Grad Hooding Q&A – Laze Paper Prize Winner Mackenzie Christensen


Grad Hooding Q&A – Muhammad Twaha Ibrahim

Muhammad Twaha Ibrahim is a research engineer and will graduate with a PhD in Computer Science on June 15 in the Bren Events Center. He will also be the student speaker during the Grad Hooding Ceremony.

His research is in Spatially Augmented Reality, which uses projectors to illuminate objects of any shape and size and completely transform their appearance. He has also been collaborating with plastic surgeons from UCI Health to apply his research in the surgeries by illuminating surgical sites using projectors. And last month, he successfully ran his system on a real patient in the OR. He was also the UC Irvine Grad Slam Champion of 2023. While his research technology transforms the appearance of objects, he looks back and reflects how much technology has transformed the world since he started at UCI.

What is your favorite memory at UCI?
He’s going to win before he graduates.” Hearing Dean Gillian Hayes announce me as the winner of UCI Grad Slam 2023 has to be my favorite memory at UCI. It took me four attempts until I finally won. But winning that competition meant a lot more to me, beyond just professional growth or being the champion. To me, it created an important paradigm shift: failure is not a lack of success, but a learning opportunity. True failure is not trying when you have the chance.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will be joining Summit Technology Laboratory, a local startup company where I will continue working on my research. I will also continue collaborating with the plastic surgeons from UCI Health to improve and enhance the medical application of my research.


Failure is not a lack of success, but a learning opportunity. True failure is not trying when you have the chance. – Muhammad Twaha Ibrahim

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I really want to start my own company at some point! That’s one of the many awesome things that UCI encourages its students to do. And I really want to advance the medical application of my research. I truly believe it has enormous potential to transform surgery across the world.
Who was your biggest influence at UCI?
My advisor, of course! Dr. Aditi Majumder. I feel very blessed to have had her as my advisor. Beyond just research and academics, she has been enormously supportive throughout my studies and has taught me many important life lessons, including that life will close many doors in your face, but with every door that is shut lies an opportunity to look for other open ones.
What do you know now that you wish you had known before coming to UCI?
The importance of networking! Having a good professional network can make a huge difference in our professional lives. Kudos to our Graduate Division that works really hard to help us students develop such a network!
What are your hobbies or interests?
I enjoy reading, baking, hiking and racket games like tennis, table tennis (ping pong) and badminton. I also enjoy teaching Computer Science and Programming, especially to kids.

Grad Hooding Q&A – Leonard Alaniz


Grad Hooding Q&A – Steven Lewis


Grad Hooding Q&A – Michael J. Donaldson


Grad Hooding Q&A – Neil Nory Kaplan-Kelly


Get to Know Our 2024-25 Fulbright Awardees

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program expands perspectives through academic and professional advancement and cross-cultural dialogue. Fulbright creates connections in a complex and changing world. In partnership with more than 140 countries worldwide, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers unparalleled opportunities in all academic disciplines to passionate and accomplished graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals from all backgrounds. Program participants pursue graduate study, conduct research, or teach English abroad. 

These five graduate scholars are the Fulbright awardees from UC Irvine.

Temitope E. Famodu

Global and International Studies

This research project considers how the embodied experiences of Nigerian students in postsocialist Hungary navigate and make place during their educational experiences at the University of Debrecen, Hungary. Through this project, I hope to learn more about the transnational relational networks that underpin the education-migration pipeline from Nigeria to its global diasporas. By studying how a place is constructed through multiscale relations – among individuals, institutions, and built and natural environments – I hope to spatialize the processes of connection that have sustained Nigerian student migration for decades. In so doing I consider how thinking with and about Blackness from geographies typically not associated with the African diaspora, tells us about the study of Black geographies at large. What happens when we think about the deep and rich scholarship put forth about Black placemaking through the specificities of the production of race and whiteness in post-socialist spaces? Whether or not you are a student who has traveled from Lagos to Debrecen for college, the social and spatial relationships that punctuate our livingness provide insight about how people navigating and building systems shift our geographic futures in potentially unexpected ways.

Max Garduño


My Fulbright project proposes to conduct cognitive assessments and in-vivo miniscope (miniature microscope) brain recordings of the degu, a rodent endemic to Chile that is a natural model for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I will be joining Dr. Patricia Cogram’s lab in Chile’s Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity during my time as a Fulbrighter. A battery of behavioral tests will be used to identify cognitively healthy and impaired degus, which will be followed up with in-vivo miniscope recordings of cellular activity in the degu hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning, memory, and spatial navigation that is severely affected in AD. These results will provide novel insights into degu cognitive states, their correlated hippocampal cellular activity patterns, and hopefully contribute to a better understanding and treatment of AD.

Bermet Nishanova

Visual Studies

Bermet Nishanova is a Ph.D. student in Visual Studies, specializing in medieval Islamic textiles from Iran and Central Asia. Her project focuses on the intermedial connections between textiles and other artworks, such as architecture, paintings, sculptures, and texts, expanding the scope of traditional studies of Central Asian Islamic textiles, which examine these works within various economic and socio-political frameworks. As a Fulbright scholar in Uzbekistan, she will examine textile collections at the State Museum of History and the various archival records at the National Center of Archaeology. She also plans to visit different medieval Islamic architectural sites and ongoing archaeological excavations in Samarkand and elsewhere.

Nathaniel Pigott


Nathaniel Pigott is a third year graduate student in the UCI history department studying modern Chinese history. He graduated from Trinity University in 2020 with a BA in Chinese language and was awarded a Teaching English Fulbright to Taiwan in 2021. Nathaniel’s research interests include the history of sport, discipline and techniques of the body, and intellectual history. His dissertation project, “Stateless Sport: Ping Pong in the Republic of China,” traces the origins of ping pong’s popularity in the rapidly modernizing China of the 1920s and 30s. He was awarded a Research Fulbright to Taiwan for the 2024-25 academic year to conduct dissertation research through the Institute of Modern History at the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan.

Sophie Mariko Wheeler

East Asian Studies

Sophie Mariko Wheeler is a third year PhD student in the department of East Asian Studies. Their research largely focuses on modern Japanese literature and environmental humanities. During their Fulbright, Sophie will research how Indigeneity is expressed in modern Japanese literature through kikigaki, a genre of Japanese literature meaning ‘to listen and write.’


Get to Know Our Wellness Counselors

We know that getting through graduate school takes a lot of effort, so we provide support to our students along the way. Many of Graduate Division’s wellness and inclusion services can help you maintain your work/life balance. At UCI, we believe that healthy Anteaters are productive Anteaters.

We offer academic support, equity and inclusion support, time management strategies, tools to master effective communication skills, strategies for navigating professional and academic expectations in graduate school and referrals to campus services.

Our counselors, Dr. Phong Luong (P) and Kaeleigh Hayakawa (K) took some time to answer questions we received from a Q&A session we had on Instagram.

How do I schedule an appointment with a Wellness counselor?
K: Appointments can be easily scheduled with a Graduate Division counselor via email! Please reach out to Dr. Phong Luong, Director of Wellness and Inclusion or Kaeleigh Hayakawa, Assistant Academic Counselor to request a counseling appointment.
How can I prioritize self-care and well-being while navigating challenging situations?
When we’re managing a lot of stress or pressure, it can feel difficult to maintain and prioritize our well-being. In these moments we need to keep in mind that we can only do our best when we give our bodies and minds the tools and resources to do so.
Resilience is our ability to adapt, thrive, and grow in the face of these challenges. Like a muscle, it takes intention and time to build, and self-care is a huge piece of this. When we work to maintain our well-being each day by eating regular meals, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, exercising, socializing with loved ones, and spending time on things we enjoy, we are better equipped to manage challenging situations when they arise.
It’s important that each of us take the time to identify what we need to feel our best, as self-care is not a one-size-fits-all strategy, and our needs are likely to change over the course of our lives. Self-care plans can be great resources for us in helping us keep track of our needs and the practices that work for us when we’re in the midst of a situation that may make it hard to remember in the moment.
Are appointments in-person on virtual?
K: Appointments with Phong and Kaeleigh can be held in-person or virtually over Zoom, depending on the student or postdoc’s preference and needs.
Are there any workshops that I can attend to enhance my understanding of wellness and inclusion?
We partner with all UCI departments and schools to offer wellness workshops focused on stress management, challenging Imposter Syndrome, cultural wellness, conflict management, yoga, and more. We also work with our own GPSRC and the POWER Initiative to offer wellness workshops throughout the year.
What can I expect from a counseling session?
A student can expect a supportive conversation focused on stress management in an academic setting, communication development, and work-life balance. We also assist students who need help managing challenging academic situations and creating a connected network of resources. 
How can I recognize the signs that I might need help or support?
P: Signs that might indicate you should reach out for additional support are high levels of stress/burnout, disrupted sleep, stalled academic progress, uncertainty over career choices, and DEI related concerns, to name just a few. All Graduate Students and Postdocs are welcome to come in and chat us up about how to create career longevity through wellness and balance. 

Do you have any books or apps you recommend for mental health?
My podcast recommendation is The Happiness Lab.

Dr. Laurie Santos of Yale University, the host of this academic podcast, believes she can help us find our happiness by sharing inspirational stories. This podcast is based on the psychology course she teaches at Yale. She aims to explain how our minds work by sharing evidence-based insights.


Get to Know Haleigh Marcello – The First Graduate Scholar Success Fund Fellow

Haleigh Marcello is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of California, Irvine, with a graduate emphasis in Feminist Theory.

The UC Irvine Graduate Division announced the inaugural competition for the Graduate Scholar Success Fund for the 2023-2024 academic year and Marcello is the first-ever recipient. This scholarship is meant to provide support to graduate students who are first generation and demonstrate a clear financial need.

Get To Know Haleigh Marcello

Haleigh’s research interests broadly focus around the histories of gender, sexuality, and conservatism in the mid-to-late twentieth century United States. As a committed public historian and digital humanist, Haleigh has worked with UC Irvine’s Orange County & Southeast Asian Archive Center, the Black Panther Oakland Community School Project, the University of Houston’s Sharing Stories from 1977: The National Women’s Conference project, UCI’s “Nothing Less Than Justice”: California International Women’s Year project, and Orange County Parks to produce public-facing research and educational programs.

Inspired by her work in these endeavors, Haleigh founded the up-and-coming nonprofit California Queer History to translate her dissertation work on underexamined queer rights activism for the general public. Haleigh’s scholarship has been published in Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000 and California History – with her latter coauthored article recently honored with the 2023 Richard J. Orsi Prize for the best article in the journal.

Haleigh is currently finishing up her dissertation on the influence of suburban space on gay rights activism in Orange County, California during the 1980s. She argues that Orange County’s reputation as a suburban utopia made it an important site of gay activism – if gay rights could be won in suburban, conservative Orange County, folks argued, they could be won anywhere. Gay bars standing their ground in Garden Grove, hate crime legislation in Laguna Beach, a Pride celebration in Santa Ana, and an antidiscrimination ordinance in Irvine were causes that were not only significant locally, but to which gay activists attached the future of their movement.

After earning her Ph.D., Haleigh hopes to continue working on public-facing history projects, including her own, California Queer History.

What This Fellowship Means 

My parents always told me to never let anything get in the way of me achieving my dreams. Many things have tried – from more structural problems like being a first-generation college student to more direct adversaries, such as health issues. “Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve,” one of my favorite quotes, sits on a notepad on my desk as a reminder.

Nerve can only get you so far, though. As the head of an intergenerational household, I know that my passion for telling history can’t pay the bills, put gas in the car, or buy groceries. Nerve lets me work multiple jobs and side-hustles, but doesn’t take away the stress or the mountains of papers I have to grade. Nerve has me urging my decade-old laptop to turn on one more time so that I can submit a conference proposal, but can’t take me to the store to buy a new one.

Yet, nerve, drive, passion, and determination – they keep me going. I want to continue to tell underrepresented histories. I need to provide for my family. I really want to finish my Ph.D. The obstacles and challenges along the way – illnesses, bills, sleepless nights – they won’t stop me from doing what I love and taking care of who I love. Awards like this one, though – they keep me going in ways that nerve cannot. Putting a down payment to replace my laptop, making sure my car registration stays up to date, handling the copays at the doctor; these are real, material things this award has allowed me to do, so that I can accomplish my real, but less material, goals. Thank you for helping me fight on a little longer.


UC Irvine’s Graduate Programs Excel in U.S. News & World Report rankings

Irvine, Calif. —UC Irvine’s doctoral programs once again shined in U.S. News & World Report’s graduate school rankings – published online today. For the fifth straight year, the School of Education was rated among the top 20 education schools in the country (and in the top 10 among public universities).

These UC Irvine schools and programs received rankings, which are released annually:

  • Business, full-time MBA – No. 44
  • Business, part-time MBA – No. 28
  • Education – No. 17
  • Law, full-time – No. 42
  • Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice – No. 66
  • Nursing, master’s degree – No. 41

For this year, U.S. News also evaluated other health-related disciplines, computer science and public health. In those areas, UC Irvine ranked as follows:

  • Computer science – No. 27 
  • Pharmacy – No. 60 
  • Public health – No. 46 

Programs in the humanities, the social sciences, social ecology, the arts, the physical sciences and the biological sciences – areas in which UC Irvine traditionally ranks well – were not evaluated this year. UC Irvine is one of the top doctorate-granting institutions in the U.S. and has more than 6,000 students engaged in advanced scholarship and world-class research. Rankings for engineering and medicine will be released at a later date.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit