Graduate Division

2020 Grad Slam Finalists

2020 Gradslam Finalists

Congratulations to our 2020 Grad Slam Top 10 Finalists!  Join us on February 28th to cheer them on as they go head-to-head in our campus finals.  

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Nea North

Degree Program

Ph.D., Marketing

Research

With the large income gap in the United States, there is an imbalance of power causing people with limited access to resources to turn to governmental or charity organizations to seek aid for basic resources: food, clothing and shelter. The restrictiveness of the aid provided then dictates the level of beneficiary choice in the aid items received. While there are ongoing debates about the best way to deliver aid in terms of program costs and goals, the psychological impact of aid on beneficiaries is often overlooked. Across three studies, this research looks at aid from the beneficiary perspective, by examining the effects of aid restrictiveness at limiting consumption choice on the beneficiary’s perception of control and behavioral intent to use the aid. Financial power is introduced as a moderator. This research provides insight to governmental and charity organizations on ways to be more effective in aiding individuals facing material hardship. 

Karen Arcos

Degree Program

Ph.D., Cognitive Neuroscience

Research

We investigate whether and how different senses impact blind and sighted humans’ memory. People who are blind have superior short-term memory relative to the sighted. Braille’s influence on memory in blind individuals is less clear. Braille is a written code for the blind, in which raised dot patterns felt with the fingertips represent characters. Sighted participants and legally blind participants were recruited. Blind participants varied in terms of how well they read braille. All participants answered a questionnaire about themselves. They also memorized and manipulated digits presented visually, auditorily, and in braille. We measured task accuracy. Sighted participants remembered more items visually compared to auditorily. Blind participants recalled more than the sighted when listening to digits. The difference was even higher among blind braille readers compared to the sighted using the same sense. Findings indicate modality’s role in memory is important. They will better explain how senses differentially influence memory performance in both groups to design more effective products for all.

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Brenna Biggs

Degree Program

Ph.D., Chemistry

Research

Join me for a drive through California's San Joaquin Valley. Our destination: a dairy farm in Visalia, California. Although we first notice upon arrival the overwhelming smell of cow manure seeping from uncovered manure lagoons, that is not our biggest problem. Manure lagoons emit greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. These can cause health problems and climate change. For California to successfully reduce its emissions, scientists need to know where and how many greenhouse emissions are occurring and they currently done.

This uncertainty has been linked to dairy farms in San Joaquin Valley—our sample location. At the dairy farm, we will collect air samples to determine where emissions are coming from and learn how to reduce them. By fully understanding dairy emissions in the Valley, dairy farmers can install bioreactors to trap greenhouse gases and use them for electricity to power their farms and save our planet.

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Darby Vickers

Degree Program

Ph.D., Philosophy

Research

The spread of misinformation in the age of social media poses a threat to our ability to make informed decisions, especially political decisions. However, once individuals believe in misinformation-- for example, climate change denial-- it's extremely difficult to shake that conviction, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The reason is twofold. (1) The last three years have shown a massive drop in confidence in academic institutions from across the political spectrum (a 9-point drop between 2015-2018). This poses a challenge for experts to exert authority in social media spaces. (2) Beliefs that have staying power are not "atomic"-- they connect to other beliefs that the individual already holds. Pedagogical studies clearly demonstrates that when students imbibe and retain misinformation, correcting that misinformation requires a long process of reshaping the network of beliefs that give the misinformed belief its staying power. My research determines how to help students-- and the public-- build the necessary information and critical thinking skills to re-evaluate their own networks of beliefs and prevent themselves from being duped by misinformation.

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Amanda McQuade

Degree Program

Ph.D., Neurobiology and Behavior, UC Irvine, expected 2021

Research

Recently, immune function has been highly correlated with Alzheimer's disease risk, but scientists aren't sure exactly how the immune system can impact disease progression. By studying one Alzheimer's mutation that is specific to immune cells called microglia, I have discovered that these mutant cells are no longer able to respond to disease. Normal, healthy immune cells that are exposed to a model of Alzheimer's disease will respond to the damage. These cells are termed Damage Associated Microglia, or DAMs, and are crucial to fighting Alzheimer's disease. Mutant cells, however, do not respond properly, and do not become DAMs. If we can find ways to jump start these mutant immune cells, we may be able to help Alzheimer's patients fight against their disease.

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Rebecca Riley

Degree Program

Ph.D., Theoretical Particle Physics, expected 2022

Research

What on earth is dark matter, and how can we discover it? To find out, we'll have to delve into mathematical group theory, gauge anomalies, and particle colliders. Find out the answers to these questions and more from a theoretical physicist -- all in just 3 minutes!

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Ying Xu

Degree Program

Ph.D., Education

Research

Childrens television programming reaches massive audiences. Yet its educational benefits are limited by a defining feature of TV it is a one-way broadcast medium. To overcome this limitation, my project incorporates conversational agents (similar to Alexa or Siri) into childrens science-oriented television programs so that children can have direct interactions with the on-screen character, thus providing another means of relevant conversation. I am developing conversational videos as a supplementary part of Elinor Wonders Why, a new PBS KIDS animated television program created by UCI Physics professor Daniel Whiteson and cartoonist Jorge Cham. The conversational videos allow children to directly speak with Elinor as she solves everyday science mysteries, thus priming children to engage in observation, prediction, pattern identification, and problem solving through scaffolded conversation. The agent also offers contingent feedback that varies based on children’s responses. We tested these conversational videos among preschool children and found that such videos increased childrens engagement and learning outcomes. 

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Jessica Howard

Degree Program

Ph.D., Physics and Astronomy(Particle Physics) 

Research

We often see the scientific advancements of the future in the fiction of the present. Machine Learning, a branch of Artificial Intelligence, has brought to reality another impossibility of fiction which is often seen in crime shows: enhancing a low resolution image into the most likely high resolution version. Beyond making crime shows a reality, this technology has the potential to impact the world of particle physics in a big way. Currently we spend years and tens of millions of dollars upgrading the Large Hadron Collider to extend our search for new particles and gain a deeper understanding of how the universe works. But what if we could get a free upgrade? What if we could enhance our current detector to a higher resolution version just like we can now enhance images? This is the question my research is attempting to answer. 

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Jenny Woo

Degree Program

Ph.D., Education

Research

Emotions are neurobiologically embedded in how we learn, play, work, and love. It is our compass that guides and motivates us in pursuing the relationships and goals that we care deeply about. Empirical studies have found social and emotional learning skills effective in improving student’s academic success, school adjustment, social relations, and persistence in K-20. With grant funding from UC Office of the President for Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives, I am developing evidence-based and culturally-responsive programs that are practical and scalable for improving students emotional agility and persistence in school and in life.

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Damie Juat

Degree Program

M.S., Biomedical and Translational Science

Research

One of the most important challenges the drug industry faces today is the productivity of research and development in its early stages. Monolayer cultures and animal models used to develop and test the efficacy of drugs do not accurately represent the intricate environment of the human body. Consequently, these models cannot predict precisely how drugs will interact with tumor masses present in the body as they proceed through clinical trials. The Hughes Lab has created and validated a vascularized microtumor (VMT) model that mimics the tumor environment and the abnormal characteristics of the tumor vasculature seen in vivo. Immune therapies represent a good approach for novel drug development because they utilize the bodys natural immunity to fight off disease. I hope to use the VMT to determine if T-cells can be effectively primed to target cancer tumor-associated neoantigens. 

Dan G. Aldrich III

Special Guest Speaker: Dan G. Aldrich III

Daniel G. Aldrich, III is presently semi-retired from the University of California although he serves in the Office of the President part-time as Senior Development Associate for the UC System. He has served the System professionally for over 30 years and held Senior Administrative positions, at the Santa Cruz, Riverside and Irvine campuses, as well as the Office of the President. He received his B.S. Degree from UC Davis and Masters Cognate in Public Administration and Ph.D. in Educational Administration from UCLA. Aldrich is a Vietnam Era veteran serving on active duty from 1966-68 and then as a Reservist until Honorable Discharge as a Captain. He received the Army Commendation Medal for his Service.

Professionally, he has overseen the development of fundraising efforts and helped secure in excess of a half a billion dollars in private support for the University System. He has received professional recognition from his professional association, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII, as its Tribute Award Winner in 1998. He is an active volunteer in his community serving as Past President of the Chamber of Commerce and United Way. He is also active in the local Rotary Club having helped create and manage a high school Scholarship Program that has raised an endowment of over $1 million and has awarded over $700,000 in student scholarships.

 

City of Irvine Mayor Shea

2020 GRAD SLAM JUDGES

Christina Shea | Mayor, City of Irvine

Christina Shea was first elected to the Irvine City Council in 1992 in a landslide victory. She is passionate about serving her community and was elected Irvine Mayor in 1996 and re-elected in 1998. In 2002, Christina returned to the Irvine City Council and served as a Councilmember until 2010. In 2012, she was once again elected to the City Council where she continues to serve. In 2017, and then again in 2019, she was chosen to be the City’s Mayor Pro Tem.  With the election of Mayor Don Wagner to an Orange County Supervisor seat, Christina became Mayor on April 3rd, 2019.

In addition to her Council duties, she is member of the Transportation Corridor Agencies, serving as Chair of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Agency, a member of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Council, a Board Member of the Orange County Sanitation District, and a Director of the Orange County Great Park Board of Directors. In the past, she has served as Chair of the Task Force to Review Housing Needs of the Developmentally Disabled, Chairwoman of the Ad Hoc Veterans Affordable Housing Committee, as a member of the Ad Hoc Great Park Forensic Audit Committee, on the Board of the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority, a member of the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) Liaison Committee, and as a Director of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

She has been named one of Orange County’s “Leaders of the Year” by the California Women’s Leadership Association and featured as one of the “Most Influential Women in Orange County” by the Orange County Metro Magazine. In 2008, she was recognized by Assemblyman Chuck DeVore to be the Woman of the Year for the 70th Assembly District.

Mayor Shea brought forward a proposal to make Irvine one of the first cities in the U.S. to use only organic pest abatement practices in the City’s parks, green belts, and open space. This approach to pest abatement has since been adopted by over 160 communities across the country.

In addition, Ms. Shea champions the development of an Orange County Veterans Cemetery at the former MCAS El Toro military base.

She has always been a strong supporter of local law enforcement and has seen the City of Irvine reap the rewards, being named as America’s Safest City for 13 consecutive years among cities its size.

Dedicated to sound fiscal responsibility for both the present and the future, Christina supports privatization and opposes municipal tax increases. During her years on the City Council, she helped streamline Irvine’s municipal services, saving taxpayer dollars and creating greater efficiencies.

Additionally, Mayor Shea has served with numerous volunteer organizations, including the Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, the Board of Directors for the Irvine Child Care Project, and on the Advisory Board and past Capital Campaign Director for Human Options.

Ms. Shea has been a resident of Irvine since 1977 and currently lives in Quail Hill. Apart from her many civic duties, she is an independent business consultant and realtor.

Jennifer Friend, CEO of Project Hope Alliance

Jennifer Friend | CEO, Project Hope Alliance

Prior to becoming CEO, Jennifer Friend enjoyed a successful career as a partner at a large law firm managing a litigation team and a substantial personal book of business, representing national and international clients throughout the civil courts of California. While practicing law, she served as President and Secretary of Project Hope Alliance Board of Directors and was actively engaged in the organization’s expansion and strategic growth.

Since 2013, more than 900 children and their families have been moved out of homelessness under her leadership as CEO. Project Hope Alliance has experienced a growth of 400% in the past four years, evolving from a team of three full-time employees to a current team of 22. Jennifer has been successful in identifying, leveraging, and acting upon opportunities and partnerships both within the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.

Her personal experience as a homeless child fuels her deep-rooted passion and commitment to homeless children and youth, while her ability to cast vision, think strategically, and lead and direct broader systems change uniquely qualify her to serve as Project Hope Alliance’s CEO. She holds a JD from Whittier Law School and a BA in Criminology, Law, and Society from University of California, Irvine.

Greg Campbell, Dean's Leadership Council

Greg Campbell | Dean's Leadership Council Chair

Gregory S. Campbell is currently a management and leadership consultant. As part of his practice, Mr. Campbell provides leadership coaching to a number of high profile executives as well as young professionals, of which many are leaders of not-for-profit organizations. He is also the author of The Surprising Power of the Coil and The 5-2-1 Principle.

Prior to 1997 he was Executive Vice President and Partner, of Coldwell Banker Corporation, along with four other individuals and the Bechtel family. At that time, it was headquartered in Mission Viejo, California. He had direct responsibility for Coldwell Banker Residential Affiliates, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Guardian Title & Escrow, corporate marketing, education and real estate. Prior to Coldwell Banker, Mr. Campbell was Senior Vice President, Asset Management for Homart Development Company, a Sears-owned national regional shopping center and office building developer.

Before joining Homart, in 1984, Mr. Campbell was a US partner, Executive Committee Member, Senior Vice President of Richard Ellis, Inc. and President of Richard Ellis Management, Inc. Richard Ellis was a Chicago-based subsidiary of Richard Ellis, London, a real estate advising firm. In this position he was responsible for the asset management of client-owned properties, as well as the coordination of development services provided by the firm.

Anderee Berengian

Anderee Berengian | CEO, Cie Digital Labs

Anderee Berengian is CEO at Cie Digital Labs and Managing Partner at RezVen. He is a serial entrepreneur and board member. Cie Digital Labs (CDL) is a hybrid interactive development firm and technology startup studio. CDL creates leading-edge digital solutions, serves as an innovation lab for a variety of prominent global brands, and acts as a platform to develop ideas and turn them into new technology ventures.

Cie Digital Labs blends Silicon Valley know-how, startup dynamism and speed with the business maturity of serial entrepreneurs, seasoned venture capitalists, and Fortune 500 executives. This combination gives CDL a deep understanding of how to apply the latest technology to solve strategic and operational business challenges. CDL's unique hybrid model also enables the company to identify new opportunities that CDL's startup studio incubates, develops, and accelerates into new products and companies. Through his roles at CEI and Rezven, Berengian supports and mentors a wide variety of startup entrepreneurs as well as UCI students.

He earned his BS in Biochemists from UCLA, M.A. in Business from USC, and completed ABD for his Ph.D. in Biophysics at UCLA before recognizing his true passion as an entrepreneur.

Berengian gives back by serving as a board member for nonprofits Discovery Cube of Orange County and as a Board Member for Human Options, Inc. as well as for profit companies PETCO Animal Supplies, Vody, and Titan School Solutions, amongst others.

Christine Nakamoto

Christine Nakamoto | Dean's Leadership Council Board Member

Christine M. Nakamoto utilizes her professional and academic skills to develop sound strategies and growth of organizations through her cooperative approach of threading interdisciplinary ideas into coherent strategic goals.

Nakamoto’s career, brings forth the unique fusion of global business management and individual counseling psychology, which enhances her unsinkable zest for continuous improvement and tireless dedication to the search for innovative ways to organize people and projects to best identify and serve the needs of the community. She has worked in both Fortune 100 corporations and as a front line mental health advocate in neighborhood organizations.

Nakamoto has served as the CEO of an international manufacturing firm establishing herself as a leader in regulatory and manufacturing processes. She has chaired the advisory board of UCI’s Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine, as well as serving as the key corporate and community advisor on several other UCI boards guiding the efficient connection of academic research to the correct and necessary service.

Nakamoto holds a doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of the Pacific, and a Masters of Public Administration and Bachelors of Arts degree from the University of Colorado.

 

Marsha Johnson

Marsha Johnson | Retired Educator

Marsha Johnson is a retired educator, project leader, and computer programmer. She has completed multiple post-graduate degrees and certifications in education, special education, and kinesiology. Marsha has worked in both the public K-12 system and in private industry.  As long time Orange County residents, Marsha's family has been major supporters of UCI over the years, sponsoring student projects and mentoring both students and faculty.

Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson | Director, Perficient

Gary Johnson is a director with a technology consulting company, helping enterprises meet their business objectives through the application of technology. He has been in technology consulting his entire career and worked with all sizes of companies, from small start-ups to Fortune 500 firms.

Brittany Woo

VIP PRESENTERS

Brittany Woo

Degree Program

Fine Arts in Dance

Research

The purpose of my piece is to exhibit the dedication, drive, time, energy, and vigor required throughout the process of creating dance for live performance. It is entitled "Iceberg" as an analogy to the tip of the iceberg being all that is visible to the audience, but in reality, the massive bulk of the iceberg is under the surface. Similarly, the peak of the iceberg is showcased in the live performance, but the tremendous time and energy that went into this single live performance often remain uncovered by the audience. View this video to learn more about what went into this process.

Kevin Anthony

Kevin Anthony

Degree Program

Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology

 

Research

VirDAW stand for Virtual Reality Digital Audio Workstation. VirDAW has been running since January 2019, and is co-designed with Theresa Tanenbaum and Vincent Olivieri. VirDAW has an interdisciplinary team of graduate students from the School of Arts who have been involved in the project for the last year. The project aims to explore the implications of mixing audio in a three-dimensional space using spatialized audio in a virtual reality environment.

 

Hooshang Nayyeri

Hooshang Nayyeri

Degree Program

Physics and Astronomy

 

Research

Ureka Science: A platform to share, learn, and grow science.

Jacob Martin-Thompson

Jacob Martin-Thompson

Degree Program

Neurobiology and Behavior 

 

Research

The Gandhi Lab specializes in visualizing the structure and function of neurological systems. In my research I make extensive use of iDISCO clearing, a chemical treatment that turns tissue transparent, which combined with fluorescent staining enables me to scan detailed 3D models of the cellular-level anatomy of the sensory system.

Ali Abdullah

Ali Abdullah

Degree Program

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering 

 

Research

Steven Granger

Steven Granger

Degree Program

Neurobiology and Behavior 

 

Research

The human brain is composed of gray matter (cell bodies) and white matter (large fibrous extensions connecting gray matter regions together). In our laboratory, we have implemented several state-of-the-art tools to better understand and model the brain's complex white-matter connectivity using non-invasive MRI. My work here represents novel ways of visualizing the human brain using diffusion weighted MRI, a type of MRI that is sensitive to the diffusion of water in the brain. By treating the brain as an interconnected network, similar to a social network, we are able to relate complex structural changes in the human brain to a variety of psychopathologies, neurodegeneration, as well as normal ageing and cognitive decline.

Roland Polzin

Roland Polzin

Degree Program

MBA

 

Research

Wing is a 24/7 mobile assistant powered by humans and AI. Users place requests which Wing will process on-demand as a digital platform that connects its users to third-party service providers. Our system works by using top quality human assistants located offshore, and third party business partners, to work in tandem with our proprietary AI engine to action requests for our customers. Our AI engine is a broad term for a set of technologies we have under the hood that runs the service, specifically: a data ingestion service, a knowledge graph, a deep learning system that learns and replicates our human operators’ actions, a chat service, a deep learning system that classifies requests, and a “skills”-based approach to allowing our team to proactively automate large chunks of request volume.

Maryam Asghari

Maryam Asghari

Degree Program

Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

 

Research

The rapid growth of data-driven machines and services is increasing the need for power. Today, data centers consume more than 3% of the world’s energy and they are also responsible for 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. The projection shows the fact that the data center sector could be using 20% of all available electricity in the world by 2025. Information technology (IT) equipment and cooling infrastructure are the two majors power consumers; the latter consuming 40% of the total energy delivered to the data center. In this study, the integration of a SOFC with a liquid desiccant system is considered for powering and cooling a data center at the rack level. The novel idea is that each single fuel cell (~12 kW) is used to power one server rack and the waste heat from the fuel cell is used to regenerate a desiccant to provide dehumidification or cooling. The objective of this study is to theoretically investigate the capability of the integrated system to provide enough cold and dehumidified air to keep the server rack in the safe range of temperature and humidity. Results show that the SOFC waste heat can produce cold and dehumidified air within the safe range for server racks 

Zhuoya He

Zhuoya He

Degree Program

Earth System Science

 

Research

As the melting of polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers continues to raise sea levels, land-ice sea-level signals are expected to be an increasingly important contributor to regional sea-level rise. Previous quantifications of this contribution are limited to the past two decades. Extending further back of land-ice introduced sea level rise is essential in many ways, for instance, to detect long-term climate change signal from total sea-level variations. I combine multiple satellite observations with state-of-the-art models to reconstruct four-decade-long historical records of regional sea-level changes due to land-ice melting.  As sea level does not rise at a uniform rate everywhere, my record can facilitate the identification of coastal regions that are most vulnerable to sea-level rise.

Zahra Montazeri

Zahra Montazeri

Degree Program

Computer Science

 

Research

Zhanhang Liang

Zhanhang Liang

Degree Program

Computer Science

 

Research

A debate in the scientific literature has arisen regarding whether the orb depicted in Salvator Mundi, which has been attributed by some experts to Leonardo da Vinci, was rendered in a optically faithful manner or not. Some hypothesize that it was solid crystal while others hypothesize that it was hollow, with competing explanations for its apparent lack of background distortion and its three white spots. In this paper, we study the optical accuracy of the Salvator Mundi using physically based rendering, a sophisticated computer graphics tool that produces optically accurate images by simulating light transport in virtual scenes. We created a virtual model of the composition centered on the translucent orb in the subject's hand. By synthesizing images under configurations that vary illuminations and orb material properties, we tested whether it is optically possible to produce an image that renders the orb similarly to how it appears in the painting. Our experiments show that an optically accurate rendering qualitatively matching that of the painting is indeed possible using materials, light sources, and scientific knowledge available to Leonardo da Vinci circa 1500. We additionally tested alternative theories regarding the composition of the orb, such as that it was a solid calcite ball, which provide empirical evidence that such alternatives are unlikely to produce images similar to the painting, and that the orb is instead hollow.

Daeyun Shin

Daeyun Shin

Degree Program

Computer Science

 

Research

We want to build an AI that automatically reconstructs the complete 3D model of a scene from a single image. This single-view 3D reconstruction is challenging task that requires inferring the shape of both visible and occluded surfaces. Our novel integration of deep learning and perspective geometry advances the state of the art in this area. Our convolutional neural networks have built-in multi-view capabilities that geometrically reason about scenes as multiple layers of depth maps, to provide a more complete coverage of real-world environments. We compare with prior work that estimates volumetric mappings and demonstrate that our multi-view and multi-layer depth maps are well-suited for representing full 3D scenes for reconstruction.

Dustin Pluta

Dustin Pluta

Degree Program

Computer Science

 

Research

Dynamic functional connectivity, as measured by the time-varying covariance of neurological signals, is believed to play an important role in many aspects of cognition. While many methods have been proposed, reliably establishing the presence and characteristics of brain connectivity is challenging due to the high dimensionality and noisiness of neuroimaging data. We present a latent factor Gaussian process model which addresses these challenges by learning a parsimonious representation of connectivity dynamics.