Raytheon, an RTX Business Credited as First Place Sponsor of UCI’s 10th Anniversary Grad Slam Event

Irvine, Calif. – The University of California, Irvine will host its 10th annual Grad Slam competition at the UCI Newkirk Alumni Center on March 14th. Raytheon, an RTX Business, has been tabbed as the First Place sponsor for the historic event.

Part of UCI’s Graduate Division, Grad Slam is a systemwide competition that showcases and awards the best three-minute research presentations by graduate scholars. The competition not only highlights the excellence, importance, and relevance of UCI graduate scholars and their research, but it’s also designed to increase graduate students’ communication skills. 

“We’re thrilled to partner with a company like RTX,” said Gillian Hayes, Vice Provost for Graduate Education at UC Irvine. “We’re specifically excited to have John Huang as a judge. John has been a great partner for us and has even hired some UCI graduate students because of events like this. This has truly been a beneficial partnership for both parties.”

In the competition, graduate students master the ability to effectively present their work with poise and confidence. It’s also an opportunity to share accomplishments with the campus, friends of UCI, the local community, and the broader public.

“It’s an honor for RTX to partner with such a prestigious university,” said Huang. “These students represent the future leaders of our world and the exact type of people we want working at RTX. UCI graduate students represent a higher quality scholar and researcher. I look forward to attending the event.”

Huang is an Associate Director and Site Executive at Raytheon located in Fullerton, Calif. He has been a partner with UCI Graduate Division, specifically with its A2i Accelerate to Industry program and is a member of Dean Hayes’ Leadership Council.

Grad Slam winners receive cash prizes up to $11,000 and a competitive resume line. 

Presentation clarity and effectiveness for a general university audience is strongly considered in the judging process. 

For more information on our sold out Grad Slam event, reach out to Raslyn Rendon at

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 224 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

About RTX
RTX is the world’s largest aerospace and defense company. Our global team of 180,000+ employees pushes the limits of known science and redefines how we connect and protect our world. We are advancing aviation, building smarter defense systems and creating innovations to take us deeper into space.

At Raytheon, the foundation of everything we do is rooted in our values and a higher calling – to help our nation and allies defend freedoms and deter aggression. We bring the strength of more than 100 years of experience and renowned engineering expertise to meet the needs of today’s mission and stay ahead of tomorrow’s threat. Our team solves tough problems that create a safer, more secure world.


Industry Partners: Q&A with John Huang

John Huang is an Associate Director and Site Executive at Raytheon Technologies located in Fullerton, CA. He has been a partner with UCI Graduate Division for our A2i Accelerate to Industry program and is a member of Dean Hayes’ Leadership Council. Huang is also a judge in the UCI Grad Slam 2024 competition.

John’s domain expertise range from large scale DoD development programs to commercial startup in providing C5I solutions, GPS Navigation Landing Systems, Radar mission applications and Identify Management products.  John is experienced in full life cycle engineering development from safety critical, embedded, and hard real time systems to open data centric applications.  He held position in Software Program Manager, Proposal Lead, Software Technical Director and System Integration Lead.

John holds a B. S. in Information and Computer Science from University of California, Irvine.  His professional certifications include Software Architect Certification, System Engineering Technical Development Program and Software Program Management.


The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

How was your experience as an undergrad at UCI?
I graduated from UCI in 1996 and my wife graduated the following year. My sister-in-law also graduated in 1996, actually.

I grew up in Orange County and it was close to where my parents lived. It was local and I was trying to minimize expenses so that was the reason I chose UCI. 

How did you get involved in graduate education at UCI?
A couple years ago, Rocky (Michael Rakijas) came by and indicated that there is a Dean’s Leadership Council. Because I love the city of Irvine and went to UCI, we all went to school there, so when we bought our house it had to be in the Irvine School District. So when Rocky asked me, I had no doubt, I’d love to join the council. And that’s the connection we made a few years ago.

Now you’re heavily involved in our industry partnership program, why is this initiative so important to you to be involved in?
When I was at UCI, I remember thinking “what’s next?” and how important that is. So now that I’m on the other side, I have an appreciation for the students that are thinking that. 

The other side is, we (Raytheon) actually lack talent and need to establish a pipeline where we can consistently engage with schools.

I just think all of the students have so much potential and I get so excited. I told them, “You don’t realize it, but you can literally do anything you want. The skillset you have, the tools you have from UCI, can be applied to any domain and any technology.”

At this time, the world we’re in right now, a digital world, there are so many opportunities.

Engaging this industry really resonates with me from college until now. At the end of the day we all have to make a living, but within that day, finding that passion and trying to help somebody along the way … I’m thankful I have the opportunity to do that.

Our graduate scholars are perfect candidates for these types of jobs.
Exactly. Having a master’s or PhD is a caliber above undergrad. It really demonstrates that they can solve and dig into complicated problems. That just gives us another indicator that this person will most likely be successful at Raytheon. There is less risk, for us, by working with a graduate student. 

The caliber of talent, you can just tell, even during interviews, is different.

What is the biggest difference between an undergrad and graduate student?
Maturity. Depth. Communication. Articulating ideas. The way they can communicate to us what they have done is very impressive.

Can you describe how the experience was, hosting students for a site visit as part of the A2i program?
There was around 20 students. Jennifer (Ellinger) and I did some prep work with the students beforehand. The intent was that the students would either be interested in working at Raytheon itself or want to get a better understanding of our products.

We gave them a presentation overview of what Raytheon is about. Then we had three engineers give them presentations about some of our products that are available for public access. 

We had lunch with the students and then we had some hiring managers do some mock overviews. 

We started the whole process at 10 a.m. and it lasted until around 2 p.m. 

Afterwards, all the hiring mangers were so impressed with the interviews. Specifically how ready the students were. We ready to make three offers and one accepted, Rayhon (spelling) (picture above).

Can you describe Rayhon and what you hired him for?
He is working on radar software development. It’s a radar application he’s developing. He’s been great, he’s able to pick things up very quickly and the team loves having him around. He gelled pretty quick with the team and learning the new processes and tools. Overall, all I hear about him is good things. He’s also from the school of ICS (Information and Computer Sciences), funny enough.

There are actually two other Anteaters at Raytheon that I didn’t even know went to UCI.

Why should a company partner with UCI?
You have leaders like Valerie (Amador) and Jennifer (Ellinger) that really are committed to this. If you weren’t committed to this, it wouldn’t work, even if the students wanted it. I think the school is looking out for students and engaging them to be ready for the next chapter. To me, that would be the number one part. You have a trusted partner in UCI that is connecting with the students.

Number two is definitely the student talent at UCI. I mean, it’s obvious.

The people, the structure, and the intent of wanting this to work. There’s a real commitment from the school in making this successful. I would have loved to have this environment when I was in school. The things you are providing to the students like resume work, career paths, salary negotiations. Companies should join because that means, if nothing else, you always have a local talent pool. The only way it works is to build a long-term relationship with a school. And the talent pool will always replenish itself.

Would you hire another UCI Anteater?
Absolutely. Within Raytheon, we have campus managers. I am the UCI Campus Manager. So there’s a real intent for me to stay connected with UCI in multiple ways. It feels like a second home so I want to stay engaged. I get re-charged when I’m around the energy of the students.


UCI’s Adria Imada Joins Graduate Division as Associate Dean

Irvine, Calif. – Graduate Division Dean Gillian Hayes has made an addition to the UCI Graduate Division staff, as Adria L. Imada joins the division as its new Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She will begin her role on January 1, 2024.

“I’m thrilled to welcome an outstanding leader to Graduate Division,” said Dean Hayes. “Our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are the lifeblood of the university and I’m happy to be able to add such a wonderful person to our staff that will help them in their journey.”

Imada was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. She currently serves as a professor of History at UCI and also teaches in the inter-school Medical Humanities undergraduate and graduate program. An award-winning writer, Imada specializes in U.S., Pacific, Indigenous, and disability histories. She also has broad teaching interests in health equity and visual culture.

“Serving our students is the most gratifying part of the job for me,” Imada said. “My goal is to make sure that all of our students can thrive at UCI. I’m very much looking forward to this opportunity.”

Her first book, Aloha America: Hula Circuits through the U.S. Empire, received four awards, including the Lawrence W. Levine Prize for best cultural history from the Organization of American Historians. Her second book, An Archive of Skin, An Archive of Kin: Disability and Life-Making during Medical Incarceration, received multiple prizes in 2023.

Imada’s research has received the support of numerous national fellowships and grants, including from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine. In 2021, Imada was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Imada’s work at UCI and in the broader profession centers access and inclusion of underrepresented and disabled scholars. As a founding faculty member of the UCI Medical Humanities program, Imada teaches core courses and mentors undergraduate students who are aspiring clinicians. In a leadership position with the Organization of American Historians, she co-programmed the first national U.S. History conference on Indigenous History in 2022.

At UCI, Imada has advised non-traditional, Indigenous, and international graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. She previously served on the Center for Medical Humanities executive committee and taught in the Humanities Core Program at UCI. Prior to joining UC Irvine in 2014, Imada was associate professor of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego and a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow.


Eunkyung Jo Awarded 2023 Google Fellowship

By Shani Murray

IRVINE – On Oct. 13, 2023, Google announced the recipients of its North American and European Ph.D. Fellowships for 2023. Google’s Ph.D. Fellowship Program recognizes “outstanding graduate students doing exceptional and innovative research,” and in the area of human-computer interaction (HCI), Eunkyung Jo’s work on personal informatics systems for mental health stood out.

“When a new technology promises to solve some mental health problem, it often ignores certain stakeholders, including users or healthcare providers,” says Jo, who is earning her Ph.D. in informatics at UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). “As technology continues to play a significant role in mental healthcare, we need to understand not only the technical aspects but also the human infrastructures that underpin effective implementation.”

Highlighting the importance of this work, Jo was one of eight students in the area of HCI to receive the prestigious 2023 Google Fellowship. The fellowship includes full tuition and fees for up to three years, a stipend for living and travel expenses, and support from a Google Research Mentor.

Improving Patient-Provider Communication
For her dissertation, Jo is exploring two research threads related to human infrastructures of mental health technology. First, she is working to better understand the role of technology in supporting patient-provider communication through patient self-reports.

“Patients’ self-reports are crucial to effective care management, especially when it comes to subjective symptoms impacting daily life,” she explains. “However, patients and providers often have different data needs around patient self-reports.” To bridge these different data needs, Jo is exploring how to let patients annotate digital clinical self-report measures, specifically in the context of discontinuing antidepressants. (See her related work on the discontinuation of psychiatric drugs.)

Understanding Public Health Monitoring
Jo is also studying the human infrastructures of public health monitoring technology. Such technology includes chatbots, sensor-based monitoring systems, and telecare systems that mediate care among informal caregivers and emergency services.

“Public health monitoring technology [can] play a crucial role in tracking and addressing the health issues of vulnerable populations, such as older adults in social isolation,” she says. “I aim to understand how municipal actors select and administer public health monitoring technology in the context of social isolation interventions for older adults.” (See her related work on conversational AI for public health intervention.)

Through her research, she hopes to design technology that more effectively aids individuals seeking mental health support. “Knowing that a renowned industry leader like Google recognizes my efforts and potential is truly humbling and validating,” says Jo. “I’m looking forward to the opportunities that the fellowship offers. It opens doors to a network of remarkable researchers at Google and exciting collaborative projects.”


Hispanic Heritage Month: Q&A with Ramses Seferino Trigo Torres

Ramses Seferino Trigo Torres is a PhD candidate at UC Irvine and is from Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.

“My focus in zebrafish research lies in electrophysiology and surgical areas, specifically targeting cardiac disease studies and drug screening,” Torres said. “My ultimate goal is to revolutionize the medical industry by developing top-notch medical devices that can significantly enhance the lives of patients and healthcare professionals. I am deeply passionate about product development and exploring novel ways to bridge the gap between the US and Mexico in overcoming binational challenges.”

The following interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

What are some family heritage and how it has impacted you?

Since I was born on the border, I was exposed to the US culture a lot, besides my Mexican culture. So we tend to have like a mixture of this culture, but we try to still have like all this heritage. We mostly focus on the family values.

So for me, the value, is more on being together and helping each other, you know, like being there for everyone. Being the strong support, you know. 

What are some family traditions that you have?

There are several traditions back in Mexico. We don’t usually celebrate them as much. We mostly focus on three dates. So it’s basically Day of the Dead, which is coming in November. The next one will be Christmas and probably New Year’s.

I know that for most people, New Year’s is not family related, but for my family is the day that my whole family get together. We have these unspoken agreements that Christmas is for your nuclear family, meaning parents and siblings, brother, whatever. And then on New Year’s, everyone comes together. So it’s pretty nice, at least on my standpoint. It’s pretty nice because I get to see a lot of my relatives that I don’t see them like as much as I would like to.

Who are your role models?

My parents are basically my heroes. They were first generation for both of my families, like on my dad’s family. He was the first one to get a bachelor’s degree, same thing for my mother. My dad is is the only son, he was born in Jalisco, Guadalajara.

My grandfather sent him to my hometown, to the border, alone for him to study because he knew. He told him, “like, if you stay here, you won’t do more. You will stay here doing agriculture. You need to be someone else. You need to grow and do better. So he was sent alone and he stayed most of his life alone .until he met my mother.

In my mother’s case, she is the youngest of four brothers. They (the four brothers), sacrificed their studies so she can go to the university, they paid for her school.”You will not be a blacksmith.” My family owns (a blacksmith). My mother is a blacksmith. They told her like “no, you need to study. You need to be someone, (you need to be the next step, the evolution.”

So both of my parents were in that situation and they raised us with that. They gave us all opportunities that they could and even if they couldn’t, they found a way to do it. So that’s it for role models, I guess. My parents are the best for me. Both of them, I have learned different things from both.

What is your favorite meal that you and your family make?

I think it will be tamales because it’s something I don’t eat like most part of the year, it is something I leave just for the end of the year. It is the reward of the hard work from all the year.

Like I’m just expecting that day to come in, like I’m just expecting for New Year’s because I want tamales. I want tamales made by my own hands, you know, they’re really tasty.

You get all the all the things, we do have other things like there’s this specific kind of BBQ plate not BBQ the U.S. version, is just the same name but in Spanish but is, how do you say, some kind of stew. It can be of a cow or of sheep. We actually do it as well.

Again, my family is, is from the, you know, from the camp, from the ranch. So we actually can raise the animals. So we do all the process. We don’t buy just from the market. We do process everything ourselves.

So that’s the really interesting part of my traditions that we actually keep.

We kind of evolved going into the city, you know, like studying, having a profession and everything and just going out from the agricultural side. But we still keep that up. I mean, that’s something that my parents gave to me and that’s something that I expect to give to my own children as well.


Grad Hooding Q&A – Paul Hurst


Grad Hooding Q&A – Shemms Najjar


Grad Hooding Q&A – Kelsey Morgan


Grad Hooding Q&A – Hinesh Patel


Jianmin Shao Receives WW Women’s Studies Dissertation Fellowship

By Matt Coker, UCI School of Social Ecology

Jianmin Shao, a Ph.D. student in psychological science, has been named a 2023 Dissertation Fellow in Women’s Studies by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars’ WW National Fellowship Foundation.

Shao’s dissertation, “Transgendering In-Betweens: Selfhood, Vulnerability, and Trans-Relational Encounters in China,” examines transgender vulnerability through attention to intimate relationships between not only individuals but also national and trans-national politics. The project aims to rethink gender, sexuality, identity, and the place of trans people in the world.

“It’s really important for me to get this fellowship so that I know that what I’m working on is important and there’s value in what I’m doing,” says Shao (they/them/their), who is one of eight scholars selected this year for the prestigious honor that provides $5,000 in support of dissertation research.

Shao’s research for the interdisciplinary project that exams transgender vulnerability in China involved spending a year there to collect data and conduct in-depth interviews with physicians, non-governmental organization staff activists and transgender individuals.

“I really want to know, in addition to their mental health struggles, what are the structural and social factors that shape their experiences,” Shao says. “So that’s why I went to interview them. I talked to them and did ethnographic observations at parties and other gatherings.”

The WW Women’s Studies Dissertation Fellowship program was established in 1974 to support outstanding humanities and social science Ph.D. candidates whose work address women’s and gender issues in interdisciplinary and original ways. The program has supported more than 600 fellows over the past 50 years, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, two MacArthur fellows and numerous Guggenheim and Fulbright fellows.

Shao, who got their undergraduate degree in social and behavioral sciences at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, received a Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship and the UCI Social Ecology Excellence in Mentorship Award as a graduate student in psychological science here.

Hoping to complete studies for a doctorate this summer or in the fall, Shao believes this is the perfect place to do their kind of work.

“I think about academia the same way in which people think about gender because in society, you are allowed to identify as either a man or woman, or there’s very little room for the third option or fourth option,” Shao explains. “In academia, to some extent, you are allowed to be a psychologist or an anthropologist or a gender scholar. But, if you want to be both, or all three of them, it’s going to be hard because people don’t know how to categorize you. I think receiving this fellowship and being housed in the School of Social Ecology really inspired me to continue to do the work that is interdisciplinary, that’s bringing expertise, tools and theories from psychology, anthropology, and feminist gender studies to study the problems that I’m interested in, which is about gendered inequities and marginalization among trans people.”

Shao is also “really appreciative of the mentoring that I’m receiving from my UCI advisors,” who include the Department of Anthropology’s Tom Boellstorff, Kim Fortun, Lilith Mahmud, and Valerie Olson, Department of History’s Emily Baum (“I’m not even housed in their departments, but they really went above and beyond to provide me guidance for the research that I’m doing”), and the Department of Psychological Science’s Chuansheng Chen, Jessica Borelli and Kristine Molina (“One of them is a cultural psychologist, one of them is a clinical psychologist working on the parent-child relationship and the other is a social psychologist working on discrimination. And, all of them are very open and extremely supportive of what I want to do”).

“I really appreciate their encouragement and support,” Shao says. “They’re always there for me whenever I have questions. Doing this kind of work, you definitely need a lot of support from faculty members. I’m glad and appreciative to be mentored by faculty across different departments at UCI.”