Graduate Division

2018 Grad Slam Finalists

2018 Gradslam Finalists

Alana Ogata

Degrees

Ph.D., Chemistry, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
B.S., Chemistry, College of William & Mary, 2014

Research

Electrochemical Biosensors for Point-of-Care Diagnostics

Advisor

Dr. Reginald Penner

Biography

Alana received her bachelor’s degree at the College of William & Mary where she worked under Dr. Wustholz in a laser spectroscopy lab studying solar cells. Driven by her passion to study solar energy technology, she moved from the east coast to sunny California to pursue a PhD at UCI. After meeting Dr. Penner, Alana discovered the exciting field of biosensors and began a new path in electrochemical biosensors. Alana is currently developing biosensors for point-of-care cancer diagnostics in order to make cancer testing accessible to all. She collaborates with biochemistry labs at UCI and a start-up company, Phage Tech Inc., to bring these at-home cancer sensors to realization.

Congratulations to our 2018 Grad Slam Top Ten Finalists!  Join us on March 2, to cheer them on, as they go head-to-head in our campus finals.  

Sarah Cross

Degrees

Ph.D., Anatomy & Neurobiology, Biomedical Sciences, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
B.A. Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, 2013

Research

Neurobiology of Teen Tobacco and Alcohol Addiction

Advisor

Dr. Frances M. Leslie

Biography

Sarah Joy Cross received her B.A in psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder and is currently a doctoral candidate in Dr. Frances Leslie’s laboratory in the department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UC Irvine. She is interested in understanding how drugs of abuse, like nicotine and alcohol, affect the developing brain to contribute to addiction liability. Outside of research, Sarah has a strong passion for promoting effective dialogue between scientists and the public, and is the president of Brews and Brains, a graduate student science communication group. In addition, she is a UCI Public Impact Fellow, as well as a Science in Action Fellow at PBS SoCal.

Megan Curran

Degrees

M.D., UC Irvine, 2020 expected
Ph.D., Anatomy & Neurobiology, Biological Sciences, UC Irvine, 2018 expected
B.S., Cognitive Sciences (emphasis on Clinical Aspects of Cognition), UC San Diego, 2009
B.A., Theatre, UC San Diego, 2009

Research

The Effects on Early Life Experiences on Brain Development

Advisor

Tallie Z. Baram, M.D., Ph.D.

Biography

Starting college at UC San Diego, Megan had no idea what career she wanted to pursue. She heard a lecture about how the infant brain can recover from trauma, and after weeks of telling anyone who would listen about it, she realized that maybe she had found her passion. Since then, she has spent the last decade researching how the brain develops normally and how we can help protect it following harmful life experiences, whether that is maternal stress during pregnancy or early seizures. After her PhD, she looks forward to completing medical school and a career where she can combine her research with directly helping patients. When she is not busy in lab, she enjoys spending time with her other lab – her Labrador, Rufio – and calligraphy.

Gianna Fote

Degrees

Ph.D., Biological Chemistry, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
M.D., UC Irvine, 2022 expected
B.S., Intensive Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, 2014

Research

Neurodegenerative Disease

Advisor

Dr. Joan Steffan, Dr. Leslie Thompson

Biography

Gianna discovered her passion for neuroscience research as a pre-med undergraduate at Yale University. While she deeply wished to help individuals with neurodegenerative disease, she began to realize that a neurologist’s treatment options are limited; we currently have no cures or therapies for many neurological illnesses. Gianna concluded that a combination of contributions through both clinical practice and basic research would be the best way for her to push the field forward, and matriculated to UCI’s MD/PhD program. Gianna currently researches how brain cells dispose of their waste, and how that process may fail in Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Laura McIntyre

Degrees

Ph.D., Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, UC Irvine, August 2018 expected
B.S., Microbiology, San Diego State University, May 2013

Research

Neural Stem Cells as a Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Advisor

Craig Walsh, Ph.D. (Thesis Advisor)
Ardith Courtney, Ph.D. (Clinical Co-Mentor)

Biography

Laura McIntyre is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California Irvine in the laboratory of Dr. Craig Walsh. Her work focuses on understanding the interactions of neural stem cells and the immune system in the context of Multiples Sclerosis. While Laura spends most of her time in the laboratory, she also enjoys working with her clinical co-mentor Dr. Ardith Courtney where she is able to spend time in the clinic interacting with patients suffering from MS. After completing her Ph.D. she wishes to pursue a career in biotechnology focusing on therapies to treat immune diseases.

Amanda McQuade

Degrees

Ph.D., Neurobiology and Behavior, UC Irvine, 2022 expected
B.A., Neuroscience, Scripps College, 2016

Research

Alzheimer’s Disease

Advisor

Dr. Mathew Blurton-Jones

Biography

Amanda is a second year graduate student in the department of Neurobiology and Behavior. As a lover of mysteries, Amanda has been fascinated for quite some time with the intricacies of the human brain. As a graduate student, her goals are to study what causes neurodegenerative diseases with a strong focus on Alzheimer’s disease.  By unraveling the mysteries of why and how things go wrong in the brain, she hopes to contribute to extending the healthy years of brain function in older individuals.

Peter McPartlan

Degrees

Ph.D., Education, UC Irvine, 2019 expected
M.A., Education, UC Irvine, 2017
B.A., Psychology, UCLA, 2013

Research

Academic Motivation

Advisor

Dr. Jacquelynne Eccles

Biography

Peter came to UCI excited to research how his degree in social psychology could make our schools more positive and engaging for students. Having tutored many teenagers, Peter had become a big believer in the power of social relationships, seeing how they could either strengthen students’ value for school, or be incredibly distracting. Upon arriving, he found that although the growing number of online courses were great for connecting students to school, they had a tough time connecting students with each other. Peter now studies the experiences of UCI students in these courses and is working with university staff to help new online instructors develop their courses with this research in mind.

Christie Mortales

Degrees

Ph.D., Biomedical Science, UC Irvine, 2018 expected
B.S., Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology, Univ. of Washington, 2010

Research

Immune System & Autoimmunity

Advisor

Dr. Michael Demetriou

Biography

Christie is an immunologist currently researching how the stability of a molecular network, called the galectin-glycoprotein lattice, influences immune cell development, "behavior", and the outcome of autoimmune diseases (i.e., multiple sclerosis). Besides advancing immunology research, her passions include science policy and advocacy, and science communication. Christie is also involved in STEM education outreach for disadvantaged communities, and enabling broader engagement between scientists and the public.

Crystal Reynaga

Degrees

Ph.D., Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, UC Irvine, 2018 expected
B.S., Marine Biology, UC Santa Cruz, 2012

Research

Muscle Physiology and Biomechanics

Advisor

Dr. Manny Azizi

Biography

Crystal is a fifth year, Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, Irvine, in pursuit of her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Under the advisement of Dr. Manny Azizi, the broad aim of her research program investigates the conflicts among diverse modes of locomotion. She uses modern physiological tools to better understand how mechanical properties of the environment shape locomotor systems. Her studies further our understanding of extreme locomotor systems and potentially inform design parameters for prosthetics and biologically inspired robotics.

Rachel Rosenzweig

Degrees

Ph.D., Materials Science & Engineering, UC Irvine, 2020 expected
M.S., Materials Science & Engineering, UC Irvine, 2017
B.S., Materials Science & Engineering, University of Washington, 2015

Research

Anti-Microbial Nanostructured Surfaces for Medical Device Applications

Advisor

Professor Albert F. Yee

Biography

Rachel completed her B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering with a concentration in Nanoscience & Molecular Engineering at the University of Washington, Seattle. She conducted research on novel biocompatible materials for medical device and tissue engineering applications. She has previously interned at Crane Aerospace & Electronics and Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Materials Science & Engineering at UC Irvine with research focused on engineering surfaces of medical device materials on the nanoscale to render them anti-microbial. Outside of the lab, Rachel enjoys participating in STEM outreach organizations to increase accessibility of UCI's exciting research to broader communities and increase diversity in the field.