Graduate Division

2019 UCI GradSlam Campus Winners

2018 UCI GradSlam Campus Winners

Rachel Rosenzweig - Champion/1st place

Ph.D., Materials Science and Engineering

Presentation Title: Superbug Kryptonite: Tiny Solution to a Huge Threat

Degrees

M.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from University of California, Irvine

B.S. in Materials Science & Engineering from University of Washington

Research

Life threatening bacteria and fungi often populate environments where nutrient rich fluid is present such as medical devices. There are almost 2 million annual cases of hospital-acquired infections due to contaminated medical devices leading to 100,000 deaths and $20 billion in health care costs in the US alone. Current overused solutions of chemicals and antimicrobial drugs applied to medical devices have led to the rise in antimicrobial resistance. The World Health Organization declared AMR as 'a dominant threat to global health' with annual death rates predicted to surpass Cancer by 2050.  Natural nano-spiked surfaces on insect wings have been found to cause bacterial cell rupture and death. My work aims to engineer nature-inspired surface coatings for medical devices that can be both antimicrobial without chemicals or drugs. I utilize a low-cost technique called Nanoimprint Lithography that heats up a material surface and stamps physically tailored nano-scale structures on the material's own surface without additional materials or chemicals. I have demonstrated that these nature-inspired engineered surfaces kill both infectious bacteria and fungi on medical device materials.

Advisor

Albert F. Yee

Biography

When Rachel is not doing research she enjoys participating in STEM outreach, reading, and finding new and fun workouts around Southern California

Stephanie Hachey - First runner up/2nd place

Ph.D., Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Presentation Title: Making Medicine Personal

Degrees

M.S. Biomedical and Translational Science from the University of California, Irvine

B.S. Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz

Research

Anti-cancer drug development is a costly, time-consuming process that fails more often than it succeeds. Not only do patients have limited treatment options as a result, they are treated as an 'average' patient instead of an individual, which often leads to poor clinical outcomes. To address the need for drug screening platforms that more accurately model a tumor inside the human body, we have created tumor on a chip. Tumor on a chip is an advanced microfluidic device that allows us to quickly test a variety of drugs on a patient’s actual tumor cells in conditions that more accurately mimic their biology than the standard drug screening methods used today. Our platform is the only one of its kind to incorporate living blood vessels that feed the growing tumor just as it occurs inside the human body. Most importantly, the conditions required for drug testing form within days and allow for rapid testing of anti-cancer drugs to inform drug development and clinical decision-making in a timely manner. This represents a major breakthrough in drug screening and has the potential to change the way patient treatments are prescribed.

Advisor

Chris Hughes

Biography

Stephanie Hachey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department in Dr. Chris Hughes lab at UC Irvine. Stephanie has served as an Invention Transfer Group Fellow at UC Irvine Applied Innovation and aspires to start her own biotech company. She most enjoys spending time with her 3-year old son taking day trips, being outside, and most of all, reading! Outside of work and family, she likes to cook and try new recipes – anything gluten-free and healthy.

Jessica Yaros - Second runner up/3rd place

Ph.D., Neurobiology & Behavior

Presentation Title: They All Look The Same To ME: Combatting the Other-Race Effect

Degrees

Ph.D candidate, Neurobiology and Behavior, UC Irvine

B.S. Cognitive Science with a specialization in Neuroscience, UC San Diego

Research

People tend to recognize faces of their own race better than those of other races. While behavioral research suggests this so-called Other-Race Effect (ORE) is due to extensive experience with one’s own race group, the neural mechanisms underlying the effect remain unclear. We employed a novel ‘mnemonic discrimination’ task to hone in on the memory-processing mechanisms employed for same- and other-race face recognition. Our findings demonstrate distinct responses modulated by race of face and similarity between faces. This suggests that the ORE is caused by differences in the ability to process interference between faces for same- and other-race stimuli. This research has strong implications for the criminal justice system, given the dire consequences of the ORE in the context of eye-witness testimon.

Advisor

Mike Yassa

Biography

When I'm not doing research, I like to do boring things, like binge watch television and on better days, binge read books. I take excessive photos of my cats, which I post on my science twitter, knowing I'll lose one follower per cat post. My hobbies are usually the flavor of the week. Last month I latch-hooked a rug with a cat's face on it, and decided I'd become a famous designer of upholstered art. This week I'm completing an online data science course, for fun, and I've decided to become a famous data scientist. On occasion I decide to become a famous voice actor. But this week, is not that week.

When I'm not doing research and I'm not being ridiculous, I write scripts for a science radio show produced by one of LA's public radio stations. I engage in numerous science communication endeavors besides UCI's Grad Slam. My STEM education outreach includes running workshops and talks about the magical human brain and guest hosting a science podcast. Communicating science is a big passion of mine, so I look forward to opportunities like Grad Slam in the future! And more importantly, my favorite food is pizza.