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Fellows 2017-2018




Scientific Research Project Planning and Management (SR-PPM) Workshop Series

Reem Al Olabi

One of the key determinants of success for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the life sciences field is to be able to develop a research project, plan it and implement it successfully. Is this an easy process? Actually, it is not, it is really challenging and might take longer than expected.  These challenges might include not being able to find a specific research point, realize the complexity of the project and determine the project scope.  This in turn results in poor planning, scope creep, not being able to finish on time, not achieving the desired results, and hence, finishing the project with poor results.

Accordingly, there is a great need for getting equipped with the suitable research project planning and managing skills to be able to achieve the deliverables successfully.

Scientific Research – Project Planning and Management is a series of 5 workshops that aim at introducing graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to the project management key principles and tools. They will learn how to optimally customize and use these principles and tools to effectively implement the desired research project and succeed in achieving the deliverables. It is expected that at the 4th week of the series, the participants will have implemented all the given tools to develop their project plans. At the 5th week, the teams will present their project plans that they worked on during the workshop series.

What Can Art Do For You?  Enriching the Graduate Experience Through Art

Maha Alshehab

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. 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, and practices of mental health and wellbeing.

In the first portion of the project, art is introduced as a skill development tool. Communication and presentation skills are key for graduate and postdoctoral scholars’ careers. Mastering message distillation and delivery, confidence and spontaneity are all skills that can be acquired by adapting improvisational theater training. Such practice differs from conventional public speaking strategies as it offers dynamic and engaging format where the focus is taken away from factual content editing and shifted to improve wider range of communication skills. In the second half of the project, art is presented as a wellbeing and mental health practice. Maintaining good mental health is critical for graduate students as they often face research and career challenges. Pressure caused by stress, anxiety, and/or depression is detrimental to personal and professional development. Introducing the graduate community to art therapy is aimed to initiate positive personal well-being practices where art is employed as a non-verbal tool of addressing mental health issues.

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

BernNadette Best-Green

As some past/current PhD candidates and post-doctoral scholars have ventured to pursue opportunities for faculty appointments within institutions higher education, many have lamented lacking adequate preparation to market certain aspects of their professional qualifications—namely, course development (and/or enhancement). Simply put, many emerging scholars have found it difficult to engage faculty search panels in detailed conversations about specific courses that their doctoral research uniquely qualifies them to design and teach. The execution of this 2017-2018 PFTF project will lead to the development of a new online and print-based resource, “A Guidebook to Marketing Your Unique Teaching Potential: Developing Relevant Course Offerings from Your Doctoral Research.” Through this resource, graduate students and PhD candidates will gain access to insights and exercises that will strengthen their ability to develop and propose relevant course offerings from their doctoral studies and dissertation research (or enhance existing courses) for the institutions where they aspire to gain faculty appointments.

During the first phase of the project (fall 2017) the substance of the manual will begin to take shape through efforts to harness valuable insights from well-placed experts within—and beyond—the UC Davis campus community. During the second phase of the project (winter 2018) a small cohort of UCD PhD candidates/post-doctoral scholars will put the step-by-step guidelines (generated from phase one activity) into practice by completing the prescribed exercises and engaging in the necessary reflective activities. The activity to be executed during the third and final phase of the project (spring 2018) will focus on evaluating the effectiveness of the guidebook in supporting the phase two cohort members through the process of course development. During this time, necessary revisions to the guidebook’s content and structure will be executed. At the project’s conclusion, the manual (“A Guidebook to Marketing Your Unique Teaching Potential: Developing Relevant Course Offerings from Your Doctoral Research”) will be made available through the UCD Graduate Studies Division (in print and online).

Cultivating Creativity, Authenticity and Resilience to Optimize Research Productivity

Vladimir Diaz-Ochoa

Coy McNew

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 high demand for achievement is contextualized for an individual by their specific mentoring environment, which can vary wildly between individual students resulting in vastly different abilities that could enable (or limit) their capacity to overcome feelings of inferiority. Lacking the appropriate skills to address feelings of inferiority places a strain on creativity, authenticity, and resilience – critical factors that help fuel a productive research program.  Women and underrepresented minorities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of feeling inferior for reasons described by research on the Imposter Syndrome and institutional forces that affect campus climate. Although we now have a deeper understanding of these issues we continue to lack a range of practical tools that helps students to thrive by addressing the causes and challenges of feeling inferior. This Winter we will offer a training experience that will empower graduate students to cultivate skills and practices that help them to effectively overcome feelings of inferiority. The series will involve multiple interactive workshops that will 1) help participants articulate the experiences and effects of feeling inferior and 2) teach participants how to develop daily practices that promote creativity, authenticity and resilience in order to substantially mitigate the effects of feeling inferior. Through this training, students will be empowered to shape their specific mentoring environment, which will enhance their overall graduate experience and foster their research productivity.

Social Media Boot Camp

Debbie Fetter

Like it, tweet it, gram it, pin it: the rise in social media has opened the door to new communication possibilities. Social media is no longer simply just a place for friends to connect. People can now create their “personal brand” on social media platforms and use it to build businesses, form connections, and let their voice be heard.

UC Davis is a hub of innovative research and creative minds. Social media can be used as a tool to circulate research findings, cultivate teachable moments, and expand the UC Davis footprint. This is why I will be developing a social media boot camp series to give graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and junior faculty more avenues for disseminating research to the general public and building an online community.

This social media boot camp will comprise of a series of 1-hour workshops throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. Each session will invite an expert in the topic area to speak and then lead an activity where participants can utilize the new skill(s). Session topics will include the importance of social media, building your personal brand, what to post (and what not to post), finding and connecting with your virtual audience, harnessing teachable moments for the public/in the classroom, and how to write for social media.

At the end of the workshop series, participants will gain confidence in utilizing social media to strengthen their connection with the public. The goal of this boot camp is 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.

Women/Non-Binary People of Color Scholars Inclusion Project

Jeanelle K. Hope

Kaozong Mouavangsou

To live in the borderlands means you
are neither hispana india negra espanola
ni gabacha, eres mestiza, mulata, half-breed
caught in the crossfire between camps
while carrying all five races on your back…
Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard…
To survive the Borderlands
you must live sin fronteras
be a crossroads.
-Gloria Anzaldua, 2006

Similarly to Anzaldua’s depiction of living between borders, as women/non-binary scholars of color, we trend on many lands. From lands of racial, ethnic, gender norms to institutional systems of power; living here we must “fight hard” and in order “to survive the Borderlands we must live ‘sin fronteras’” (without borders) (Anzaldua, 2006). This means understanding, acknowledging, and strategizing our intersecting identities as assets. But we do not have to have to survive this fight on our own; we can support one another at these crossroads. Our aim is a one year project that will bring women/non-binary color scholars (faculty and graduate students) engaging critical race and ethnic studies together and create lasting relationships. We will build an intellectual community, mentor graduate students, increase the visibility of our scholarship, and document our experiences.

Beginning in the fall, we will host several networking events, colloquia spotlighting new and cutting edge work in the field, develop a UCD Graduate Women/Non-binary people of color conference dedicated to strategizing and understanding how to navigate graduate school, and a one day research conference for women/non-binary people of color scholars to present their research to the broader campus community, and finally, begin compiling the experiences of women of color faculty at UC Davis via focus groups and qualitative surveys, resulting in a report that the university can draw from to improve the climate for women of color scholars.

Inclusive Mentorship: A Workshop Series for the Graduate Student and Postdoc Communities

Allison Injaian

It is important for the graduate student and post doc communities to mirror and promote UC Davis’ mission for inclusivity through personal action and relationships with the undergraduate community – which can be brought out through mentoring. At large institutions like UC Davis, graduate students and postdocs often mentor a diverse group of undergraduate students that intern on their research projects or with whom they interact through teaching assistantships. Yet, most graduate students and postdocs do not receive training on how to be effective mentors, especially to students that may be facing particular adversities. Although it is possible for graduate students and postdocs to gain inclusive mentorship skills through personal experiences with mentees, training that accelerates the process of being an effective and confident mentor to a diverse group of students would maximize efficiency and preparedness.

Through PFTF, I am creating a multi-part workshop based on the Entering Mentoring program that will be specifically oriented towards providing graduate students and post docs with the opportunity to gain inclusive mentorship skills. Although the Entering Mentoring program is geared toward the sciences, I will adapt this framework to be applicable to graduate students and post docs from any field. For each workshop, panelists from two on-campus diversity-promoting programs will be present, to provide attendees with information about their organization, challenges often faced by the community in which they serve, and resources that can be distributed to mentees, when appropriate. The workshop topics (e.g. communication skills, setting goals and expectations, identifying & resolving challenges, evaluating progress as a mentor, and developing a mentoring philosophy) will be specifically tailored to promoting inclusivity, and the panelists will be asked to highlight any points that are of particular importance for the population in which they work. Discussion will be encouraged during all workshops.

STEM Communication Workshop

Lauren Jabusch

Divya Kernik

Effective communication is a crucial aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, and one that is often neglected in graduate and postdoctoral training. Communication impacts how STEM advancement is perceived by the public, how it is implemented in public policy, and how future generations view STEM careers. Improving STEM communication plays a critical role in how research in the lab translates to larger societal impacts. Our project is a STEM communication workshop, which will focus on three main arenas of communication: public policy, K-12 outreach, and impact of diversity on perceptions of STEM. Through this full-day workshop at UC Davis, participants will learn about STEM communication through various activities, including panels from a diverse and inclusive group of scientists and science communicators. The goal of the workshop is to educate trainees with both anecdotal and statistically proven methods of successful STEM communication, and provide trainees with STEM communication tools which can be used in a broad range of situations. Through completion of the workshop participants will be able to better interact with a variety of audiences, including: media outlets, K-12 learners, educators, and policy makers. There will also be a focus on understanding how STEM is represented in the media, and the impact of public perceptions of science. Overall, we aim to fill a gap in graduate and postdoctoral training by providing an opportunity for STEM communication training, and providing a space to reflect on the importance of communication beyond the STEM community.

Fostering Success in a Second Language: Improving TAs’ Confidence and Ability to Teach ELLs

Emily Moline

There are more English language learners (ELLs) enrolled in UC Davis classes than ever. ELLs have different needs from other kinds of students, but UC Davis teaching assistants do not generally receive extensive training on how to teach a learner who is attempting to learn subject material in a second language. A TA has the potential to be the link between the course material and an ELL’s academic success—but only if they possess the understanding of how a language learner learns.

To address this issue, my project will focus on creating an online training module and certificate program for TAs at UC Davis on the topic of best practices for teaching ELLs. This module will walk TAs through the most common issues facing ELLs in American universities, through the perspective of the ELL experience. The module will be divided into sections that address common concerns and approaches to  reading, listening comprehension, writing, and speaking abilities; for example, strategies for how to communicate clearly to someone who may be used to a less broad range of accents, vocabularies, registers, and idioms. It will also address the crucial issue of appropriately assessing ELLs’ course performance vs. that of English-native students: how to grade oral and written assessments fairly, and foster classroom participation and discussion for all students regardless of language learning status.  These approaches will all be based on established literature from the field of TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages). A certificate will encourage participation for those TAs who are interested in enhancing their professional pedagogical practices.

By creating a project to help TAs become more confident in their pedagogical skills, I aim to enhance their professional development and confidence in the classroom. In doing so, I also aim to improve the success of ELLs at UC Davis, and to create a foundation to help TAs learn best practices for teaching this population at UC Davis for years to come. 

Guidance for Graduate Students on the Autism Spectrum

Cuauhtemoc Quintero Lule

For my Professors for the Future project, I am offering a series of workshops/presentations in a safe, comfortable, and accepting environment, intended to assist students on the autism spectrum during their time in graduate school. I hope to build upon the important work previously accomplished by Professors for the Future participants in the area of disabilities in 2014-2015 (specifically, that of Henry “Hoby” Wedler), but with an emphasis on students who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The workshops/presentations proposed under this project will be offered on campus with the aim of providing valuable information to guide autism spectrum students; they will help to equip students with skills and tools that will enable them to properly and successfully advance through their graduate education and participate as fully as possible in their academic experience. Some of the challenges that graduate students on the spectrum may encounter include but are not limited to: heightened anxiety in everyday situations; difficulty approaching others for help; inability to efficiently deal with new, unexpected, and/or stressful circumstances; trouble interacting/socializing with others; and distress when working in group settings. Examples of some of the topics to be covered will include: “Succeeding in Graduate Seminars”; “Being a Teaching Assistant”; “Applying to Conferences and Presenting”; “Preparing for Qualifying Exams”; among others. Also, the information compiled and presented over the course of the 2017-2018 Academic Year will be assembled into a booklet/pamphlet to be made available to future generations of students.

Incorporating Digital Humanities to Research and Pedagogical Practices: Digital Storytelling and Academy-Community Collaboration

David Tenorio

Integrating digital methods into research and teaching is now one of the complexities of living in a digital world. Digital Humanities envision the promise of bridging humanistic scholarship with digital environments as a conduit for renewal and transformation of knowledge-production practices and pedagogical approaches at higher education institutions (Burdick, 2012). Digital Storytelling is a methodology that stems from this paradigm of mediatizing humanistic enquiry that not only seeks to integrate new media into theoretical debates and methodologies but also aims to democratize the production of knowledge. In this integration of community members as active collaborators of epistemic production, also referred to as Community-Based Scholarship, the presence of unheard actors becomes a central element in the construction of stories.

Digital Storytelling encourages the active participation of storytellers who are empowered through their autonomy, agency and collaboration throughout the process of digital production. For this purpose, in this two-day workshop, postdocs, graduate and professional students will a) learn more about digital humanities by acquiring the necessary theoretical background and methodological tools to understand Digital Storytelling, c) receive hands-on practical training on the assemblage of digital stories, and d) discuss the ethical considerations of applying Digital Storytelling to teaching and research practices in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM.  

As a critical method and practice, digital storytelling can make a significant contribution to the university’s shifting role from a gatekeeper to an open and accessible bridge-builder.  

A Beginners Guide to R and Other Computational Tools.

Easton White

Computational skills are an increasingly important component of a graduate student’s toolbox. However, there is often a disconnect between what graduate students are expected to know in graduate school and what was required of them in their undergraduate programs.Often, students are simply expected to pick up the skills they need. Of course, these tools come with steep learning curves and can be frustrating to learn alone.

R is one of the most popular software tools in many fields. There is clearly a demand for learning R on campus with over 200 students attending an R Bootcamp in January 2017. In order to address this gap, I propose to conduct a two-day workshop (four parts) on R and other computational tools. Each part would last half a day. Two parts would be focused on providing students an introduction to programming in R. The next two parts would focus on version control software and using Bash command line, two additional useful tools. All of these tools can dramatically make a graduate student’s life easier. In order to maximize potential participation, the workshops will be held before the Winter term. I would also recruit fellow graduate students to serve as “R helpers” during the lessons.