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The Magazine of UC Riverside

Winter 2016 Vol.11 No.1

Climbing Everest: UCR graduate students are reaching the top of the academic world–Page 10

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Kim A. Wilcox

Vice Chancellor, Advancement

Peter Hayashida


James Grant


Lilledeshan Bose

Interim Editor

Jeanette Marantos

Creative Director

Luis Sanz


Vickie Chang

Vanessa Hua

Bettye Miller

Senior Designer

Brad Rowe


Denise Wolf

Editorial Assistant

Bethanie Le


Kris Lovekin

Maydeli Magana

Bettye Miller

Konrad Nagy

Iqbal Pittalwala

Kristin Seiler


Mike Tofanelli

Igor Morski/The Illustration Room


Lonnie Duka

Peter Phun

Carlos Puma

Carrie Rosema

Senior Programmer

Bob Bottomley


Desiree Valle

UCR Magazine is published by the Office of Strategic Communications, University of California, Riverside, and it is distributed free to the University community.

Editorial offices: 900 University Ave., 1156 Hinderaker Hall, University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521, telephone (951) 827-6397. Unless otherwise indicated, text may be reprinted without permission. Please credit University of California, Riverside. USPS 006-433 is published four times a year: winter, spring, summer and fall by the University of California, Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521-0155.

Periodicals postage rates paid at Riverside, CA.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to UCR, Subscription Services (0063), 900 University Ave., 1156 Hinderaker Hall, Riverside, CA 92521.

In accordance with applicable federal laws and University policy, the University of California does not discriminate in any of its policies, procedures or practices on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age or handicap. Inquiries regarding the University’s equal opportunity policies may be directed to the Affirmative Action Office, (951) 827-5604.

Questions? Concerns? Comments? Change of address? Contact Kris Lovekin at

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Cover Story

10 | Reaching for the Sky–UCR’s graduate students are changing the world with groundbreaking research

Photo caption: Despite treacherous conditions on Mount Everest, anthropologist Young Hoon Oh (pictured here and on our cover) successfully reached the summit of the world’s tallest peak on May 19, 2012. He and other graduate students at UCR share stories of their academic journey.


20 | Highlanders Shaping Our Nation–UCR alumni old office all over the state–and the country

22 | Flitting Through Eternity–The Immortality Project’s findings about life after death are tantalizing

26 | Having It All–Plant geneticist Susan Wessler explains her life as a researcher, teacher, wife and mother


03 | RView–A message from Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox

04 | R Space–Catch up on the latest news at UC Riverside

29 | Page Turners

30 | Living the Promise–Aaron Seitz, Sara Mednick, Khaleel Razak and Ilhem Messaoudi on research at UCR

32 | Honoring Commitment–Four alumni recognized at the Chancellor’s Dinner

44 | Alumni Connection

35 | Class Acts

40 | C Scape–Professor of Creative Writing Laila Lalami on her award-winning novel

On The Web

What’s New?


Watch videos, read online extras and more at

Higher Education–Graduate students talk about fulfilling the promise of their UCR education

A Mission for Teaching–Professor Susan Wessler on why teaching is so important to her

A Moor’s Account–Watch Professor Laila Lalami read from her acclaimed book

Who Wants to Live Forever? –The Immortality Project explores questions of longevity

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2.25- 2.27 – A modern take on an ancient Greek myth, this play by Mary Zimmerman follows Jason and his mission to retrieve the Golden Fleece. This event is open to the public.

Encuentros/Encounters concert

2.25 –Spanish flamenco music and dance, organized by UCR’s Center for Iberian and Latin American Music and performed by professional dancer Miguel Bernal and his group at the Culver Center of the Arts. This event is free and open to the public.

Japanese Taiko Drumming Demonstration

3.1; 5.24 – The UCR Taiko Ensemble, directed by the Rev. Shuichi Thomas Kurai, puts on a spirited, 30-minute outdoor demonstration of Japanese drumming.

William H. Reynolds Memorial Carillon Concert

3.5 – This recital is in remembrance of William Reynolds, former chair of the UCR Music Department and musical advisor in the acquisition of the carillon. This is an opportunity to enjoy the sounds of the bell tower’s bells while relaxing in the pastoral atmosphere of the UCR campus.

Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble

3.8 – The Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble is performing as part of the Culver Center of the Arts’ Outpost Concert Series. Quince specializes in experimental repertoire that is changing the paradigm of contemporary vocal music. The Brooklyn Rail has described them as a “new force of vocal excellence and innovation.”

Theatre Department Film Festival 2016

4.7- 4.8 – This festival is full of original short films produced by UCR students, faculty and alumni. “Bad Timing,” a film by Stu Kreiger, professor of theatre and award-winning film and television writer, will be featured.

“Wildreness of Mirrors”

5.5- 5.7; 5.12- 5.14 –This play by Charles Evered is a cloak-and-dagger drama that explores the conflict between a professor intent on recruiting for the war effort and his prize student. Open to the public, this event will be held at the UCR Studio Theatre.

UCR Pow Wow

5.27- 5.28 –The 35th annual UCR Pow Wow is an intertribal social gathering celebrating Native American culture and traditions through singing, drumming and dancing. Traditional Native American dancers, drum groups, bird singers and other artists will be present, and vendors will sell food, handmade Native American jewelry, arts and crafts and other merchandise.

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Seeking Discovery, Spreading Knowledge

What do Mount Everest in the Himalayas, New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva and a zebrafish swimming in a lab in Riverside, California, all have in common?

Each represents a portion of the groundbreaking research and scholarship currently pursued by UC Riverside’s talented and dedicated graduate students. From our campus in the Inland Empire to locations across the globe, our graduate students are seeking discovery, spreading knowledge and fulfilling our public service mission. This edition of UCR Magazine highlights just a fraction of the tremendous work our graduate students are accomplishing and demonstrates the broadening success of graduate education at UCR.

The Master Plan for Higher Education in California charges the University of California system as the principal academic research institution in the state, with the exclusive responsibility of training doctoral students (minus a few exceptions). With 41 doctoral programs, 47 master’s programs and nearly 3,000 graduate students, this represents a core component of the UC Riverside campus.

Our graduate education efforts have won national and international acclaim and we are fortunate to house an array of programs found only rarely at other campuses. For example, we are one of the few institutions in the country to offer a Ph.D. in Native American history – and our world-renowned doctoral program in Critical Dance Studies is truly unique.

This is a time of great excitement for graduate studies at UCR. A key element of our plans to increase enrollment by 5,000 students by 2020 includes doubling the number of graduate students. Our graduate student body is diverse and becoming even more so. Last fall we launched a new School of Public Policy and welcomed the inaugural cohort of the Master of Public Policy program. And thanks to the committed efforts of our Graduate Division, each year we are increasing the financial support available to support graduate study at UCR.

Our graduate students represent all that we hope to achieve at UCR, and when they finish their degrees they go on to become leaders in academia, research, industry and government. In fact, in January Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, who received his Ph.D. in political science from UCR in 2000, was formally elected as the next speaker of the California State Assembly.

When UCR was founded as the Citrus Experiment Station in 1907, discovery lay at its core. That legacy continues today, epitomized by the scholarship, research and educational efforts of our graduate students. I hope you enjoy reading a few of their stories along with the wealth of other news, information and updates in this edition of UCR Magazine.

Fiat lux,

Kim A. Wilcox


Photo caption: Chancellor Wilcox shaking hands with graduates at the 2015 commencement ceremony for Ph.D. students.

Photo by: Carrie Rosema

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Ballerina Misty Copeland: ‘It’s OK to Be Different’

Renowned classical ballerina Misty Copeland addressed a standing-room- only crowd at UCR about the importance of perseverance and diversity Dec. 10.

In June 2015, Copeland became the first female African-American principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history, and the first African-American woman to dance the lead in the company’s production of “Swan Lake” that same month.

Copeland spoke about her rise to success – a story of struggle and, ultimately, triumph – over the racial prejudices she says are ingrained in ballet.

“I didn’t know of any black dancers. That was so far out of my realm of what was possible, to see someone that looked like me,” said Copeland, whose experiences growing up poor in Los Angeles presented obstacle after obstacle to her budding dance career.

She encouraged others to follow in her footsteps and break down barriers. “It’s OK to not fit into the mold that the ballet world has created,” she said. “It’s OK to be different. It’s OK to be the first.”

Citrus Curator Tracy Kahn Named to Endowed Chair

Tracy Kahn, curator of the UCR Citrus Variety Collection, has been appointed the Givaudan Citrus Variety Collection Endowed Chair.

The gift that funds the appointment, which runs through June 30, 2020, allows the collection to be supported and maintained in perpetuity. It was made possible by a $1 million endowment from Givaudan, a Swiss-based company that creates fragrances and flavors.

The Citrus Variety Collection was established in the early 1900s. With more than 1,000 kinds of citrus cultivars, it is one of the world’s most diverse collections. Kahn has been its curator since 1995.

As curator, Kahn oversees the care of the collection and the research on citrus diversity. She also facilitates research by other researchers who utilize the collection. The collection is a resource for citrus growers, nursery owners, produce providers, chefs, students and the public.

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Making Batteries with Portabella Mushrooms

Can portabella mushrooms stop cellphone batteries from degrading over time?

Researchers at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering think so. They have created a new type of lithium-ion battery anode using portabella mushrooms, which are inexpensive, environmentally friendly and easy to produce. The current industry standard for rechargeable lithium-ion battery anodes is synthetic graphite. But this comes with a high cost of manufacturing because it requires tedious purification and preparation processes that are also harmful to the environment.

The research findings were outlined in a paper, “Bio-Derived, Binderless, Hierarchically Porous Carbon Anodes for Li-ion Batteries,” published Sept. 29 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports and authored by Professors Cengiz Ozkan and Mihri Ozkan, and graduate students Brennan Campbell, Robert Ionescu and Zachary Favors.

Campbell and Ionescu formed a startup company, Ionobell, which is focused on developing cheap, eco-friendly and high-performance batteries for electronics and electric vehicles.

Managed Bees are Making Wild Bees Sick

With wild pollinators in decline, managed honeybees and bumblebees are now shipped around the world to pollinate crops, but researchers at UCR have found this practice is spreading disease to wild bees.

“Even in cases when the managed bees do not have a disease, they still stress local wild bees, making them more susceptible to disease,” said Peter Graystock, a postdoctoral researcher in UCR’s Department of Entomology and the lead author of a paper published online in the International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife.

Many managed bees are shipped from countries with few, if any, regulations about transporting diseased pollinators, Graystock said. The researchers recommend frequent screening for disease in managed bees, using nets over glasshouses to keep managed bumblebees from mixing with wild bumblebees, and increased conservation efforts to limit managed bee use.

New Medical School Professor Brings a Gift to UCR

A small crowd gathered outside UCR’s Chemical Sciences Building on Nov. 10 to witness the delivery of a 700 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer that will significantly advance research in fields such as biomedical sciences, chemistry, engineering and agricultural sciences.

The sophisticated instrument came to UCR with Maurizio Pellecchia, a new faculty member in the School of Medicine. Pellecchia is internationally known for his research in novel pharmacological tools in the areas of cancer and neurodegeneration.

“It is a measure of who Professor Pellecchia is that he has brought this piece of equipment which transforms the research capabilities of this campus, not just for his own use but for all UCR researchers,” said Monica Carson, professor and chair of biomedical sciences.

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Media Can Build Better Understanding, Says Ghana President

John Dramani Mahama, president of Ghana and accomplished author, historian and journalist, urged a packed audience at UCR to wield the power of social media to bridge cultural divides.

In his Oct. 2 talk, Mahama expressed his dismay at the deep fissure that he feels exists between Africans who reside in Africa and those who have scattered to other parts of the world.

“Astonishingly, many African- Americans believe that Africans are backward and primitive,” he said. “Some make cruel jokes about Africans or don’t acknowledge the great contribution Africa has made to the world.”

Mahama believes the power to change lies in technology, particularly social media. People continents away from each other sharing their experiences allows for an unprecedented ability to consider global ideas and understand each other’s stories, he said. “We should use technology as a tool for empowerment.”

UCR Business School Ranked High for Minority Student Opportunities

UCR’s School of Business Administration is among the top 10 business schools with the greatest opportunities for minority students, and ranked among the top 295 business schools in the nation. This is according to the 2016 edition of The Princeton Review’s “The Best 295 Business Schools.”

“[UCR] is a leader among public institutions in diversity and accessibility, and the School of Business Administration reflects that mission in the diversity of the students in its programs,” said Dean Yunzeng Wang.

The School of Business Administration ranked sixth in the “Greatest Opportunity for Minority Students” category. The Princeton Review surveyed 22,000 students at the 295 business schools about their plans and their school’s academics, student body and campus life.

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The Huntington and UCR Forge Bold Partnership

A groundbreaking move to support the future of the humanities is underway.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens and UCR have launched a program aimed at increasing the number of faculty members in the humanities at public research universities and furthering independent research by promising scholars.

The innovative pilot project, The Huntington-UC Program for the Advancement of the Humanities, is believed to be the first partnership of its kind in the country and launches at a time when public support of the humanities is waning in favor of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields and so-called “practical” knowledge.

Generous financial support from The Huntington will underwrite two new faculty positions at UCR for two full years, providing salary support and access to the renowned collections at The Huntington.

Center for Korean American Studies Celebrates 5th Anniversary

More than 250 friends and supporters of UCR’s Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies gathered Nov. 12 at the Oxford Palace Hotel in Koreatown in Los Angeles to celebrate the center’s five-year anniversary.

Longtime supporter Myung Ki “Mike” Hong, president of Dura Coat Products Inc., received the YOK Center Korean American Leader Award, and Jay Kim, president of the Overseas Korean Traders Association of Los Angeles, received the YOK Center Supporter Award.

Among the dignitaries attending were Korea Consul General Hyun Myung Kim; Te Rang Rim of the National Unification Advisory Council Los Angeles Chapter; Myung and Lorrie Hong; Jay Kim; Ralph and Ann Ahn of the Korean American Pioneer Council; and keynote speaker Sukhee Kang, former mayor of Irvine and 29th Congressional District candidate.

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The First 50 Takes on its Third Year

By Bethanie Le

In the series “The First 50,” we follow members of the inaugural class of the UCR School of Medicine through the challenges they face.

The third year has begun for the School of Medicine (SOM)’s inaugural class. A pivotal milestone for all medical students, this is the year that transports them out of the predictable world of lectures, textbooks and exams into the clinical realm of medicine.

For this particular cohort, however, it is even more momentous. They’re the first UCR medical students who won’t be part of the Thomas Haider Program. Before SOM opened, students were trained in Riverside for two years, then sent off to UCLA for the remainder of their medical training. Now, the UCR School of Medicine has rolled out its own third-year curriculum as a full-fledged, four-year medical school.

SOM faculty, staff and leadership have designed a more integrated learning experience for this significant year. In traditional medical school programs, the block schedule is separated into six weeks for each specialty. For example, students spend six weeks on pediatrics, then six weeks on internal medicine, then six weeks in surgery.

UCR SOM’s unique structure consists of six-month blocks, strengthening students’ understanding of each specialty. Block A is focused on surgery and internal medicine. Block B is focused on obstetrics- gynecology, family medicine and pediatrics. Block C is centered on psychology, neurology and emergency medicine.

“Even though third year is mentally and physically demanding, the endless learning curve and patient interactions make it all worthwhile,” said student Diana Tran.

Plunged into a new learning environment, students transition from the familiarity of the classroom to spending 12- to 16-hour days at the hospital.

One big lesson that the students are quickly learning? Patients – and their illnesses – rarely go by the book. “I think first and second year really laid down a strong foundation in terms of the science of medicine, but the hospital setting is unpredictable. That’s one thing you don’t really learn in school,” Tran said.

“As a third year, there’s a lot you don’t know. You’re always learning how things work in the hospital, whether it’s the instruments or how people communicate with each other,” student Rafael Ornelas added. “But every week, we’re becoming more comfortable, to the point where we feel like we are taking a bigger role in caring for the patients.”

Both students said the third-year work makes their goal of becoming a physician more concrete.

Donning that white coat and walking those hospital hallways, they realize that medicine is not just studying about anatomy and molecules anymore; it is ultimately teaching them how to be doctors.

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UCR by the Numbers

2 – UCR’s ranking in Washington Monthly magazine’s 11th annual College Ranking Survey that measures civic engagement, research and social mobility. This is the fifth consecutive year that UCR has ranked among the top 10 schools in the survey.

5,162 – The number of holes in the iconic bell tower.

4 – The amount of food trucks on UCR’s campus. This includes the Moo Moo Truck that sells soft serve ice cream, the Culinary Chameleon with its signature tacos, the Bear Tracks coffee truck that features a limited menu from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and the new Highlander Truck.

75 – The percentage of freshmen who live on campus in Aberdeen-Inverness, Pentland Hills or Lothian residential halls.

62 – The number of years that the student newspaper, The Highlander, has been running. The Highlander is published every Tuesday during the academic year.

380 – The number of universities that UCR is ranked with in the 2016 edition of the Princeton Review’s annual guide, “The Best 380 Colleges.”

3,000,000&nndash;The rough number of insect specimens at UCR’s Entomology Research Museum. The museum is among the 25 largest insect collections in North America.

58 – The number of words in the lyrics of UCR’s alma mater, “Hail Fair UCR.”

21,651– The total enrollment of UCR students for the 2015-16 academic year. The campus has 18,608 undergraduates and 3,043 graduate students.

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Reaching for the Sky

Anthropologist Young Hoon Oh

Studying Sherpa culture while climbing the world’s tallest peaks

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Record support for UCR’s graduate programs is fueling diverse research around the globe

Climbing the Himalayas to study Sherpa culture. Descending deep into the earth to better understand the universe. Resurrecting a flooded New Orleans community and discovering the power of volunteerism.

The topics for graduate studies are vast and diverse at UC Riverside, but they all have one thing in common – the quest to create new knowledge, a mission that represents the beating heart of every great research university.

The creation of new knowledge has been a constant at UCR, from citrus research in the early 1900s to the establishment of the graduate division in 1960. But in the past decade, our graduate programs – acclaimed around the world – have expanded.

UCR offers programs rarely found anywhere else, such as the doctoral program in critical dance studies, or the

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Death was an everyday possibility for UCR anthropology doctoral student and mountaineer Young Hoon Oh, 37.

But so was joy.

A climber since his undergraduate days at Seoul National University, Oh confronted death many times in the Himalayas when he lived with Sherpa families to research the impacts of mountaineering on their culture.

“Mountaineering involves very serious and significant things, such as death – not just of mountaineers, but of my friends, too,” Oh said. “I dealt with my own death as well. If I didn’t do that, I couldn’t climb at all.”

It’s difficult for mountain climbers to explain their passion, Oh said. For him? “It makes me feel alive. It pushes me to think more about my life – and others’ lives.”

From 2012 through 2014, Oh shared his life with Sherpas – an ethnic group from the most mountainous regions of Nepal.

In those two years of fieldwork, he joined nine separate climbing expeditions, and finally summited Mount Everest in spring 2012.

On one of his Everest expeditions, Oh became friends with his 24-year-old Sherpa guide. The guide invited Oh to stay with his family in a small, isolated village of 400 Sherpa people.

“It took three days to get to his village: one day by airplane, one day by jeep, one day by foot. It was a very remote area with no electricity and very poor telephone connection,” he said.

“It was very fun,” Oh said. “All the households in the village were connected through kinship. I was talking with them, living with them, working with them, taking care of sheep, cattle. ... The first few months were very tough, but I came to realize how Sherpas understand mountaineers – or modernity – through their eyes. That was my key question.”

Oh said he’s grateful to his UCR advisor, Professor Sally Ness, whose patience and support made him more confident, and for a $15,000 scholarship from UCR’s Graduate Division that helped him pay for his tuition while he was doing his research.

Now back in Riverside finishing his dissertation, Oh hopes to land an academic job after his graduation in March. He also wants to be a member of the first group to successfully summit Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat – the world’s ninth-highest mountain – during the winter season.

“About 26 expeditions have attempted to climb Nanga Parbat during the winter, but all of them failed because of the severe weather conditions, so we’ll try next year,” Oh said. “We are getting closer and closer to the crest between life and death, but now we know the border between the two.”

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Ph.D. in Native American history. The School of Medicine is the first public medical school in California to open in four decades. The School of Public Policy opened doors to graduate students this past fall. Since 2008, several new programs such as the Ph.D. in management, the Ph.D. in art history, the Flex MBA program, the online Master’s of Engineering, and the Master’s of Computer Engineering have been established.

“Graduate research makes our students doers, not just knowers,” says UCR Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Paul D’Anieri. “The journey we are on is about discovery. You take that journey side by side with your students, never knowing exactly what might be around the next corner.”

Today, UCR offers 41 doctoral areas of study and 47 master’s programs.

As the graduate programs grow, so does the graduate student population. UCR had about 2,000 graduate students in 2005; this year, they number more than 3,000. “About 65 percent of our graduate students are seeking the Ph.D. in various disciplines,” Graduate Division Dean Joseph Childers says.

Particle Physicist Elizabeth Kennedy

Unwrapping the mysteries of the universe from deep underground

Photo caption: Elizabeth Kennedy (right) with fellow UCR graduate student Jesse Heilman, working at CERN in Switzerland.

Photo by: Sarah Charley, CERN

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Particle physicist Elizabeth Kennedy spends her days a tenth of a mile underground, with researchers from around the world, trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Kennedy, 26, is a graduate student at UCR, but she’s doing her research a continent away, at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland, which houses the powerful particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

CERN plays host to thousands of researchers, scientists and engineers representing more than 600 universities and research facilities, including UCR’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Kennedy and other UCR graduate students have focused their research on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, a large particle-capturing detector at the Large Hadron Collider that doubles as the fastest and highest resolution camera ever constructed.

The LHC is a huge, colorful and slightly ominous- looking machine located 100 meters underground. The machine allows scientists to collide protons into each other at almost the speed of light to better understand how the universe works. The existence of the Higgs boson – the so-called “God particle” that made headlines in 2012 – was discovered during experiments at CERN.

Kennedy is studying experimental high-energy particle physics.

Her personal focus is on studying a rare decay of the Higgs boson, “which is important to help pin down the exact nature of the particle that was discovered in 2012,” she said. “Is it exactly the Standard Model Higgs, or something more exotic?”

Most days at CERN are pretty un-exotic, however. “Our time is spent analyzing and integrating the data that we record with our detector,” Kennedy said.

But she’s also learned something about using a wrench, as part of CERN’s requirement that all visiting researchers help with hands-on maintenance of their experiment and its many components. In fall 2013, she and another UCR graduate student, Jesse Heilman, began to help build and install new ME4/2 cathode strip chambers as part of a necessary upgrade on the CMS.

That might sound like a punishment, but Kennedy really enjoyed the hands-on work.

“I learned an incredible amount about electronics and detector technology during the production phase,” she said. “Even better was getting to work in the experimental cavern, putting the chamber – that I personally helped to build – onto a part of the biggest science experiment in the world. I love grad school!”

She plans to return to UCR in December to write her thesis, under the supervision of her advisor, Professor Robert Clare. In the meantime, it’s back to crunching data with her fellow researchers.

“Getting to interact with these amazing people from all over the world is my favorite thing; there are just so many people from so many places,” she said. “It may sound cliché, but it’s a really great way to grow as a person.”

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By 2020, Chancellor Kim Wilcox hopes to double the number of graduate and professional students. Eventually, Provost D’Anieri says, he would like to see graduate students make up 20 percent of UCR’s enrollment. And the unique makeup of UCR’s population, along with the expansion of its graduate programs, will have a huge impact on scientific discovery around the world.

Superlative Research, Fantastic Mentors

Of course, it’s the faculty’s pioneering research that drives the expansion of UCR’s graduate programs, along with their impacts on the real world, and the emphasis on mentorship.

Alex Plong, in his first year as a Ph.D. student in plant genetics, says the cutting-edge research in plant biology drew him to Riverside. “I applied to other graduate schools for various reasons; one was close to the beach, and the other had a great football team,” he said. But he came to UCR specifically because of the work that his professor, Venugopala Gonehal of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, is conducting in gene networks and cell identity transition. “I didn’t realize how

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nice Riverside was until I interviewed with my professor; it was a big plus to the fact that UCR’s plant biology program is highly regarded around the world.”

UCR has also established various support systems for grad students. “Seeking an advanced degree can often be frustrating and lonely,” Graduate Dean Childers says. “A strong community can help.”

The Graduate Division has been actively – and successfully – building that community for UCR, helping create a vibrant, supportive graduate student community through the Graduate Success unit.

The Graduate Success unit provides support in every aspect of a graduate student’s life. Academically, the unit

Sociologist Ian Breckenridge- Jackson

Honing a passion for social justice while rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina

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Ian Breckenridge-Jackson grew up doing volunteer work, from Camp Fire activities to service clubs during his undergraduate years at Occidental College. But it wasn’t until he went to New Orleans in 2006 to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina that volunteerism changed his life.

“That was the first time I was really hit in the face with the reality of social inequality,” said Breckenridge-Jackson, 30, a Los Angeles native. “I couldn’t really look away. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It was a catalyst that drove me to grad school, to study different forms of social inequality and how they intersect with one another.”

What sparked his passion was a chance conversation with a Katrina survivor who was trying to rebuild his home in the Lower 9th Ward, one of New Orleans’ hardest hit areas. Prior to Katrina, the neighborhood had one of the highest rates of home ownership by African-Americans in the country, with families that went back generations. But the muddy floodwaters destroyed many of the homes, schools, stores and infrastructure that neighborhoods need to survive. Fewer than one in four residents returned, and those who did struggled to rebuild.

“The trauma of [the Katrina survivor’s] experience was very palpable in his eyes and in his voice,” Breckenridge-Jackson said. “I had to understand why someone like myself and my multiple forms of privilege hadn’t experienced something like that, and why someone in a very different position socially had to go through so much.”

Volunteer Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, helped Breckenridge-Jackson take some action. As they worked to clean up the devastation left by Katrina, the two kept hearing that the Lower 9th Ward’s rich history was getting buried and forgotten.

“There was nowhere people could go to just hear those stories, so we came up with the idea of creating a museum and an oral history project that told the story of the Lower 9th Ward – through the voices of its people.”

Five years later, in 2011, the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum opened its doors. Admission is free, and the museum has compiled more than 50 oral histories from residents, which are available online. The museum is also a community hub, hosting neighborhood events, tutoring, a poetry club, an arts and crafts club and a homework club six days a week.

Breckenridge-Jackson says his grants (such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship) and his faculty and staff mentors at UCR helped him accomplish his work. He also credits the strong sense of community among his peers.

“It’s a collaborative effort and a funnel for the voices of the residents,” he said. “We’ve had over 4,000 visitors from 42 states and 22 countries and six continents. Seeing this idea turn into something bigger than we could’ve possibly imagined really has been amazing.”

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offers programs, workshops and seminars via the Graduate Student Writing Center and the GradQuant center (which helps students gain more facility with quantitative analysis). Socially, the Graduate Resource Center helps students find activities at UCR that contribute to their personal well-being. Counselors give career advice, whether students want to find work as academics or in the private industry.

Childers cites as important a unique first-year mentoring program for incoming Ph.D. and M.F.A. students, which serves more than 100 students per year. “The success of that program, which started in 2009, has been especially notable,” Childers says. “About 90 percent of those who have been through it advance to their degree.”

Nationally, the graduate student success rate is at about 50 percent. “This program has contributed to UCR bringing its overall graduate student success rate to nearly 60 percent.”

Increasing Financial Support

For most universities around the country, funding research and graduate programs is crucial. At UCR, fellowships

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and grants can help attract quality Ph.D. candidates to campus, because students can then focus on research instead of being distracted by other jobs to stay financially afloat.

The challenge for increasing funding for graduate student programs was one that Childers faced in 2008. At the time, UCR was receiving fewer than one National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowship a year.

It didn’t make sense to Childers, who at the time had just started his tenure as dean. UCR was developing amazing scientific research, had very good students and extraordinarily good faculty – so why didn’t the fellowships follow? It wasn’t the academic quality, Childers realized. “It was because we didn’t know how best to go about

Bioengineer Shirin Mesbah Oskui

Discovering the toxicity in 3D printer parts

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It was all an accident.

In 2014, bioengineering Ph.D. student Shirin Mesbah Oskui was working in Professor William Grover’s lab. Grover’s lab develops precision tools for measuring micron-scale objects such as cells. While using a 3D printer, the 27-year-old Mesbah noticed that zebrafish embryos that came into contact with her printed pieces died just a few days following exposure.

Zebrafish embryos are commonly used in research because of developmental and genetic similarities to humans. With that discovery, Mesbah suddenly found herself with a new research topic: the toxicity of 3D printing materials.

The researchers decided to focus on the two main commercial types of 3D printers in their department; one that melts plastic onto a platform to build a part (“a glorified glue gun,” as Mesbah describes it) and another that uses light to transform a liquid into a solid part.

The result? Parts from both kinds of printers were measurably toxic to zebrafish embryos, with the parts from the liquid-based printer proving to be more toxic.

Mesbah’s findings come with the rapidly growing popularity – and accessibility – of 3D printers. The value of the 3D printing market grew from $288 million in 2012 to an astounding $2.5 billion in 2013, according to a report by Canalys.

“It’s definitely a growing industry. One of the 3D printers [our department] uses is only $3,000. I’m saying ‘only’ because a couple of years ago, that same type of technology was $30,000,” Mesbah says. “These 3D printers are becoming very cheap; as a result, people are going to find more uses for them in different fields.”

Many at-home hobbyists are picking up their own 3D printers, she said, and many elementary and secondary schools are using the printers as learning tools.

Her research raises several alarming questions: How are people throwing away their 3D printers and 3D-printed parts? And how should 3D-printed parts and waste materials be disposed of?

While the answers remain hazy, one thing is certain: As the industry grows, regulations and guidelines need to be created and disseminated to address potential safety and health concerns, Mesbah said.

“Because they’re considered trade secrets, materials used in the 3D printing materials are not shared with the user. The user wouldn’t necessarily know or be trained to handle this material,” she said. “So the environmental aspect of it is very important – disposal should be a concern.”

Mesbah plans to graduate at the end of 2016. Her next step will include a more in-depth study of what’s causing 3D printer toxicity, and how to make the printers safer.

Until then, Mesbah has found that exposing 3D-printed parts to ultraviolet light for an hour significantly reduces the toxicity to zebrafish embryos. The UCR Office of Technology Commercialization has filed a provisional patent for this work.

(Continued on the next page)

seeking those fellowships.”

To solve that problem, the Graduate Division developed a program to help graduate students write successful NSF applications, and established an incentive system to keep track of applicants. Since then, UCR has been receiving about 12 NSF fellowships a year, bringing more than $10 million to UCR in the past six years.

“It’s been enormously helpful,” Childers said.

This year, UCR’s work in stepping up its grant-writing efforts has really paid off. Fundraising for research, much of which goes toward supporting graduate students, has climbed in other areas as well. Last year, UCR faculty brought in grants or royalties of $97 million in 2014-2015, about $19 million more than the previous year.

Most recently, UCR was awarded more than $4.4 million by the U.S. Department of Education to support graduate student fellowships.

Creating a Diverse Pipeline

Grants also help UCR achieve other goals, such as maintaining a diverse student population while recruiting

(Continued on the next page)

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top-notch graduate students to the campus. In 2008, only 16 percent of UCR’s domestic graduate student population was from underrepresented categories. Today that number is approaching 30 percent.

Having a diverse graduate student population, Childers says, means UCR is meeting the mission of California’s Master Plan for Higher Education to educate its citizens: “I am most proud of the gains we have made in recruiting and growing a more diverse graduate student population. Coupled with the tremendous growth in our graduate numbers in the last eight years, we are moving toward reflecting the same sort of diversity enjoyed by our undergraduate population.”

—Interviews by Vickie Chang

For more stories of our grad students, go to:

Screenwriter Kimberly Guerrero

Creating stereotype-busting scripts inspired by years of acting

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Kimberly Guerrero wasn’t satisfied with just having an active IMDb profile. After an impressive career as a director, screenwriter and actor, Guerrero, 48, decided to add one more item to her resume: an M.F.A. in creative writing from UCR. The native Oklahoman has starred in countless film and television titles, from “Seinfeld,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Longmire” to her most current role as Chief Elaine White Cloude in the ABC series “Blood & Oil.”

From an early age, Guerrero wanted to come to Los Angeles and be an actress. “I was 8 years old and I got an atlas out. I saw UCLA and said, ‘Oh, I’ll go to school there because it’s right by Hollywood,’” Guerrero explained with a laugh.

While an undergrad at UCLA, Guerrero wanted to do a little bit of everything in show business. It was the mid-’80s, however; Guerrero had a few obstacles thrown her way.

“I was told – especially as a woman – you can’t be a writer and an actor. You can’t be a director and an actor. You have to choose one side of the camera or the other.”

So Guerrero – who is Native American – chose to face the camera at first. But after years of acting professionally, she felt compelled to fine-tune her writing skills.

“It was hard seeing my friends who were fantastic Native actors not working. And when they did work, they were often playing very stereotypical roles,” she said. “It’s just like what (Emmy Award-winning “How to Get Away With Murder” actress) Viola Davis said: ‘There are a lot of talented African-American actors out there, but they need somebody to write for them.’”

So she applied for, and was accepted into, UCR’s graduate-level creative writing program, whose cross-genre approach really fit her needs. The camaraderie among students and faculty has been key to her success. For instance, in Professor Stu Krieger’s Writing for Television course, “We’re working under a master craftsman in Professor Krieger, and each student is bringing in such incredible work!” she said. “You’ve got one person writing a family drama – with vampires. You’ve got another writing a gritty noir piece. [There’s] all his amazing diversity in the room. If you can find a consensus among people who have wildly different tastes, you know you’ve got a solid TV show.” Guerrero’s script from that class was chosen as a finalist for the 41st annual Humanitas Prize, Drama Fellowship, which carries a $10,000 cash award and a contract to write an episode for a FOX TV series.

While grateful for the recognition, Guerrero’s ultimate goal is to get her stories in front of the world. “Even though my projects feature Native American characters, I create stories that seek to nourish the human spirit. And these days, we can all use a little of that.”

How UCR Won Five Highly Competitive GAANN Grants

The Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) is a Department of Education funding program designed to financially support graduate students who are seeking a Ph.D. in an area of national need.

This year, UCR is receiving one of the largest awards in the country: $4.4 million funding five grant proposals that will help support up to 120 graduate students over the next three years.

Out of 18 submissions from UCR, five were chosen. GAANN grants were awarded to programs in evolution, ecology and organismal biology, plant biology, computer science engineering, mechanical engineering and, for the first time, in a humanities area: Native American studies.

“All of our applications scored tremendously well, and the five that were successful were funded at the maximum level possible,” Dean Childers says. “We think this is quite exceptional.”

What’s truly great about fellowships like GAANN, Childers points out, is that they’re wholly need-based.

“They identify the students who might be coming from socioeconomically disadvantaged or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who may otherwise not have the wherewithal or even the thought of going to grad school,” he says. “Being able to reach out to these extraordinarily talented students is a huge gain for our campus.”

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Highlanders in High Office

If you attended UC Riverside, you could well have rubbed elbows with at least a dozen state and federal officials who once walked the Highlander halls as students or faculty, including two of the most influential policymakers in California – Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who got his Ph.D. in political science at UCR in 2000, and 1976 political science graduate Mac Taylor, the legislative analyst who acts as the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser, providing balanced information about the financial impacts of ballot initiatives and propositions.

The list also includes five other state Assembly members, a state senator, three congressmen and even the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. Many of them have spoken at UCR’s new School of Public Policy.

Check out our graphic, follow the connections and see if there’s anyone you recognize. It just might be that your representative once sat beside you in English or biology!


’82 (Biology)


’76 (Political Science)


’02 (Political Science)


1982 to 1986 (Political Science)


PH.D. ’00 (Political Science)

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’78 (Political Science)


M.A. ’00 (Political Science)


T.C. ’88, M.F.A. ’10 (Creative Writing)


’92 (Political Science)


’74 (Latin American Studies), M.A. ’84 (History)


’03 (Political Science)

To read their bios and more go to:

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Flitting Through Eternity

After three years, the immortality project has some tantalizing new findings about our age-old obsession

By Bettye Miller

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The quest for immortality is as old as human history, from Gilgamesh’s determination to defeat death to Silicon Valley czars investing billions to prevent aging.

The goal remains elusive, but research supported by The Immortality Project has opened the door a bit wider to understanding phenomena such as near-death experiences and why a tiny freshwater animal can apparently live forever.

Project leader John Martin Fischer, a distinguished professor of philosophy, said neither he nor officers of the John Templeton Foundation, which funded The Immortality Project, expected researchers to resolve the fundamental questions.

But some discoveries have been illuminating, especially regarding near-death experiences, which the research suggests are better understood “as awesome, naturalistic phenomena rather than contact with a supernatural or heavenly realm,” Fischer said.

The research influenced Fischer and postdoctoral fellow Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin to write a book called “Near-Death Experiences: Understanding Visions of the Afterlife,” which the Oxford University Press will publish in May.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) appear throughout human history and in popular culture. They are conscious experiences of people in life-threatening situations. These may include memories of individuals leaving their bodies and observing doctors perform surgery or resuscitative measures, meeting deceased friends or relatives, a bright light, a feeling of peace, and watching their lives flashing before them (what researchers call the life-review experience).

Most people who report an NDE find it to be life-changing. Some argue that these personality changes– more optimism, less death anxiety, more spirituality – can only be explained by supposing that NDEs involve contact with a supernatural or heavenly realm, Fischer explained. Others contend that NDEs validate the existence of an afterlife and a higher being, and that the life-review experience indicates that our minds are not just our brains.

Two projects funded by The Immortality Project challenge those suppositions, Fischer said. Israeli neuroscientist Shahar Arzy has discovered structures in the brain where life-reviews can be stored. And researchers in Spain recreated near-death experiences in virtual reality and achieved personality transformations like those reported after many NDEs.

“The work of Arzy’s team demonstrates considerable progress toward understanding this part of NDEs in purely physical terms,” Fischer said. “In short, this research calls into question the conclusions of such contemporary writers as Eben Alexander and Todd Burpo, who wrote about his son’s NDE as proving that heaven is for real.”

“The research and our book take NDE’s very seriously, assuming that they really do occur. But it does not support the conclusion that these experiences point to a nonphysical mind or an afterlife,” Fischer said.

“This raises a number of new and important questions: How can the various aspects of NDEs be explained physically? How can the significance and beauty of NDEs in people’s lives – their awesome and transformative character – be reconciled with naturalism, the view that everything is part of the natural world? The latter question is one of the main issues that Ben and I address in our book.”

While most of the research funded by The Immortality Project has not yet been published, dozens of papers are undergoing peer review and may appear in journals in the next few months.

One study of NDEs the project supported, AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), made headlines around the world in fall 2014 when researchers reported one patient whose memories of visual awareness after cardiac arrest were compatible with those described in out-of-body experiences and may have corresponded with actual events that occurred perhaps as long as three minutes after his heart stopped. The brain typically shuts down 20 seconds after the heart stops beating.

Dr. Sam Parnia, director of resuscitation research at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, has directed the AWARE project since 2008. In one phase of the study, researchers at 15 hospitals in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia placed shelves with various images in rooms where cardiac patients would be treated. Out of more than 2,000 cardiac arrests studied over a four-year period, less than a quarter occurred in rooms containing the shelves. Of the total number of cardiac arrest patients, only 330 survived. Of the survivors who were able to be interviewed, nine recalled a near-death experience; two of those described an out-of-body experience. One of the two became too ill to continue interviewing. The other is the patient whose recollections raise questions about how long consciousness may continue after death.

One explanation Fischer and Mitchell-Yellin offer in their book is the possibility that current technology is not able to measure all brain activity.

“It is possible, and seems quite likely, that our current methods for measuring brain activity are shallow, capturing activity only above a certain threshold,” Fischer said. “We may find in some patients we thought had lost all brain function that in fact their brains were functioning at a level undetectable by our current methods. It is possible that this is true of patients who had near-death experiences.”

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The Immortality Project was established in 2012 with grants totaling $5.1 million from the John Templeton Foundation.

Thirty-four teams of researchers from universities around the world explored a diverse set of topics, including the genetic make-up of immortal hydra, the causes of near-death experiences, the possibility of an infinite human life span, the ethics of expensive longevity treatments and how to conceive of eternal bliss in heaven.

The foundation had high praise for UC Riverside’s commitment to the project, which may serve as a model for future Templeton Foundation initiatives, said John Churchill, the foundation’s director of philosophy and theology.

“The Immortality Project is a superb example of what our founder, Sir John Templeton, encouraged us to support,” Churchill said. “The project fostered rigorous and open-minded research on enduring questions, including research in some subject areas where careful investigation is rare. In addition, the project was successful in its public dissemination – an important result since the foundation aims to have its work reach broad audiences that stand to benefit from new findings.”

Most of the grant researchers are still finalizing their results, but here’s a sneak peek at findings from three of those research projects.

Tiny Hydras Have One Big Super Power: Eternal Youth

And here’s some really good news: Humans and hydras share similar genes!

NEARLY 20 years ago, Pomona College biologist Daniel E. Martínez discovered that a tiny freshwater animal called a hydra may live forever.

Unlike the mythological hydra that grows two heads for every one it loses, Martínez’s subjects are centimeter-long tubular creatures with tentacles. But they do have one super power: These hydra don’t age. They continually regenerate themselves and reproduce asexually, creating new animals genetically identical to the parent. Neither the parent nor the offspring seem to age.

More recently, Martínez begun to study Hydra oligactis, a particular species of hydra that, at lowered temperatures, can be induced to reproduce sexually and age. He noticed, however, that some of the induced animals still escaped aging by reverting to asexual reproduction. With funding from The Immortality Project, Martínez and his team studied the differences in gene expression between hydra that revert to asexual reproduction and those that will age.

“The hydra has the same genes you and I have,” he explained. “We looked at the transcriptome (a collection of gene readouts within a cell) of hydra to see whether there are genes that are differentially expressed, and more abundant in hydra that are aging, and we found that there are.”

Whether or not the hydra’s regenerative capability holds the key to human aging remains to be seen. At the very least, Martínez said, understanding the aging process of Hydra oligactis might inspire researchers in other disciplines to consider their data from another perspective.

“This is how science progresses,” he said. “With basic science you never know what the connection is going to be. My hope is that my results will help a scientist, perhaps someone working in cancer cells, have a eureka moment and think about doing something in a different way.”

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Death Seems Less Fearsome for “Core-Self” Believers

Buddhists who don’t believe in a continuous self are more afraid of dying

DOES denying the existence of a “core self,” a tenet of Buddhism, reduce the fear of death? Philosophers Shaun Nichols of the University of Arizona, Tucson and Jay Garfield of Smith College in Massachusetts thought it might.

Funded by The Immortality Project, they traveled to India to measure how afraid of death Buddhists, Hindus, and adherents of the Abrahamic religions were. What they discovered surprised them: Buddhist monks and nuns were significantly more afraid of death than were lay Buddhists, Hindus or Christians.

Buddhists do not believe in a continuous self that persists over time or after physical death, the so-called “no-self doctrine.” Many scholars of Buddhism contend that this belief both eliminates the fear of dying and fosters a life of selflessness.

Nichols and Garfield found that the Tibetan Buddhists they studied strongly embraced the no-self doctrine. But unlike Hindus and Christians – who do believe in a core self – monastic Buddhists were significantly more afraid of death.

“The no-self doctrine, rather than equipping the Tibetan lamas with serenity regarding end of life, seems to provoke a deep-rooted anxiety of self-annihilation and does nothing to reduce overall fear of death,” the philosophers wrote in an article co-authored by Yale postdoctoral scholar Nina Strohminger for Slate magazine.

“Much of Buddhist philosophy and religious practice is aimed at cultivating selflessness, rechanneling concerns to the larger moral universe around us,” the researchers wrote. “... Ironically, it seems that these teachings, instead of mitigating fear of death and nurturing generosity, engender some of the behaviors and thought patterns they seek to destroy.”

Near-Death May Not Be Necessary to See Our Lives Flash Before Our Eyes

Research suggests even healthy people can access their “life-review experience”

THE lore is so familiar that the phrase “My life flashed before my eyes” has come to imply a near-death experience. Now, researchers in Israel believe they’ve found the place in the brain where those images are stored.

The so-called “life-review experience” has been reported by some near-death survivors, but until recently, little was known about its basis in the brain, says Shahar Arzy, a neurologist and neuroscientist at the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Arzy and his team in the Computational Neuropsychiatry Lab have identified interconnected structures in the brain – known as gradients – in which these life events are processed, a significant step in understanding the life-review experience.

Building on earlier research and with support from The Immortality Project, Arzy and his team studied individuals who had reported life-review experiences and healthy people who had not. They found that re-experiencing one’s own life events is a phenomenon with well-defined characteristics, such as seeing life events in sequences, or changing certain behaviors in response to this experience. Moreover, some of those components may also be evident in people who are not dying.

“This suggests that a representation of life events as a continuum exists in the cognitive system,” Arzy said. “Its discovery may shed new light on a most essential component of our mental life – the way we experience, process and tell our life story.”

The researchers also made a surprising discovery. As they studied how the brain processes sensation, the team found that analyzing gradients can help predict which patients will benefit from a certain kind of back and neck surgery for pain. These results were published recently in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


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Susan Wessler: On Having It All

Distinguished Professor of Genetics Susan Wessler holds the Neil A. and Rochelle A. Campbell Presidential Chair for Innovations in Science Education. She talks to UCR Magazine about how she’s managed to do pioneering plant research, energize students to pursue science and still enjoy her family life.

By Lilledeshan Bose

How do you begin to describe Susan Wessler? The charismatic plant geneticist’s research is ground- breaking, sure. Over the past three decades, she’s worked to understand the contribution of transposable elements (TEs) to gene and genome evolution and she’s currently the elected home secretary of the National Academy of Science. But Wessler has not only furthered the study of TEs – she’s also created an innovative teaching lab at UCR. In 2011, she began The Dynamic Genome, a course that teaches freshmen to participate in cutting-edge research from her lab. It was the first course offered in the Neil A. Campbell Science Learning Laboratory, and it dramatically increased students’ interest in scientific research.

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How did you get started with science?

I don’t have one of those apocryphal stories of chemistry sets or anything like that. I grew up in basically a tenement in the Bronx and neither of my parents went to college. I wanted to be a medical doctor because my parents wanted me to be a doctor, and by the time I got to college I just started to really enjoy science. I also realized that being a medical doctor isn’t really doing science. The thought of going back to school for medical school was a big turn-off for me, but going for a Ph.D. was more like going for an apprenticeship, and I really liked that.

I got into plant science totally by accident, because the professor whose lab I interviewed with had, unbeknownst to me, recently changed her research focus from frogs to corn. It was one of the first labs really doing that type of research in plant genetics and transposable elements.

I tell students this story a lot. Many of them are so serious – they’ve got their lives all planned out, and I’m like, “What?” S*** happens. It’s all about opportunities that come along and you have to take advantage of some of these. You can’t just say, “I know what I’m going to do for the next 20 years.”

What inspired you the start the Dynamic Genome Lab?

That goes back to when I was at the University of Georgia. I worked there for 28 years and built a very successful research lab that focused on plant genetics and transposable elements. My department at the University of Georgia really valued teaching, but there were no metrics for teaching other than student evaluations, which can be BS. As a female, you get things like, “She’s hot.” That’s nonsense!

I wanted to introduce students to a fun way to experience science. I mean, science is doing science. It’s akin to baseball. If you want to know about baseball, you can’t listen to somebody saying, “There’s nine people on the team and there’s a pitcher and a catcher... .” Spend an afternoon playing the game, then you’ll understand it. And science is exactly like that. Scientists love figuring out the unknown. That’s what makes it exciting to be a scientist.

So this teaching program exists so that a student’s introduction to science is not facts; it’s the experience of doing science, of doing real experiments. We want to interest students in science so they will persist in their major, and, also, so we can tell them about all the career opportunities that exist in science – not just medical school. As freshmen we can really influence their career path.

Is that what you’re hoping to do with your endowment from the Neil A. and Rochelle A. Campbell chair?

Yes. What’s really unique about this chair is the proceeds will go to science education, not research. That’s incredibly unusual. We have all realized that we could be doing much better in science education, but in order to figure out what to do, we have got to do a lot of experiments. So the National Science Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute are all financing grant programs that will foster this kind of creativity in the classroom.

You moved to UCR from Georgia partly because your best friend Natasha Raikhel (distinguished professor of plant cell biology and director of UCR’s Institute for Integrative Genome Biology) was already here. What did you know about Riverside’s mission before you came out here?

I knew about the strength in plant biology but I didn’t realize it would be such a wonderful place for my teaching program to expand because of the large population of underrepresented and first-generation students.

Like I said, I came from a family where there was no knowledge of science. I see myself as being a lot like the students here at UC Riverside, whose parents didn’t go to college, didn’t have a lot of money and go to a public university.

What I found here at UCR is not just that the students are great, but that you can make a major impact and change their lives. It was a real surprise to me, but UCR is the perfect place for both my research program and my teaching program.

UCR has three women in the National Academy of Sciences–you, Xuemei Chen and Natasha Raikhel. You’ve said that’s really unusual. Is that the legacy you want to leave, being a role model for women in science?

Sure. Part of the reason I agreed to run for election as home secretary was because there wasn’t enough diversity in the NAS membership. So we adopted a couple of mechanisms to specifically diversify the membership. As it turns out, female undergraduates are heavily represented in science classes around the country now, but if you look at the upper levels in many places – not in plant biology at UCR – women are still underrepresented, especially in the physical sciences, including engineering, chemistry, physics and computer science.

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Would you rather be known for your research or for your impact in education?

Well, I’m already known for my research. But you go out into the street and nobody knows who I am. They don’t know the National Academy of Sciences. Most people don’lt know, they don’t care. The way universities are set up in this country, the people with the most significant voice in an argument are your researchers. And so, as a researcher, I have the respect of my colleagues. And I have the respect of the upper administration, so I can go and say that we need to advance the education agenda.

When people ask how you do it all, what do you say?

In Georgia, a graduate student came up to me and said, “I know you’re known for science and all that, but what I really love about you is that you have a family and you’re happy. How do you do that?” There’s a lot of women in science now as undergraduate majors, as graduate students going for their Ph.D., but we have what we call a leaky pipeline. Women are not going into science professions at the same frequency as men are, and a major reason is that the responsibility of having a family still falls more heavily on them.

So to even that out, there are decisions that you can make in your life, which I made. One of them is who you marry. You’ve got to find somebody who will take your career as seriously as they take their own. I found somebody like that.

The other thing is where you work. If you want to work in Boston or Seattle or Washington D.C., it’s going to be expensive, and you’re going to have to commute and that’s going to be a time you will not be able to spend at home. So what I did was work in Athens, Georgia. The University of Georgia had and still has a very strong plant group, so I knew I wouldn’t be sacrificing my career. Obviously, it didn’t, because I was selected to the National Academy of Sciences when I was 44 years old. It didn’t hurt me at all research-wise, and it was inexpensive to live there and I didn’t have to commute – I lived like four miles from the lab and it took me 10 minutes to get to work.

So you didn’t have to choose one over the other.

I wanted it all. I wanted an interesting, well-paying career and I wanted a family life. But to do that, I had to make some compromises, and it turns out that they weren’t compromises after all. Because I don’t work well in high-pressure situations like at Harvard or Stanford. I don’t think I would’ve flourished. I like being confident. I like feeling that I can handle anything. I like being appreciated, and I’m glad that I’m here at UCR.

And really, women need to know that they can have an impact. They need to know what they want and they need to know how to set things up so what they want happens.

In fact, being a mom – and I’ve heard this from many people– made me much better at running my lab. You don’t have time to BS. You have to be organized.

The Story Behind the Neil A. Campbell Learning Room Laboratory

If you’ve ever taken a science course, you’ve likely encountered Campbell Biology. Now on its 10th edition, the textbook was originally written by Neil A. Campbell, who got his Ph.D. in the UCR Department of Botany. “It became the most successful science textbook ever,” said Professor Susan Wessler.

Campbell’s passion was involving undergraduates in research. After he died unexpectedly in 2004, his wife, Rochelle, started funding summer opportunities for undergraduates to work in science labs. When Wessler moved to UCR from the University of Georgia, she wanted to grow the Dynamic Genome Program, but it required a bigger facility. “As part of my start-up package, UCR gave me the whole first floor of the university lab building and half a million dollars to renovate it,” she said.

Rochelle A. Campbell donated $1.5 million to UCR to fund the lab, and the UC Office of the President funded an additional $500,000, creating a $2 million chair. “That’s a lot of money to put into a teaching program,” Wessler said, “so that was just fantastic.”

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Page Turners

The Logic of Agency, Water Economics and other Page Turners

These books are available for purchase at the UCR Campus Store and online at They have been discounted up to 30 percent.

Freedom and Reflection: Hegel and the Logic of Agency

By Christopher Yeomans, Ph.D. ’05

Oxford University Press December 2011, 292 pages

By using the continuity between the contemporary concerns and those of Hegel’s predecessors (particularly Kant), Yeomans shows the necessity of reference to the logic in order to supplement Hegel’s own practical philosophy and the scholarship based on it. Though Hegel’s logical terminology is notorious for its impenetrability, Yeomans translates Hegel’s jargon into a more easily comprehensible vocabulary. He further helps the reader by providing introductory discussions framing the central issues of each chapter both in terms of the problem of free will and in terms of the development of Hegel’s argument to that point in the logic. Presenting the reader with frequent use of examples, Yeomans leavens the abstractness of Hegel’s presentation and makes the topic accessible to readers new to Hegel as well as those well versed in his work.

Yeomans is an assistant professor of philosophy at Purdue University.

Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources

By Lincoln Blumell and Thomas Wayment ’94

Baylor University Press August 2015, 778 pages

Blumell and Wayment present a thorough compendium of all published papyri, parchments and patristic sources that relate to Christianity at Oxyrhynchus before the fifth century AD. “Christian Oxyrhynchus” provides new and expanded editions of Christian literary and documentary texts that include updated readings, English translations – some of which represent the first English translation of a text – and comprehensive notes.

The volume features New Testament texts carefully collated against other textual witnesses and a succinct introduction for each Oxyrhynchus text that provides information about the date of the papyrus, its unique characteristics and textual variants. Documentary texts are grouped both by genre and date, giving readers access to the Decian Libelli, references to Christians in third- and fourth- century texts and letters written by Christians. A compelling resource for researchers, teachers and students, Christian Oxyrhynchus enables broad access to these crucial primary documents beyond specialists in papyrology, Greek, Latin and Coptic.

Wayment is a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

Handbook of Water Economics

By Ariel Dinar and Kurt Schwabe

Edward Elgar Publishing November 2015, 552 pages

This comprehensive guide explores the role that economics plays in water resource use, management and policy. The contributors cover a continuum of topics that individually and jointly represent the state of the art of water economics. Leading scholars demonstrate ways in which economic theory, tools and analyses have been used to address a variety of water-related issues over the years and, subsequently, to create better- informed policy and management decisions. Acknowledging and building upon the seminal research related to water economics, this book offers a current and provocative exploration of a variety of topics.

The “Handbook of Water Economics” will prove to be an enlightening, thought-provoking and practical read for Ph.D. students, researchers in water economics and management, water-related agency staff and professionals interested in water-related economic issues at the local, state, national and international levels.

Dinar is a professor of environ- mental economics and policy at UCR. Schwabe is an associate professor of environmental economics and policy at UCR.

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Living the Promise

Using Video Games to Sharpen the Brain

Employing some of the latest innovations in neuroscience, Professor of Psychology Aaron Seitz is creating a series of “Brain Games” with the intent of improving memory and vision simply by using an app on your smartphone.

Watch the Brain Games video

Improving Memory in Aging Adults

Findings from Sara Mednick’s sleep lab are the first to show how sleep can be manipulated to improve memory. Her research reveals possibilities to integrate sleep into medical diagnoses and treatment strategies, tailoring sleep to address cognitive disorders and improve memory for aging adults and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

See inside Mednick’s sleep lab

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Improving Health in Aging Populations

Research at UCR has the potential to reshape the experience of aging.

Preventing Hearing Loss

Neuroscientist Khaleel Razak focuses on how the auditory cortex of the brain processes information about sound locations, and how those mechanisms are altered as we age. Razak is working to identify the neuron types that are lost or changed during aging, and to find combinations of therapies that can prevent brain changes affecting hearing loss.

For research worth hearing about, watch the video

Understanding an Aging Immune System

By closely studying how the response mechanisms of the immune system change as we age, biomedical sciences expert Ilhem Messaoudi and her team are developing and testing a new generation of safer, more effective drugs designed specifically for use with older adults.

Get a look inside UCR’s new School of Medicine

Visit to see videos about UCR’s exciting research, innovation and startups


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Honoring Commitment

The 2015 Chancellor’s Dinner recognized four people whose generosity and hard work light up our world

By Jeanette Marantos

Fall was a busy season of celebration at UCR, with the annual Chancellor’s Dinner in October and Homecoming activities in November.

More than 250 people turned out for the Chancellor’s Dinner on Oct. 17, to build scholarship opportunities for students and recognize distinguished alumni and supporters of the campus and community.

Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox presented the UCR Medallion to longtime community philanthropist and arts benefactor Henry W. Coil Jr., who bequeathed $900,000 to UCR’s Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts in 2012, one of the largest gifts UCR has received to support arts programs.

“Henry is one of those rare individuals who brings light to a room, but over his career has brought light to the entire Inland Empire,” Wilcox said about Coil, past president of Tilden-Coil Constructors Inc. and a founding director of UCR’s California Museum of Photography.

During the presentation, Wilcox also made the first public introduction of Coil and his wife, Linda, since the two were married just a few hours earlier that day.

UCR also presented the recipients of its 2015 Alumni Awards of Distinction, the 29th year the awards have been given.

· Byron Pollitt Jr. ’73, received the Distinguished Alumnus Award. After a degree in business economics at UCR, Pollitt went on to Harvard Business School for his master of business administration. He then took senior positions at several large firms, including The Walt Disney Co. and Visa, where he has been the chief financial officer since 2007 and oversaw the merger of six companies into Visa Inc., the largest IPO in the history of the United States.

As a philanthropist, Pollitt has been a strong supporter of UCR and has focused on helping people in crisis through the American Red Cross. “He is a tremendous reflection of what the school offers its students and how you can apply what is offered to you, as a student at UCR, to your life,” said UCR Foundation Trustee Susan Atherton, ’77.

· Mary Figueroa ’79, received the Alumni Service Award. Figueroa was raised by a single mom, Cruz Moreno, in Riverside’s Eastside, and was the first in her

Top photo: Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox (from left); UCR Alumni Association President Daniel Kim; Alumni Service awardee Mary Figueroa; Outstanding Young Alumnus awardee Dr. Michael Nduati; Distinguished Alumnus awardee Bryon Pollitt Jr. and Barbara Kerr of the UCR Foundation.

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neighborhood to attend a four-year university. She says the people who supported her quest for a degree in Chicano studies and political science helped fuel her lifelong commitment to helping others: as a counselor for the California Department of Corrections, as a longtime member of the Riverside Community College Board of Trustees and as a board member for many other community organizations.

“For over 35 years, Mary Figueroa has served as an irreplaceable leader in our region,” Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said, when he invited Figueroa to be his guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013.

· Dr. Michael N. Nduati ’01, received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award. Nduati, a native of the Inland Empire, earned his biomedical sciences degree from UCR, and is now associate dean for clinical affairs at UCR’s School of Medicine. He achieved his medical degree through the UCR/UCLA Thomas Haider Program in Biomedical Sciences, the precursor to the SOM, and also completed an M.B.A. at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in the joint M.D.-M.B.A. program.

He returned to the Inland Empire to do his residency in family medicine at the Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center and then completed a master’s degree in public health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Since joining the SOM faculty in 2012, he’s recruited 17 clinical sites in Riverside and San Bernardino counties for medical students to work with physician mentors and helped start the UCR Health Hospitalist Service at Riverside Community Hospital.

“I’m an Inland Empire product and I love my community,” Nduati said in his tribute video. “I wanted to give back to this community and I’m very proud to be part of this medical school.”

Find out more about honorees by watching their tribute videos, and check out our favorite Homecoming highlights at

Celebrating Highlander Spirit

UCR’s 2015 Homecoming brought families, alumni and the campus community together for spirited Scot Fest activities on Nov. 13-14. The event ended with an enthusiastic crowd cheering men’s basketball to a big win against William Jessup University, 100-68.

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Second Annual Highlander Day of Service

April 23

The Alumni Association is pleased to announce its second Highlander Day of Service. Highlanders throughout the country are encouraged to give back to their communities through volunteer activities. If you would like to organize an event for fellow Highlanders in your area or see projects that are already being planned, please visit the Alumni Association website.

UCR Advocacy Day in Sacramento

April 13 to 14

At Advocacy Day, alumni, parents and friends meet in small groups with elected officials to discuss issues affecting higher education – and UCR in particular. Join us in Sacramento as we carry our message to elected leaders. For more information and to register visit

Travel the Globe and Expand Your Horizons

The UCR Alumni Association travel program offers a mix of exploration, education and adventure in partnership with reputable, prescreened tour operators. Below is one of the trips available this year. Visit for more details about the trips we are offering in 2016.

· Rome to Monte Carlo, Oct. 14 to 22

Tour participants, whether UCR alumni or not, must be members of the UCR Alumni Association. Each member may bring one travel companion as a guest.

Alumni Receptions

Alumni and parents are invited to a special reception with Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox. Mix and mingle with local alumni and parents and hear about the exciting developments occurring at UCR. For more information and to register online visit

Portland, Oregon   Feb. 24
Seattle, Washington   Feb. 25
San Francisco     March 2

New Lifetime Member Benefit

Lifetime members in the UCR Alumni Association now receive access to more than 4,000 online journals. Interested in gaining access to this resource? Contact the Alumni Association today.

Not a member? Join anytime!

It’s easy to connect with the UCR Alumni Association: Website: E-mail: Phone: (951) UCR-ALUM or (800) 426-ALUM (2586)

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Class Acts


’63 Warren Easley went on to earn his Ph.D. in physical chemistry at UC Berkeley. The author of more than a dozen scientific publications, Warren had a distinguished career in international business, research and development. He also held posts such as technical director of European operations for a large, multinational company and vice president of technology for another. After living abroad and traveling extensively, Warren retired. He and his wife live in the Portland, Oregon, area. The author of “Never Look Down,” “Matters of Doubt” and “Dead Float,” Easley writes full time when he’s not tutoring students, fly fishing or skiing.


’76 Mac Taylor, legislative analyst, was named the sixth most influential person in California by Capitol Weekly in 2015. Mac was appointed to the position of legislative analyst in October 2008, as the fifth person to serve in that capacity since the office was founded in 1941. In his role he serves as the nonpartisan fiscal advisor to both houses of the California Legislature and oversees the preparation of annual fiscal and policy analyses of the state’s budget and

Names printed in blue indicate members of the UCR Alumni Association. To update your membership, visit

Take Five

Linda James


Linda James lives in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a development and communications consultant for the Congo Protestant University, she helps raise the university’s profile and develops projects for funding. James says, “I credit UCR for giving me the confidence to spread my wings and be a self-assured individual in the international field.”

1—How did you come to work in Kinshasa?

It was a career transition. I did marketing and communications for a large, international law firm and decided that I wanted to make a different difference in the world. So I became involved with a nonprofit organization that works to raise awareness and support for the university and other projects in Congo. I decided that I could transition and apply my skills to the development sector.

2—What is your typical workday like?

That can encompass a lot of activities. Today, for example, I had meetings with people from the U.S. Embassy. I also attended briefings at the United Nations to determine what is going on in Congo so I have a good sense about how to position the university. I had meetings with local and international business [people]. I also conduct tours on campus to provide visitors with a comprehensive view of the university.

3—Why did you choose UCR?

It was the university that both of my parents attended.

In fact, my father worked there. He oversaw the technology department. It was all very exciting to go to school where my dad worked. I was in awe of the whole educational environment. UCR was just a logical choice for me.

4—What accomplishment are you most proud of?

It’s the career transition that I made from corporate America to the development work that I am currently doing. This is probably not a decision that everyone would make.

I gave up a large paycheck and the comforts of life. Often I am without electricity and running water, but I have no regrets. I thrive in this environment because I know that I am contributing to Congo’s growth.

5—What are some of your favorite sites of Congo?

The buzz and the colors of the local markets – from the various items of plasticware, such as bright, blue buckets, to the colors and patterns of the fabrics in the women’s dresses, to produce such as the red tomatoes and the yellow papayas. It’s all very, very Congo. And I truly enjoy the amazing sunsets in the big African sky over the Congo River. They are just breathtaking.

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programs. His office is also responsible for preparing impartial analyses of all initiatives and constitutional measures qualifying for the state’s ballot.


’84 Jill Johnson-Young, licensed clinical social worker, works in private practice and co-owns Central Counseling Services in Riverside. Jill specializes in grief and loss recovery, trauma, adoption issues and services for the LGBT community. She is also a member of the mayor’s task force to make Riverside a Purple City – a dementia-safe and friendly community – and provides a free monthly community dementia support group. Jill recently remarried after losing her second wife, Casper, to Lewy body dementia in 2013.

’84 Jose M. Martinez, retired from the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation in July 2015 after 32 years as the special agent in charge for the Oakland Field Office, which covers everything north of Bakersfield to the Oregon border. In August 2015 he was hired as the special agent in charge for the United States Treasury as the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program to supervise the San Francisco office, which covers 12 additional states.

’86 John W. Lathrop deputy commander of the California Army National Guard and assistant division commander for support for the 40th Infantry Division, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. John has served in the U.S. Armed Forces since 1986, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. He has served in the California Army National Guard since 1991. After earning his degree at UCR, he later graduated from the University of Redlands with a master’s degree in management and attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University as a U.S. Army Senior Service College Fellow.


’90 M.B.A., Robin Kuannan Chou has earned the new position of distinguished professor at the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan.

’92, ’95 M.A., Michael Bergier is now serving as the executive director of Campaign Operations and Constituent Relations at Concordia University, Irvine. Michael was also recently honored with the Silver Beaver award from the Orange County Council of Boy Scouts of America. The Silver Beaver is the highest volunteer award a council can bestow on a Scout leader. He lives with his wife, Lisa (Gracey) Bergler ’93, and their two children in Irvine, California.

Will You Answer the Call?

Private philanthropic support from alumni, parents, and friends enables UC Riverside to continue providing the quality education we’re known for.

That’s why we’re calling on you to help.

You’ll be receiving a call from a UCR student soon! You will hear just how much impact your gift has on student scholarships, research opportunities and academic program development across campus.

When your phone rings this spring, please answer the call!

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Take Five

Harold M. Stanley


Harold M. Stanley was one of the 62 Highlanders in UCR’s class of 1957, earning a degree in political science. He currently resides in Los Alamitos, California, and is in his 55th year of practicing law. Stanley says his time at UCR shaped him into who he is today.

1–How did you end up at UCR?

In 1951, I graduated from Poly High School in Long Beach, California. I was dirt poor, so I went to Long Beach City College for two years. I have to say that my record there was not especially distinguished; I was declined enrollment at Pomona College and volunteered for the military draft instead. When I returned at the end of my two-year commitment, I qualified for the GI Bill and was more educated through my experience overseas. So in fall 1955, my parents wrote to me that a new branch of the University of California had recently opened in Riverside and that the location made it easy enough to make it back to Long Beach on the weekends. Riverside was close, it was in California and it was small, so I applied and to this day, I cannot fathom why UCR accepted me. While I don’t particularly subscribe to the notion of destiny, it is crystal clear to me that in one form or another, I am the world’s most fortunate man.

2–What did you do after UCR?

I graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley in 1960. From there, I was a deputy district attorney for nine years in Los Angeles County. I ran a couple of area offices. Then, [I spent] three years handling major fraud and two years in special investigations, which involved putting a couple of Los Angeles politicians in prison. I also enjoyed the responsibility of court commissioner for more than 26 years. After that, I was only 61 and had no interest in the word retirement, so now I’m in my 21st year of private civil practice, but I’m approaching my 82nd birthday and some form of retirement looms.

3–Describe your time at UCR.

It was truly a complete submersion in the education process and I loved it!

4–What did you like best about UCR?

The intimacy. Had I gone to UCLA, for example, I would have been in a lecture hall of 300. At UCR, I was in a classroom of 10, and often under a tree. The point [of the small class size] was for students to discuss and respond rather than just listen.

5–What is a memory that stands out to you in all your years in the legal field?

On a fateful night in 1968, I was awakened after midnight and ordered to be at the Hall of Justice by 3:30 a.m. I told my wife to put on the TV because something big must’ve happened. It developed that Sirhan Sirhan had shot Sen. Robert Kennedy. At 7 a.m., Buck Compton and myself took Sirhan to court and I successfully argued for his remaining in custody. I did not become a member of the prosecution team, which later tried and convicted him, because in January 1969, I was appointed to the bench in East Los Angeles as court commissioner.

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’92 Jon M. Fletcher currently works as an archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration, specializing in preserving and providing access to audiovisual materials created during the Nixon administration. He began his archives-focused career at Yahoo during the company’s startup years, overseeing the management of Scandinavian-language data sets and launch of online products. He went on to serve as archivist for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, creating and maintaining the tribe’s first formal archives program.

’94 Thomas A. Wayment is publishing a new book with Baylor University Press titled “Christian Oxyrhynchus: Texts, Documents, and Sources.” After attending UCR, he went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. in New Testament studies from the Claremont Graduate School.


’03 Valerie Ann Arce has been working at Riverside University System Behavioral Health and was recently promoted to forensics administration.

’03 Erin Phillips, a prominent community advocate and a trusted leader in organizational and philanthropic development, has been named executive director of Riverside University Health System’s nonprofit foundation. Erin currently serves as president and CEO of the Children’s Fund, a position she has held for four years. In that time, Erin stream- lined the agency and doubled its annual operations budget to $4 million. Under her leadership, the Children’s Fund served more than 60,000 at-risk youth during the last fiscal year and assisted San Bernardino County in opening a new center for victims of child sexual abuse. Erin also was founding president of the Pick Group, whose mission is to provide opportunities for career-minded young professionals to connect socially, develop professionally and engage civically for the betterment of Riverside.

’05 Margaret Ann Chantung formerly Margaret Ann Lutz, has been working at Cal State University San Marcos since 2007 as a public information officer. In February 2015, Margaret was promoted to director of communications and senior public information officer.

’09 M.F.A., Vanessa Hua was one of six emerging women writers awarded the Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award by the Rona Jaffe Foundation. The Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program, established in 1995, is the only national literary awards program of its kind dedicated to supporting women writers exclusively.


’11 Renee Manson now at the University of Virginia School of Law, will serve in leadership positions for the National Black Law Students Association during the 2015-16 term. Through serving on the national board, Renee, along with three other University of Virginia School of Law students, will support operations for one of the nation’s largest student-run organizations, which represents thousands of minority law students and aims to increase the number of culturally responsible black and minority attorneys who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.

’13 Jazmine Lewis long with fellow Highlander Danielle Littleton ’15, trekked across the globe in the 27th season of the popular CBS reality television show “The Amazing Race.”

’14 Laura Gomez accepted a new position as a designated operator with Belshire Environmental Services in March 2015.

’14 Ph.D., Jeffry P. La Marca has accepted an appointment as an assistant professor of special education with the College of Education and Human Services at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

’15 Mark Anthony Forde has accepted a new position at Chaffey College as an associate professor.

’15 Danielle Littleton along with fellow Highlander Jazmine Lewis ’13, trekked across the globe in the 27th season of the popular CBS reality television show “The Amazing Race.”


April 23, 2016

Nationally Recognized for Leading In Community Service
To find an event near you at

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Four UCR Alumni Among Victims in San Bernardino Shootings

“These are trying times,” UCR Graduate Student Association President Lewis Luartz told about 400 people who gathered for a candlelight vigil at UCR Dec. 4. The vigil was in honor of the victims of the San Bernardino shooting on Dec. 2 that killed 14 and injured 21, including four UCR alumni.

The victims with UCR ties were all employees of San Bernardino County’s Department of Health, which had been hosting a party at the Inland Regional Center.

Among the dead were Sierra Clayborn, 27, who graduated from UCR in 2010 with a degree in biochemistry, and 58-year-old Damian Meins, who graduated with an economics degree in 1978. Meins spent his career in environmental safety. His two daughters are also UCR graduates.

Jennifer Stevens, 22, who graduated June 2015 with a degree in environmental science, was hospitalized, as was Denise Peraza, 27, who earned her master’s degree in environmental science at UCR in 2013.

In his remarks, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox said, “We can see a world that might have been, had there not been a shooting. We can also see a future that we collectively can create. While today is a time of tears, I would ask that we also think about our future and how we individually can make a better future.”

A lone bagpipe played by Mike Terry ’78, head of UCR’s Pipe Band, closed the somber event as the attendees quietly held their electric candles.

In a note to the campus community, Wilcox warned against Islamophobia or other forms of intolerance. “During this time of mourning, it is our duty to unite as a community to heal, to help those around us heal, and to seek solutions, together.” – Jeanette Marantos

We Remember

’62 Rodger Lowell Wells, May 2015.

’67 Albert B. Adams, June 2014.

’67 M.A. Richard R. Ohrbom, February 2015.

’68 James A. Eskridge, June 2015.

’69 Ph.D. Balkar S. Husson, March 2015.

’69 Jieun Kim, 2015.

’70 Ph.D. Carl Markgraf, May 2015.

’71 Dorothy A. Bradley, March 2015.

’71 Walter W. Ratcliff, June 2015.

’72 Merritt E. Taylor, March 2015.

’77 Gregory E. Kincaid, May 2015.

’79 Ph.D. Frances A. Puckle, April 2015.

’79 Ph.D. Kent D. Smith, June 2015.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Affinity Partners Programs

One of the ways the UCR Alumni Association generates the income needed to fund programs that benefit UC Riverside is by engaging in partnerships with carefully selected businesses. Partner candidates compete for the privilege of marketing their services and products to highly desirable UC Riverside students and graduates.

We select these partners based on the quality, value, price and appropriateness of their offerings and their reputation. We hope that you agree that our judgment is sound and you find any partner solicitations useful and relevant. But, even if you do not respond to such offers, you are still helping us simply by allowing us to continue to send these offers to you.

You have the right to control whether we share your name, address and e-mail address with our selected affinity partners (companies that we partner with to offer products or services to our alumni). Please read the following information carefully before you make your choice below:

You have the following rights to restrict the sharing of your name, address and e-mail address with our affinity partners. This does not prohibit us from sharing your information when we are required to do so by law.

Unless you say “NO,” we may share your name, address and e-mail address with our affinity partners. Our affinity partners may send you offers to purchase various products or services that we may have agreed they can offer in partnership with us.

You may decide at any time that you do not want us to share your information with our affinity partners. If you decide that you do not want to receive information from our partners, you may do one of the following:

(1) Visit us at: and fill out the form online
(2) E-mail us at:
(3) Call us toll free at: 800-426-2586
(4) FAX us at: 951-398-4887

Regardless of the method, be sure to include your name, address, phone number and class year. Thank you for your continued support.

Your friends at the UCR Alumni Association

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Laila Lalami

The Novelist

“Writing in English was very freeing. It became a love affair.”

By Vanessa Hua MFA ’09

From the moment Laila Lalami learned about Estebanico, the first African explorer of America, she wanted to tell his story.

In 2009, the creative writing professor was reading a book about Moorish Spain when she discovered a reference to a Moroccan slave on a 16th-century Spanish expedition to Florida. Out of 300 men who journeyed inland to find gold, only four survived by living with indigenous tribes, reinventing themselves as faith healers.

“It was such an incredible story of cross-cultural encounter, exploration and adventure,” she said. Lalami read an account of the expedition written by the Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. “But the indigenous people in that book were completely silenced. And even though Estebanico had a name, oftentimes he was referred to only as the ‘slave’ or ‘negro.’ His exact role was never described at great length, even though we’re told he learned indigenous languages and he served as a translator for them.”

Her third novel, “The Moor’s Account,” gives Estebanico a voice, telling the story of the expedition from his point of view. It’s also received high acclaim, landing on best-book lists for the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, winning an American Book Award, becoming a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and making the long list for the 2015 Man Booker Prize.

Lalami had never before attempted to write a historical novel. “From idea to execution, there is an abyss.”

She grappled with the protagonist’s voice. “He is writing for people who have never seen that land, and he himself has never seen it. So that comes with a lot of challenges. For example, he can’t call an animal the name we call it today, if that name was not known in the 16th century.”

With few historical details available, she had to invent Estebanico’s life, a leap she calls “imaginative empathy.” Like him, she knows what it’s like to move between cultures and think in different languages.

Moroccan-born, Lalami’s first language is Arabic. In primary school, she studied French. In high school, she began studying English and while she was earning her doctorate in linguistics at the University of Southern California, she studied Spanish, which became useful while researching “The Moor’s Account” in Florida, Spain and Texas.

As a child, she wrote her first stories in French but later felt the language carried too much colonial baggage. (Morocco gained independence in 1956, after 44 years of French rule.) While writing her dissertation in English, Lalami decided to try writing fiction in English, too. “It was very freeing. It became a love affair, and here we are 20 years later.”

Lalami, who began teaching at UCR in 2007, praised the school’s diverse student body. “You hear the most incredible stories from students, not only interesting life stories, but also their responses to literary texts, which are often perceptive and original. I always enjoy it, and never know what to expect.”

To watch a video of Laila reading from her book go to:

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Health, Sustainability, Policy, Technology

Real World Solutions

Explore more policy impacts:

A New Spin on Electronics

With global demands for energy on the rise, an Energy Frontier Research Center led by UCR physicist Jing Shi is working to improve energy efficiencies in electronic devices

Back Cover

Make an Impact at UCR with your IRA

The Charitable IRA Rollover has been passed into law, allowing individuals who are 70 ½ and older to make contributions directly from an IRA to the UC Riverside Foundation without triggering any taxes.

With a Charitable IRA Rollover, you can:

From training future doctors and California’s STEM teachers to Athletics or Theatre you can make an impact in the program most meaningful to you.

For more information, please call the UCR Office of Gift Planning at (951) 827-3793 or e-mail