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GPSA-GrAdvantage Career Nights

Quarterly GPSA-grAdvantage Career Nights, hosted in collaboration with grAdvantage, aims to connect graduate and professional students to UCSD alumni that have pursued a variety of careers after their time here. As a UCSD grad and professional student student, quarterly Career Nights are designed to shed light on the broad array of career opportunities before you, help guide you through your next stage of professional development, and provide an opportunity for you to network with like-minded graduate/professional students and alumni. Typically, speaker presentations and Q&A are followed by a social hour for Career Night speakers and participants to mix, mingle and discuss career options over food and refreshments.  Check out our list of previous speakers below.


Join GPSA and its grAdvantage partners for our third career night event, Research: From Academia to Industry on Thursday, January 26, 2023 from 5-7pm! Research at UC San Diego serves as a bridge from academia to industry (or academia). The skills you will acquire during your academic studies and professional projects can be leveraged to gain experience in industry or a company of your dreams. Listen to alumni share how and where they found the research resources they needed and what steps they took to succeed in their fields. Panelists will also share tactics of probing for the company that is most fitting to your field of interest and can help you to realize individual advancements. Pre-register for the event here


Upcoming Events

  • Networking: Making Connection - Apr. 27, 2023


  • Summer 2022 - September 27, 2022

    Join GPSA and its grAdvantage partners for our first in-person career night event in over two years, Developing Your Professional Skills! This career night is open to returning and incoming graduate and professional students interested in learning about the various resources on campus that support your career development and to hear from alumni and current students that have utilized these services as students and in their careers. Our speakers will share their experiences with three topics: teamwork and leadership, research, and networking. The first 75 participants of the night will be provided with two free drink tickets and all guests are welcome to enjoy a selection of food and beverages while they network with our staff, alumni, and their fellow students. 


    Belinda Panelo

    Peter Foo

    Quynh Nguyen

  • Fall 2022 - November 17, 2022

    Dr. Christopher Dillon, as the Director of Translational Science Immunopharmacology, Chris leads a team of fourteen people working on an oncology drug development portfolio focused on immunological mechanisms.  Chris started his tenure at Pfizer in 2016 as a Senior Scientist in the In Vivo Pharmacology group within the Oncology Research Unit after completing his postdoctoral training in the lab of Doug Green at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he focused on cell death, particularly the development biology of necroptosis, a programmed form of necrotic cell death.  Chris has a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Biochemistry from UC Davis and a Ph.D. in Biology from MIT, where he worked on generating lentiviral shRNA transgenics under the mentorship of Luk Van Parijs and Phil Sharp.  Chris enjoys mentoring and developing the potential of his team members while advancing research to support the development of lifesaving therapies that enhance patient lives.


    Dr. Rachel Flanagan is a graduate of UC San Diego, receiving both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering. During her academic career, Dr. Flanagan became an expert at molecular dynamics simulations of mechanical shock behavior, emphasizing the role of material defects during dynamic loading. Her work has been recognized by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and the UC Library System.

    During her time at UC San Diego, Dr. Flanagan’s leadership within the community was recognized such as the MAE Department’s Graduate Student of the Year in 2018, the Buzz Woolley Award for Engineering Leadership in 2019, and the Henry Booker Award for Ethical Engineering in 2021. Dr. Flanagan served as President of the Graduate & Professional Student Association for the 2019-2020 academic year. Presently, she is a Deputy Engineering Team Lead and a Principal Systems Engineer at Northrop Grumman. She is also a member of Northrop Grumman’s Future Technical Leaders’ program, a one-of-a-kind accelerator for elite technical professionals to develop their career paths.


    Hema Kopalle (she/her) is an interdisciplinary scientist, educator, and public servant from the Bay Area (CA). She has worked in Mental Health, Equity Diversity Inclusion, and Accessible Education for 10+ years. Hema is currently a Pre-Doctoral Candidate in the Yeo Lab, where she studies activity-dependent RNA localization in neurons.

    Hema is committed to redesigning how holistic safety is implemented in our community, particularly the development of inclusive prevention and response strategies. She is actively working on developing a resource database for the Gateway Center and building a strategic plan for long-term holistic wellbeing at UC San Diego.


    Britni Warner, PhD, is a results-oriented talent development leader and influencer with 10+ years’ experience in designing development initiatives to impact strategic business outcomes. Britni is passionate about enabling leaders, managers, and employees to achieve their fullest potential.

    Currently Britni works as Head of Talent Development and Engagement with Sony Electronics. In addition, Britni manages the team budget, supports the performance management cycle, develops custom content for workshops, works with HR Business Partners to create focused development for hi-potential employees, and coordinates strategic development efforts.

    Britni holds a Master of Arts in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Master of International Business Administration, and a PhD in Organizational Psychology from Alliant International University.


  • Winter 2023 - January 26, 2023

    Dr. Caleb Christianson graduated from UC San Diego with a MS and PhD in Nanoengineering in 2015 and 2019, respectively. Caleb's dissertation topic was on developing actuators and sensors for soft, swimming, bioinspired robots under the direction of Prof. Michael Tolley. While at UC San Diego, he also helped create and run the Association for Robotics Graduate Students (now RoboGrads) to help build interdisciplinary collaboration and community amongst graduate students. Since graduating, Caleb has worked at Dexcom, a medical device company that develops continuous glucose monitors (sensors), in early stage R&D as a Staff Medical Device Engineer. 


    Dr. Samantha Streuli is a postdoctoral researcher in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health at UCSD. She received her PhD in anthropology in 2021 with a focus on medical anthropology. Her work is focused on community-engaged research and health equity for marginalized people, especially disabled people and immigrant and refugee communities. Dr. Streuli has also worked as a community health specialist and researcher with a local non-profit organization. Dr. Streuli is a first-generation student from a working-class background who values mentorship and prioritizes supporting students from underrepresented communities. 


    Ross Turner is a 4th year PhD candidate studying Materials Science and Engineering with research focusing on the processing and synthesis of high thermal conductivity materials for use in high-powered laser applications. Ross credits his research interests in part to the late Prof. Joanna McKittrick for giving him the opportunity to conduct research as an undergraduate. Prior to starting the PhD, Ross worked for five years in industries ranging from deep sea robotics to aerospace and defense. In addition to his research and classwork, Ross focuses on giving back and improving community through mentorship of FRC teams, judging FLL competitions, and supporting the UCSD AIAA student organization. Ross graduated with a MS in Aerospace Engineering from UC Los Angeles in 2013, and a BS in Aerospace Engineering from UC San Diego in 2012.


    Samuel Wilson graduated with an MS in Mechanical Engineering a PhD in Oceanography from UC San Diego in 2013 and 2016, respectively. After graduating, he spent five years working at GoPro on the Advanced Technology Team, where he developed and deployed machine learning models for GoPro's video editing app. Today, he works as an ML Research Engineer at Amazon Web Services where he designs datasets, data pipelines, and the accuracy metrics related to Video and Image Processing Algorithms. 

  • Spring 2023 - April 27, 2023

    Topic: Networking


  • Spring 2022

    Dr. Alexandra Elata is currently a program and operations manager for the autoimmune research group at ModernaTX. Before Moderna, she worked in the ag-tech industry as a Soy project manager, science portfolio manager, and had an internship in venture capital. Alex holds a BS in Molecular Biology from UCSD (2011) and a PhD in Neurosciences from UCSD (2018) and currently lives in the Boston area.

    Dr. Lauren Curley defended her dissertation in Cognitive Science at UCSD in June of 2019. After a brief 6 months in a postdoctoral position, she moved into a data scientist role at Northrop Grumman for two and a half years. She is currently transitioning into a new role at Meta as an Analytics Business Partner. Prior to defending her dissertation, she also spent about a year and a half as a project manager at a tech startup in the La Jolla area. Lauren received a Bachelor's of Science in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan. During her time at U of M, she worked as a research assistant and lab manager across three different labs over the course of 3 years.

    Dr. Maya Sapiurka is the Associate Director of Administration of the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience at Georgetown University. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Dr. Sapiurka received her PhD in Neuroscience from UCSD in 2016, where she studied the brain structures involved in spatial and non-spatial working memory in the labs of Drs. Robert E. Clark and Larry Squire. Before joining Georgetown, Dr. Sapiurka was the Scientific Training Manager at the Society for Neuroscience. In her spare time, Dr. Sapiurka enjoys telling museum visitors about megafauna, playing D&D, and chasing her cats off of the kitchen counters.

    Dr. Zohreh AkhavanAghdam is a Field Application Scientist at 10x Genomics, where she scientifically partners with customers from academia and pharmaceutical companies as they develop single-cell experiments utilizing 10x technologies. Prior to 10x, she worked at a small biotechnology start up called Cell IDx, where she developed multiplex immunofluorescence and multiplex immunohistochemistry panels to predict immuno-oncology response and served as point of contact for departmental contracted pharma service projects. Zohreh holds a BS in Cellular and Molecular Biology from UCLA (2010) and a PhD in Biological Science from UCSD (2017), she was involved with the Graduate Student Association and was a Rady School of Management Micro-MBA Program Committee Member.


  • Fall 2020

    Dr. Lisa Adamiak graduated with her PhD in Chemistry at UC San Diego in 2016. Following a postdoctoral position at UCSD, she moved to the Bay Area and joined the Marketing team at Unchained Labs as an Applications Scientist. She then moved back to San Diego, where she is now working as a Senior Scientist at Roswell Biotechnologies developing “out of this world” sequencing technology.

    Dr. Micaela Smith received her undergraduate degree in Ethnic Studies from the University of California–San Diego and her PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from the University of Southern California. As a San Diego native, Micaela is especially grateful she can pursue post-academic professional growth securing and implementing large-scale grant-funded initiatives for University of San Diego, UCSD and now for Hospital Infantil, a children’s hospital in Tijuana.

    Dr. Min Zhang is a social scientist passionate about using data and experimentation to boost happiness, inclusivity, and productivity. She received her PhD in management from UCSD’s Rady School of Management, doing research on social hierarchy and prosocial behavior. After a few years of career exploration, including an internship in people analytics, and applying for both academic and industry jobs, she is currently working as a people research scientist in a sizable tech company. 

    Dr. Eugene Sato works as a Project Manager for the Tricorder Development Program at UCSD. After completing his doctorate in bioengineering in 2016, Eugene served as the Technical Director for the final round of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize (QTXP) competition hosted at UCSD, in which he oversaw the human testing program for one-of-a-kind medical tricorder systems at the Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI).    He is currently a Project and Operations Manager at the ACTRI overseeing a series of Tricorder spinoff projects, managing two new ACTRI Centers, and providing operational support for the CCR Clinic.


  • Spring 2020

    Dr. Sowparnika Balaswaminathan received her PhD in Anthropology from UC San Diego in 2018. Her research interests include museums, art and craft, and postcoloniality. She is currently the Peter Buck postdoctoral fellow at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Her research examines the construction of heritage and traditional arts in South Asia through museums and handicraft policies, and their impact on contemporary artisan communities and uses ethnographic and archival methods. She is currently working on a book project about the ethical life and aesthetic practice of bronzecasters in South India. Sowparnika worked as an Instructional aide at the Making of the Modern World Program at UC San Diego for over 5 years and was a lecturer at the Department of Anthropology. She also served on the Humanists@Work Advisory Board which advocated for valorizing student labor and incorporating professionalization into graduate training curricula.


    Dr. Landon Klein is a Senior Consultant at California State Assembly Privacy Committee


    Dr. Tara Pixley (@tlpix) is an Assistant Professor of Journalism at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. As a scholar of documentary media, her research interests include journalism studies, visual culture and critical race, gender and queer theory, particularly as it relates to re-visioning oppressed populations in the digital new(s) media sphere She is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker and photographer who co-founded Reclaim Photo and Authority Collective — two organizations dedicated to de-colonizing visual media industry practices. Her film and photographic work intersect with her scholarship, each addressing the problematics of representation and the possibility of contemporary visual media to reimagine historically misrepresented/underrepresented communities. Dr. Pixley’s published work appears in Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies & ResearchJournalism and Mass Communication Quarterly; HuffPost; ESPN MagazineNieman ReportsNewsweekNew York Times; ProPublica; PhotoVoice; PDN Magazine and the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. She is currently working on a monograph chronicling the move toward equity and inclusion in the visual journalism industry as well as producing a documentary film about progressive media movements online.  Dr. Pixley received her PhD in Communication from UC San Diego and an MFA in Photography from SCAD.


    Dr. Erik G. Shipton is a Physics Research Scientist, Facebook 


    Dr. Kara Wentworth leads impact strategy and analysis for Twin Cities PBS, one of the US’s largest public television producers.  She is an expert in creative qualitative research, community-focused strategy, and communication. Her doctoral research focused on small slaughterhouses as sites of state-sanctioned killing where difference and what lives matter get carved out each day (UCSD PhD Communication and Science Studies, 2016). Her current role began as an ACLS/Mellon Public Fellows Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017-2019.


  • Spring 2019

    Dr. Natalie Nady obtained her Ph.D. in Medical Biophysics and Biochemistry from the University of Toronto, Canada studying epigenetic mechanisms, namely investigating the role of histone modifications and various protein domains that recognize them. She completed her post-doctoral studies at Stanford University continuing to study epigenetic mechanisms and various ways to modulate transcription. Natalie co-authored a number of peer-reviewed publications in top journals, presented her work at national and international meetings, and held federal Canadian and NIH (K99) grants. She is currently working as a scientist at Takeda where Natalie is responsible for target identification and validation in order to initiate novel drug discovery programs across all therapeutic areas. She is also an instructor at UC San Diego Extension teaching biochemistry.

    Ms. Teresa Kruckenberg has over 30 years in Aerospace composite materials and manufacturing and 20 years with Aerostructures.  In her role as Director of R&D, Teresa Kruckenberg is responsible for the identification and development of distinctive and breakthrough technologies that support Collins Aerospace – Aerostructures’ product line.  She leads the R&D team to develop less expensive, higher performance, lighter weight, quieter, and environmentally greener nacelle and aerostructure products.   Her team also includes a test lab in Chula Vista and a prototype lab in Riverside.  During the past decade, Teresa has had roles of increasing responsibility and was responsible for implementing a structured technology development process ensuring consistent maturation of technology and capture of IP across the organization. Her team also developed several innovating technologies, including some for acoustic noise treatment which was instrumental in winning an award from the FAA for the CLEEN II technology demonstrator program.  Ms. Kruckenberg has a Ph.D. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Sydney and San Diego State respectively and B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Oklahoma State University.  Ms. Kruckenberg was selected as the UTC Aerospace Systems – Aerostructures Tribute to Women in Leadership (TWIN) Visionary Leader honoree for 2014.

    Dr. Joe Murray is a Director at FICO Analytics (San Diego) and joined FICO in 2009.  He currently leads development of new products for preventing financial crime using advanced machine learning, with the goals of reducing fraud, money laundering and cyber risk.  He has developed predictive models for clients worldwide, with applications in retail banking, fraud prevention and mobile device security.  He received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, San Diego, and postdoc at MIT's Brain and Cognitive Sciences, focusing on machine learning and neural networks.

    Tyson Swetek graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  He joined SDG&E in 2005 as an associate engineer.   He spent his early career in distribution holding various positions in different operating districts that involved managing SDG&E’s first responders to power outages and managing the distribution maintenance and compliance program.  He then led a substation team responsible for asset management, construction, and maintenance. He currently manages the Transmission Engineering department for SDG&E, where he is responsible for the design, engineering, and construction of high voltage power lines.  Overall, he has spent 14 years at SDG&E with 11 years spent in leadership roles.  He has an MBA from San Diego State and is a licensed professional engineer.  

  • Winter 2019

    Steve Chapple is a Visiting Scholar from Yale University at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  His latest book is BREAKPOINT: Reckoning with America's Environmental Crises (co-author Jeremy BC Jackson, Yale Univ Press 2018.)  He is Executive Director of the San Diego Unified STEAM Leadership Series which bridges the public high school system with hitech business and science in San Diego to empower students to live their passion and get better jobs and careers.  He is the co-founder of Intellectual Impact, which produces video and film; writes the Intellectual Capital newspaper column; and consults to certain biotech companies including BioFluidica, which makes an advanced chip for capturing circulating cancer cells in the blood, and fetal cells as well.  His advice: when in doubt, create your own job!

    Dr. Matthias Blume is VP of Retail Lending at Applied Data Finance.  Previously, he was Chief Risk Officer at the FinTech startup LoanHero and Chief Analytics Officer at the AdTech startup Covario.  He served as Director of Analytics for two of San Diego's larger data science companies, FICO and CoreLogic, after starting his career as a Data Scientist in 1997.  He has focused on innovation, creating a dozen new products, and has been fortunate to continue some research in machine learning and natural language processing in the corporate environment. Matthias earned his BS in Applied Physics from Caltech in 1987.  He took five years off -- working as an engineer and literally traveling around the world -- before returning to school to earn his PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from UCSD.  At UCSD, his goal was to apply insights from natural neural systems in artificial neural networks, so he also spent a lot of time in Cog Sci, Psychology, Neuroscience, CS, and the Salk Institute. 

  • Fall 2018

    Bozena Pajak is the Head of Learning Science at Duolingo, a language learning company with over 300 million users worldwide. She leads a team of linguists and language experts responsible for improving how Duolingo teaches. Bozena graduated from Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and received her PhD in Linguistics from University of California, San Diego in 2012. Before joining Duolingo in 2015, she completed a postdoc at University of Rochester, and then worked as a researcher and lecturer at Northwestern University in Chicago. In her research she's been mainly interested in how people's prior language knowledge affects the way they learn additional languages, and what kinds of pedagogical techniques lead to most effective learning.


    Andrew Chang is currently a Field Medical Director with Pfizer Oncology, specifically focusing on GU malignancies.  Prior to this role, Andrew worked in the Pfizer Global Product Development organization as a Clinical Pharmacology Lead to help bring new oncology medicines to patients.  In addition, he is a volunteer clinical instructor with the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy.  Andrew graduated from UCSD with his PhD in Biomedical Sciences in 2012 and PharmD in 2013.  His thesis adviser was Dr. Jing Yang where he studied the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis.  He enjoys running marathons, playing tennis, and traveling during his free time.

  • Summer 2018

    Jeff Lievense has experience with 36 years of pioneering and productive leadership in industrial biotechnology. Broad and deep experience in process development, project and functional management. Key contributor to commercial development of a dozen fermentation and chemical products, including milestone achievements in the field. Built effective organizations in large companies, small companies, start-ups and non-profits. Noted for technical excellence, commercial focus, high enthusiasm, interdisciplinary teamwork, direct communication style and courage. 

    Mallory Collins' interests lies in identifying and executing consumer-centric marketing programs and advertising campaigns that are backed by data and insights. I have a background in using market research and quantitative measurement as a tool to formulate and analyze effective strategy per business goals, and a passion for working with brands to identify and capitalize on new marketing opportunities within an ever-evolving, digital world.

    Claudia Mowery has worked 16+ years with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and Northrop Grumman; part of the booming Unmanned Air Vehicle industry. I have pursued the many aspects of the engineering design, analysis, manufacturing, and test processes of two specific unmanned air vehicles throughout my career. I have rounded out my “technical only” experience with business savvy as a recent EPSE graduate from UC San Diego.