Graduate Division

Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship Recipients

Dean's Leadership Council

Meet Our 2021 Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship Recipients 

The Eugene Cota-Robles (ECR) Fellowship is the most prestigious diversity fellowship offered at UC Irvine.  This award is used to release recipients from employment or loan obligations that might delay progress in graduate study. The fellowship is designed to place students interested in careers in academic teaching and research on a fast-track towards completing their doctoral degree, and to increase the number of qualified candidates for faculty positions within the University of California. The Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship is named in honor of one of the earliest Mexican-American professors in the University of California System. Scroll below to meet this year's winners!

Naveena Ujagar

Naveena Ujagar

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

My professors at UC Davis talked highly of UCI's CMB program and I became interested after reading about the research being conducted there. I also felt so welcomed and had a sense of belonging after talking to the CMB professors during my graduate interviews. The phenomenal location and weather played a part into why I chose UCI for my graduate studies!

What are your research interests?

I am interested in stem cell and tissue engineering, biomaterials, drug delivery, and wound healing. More specifically, translational research of drug-carrying systems and cell differentiation to promote wound healing.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

After attaining my PhD, I will be taking steps to become a professor conducting independent research. Besides spreading knowledge and discovering, I hope to mentor and empower marginalized students, specifically, in order to increase all aspects of diversity in the scientific community.

Raymond Villareal

Raymond Villareal

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

I chose to attend a doctorate program at UCI for the opportunity to study exactly what I wanted, learn from some of the best researchers in the field of education, and for the collaborative nature of the PhD program. At UCI, I know that I will be given the education I need to succeed in my studies and career along with opportunities for personal and professional growth. During my previous experiences as an undergraduate at UCI, I always looked up to the PhD students here for their professionalism and breadth of knowledge. Now, I get to continue that legacy and bring up others who are where I used to be.

What are your research interests?

My research interests are primarily in executive functioning and motivation in marginalized populations and students with past trauma. More specifically, I want to research how trauma neurologically effects executive functioning and motivation in students from racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically marginalized backgrounds. In relation to that, I would also like to explore neuroplasticity in adolescents with prolonged exposure to trauma and understand how their learning is affected.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

After I graduate, I hope to work in the university setting as a professor where I can conduct research and teach. Using my background in education and school psychology, I hope to add to the literature regarding executive functioning and marginalized students through extensive research and collaborating with professionals in other fields. My passion is in seeing students succeed and I will do everything that I can to ensure that all children and adolescents have the opportunity to receive the best education they possibly can. I hope my research will help make that happen and I plan to continue advocating for equity for students of disparaged backgrounds.

Jonathan Piceno

Jonathan Piceno

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

I chose UCI for my graduate studies because of its state-of-the-art research facilities, great faculty, administrative staff, and friendly student body.

What are your research interests?

I am interested in biomaterials and their applications in regenerative medicine. Specifically, I am interested in investigating the mechanical, biological, and chemical properties of biomaterials for cardiac regeneration.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

I plan on starting my own biomaterials research lab and inviting ethnic minorities from low-income high schools to conduct research and encourage them to pursue engineering and biomedical research careers.

Celina Morales

Celina Morales

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

The innovative and inter-disciplinary research being conducted at UC Irvine fits well with my research interests and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth. After talking to various students and faculty members, it is evident UCI supports and actively encourages student success through a variety of methods, including mentorship and other opportunities. The campus community is also culturally diverse which provides cultural insights and inspires creativity and innovation!

What are your research interests?

My research interest's primarily focus is on the interaction between sociocultural and social ecological factors in health behaviors among immigrant and ethnic minority populations around the globe. I find it incredibly intriguing to explore the influence of social and environmental contexts, cultural identity, and stressors on health behaviors.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

I look forward to contributing to the fields of social epidemiology and demography and hope my research findings will contribute to the development of culturally competent interventions and policies which are desperately needed. I look forward to a career in academia where I can teach and mentor students interested in public health and health disparities. Mentors have been incredibly important to me during my academic career, and I am eager to pay it forward by helping other budding researchers succeed too.

.

Jennifer Barajas

Jennifer Barajas

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

I have an amazing primary advisor and UCI has a close community and the location is incredible.

What are your research interests?

I primarily study how interpersonal and workplace contexts can enable not only bias, but also empowerment for members of minority groups.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

The resources, interdisciplinary knowledge, and collaborative support offered by the program will help facilitate my growth as an individual and researcher whose work contributes to support members of marginalized communities.

Athena Corrall Carlos

Athena Corral Carlos

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

UC Irvine was where I started my journey after high-school as an undergraduate, where I found my purpose, passion, and persevered. I always wanted to come back to end my educational journey where I started it, and now I find myself here. I am delighted to be able to pursue my doctorate with the support of my amazing department and advisors. UC Irvine has fostered an unmatched sense of community, allowing me to reach my greatest potential and make my mark on the world.

What are your research interests?

My research interests are epidemiologically based, focused on primarily on the study of disease and disease prevention. My specific interests are surrounding chronic diseases, specifically the impact that physical activity and other lifestyle-related factors have in the current era in the context of larger social factors.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

With this platform and degree, I hope to create change through meaningful and impactful research. I hope to stay in Southern California to impact and inspire my community and future generations. I want to represent the Latinx community and bring diversity to the field as a Latina woman. As a low-income, first-generation Latina woman, I will bring a different perspective to the field and my research. I hope to inspire Latinx youth to pursue higher education by immersing myself in the academic community as a mentor, professor, and ally for students.

Miguel Quiarte

Miguel Quirarte

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

It is a great looking campus with a fine history program and great funding!

What are your research interests?

Latin American history, Asian diaspora history, Latin history in the US, immigration and nationalism, ethnic relations, gender history, world history

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

I hope to enlighten others of the rich and abundant diversity of races/ethnicities that compose the Latin American region as we know it. I hope to develop more research on this topic as well as propose courses on the subject at the university level.

Isaac Menchaca

Isaac Menchaca

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

I chose UCI for my graduate studies because of the exciting research opportunities, resources, and top-ranked computational training offered by the Cognitive Sciences Department. The program has a proven track record of world-class collaborative research, respective faculty, and diversity and inclusion. For these reasons, I believe UCI will be essential in my path of becoming a skilled researcher.

What are your research interests?

I am interested in the real-time neurological processes and decoding of decision-making, motor control, and induced behaviors.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

Coming from an underrepresented community, I plan to continue to represent and serve disadvantaged communities by implementing efforts to increase exposure to STEM, especially in regards to Computer Science and technology. I will also use my research experience and knowledge to help nurture the next generation of scientists from all backgrounds to promote diversity in STEM and research. It is important to me that I succeed in both scientific research and mentorship, and pursuing a higher degree at UCI, a university known for diversity and inclusivity, will provide the credibility that is needed to be successful in these endeavors.

Shanice Aaliyah Hyler

Shanice Aaliyah Hyler

Why did you choose UCI for graduate study?

I chose UCI because it is a well established research institution that offered me competitive funding. I had great meetings with faculty in my department and I will have the opportunity to work with these professors whose interests closely align with mine.

What are your research interests?

Critical approaches to-and a critical analysis of race, gender, and class in- rehabilitation, rehabilitative justice, and evidence based practices.

How will you impact the academic community after you earn your PhD?

Through my devotion to research that pushes the boundaries of scholarship engaged in oppressing groups that do not align with the views of the ruling class.

Eugene V. Cota-Robles Fellowship Recipients Not Pictured

First Name Last Name School Program
Suheilah Abdalla Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing Nursing Science PhD
Konysha Wade Humanities Culture and Theory
Christine Dianne Guiyangco Humanities Comparative Literature