GSDS Peer Mentors

GSDS Peer Mentors

Austin Abrams
austinabrams (at) ucsb.edu


I study biomolecule–surface interactions for the development of versatile and affordable biosensors. My research is to study molecular design and reactivity for the detection of extremely dilute compounds found in blood and to develop the necessary engineering tools to get there – combining topics in chemistry, electrical, and mechanical engineering. In the UCSB Nanolab, I am building a nanofluidic surface sensing platform that could allow fully autonomous, integrated health monitoring at a fraction of the cost and size of current solutions.










Chelsea Catania
cataniac (at) mit.edu


I am currently a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT in Prof. Cullen Buie’s lab. In 2016, I received my PhD in Materials Science from UCSB under the supervision of Prof. Guillermo Bazan, where I worked on membrane-modifying small molecules for applications in microbial electronics. My current research uses engineering concepts for fundamental microbiology studies. I served as (and started!) Marketing Director on the Executive Board of GSDS from 2014-2016. Outside of the lab I enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and yoga. I’d be happy to field any questions, particularly ones involving finding a postdoc and student-advisor relationships.





Ryan DeCrescent
rdecrescent (at) umail.ucsb.edu


Ryan DeCrescent is a 4th year PhD student in the Physics Department at UCSB. From Ventura, California, he completed his undergraduate education between Ventura County Community College (2008-2011) and as a transfer student at UC Santa Cruz (2011-2014). He is the first in his family to pursue a professional degree in the sciences. With an undergraduate research background in experimental/computational particle physics, he came to UCSB with the intention of working at CERN. After the first year of classes, and a fair amount of mental turmoil about future directions (career, fulfillment, happiness, etc…), he now happily works with a very different focus as an experimentalist in the ECE department under Prof. Jon Schuller. The group’s research aims to address fundamental (and some more “application”-related) questions about the basic interactions of nano-scale objects with visible light (i.e., nano optics). So far, he has funded himself through graduate school with TA work for 10 academic quarters. In his free time, he enjoys playing music, climbing rocks, and cooking.





Connor Love
connor.love (at) lifesci.ucsb.edu


My name is Connor Love and I’m a second year graduate student in the Marine Science Program. My research involves studying the production of hydrocarbons by marine cyanobacteria, as well as their subsequent degradation by oil-degrading bacteria. I am testing how this “marine hydrocarbon cycle” may be the primer that allows oceans to naturally recover from oil spills.  I was actually in the chemistry department here at UCSB as an undergraduate, and decided at the end of my senior year that I wanted to combine chemistry with my love for the ocean. I realize how dynamic a student’s interests can be and know how they constantly evolve. I am here to talk about various project interests that align with what you truly want to do, and how to achieve them.






Saemi Oh Poelma, PhD
sopoelma (at) gmail.com


Saemi graduated with a PhD in chemistry focusing on organic and polymer chemistry with Prof. Javier Read de Alaniz and Prof. Craig Hawker in 2016. She worked on development and application of photochromic compounds and studied photoredox organic reactions using light. After her graduation, she moved to the bay area and has been working at The Clorox Company as a research scientist in the cleaning department. Saemi’s typical day at work involves developing new cleaning products, improving current products in the market and supporting other functions such as sales and marketing in the business.








Gregory Su, PhD
gsu (at) lbl.gov


I am currently a post-doc at the Advanced Light Source, a synchrotron facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I received my B.S. in chemical engineering from UMass Amherst, and a PhD from the Materials Department at UCSB. I first began work as a user at LBNL during my PhD, and studied under the NSF GRFP, ALS Doctoral Fellowship, and DOE SCGSR programs. My current work focuses on using X-ray characterization techniques (e.g. spectroscopy and scattering) coupled with simulations to probe chemistry and structure in various materials systems, including nanoporous metal-organic frameworks, polymers, and organic semiconductors. I was involved with GSDS throughout most of graduate school, especially in the outreach division. I hope to provide insight considering my experiences at a national user facility during and after graduate school.






Juan Carlos Villseñor-Derbez
jvillasenor (at) bren.ucsb.edu


I am a third year UCSB graduate student. I spent my first two years here as a masters student, and am now a first year PhD student at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. I am interested in furthering interdisciplinary knowledge of fisheries management, marine ecology, and human interactions with the environment, with an eye towards informing environmental policy and climate change adaptation for marine natural resources management. I seek to achieve this by combining data science, ecology, and economics. I am part of the Latin American Fisheries Fellowship program.








Wennie Wang
wwwennie (at) gmail.com


I am currently a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago Institute for Molecular Engineering. My research is on first-principles calculations on phenomena related to surfaces and interfaces. I received my PhD from the UCSB Materials Department working with Prof. Chris G. Van de Walle on understanding mechanisms of optoelectronic processes in complex oxides for energy applications. In my time at UCSB, I had the opportunity to serve as outreach director and president for GSDS and as the finance co-chair for the career conference UCSB Beyond Academia. Outside of research, I’m picking up pottery skills (and making far too many dishes any one person should have). Come and talk if you’re interested in getting involved with efforts aimed at improving the graduate school/postdoc experience, ranging from diversity and inclusion to exploration of alternate career tracks. I’d be happy to bounce around ideas and impart any experience.







Menaka Wilhelm
menakawilhelm (at) gmail.com

At UCSB, I studied the mechanical properties of marine mussels’ adhesive plaques, or, how mussels stick to rocks. I also spent a lot of time exploring avenues for science communication. I volunteered for the MRL’s science nights, Family Ultimate Science Experience through CSEP, and WiSE’s undergraduate mentoring program. Beyond the university, I participated in ComSciCon’s Pacific Northwest workshop. After completing a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, I spent a summer writing at WIRED magazine in San Francisco as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow.








Jiren Zeng
jirenzeng (at) umail.ucsb.edu


My name is Jiren Zeng (曾济人)  from Fudan University, Shanghai, China. Currently I’m a second year PhD student in chemical engineering in professor Eric Mcfarland’s group (though my home department is chemistry). My research project is CO2-free hydrogen production from natural gas pyrolysis in catalytic melt systems.