Fall 2022 Cohort



Ziting Gao


I am a 4th year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry. I am currently working on bio-analytical separations, including the hyphenation of two analytical instruments for human extracellular vesicle separation and the development of DNA drugs targeting human proteins for epigenetic regulation. I am interested in the Science to Policy program to figure out how policy regulates science and how science affects policy making, especially in my research area like drug development and human sample regulation. Upon building this knowledge, I hope to increase my science communication skills to policy and use science policy as a tool to contribute to my community.



Roberto Rivera


I’m a recent UCR graduate earning my PhD from the Department of Sociology (August 2022). The focus of my dissertation research is on governmental structures and organizational behavior as it intersects the variables of trust in marginalized communities. My current research interests take my travel experiences to the indigenous communities of Ecuador, as well as my disaster relief responses to wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. I wish to research the intersection of Climate Change effects on Crime. I’m currently working on a GIS crime mapping project that takes Climate Change markers that impact crime. I’m interested in the Science to Policy Program to help me in interacting with policy makers that support environmental research.



Yucheng He

Mechanical Engineering

I am a third-year Ph.D. student in Mechanical Engineering, my research field is environmental monitoring, focusing on pollution transmission in the atmosphere and  the transition of wildfire. Both are closely related to public health, safety and economic consequences. The science policy program will serve as the bridge between my field of study with actual decisions that benefit environmental protection. I am enthusiastic about science and its broader relevance to society. Science itself will not tell us what to do in the next step, but it provides information, and I want to think about how science and technology can best serve the public.  I want to have a broader horizon and insights into how to make the research work more influential. And to learn science communication skills, in other words, to communicate science policy-related topics to the public. I would love to attend the events, hear the talks from current science policy workers and if possible, present my own work in front of audiences.



Victoria Wagner


I am a third year PhD student in the Neuroscience program studying the development of Fragile X Syndrome. I am particularly interested in mechanisms underlying sound sensitivity, which can lead to audiogenic seizures. To test potential treatments for hypersensitivity, my research uses a variety of models, including a disease in a dish approach with human stem cells. I will learn about policies regarding clinical translation and how to advocate for improvements on behalf of patients and researchers, with the primary goal of expediting access to novel treatments.




Ariana Hardy

Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology

I am a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology program. Currently, my research focuses on differentiating embryonic stem cells into osteoblasts (bone cells) via the usage of microRNAs.  I am interested in the science to policy class to understand how I can further educate the public on the benefits of embryonic stem cells.



Reza Monadi

Physics and Astronomy

I am a 6th-year PhD candidate studying astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy here at UCR. My research covers broad aspects of astrophysics. I am using machine learning in my current project to find the Carbon element in the clouds between galaxies (aka the intergalactic medium). Before attending UCR, I was an astronomy teacher. I realized teaching astronomy is great because someone only needs a pair of eyes and a dark sky, both freely available,  to stimulate their curiosity. Therefore education is the most effective (but time-consuming) solution to many problems in different societies. If we like to have a more equitable and accessible education for everyone, we need better policies. Therefore astronomy, education, and policy-making are interconnected.

Miriam Sharkey


I’m a third year Graduate student in the Sociology Department. My research focuses on the social psychology of social interactions between people.  From the Science to Policy Program, I  hope to learn how to apply social psychological research to public policy.


Nora Flynn

Botany and Plant Sciences

I am a 4th-year PhD candidate in the Botany and Plant Sciences department at UCR. As a member of Dr. Xuemei Chen’s lab, I research chloroplasts, which are organelles in plant cells that are responsible for photosynthesis. Specifically, I aim to improve technologies to study chloroplast gene expression. To do this, I am developing a new approach for RNA-sequencing at a single-chloroplast level. This technology will help us to better understand these small but mighty organelles and apply this knowledge to improving plant productivity. The S2P program will help me build science communication skills so that I can be a better advocate for research in the plant sciences.

Ruthia Soh

Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology

I am a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology Program. My research focuses on utilizing embryonic stem cells to study how certain environmental factors such as hyperglycemia affect the stem cell’s ability to remain pluripotent and differentiate into its many cell types. The usage of human embryonic stem cells has large ethical concerns because they are derived from the blastocyst of the human embryos. I am curious how policy makers are able to make decisions deeming certain practices ethical and non-ethical when certain policy makers might not have a science background. I’m hoping to learn more about the policy making process and the voice that scientists have in this process.

Fangyi Cao


I’m a first year PhD student in Statistics. Before pursuing my PhD degree, I obtained a MS degree in biostatistics from UCSD. I did some research and consulting programs in Phase II clinical trial designs as well as various data analysis projects in R and SAS. My research interests are in biostatistics, high-dimensional statistics, and machine learning. In the public health field, I had a related experience at the County Government in a group helping analyze HIV transmission in different clusters from a large database and giving advice to the San Diego public health department on making HIV related policies. I’m highly interested in how statisticians may contribute to the policy makers and affect the draft of policies in different fields.

Ally Richards

Botany and Plant Sciences

I am a first year PhD student and a second year graduate student studying ecology under the guidance of Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra in the Botany and Plant Sciences Department. My research focuses on the developmental and ecological roles of extrafloral nectaries, or nectar-producing glands found outside of the flower, in Ferocactus species. Within my research, there is an element of conservation and with conservation comes environmental advocacy and policy making. As a member of the S2P program, I hope to gain knowledge on the policymaking process and understanding of how my voice as a desert ecologist can play a role in advocacy for environmental protection.

Colin Todd

Plant Pathology

I am a fourth year PhD candidate in the Plant Pathology Program working in the lab of Dr. Philippe Rolshausen. My research focuses on fungal and bacterial associated diseases of grapevine. We are working to develop pathogen diagnostic tests and implement them in grapevine nurseries to better understand the epidemiology of these diseases at this crucial early stage in grapevine production. Both state and federal government organizations are involved in the testing of plant material for pathogens of concern and the limited transport of certain plant material is an important component of biosecurity. Additionally, agriculture related government spending is an important component of national food security and I am interested in better understanding how this form of public policy can be used to improve land stewardship as well as local access to nutritious foods.


Emily Esposito


I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department. As a member of the Riverside Social and Spatial Cognition Lab, my research focuses on how spaces and environmental cues impact people. I have studied gay culture and belonging, finding that perceived gay culture promotes belonging among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer (LGBQ) people. I have also studied gentrification and how perceived gentrification negatively impacts Hispanic/Latine people’s sense of belonging. Going forward, I plan to further examine perceptions of sexual minority space and quantify the positive impacts of sexual minority space on LGBQ people. Spaces have large impacts on those who live among them, and through the Science to Policy Program, I hope to learn how to work with policy makers and city planners to make communities more equitable and welcoming to all.

Youyi Tai


My name is Youyi Tai. I’m a Ph.D. student in Bioengineering and my long-term research interests involve stem cell engineering for in vitro disease models as well as in vivo tissue repairs, with a goal to engineer functionally mature tissue replacements. I have been focusing on developing technologies to design and build tissue models via stem cell/tissue engineering approaches. I aim to direct stem cell behaviors for appropriate multi phenotypic differentiation by regulating the physical microenvironment via multi-functional polymeric scaffolds and/or the application of external stimulations to precisely control the stem cell niche. I plan to utilize such technology platforms to further a fundamental understanding of stem cell physicobiology by investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying the physical cue-induced stem cell differentiation and subsequent tissue morphogenesis. I hope to gain knowledge on the policymaking process and how this would help my research get more involved in clinical trials.

Jessie Bridgewater


I am a 5th year PhD candidate in the psychology department, specializing in developmental psychology. Working with Dr. Tuppett Yates in the Adversity and Adaptation Lab, my research broadly focuses on risk and resilience processes among ethnic and racial minority youth. I am especially interested in risky contexts related to parenting processes, childhood adversities, and systemic biases (e.g., racialized perceptions of child characteristics). My ultimate career goal is to use my research to improve the lives of ethnic and racial minority youth by working collaboratively with community members and policymakers to enact lasting, positive change.  

Seeun Park


I am a 5th year PhD candidate in Economics at the University of California, Riverside. My research focuses on labor and housing issues. I study how the supply of affordable housing affects various social outcomes, such as eviction rate and homelessness. As an applied economist who relies on available data sets, I realized the importance of interactions between researchers and policymakers. I believe that the Science to Policy program will enhance my understanding of public policy and help me be a better communicator who bridges academia and policymakers.




Anish Sapkota

Environmental Sciences

Anish is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of environmental sciences. His research interests include water conservation, irrigation management, and remote sensing. Using findings from field research and high-resolution remote sensing data, he wants to optimize water use in agriculture and landscape, maintaining the crop production and quality of the plants. He also wants to understand how plants respond to water stress under climate change scenarios. From this S2P program, he hopes to learn ways to communicate his research to policymakers effectively.

Jacqueline Garrido

Electrical Engineering

I am a third year PhD candidate in Electrical Engineering. My research focuses on transportation electrification, pattern recognition, and innovative charging strategies of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. During my PhD research I have realized the effect that policy development has on research. Participating in the Science to Policy program would help me to gain a better understanding of the policy making process, and how policy strategies shape research directions and funding prioritization.

Tom Eckel

Chemical and Environmental Engineering

I am a 4th year PhD student working at CE-CERT’s Atmospheric Processes Laboratory. My research is focused on primary emissions from category 3 ocean going vessels in emerging technology classes, and secondary atmospheric chemistry from emissions generated by consumer size on-road vehicles. This work has been largely funded by grants and contracts from the US-EPA, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SC-AQMD). The elements of my research that are partnered with regulatory agencies include the studying the effects of recent emissions regulations (including real world emissions), verifying the effectiveness of the most recent iterations of progressive regulations, and determining if new engines (and exhaust treatment technologies) are within the standards set for by the aforementioned agencies. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the interplay between this type of research and future regulations from this course.

Shabnam Etemadi


I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in UCR Bioengineering Department. Doing bachelor’s and master’s in biomedical engineering, I chose to further my education, doing another master’s and Ph.D. in biological engineering to delve into wet-lab research. My fascination with stem cell research developed when I joined Dr. Prue Talbot’s lab and mined a single-cell RNA seq library that contained data from the early stages of human development (oocytes through blastocyst plus human embryonic stem cells - hESCs). The onerous burden of infertility and birth/ congenital defects in the US urged us to embark on the proposed research to determine whether flavor chemicals used in electronic cigarettes (ECs) adversely affect human embryonic development. We aim to provide data for policy regulations that may transform EC control policies. This will allow EC users to make a more informed decision about vaping during pregnancy and further help pregnant EC users understand the risk their vaping brings to their fetal, thereby promoting better user awareness of EC products.