimed to serve as a practical guide on identifying and developing leadership skills necessary in starting and managing a research lab. The following two-hour sessions are designed to address scientific leadership development:

  1. Myers-Brigg Type Indicator and Leadership Style The first session of the workshop series was facilitated by Dr. Janice Morand from the Internship and Career Center. The Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) is an assessment designed to measure preferences in how one perceive the world and make decisions. Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows participated in the online MBTI assessment and received a personalized report of their preferences and MBTI types. Case studies and interactive exercises were used to emphasize differences in MBTI types and how it may affects one’s leadership style (in methods of communication, organization, conflict management, and mentoring).
  2. Lab Management and Leadership The second session was facilitated by Michael and Nanny Bosch from the UC Davis Extension Lab Management Institute Certificate Program. Topics from the Lab Management course offered through UC Davis Extension were discussed, from the perspective of both private and public sectors.
  3. Faculty Panel on Lab Management The final session was an informal Question & Answer session with a faculty panel (Dr. Nicole Baumgarth, Dr. Scott Dawson, and Dr. David Mills) discussing a variety of topics regarding laboratory management. The professors provided candid insight regarding how to build up a lab as a first year faculty, hiring and lab management, conflict management, funding, teaching, and mentoring.

Over 50 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows participated in the three workshops, coming from 15 different departments and graduate groups. Participants who completed all three workshops received a certificate of completion for the Scientific Leadership and Management series. Additionally, feedback from the 50 participants were extremely positive, with many individuals recommending that this workshop series continue in the upcoming years as a resource for graduate student, post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty.

Increasing the Clinical and Translational Health Potential of Basic Science & Engineering Research:Opportunities for Cross-Disciplinary Training and Collaboration at UC Davis

Collin Ellis

Graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in science and engineering programs which are aimed at ultimately addressing issues of human medicine and disease have a major need which is shared with the agencies that fund their biomedical training: to find and implement ways of overcoming cognitive and technical barriers to decreasing the time it takes for their basic research to be ‘translated’ into clinical paradigms, inside and outside of academia, with the ultimate goal of contributing to health care and medical technology (i.e. benchtop to bedside).

Many training and education programs at UCD have been implemented to address these ‘barrier’ issues and foster cross-disciplinary training and collaboration including: the NIH Clinical & Translational Science Center Training Programs, the Biotechnology Designated Emphasis, the NIH Training Grant in Biomolecular Technology, the HHMI IMBS Program and the Designated Emphasis in Translational Research, the NSF Center for Biophotonics Science & Technology Internship Programs, and the Designated Emphasis Program in Biophotonics.

However, new candidates are not comprehensively and immediately exposed to these opportunities upon matriculation, instead, candidates may learn about one or more through their graduate group or through orientations (which are broad events and not solely focused on these translational issues). The disjointed awareness of all these distinctive programs often occurs too late (i.e. many programs require matriculation before qualifying exams and/or require additional coursework in order to be considered and to receive transcript/degree notation). To address this, I created a comprehensive same-day special event targeting new candidates and promoting these programs at UCD with invited program directors to speak and educate.

An average of 30 people attended each seminar alone; there were more questions/interest than there was time for and, as a result, many stayed long after to speak with the directors and I. Outcome reports included that some applied to their fellowships only after they heard about them during the seminars. My future directions include assisting in creating a half-day ‘Translational Science & Engineering Research’ UCD symposium for new candidates in the fall to include talks by directors of the programs and ongoing candidates with the hope this will be an annual event.

Examining the Purpose & Utility of Teaching Evaluations

Mara Evans

Every teaching experience at UC Davis culminates with a key event: students complete teaching evaluations of their instructors. The data from these evaluations serve as evidence of a graduate student’s teaching ability, and are intended as guides for Teaching Assistants (TAs) to improve future teaching. Currently, published research about Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET) centers on the validity of evaluations (i.e. are evaluations accurately capturing what students feel about their learning experience?) and how professors utilize their evaluations to improve teaching. More...

This project considers graduate student TAs, specifically, rather than professors, because this community of educators is a crucial part of undergraduate education and as new educators TAs have unique professional needs. This study addressed two research questions: 1) how do graduate students use their teaching evaluations? And (2) what aspects of teaching evaluations are considered helpful?

In order to address these questions, UC Davis graduate student TAs across all departments were asked to voluntarily complete an anonymous survey in the Spring of 2010. The survey had three parts. It collected basic demographic information, asked a series of questions to ascertain the participants’ attitudes about teaching and student evaluations, and asked open-ended questions about the purpose of teaching evaluations and how they might be improved.

A total of 317 individuals responded. The majority of responders were PhD students (85%), followed by Masters students and two Law students. Responders represented a wide range of teaching experience, from first-time TAs to individuals who had taught 18 quarters of classes. All disciplines were represented, with members of the Life Sciences and Social Sciences making up the majority of responders, and while most responders indicated that they will pursue a career in teaching, many were undecided.

The TAs who participated in this survey indicated that they overwhelmingly enjoy teaching. They perceive teaching evaluations to be a source of feedback from students, that can serve as a tool to improve teaching skills. Many responders also indicated that teaching evaluations are important for obtaining employment both at UC Davis and beyond. The biggest concern is that not all TAs feel like the results of their student evaluations are easily accessible. Suggestions for improving evaluations include moving to an electronic format, and increasing flexibility in the types of questions asked on evaluations. In general, teaching evaluations were considered to be an important part of teaching but many TAs use them in conjunction with a variety of other reflective teaching practices in order to be successful educators.

A full report of the outcomes of this study will be made available to the UC Davis campus through the Teaching Resources Center.

The Effects of Commuting on the Professional & Personal Lives

Trina Filan

Graduate school and post-doctoral life are stressful, as is commuting. Put them together, and what do you get? The answer to that question is the subject of this project. I was interested in four overarching topics: basic commute information for commuting grad students and post-docs, on-campus and off-campus obligations and relationships, and resources used, desired, forsworn, and not heard of (but available).

I used a variety of methods to assess these aspects of the commuting scholar landscape, including assessing commuter and portable academic resources provided by the university, conducting focus groups, surveying grad students and post-docs via a comprehensive electronic survey, and informally querying graduate coordinators via email.

These methods revealed a trove of information. For some survey respondents, commuting is a choice brought on by the desire to live someplace more interesting or diverse as Davis; for others, obligations elsewhere make commuting the only option to pursue. Respondents of color were adamant: UC Davis and the City of Davis are unsafe places to be, and they prefer to live elsewhere. Many commuting scholars seem resigned to (rather than satisfied with) their lives, and they must forgo some of the enjoyable parts of academic life, such as intellectual and social connections with their peers and attending seminars and lectures that conflict with travel time. While many find support both at home and at university, many have peers and advisors who do not understand their circumstances and think they are slacking on their scholarly obligations. Commutes take a lot of time out of scholars’ days, and most drive at least some of the time, making it more difficult to study, relax, or make other productive use of commute time.

Solutions to various problems were suggested by survey respondents. These solutions will be presented in several reports, as well as contained in a webpage dedicated to commuting grad students and post-docs on the GSA website.

Funding Yourself: Grant Writing in the Humanities & Social Sciences

Darcy Irvin

All graduate students should leave UC Davis knowing how to write a grant. Some disciplines, however, offer more rigorous training in grant writing than others; graduate students in the Humanities, in particular, often do not begin writing grants until after they have finished their degrees. For this project, I concentrated on developing training materials that would assist graduate students in the Humanities and Social Sciences in applying for grants early on in their graduate careers.

The project had two main components, the first of which is a UCD SmartSite that offers a list of approximately 70 funding opportunities, as well as extensive materials on grant writing. The second portion of the project was a grant writing workshop with Dr. Suad Joseph, from the Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies departments. Dr. Joseph encouraged graduate students to consider grant writing as a means of refining their research projects and to treat grant writing as a significant part of their dissertation.

The project was especially helpful in demonstrating to graduate students in the Humanities how much we can learn about grant writing from those in the hard sciences and Social Sciences.

Translating Research Beyond Academia: Interacting with Media, Policymakers, and Communities

Terra Kelly (with Elizabeth VanWormer)

While we often communicate within our specific disciplines and the larger university environment, many graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty search for ways to share their research outside of academia in order to promote public action and policy change. Traditional academic training develops strong discipline relevant skills, but rarely provides experience in interfacing with the media, policy makers, and local communities.

We developed and led a one quarter seminar course (two credit, S/U grading scale) that offered opportunities to reflect on the role of higher education in society and to gain insight into and practical experience in media relations, policy development, public education, and community engagement. This course was sponsored by the John Muir Institute for the Environment and the School of Education. Invited speakers, including professionals from the university communications service, university faculty and staff with experience in policy and online communications, and faculty that integrate research translation into their programs, facilitated the seminar sessions. In the interactive and informal course setting, participants were provided the opportunity to practice the skills that will prepare them for communicating their research within and beyond academia.

We limited enrollment to 30 graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in order to promote an interactive discussion format. University faculty and staff members were also invited to attend sessions of interest. The diverse course participants came from programs including Genetics, Plant Biology, Chemistry, Public Health, Food Science, Animal Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Nutrition, Geology, Community Development, Musicology, and Viticulture and Enology.

To evaluate the success of this course, attendees completed an evaluation on the utility of the sessions and offer suggestions for improvement. We feel that this seminar promotes establishment of connections with diverse instructors, students and post-doctoral scholars with similar interests, and builds a sustainable foundation for integrated media, policy and outreach training experiences on the UCD campus. We hope to see it offered and refined in the future. Our course sponsors share an interest in continuing the seminar in future years.

Graduate Teaching Community

Cassandra Paul

The concept for this project came from my experience as a member in a campus group called the TA Consultants. The TA Consultants are a group of graduate students who work to help other graduate students improve their teaching practices. During each of our weekly meetings we devote some time to improving our own teaching skills by reading relevant education papers and/or having discussions about our own experiences in the classroom.

I have found this interdisciplinary and education focused environment to be extremely energizing. It has greatly enhanced my own professional improvement. This is why I decided that this was one portion of the TAC program that I wanted to share with the entire campus.

The idea behind the Graduate Teaching Community (GTC) was simple: to create a space for UC Davis graduate students and post-docs to come together to share ideas about teaching and learning. In order to create the physical space, I set up a time (5-6PM every Monday evening), reserved a room, and advertized the meeting to all graduates and post-docs interested in joining a network of interdisciplinary educators. With the help of two TA Consultants (Mara Evans & Cara Harwood) I planned and facilitated the first two meetings of the fall quarter. During these meetings we, as a large group, generated some education topics we were interested in tackling, and then formed smaller groups based on these interests. Each week a different small group of members facilitated a meeting based on a different topic in whatever particular style the facilitator thought would be most effectively paired with the topic and their teaching style. This meant that over the course of the year some meetings were lectures, some were activity based, some were discussions, some featured guest speakers, and even some were problem solving sessions.

I consider the project to be a success for three major reasons:

  1. It is interdisciplinary. Over the course of the year over 120 graduate students indicated their interest in the GTC, and 53 of those individuals attended one or more of our 30 meetings. These 53 individuals account for 28 different graduate groups and departments making the GTC one of the more diverse groups on campus.
  2. There is member ownership. Members have consistently stepped up to take the group where they want it to go. During the winter quarter, one of the members saw a need to disseminate the discussions we were having to an online community and so this member took the initiative to start a blog. (http://gtc-blog.blogspot.com/) Additionally, by the end of the year I had delegated almost all of my formal duties to other member volunteers.
  3. It is continuing. Perhaps the largest clue the program is successful is that others think it is important. I have secured a successor for the next academic year who will continue doing the formal duties that I have done this past year. Additionally, the Teaching Resources Center has formally recognized the importance of this program on campus by adopting the program for at least a year. They will provide a $1500 fellowship to the individual who will assume my duties next year.

I really enjoyed working on this project and being a part of this diverse community of learners and educators. I plan to remain involved in the Graduate Teaching Community next year, and am excited that someone else will get the opportunity to facilitate such a thoughtful and stimulating community.

Show Me Your Data! Designing Sophisticated Charts and Graphics for Your Audience

Rene' Rosenbaum

Nowadays data is generated or collected in nearly all research fields. However, raw numbers are difficult to interpret especially if present in large volumes. To simplify this process, visual representations such as charts or diagrams are widely applied. Although it is well known that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, there are many different ways to view the data – and some are more successful than others.

Most of our experience in data visualization comes from using common office tools, which is mainly the reason why many presentations and reports are still packed with unreadable, overloaded, or cluttered data representations making a quick insight impossible. Even if there are many different data types and visualization techniques, there are still some basic design principles that must be followed in order to allow for expressive results. To address these problems, I created a 5-part workshop series designed to teach participants about the fundamentals of appropriate data visualization. The workshop series consisted of three parts:

  1. Two lectures on the fundamentals and requirements of successful data representations;
  2. Two tutorials intended as an interactive discussion of selected examples; and
  3. A visit to the KeckCAVES Virtual Reality environment at UC Davis to see the future in data visualization.

Participants in this workshop series gained a better understanding of how to successfully create data visualization for their particular research projects.

Broader Impacts: How to Integrate Your Research with Outreach

Jacob Setterbo

It is often difficult for graduate students to address the “broader impacts” on society criterion that is common to many grant applications (particularly NSF grants). This criterion requests that research is effectively integrated with education, is communicated broadly to a large audience, encourages diversity in science and research, enhances scientific and technical understanding, and benefits society. More...

My goal was to provide graduate students guidance on: (1) how to effectively address this criterion in grant proposals, and (2) how to find existing outreach activities, or develop new ones, that will help them actually achieve broader impacts.

I developed a website for UC Davis graduate students (using information from a previous PFTF project) which provides both information and links to local resources and organizations that can help them have broader impacts with their research. Additional features of the website include examples of UC Davis outreach programs, information on other methods for distributing research to the public, and examples of successful NSF grant proposal essays.

Workshop

On March 3rd I ran a workshop titled “Making an Impact: Outreach and the Broader Impacts Section for NSF.” Dr. Kent Leach (Department of Biomedical Engineering) and Dr. Sharon Strauss (Department of Evolution and Ecology) shared advice on broader impacts from their experiences as NSF panelists for grant applications. Fifteen people attended from various campus departments, and the overall evaluation of the workshop was an average of 4.5 out of 5.

Workgroup and "Science & Engineering Exposition"

After the workshop I formed a workgroup of students who were interested in further discussion of broader impacts. The workgroup met (April 16th and May 14th) to discuss successful NSF essays addressing broader impacts and to develop presentations for elementary school outreach. On May 19th we had a “Science & Engineering Exposition” at Anna Kyle Elementary in Fairfield where the graduate students presented their research in a “cool” way to 5th graders.

Suggestions for future work:
Not all departments have outreach programs, so it may be useful to develop an interdisciplinary outreach program that provides more opportunities for graduate students to have broader impacts with their research.

Translating Research Beyond Academia: Interacting with Media, Policymakers, and Communities

Elizabeth VanWormer (with Terra Kelly)

While we often communicate within our specific disciplines and the larger university environment, many graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty search for ways to share their research outside of academia in order to promote public action and policy change. Traditional academic training develops strong discipline relevant skills, but rarely provides experience in interfacing with the media, policy makers, and local communities.

We developed and led a one quarter seminar course (two credit, S/U grading scale) that offered opportunities to reflect on the role of higher education in society and to gain insight into and practical experience in media relations, policy development, public education, and community engagement. This course was sponsored by the John Muir Institute for the Environment and the School of Education. Invited speakers, including professionals from the university communications service, university faculty and staff with experience in policy and online communications, and faculty that integrate research translation into their programs, facilitated the seminar sessions. In the interactive and informal course setting, participants were provided the opportunity to practice the skills that will prepare them for communicating their research within and beyond academia.

We limited enrollment to 30 graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in order to promote an interactive discussion format. University faculty and staff members were also invited to attend sessions of interest. The diverse course participants came from programs including Genetics, Plant Biology, Chemistry, Public Health, Food Science, Animal Biology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Nutrition, Geology, Community Development, Musicology, and Viticulture and Enology.

To evaluate the success of this course, attendees completed an evaluation on the utility of the sessions and offer suggestions for improvement. We feel that this seminar promotes establishment of connections with diverse instructors, students and post-doctoral scholars with similar interests, and builds a sustainable foundation for integrated media, policy and outreach training experiences on the UCD campus. We hope to see it offered and refined in the future. Our course sponsors share an interest in continuing the seminar in future years.

Growing an Open-Source Research Community: GameWeb at UC Davis

Tim Waring

From economics to anthropology, social sciences are increasingly turning to the cross-disciplinary benefits of interactive behavioral experiments. These experiments involve multiple participants interacting in controlled environments, often mediated through a computer interface. GameWeb is a flexible, open-source software system for web-based data collection, developed at UC Davis to administer behavioral experiments or ‘games.’

My project sought to save students, faculty and researchers in the social sciences from having to reinvent complex research methods – by distributing a concrete research tool and by instigating collaboration between graduate students, post-docs and departments to help them use it. To that end I employed a three-stage program.

Advertise

First I created an open web portal for the GameWeb community where GameWeb is explained, documented, and can be downloaded, and installed for free. Moreover, the source code can be downloaded, edited and shared. I also created a mailing list gameweb@sourceforge.net which allows the GameWeb community to have an easy means of communication.

Connect

Next I presented and demonstrated GameWeb to regional research groups at UC Davis, and beyond. These included economists at UC Davis, anthropologists at UCLA, and judgment and decision making researchers at CSU Fullerton, and evolutionary anthropologists and psychologists from UCLA, UCD, UCSB, Chapman University at Cal Poly). These meetings, discussions and presentations have been extremely fruitful. The GameWeb mailing list is swelling with researchers from more than 16 different universities and institutions, from as far as Switzerland and Japan. I have learned that the scope for this project is much larger than I had anticipated.

Develop

The ultimate goal of this project is not just to connect a community of potential users, but to give them active leadership roles in developing GameWeb for their own purposes. This is a very long-term goal that can only be achieved after researchers have had time to incorporate GameWeb into their research process, and to suggest and implement improvements. Although that process is underway locally with the UC Davis GameWeb users, it has yet to begin with the global network that I have assembled.

I have high expectations for the future development of GameWeb, for two reasons. First, now that I have assembled a global network, it will be easy to keep growing the community and list of developers. Second, I have recently acquired funds as part of my upcoming assistant professor position at the university of Maine for GameWeb development. I plan to use these funds as an incentive to catalyze investment in GameWeb development both in terms of time and funds. It is my hope that GameWeb will continue to develop and grow becoming a resource for social science researchers everywhere.

Rendered Science Graphics: An Introductory Applied Art Project

Tiffany Zink

​Sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies Professors for the Future Program, I developed and taught a two unit survey course entitled, “Rendered Science Graphics: An Introductory Applied Art Project.” This course was attended by UCD undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. students.

The motivation for the project came from three sources: (1) niche competitions illustrated the trend of mingled science graphics as art, (2) this was an opportunity for me to design and instruct my first course, (3) a similar past art project, with a high school intern, had already provided initial interest and success.

The course goal was to impart a set of skills students could then apply to future figure preparation. To achieve this goal, a survey of selected topics aimed at aiding students in the production of a scientific based artwork graphic or illustrations were selected.

Topics covered by the course included: an introduction to display software, UCD resource availability, image quality and processing, figure caption and composition clarity, deciphering author’s illustration instructions, graphs, and pertinent ethical guidelines. At the conclusion of the course, each student successfully created a rendered art science graphic project.