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GSA Career Nights (sponsored by grAdvantage)

GSA Career Nights expose graduate students to UCSD alumni that have pursued a variety of careers after receiving a graduate degree. As a UCSD graduate student, Career Night programming is 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 students and alumni. Typically, speaker presentations and Q&A are followed by a social hour for Career Night speakers and graduate students to mix, mingle and discuss career options over food and refreshments.


Fall 2020 Career Night

Thursday, October 29, 2020, 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM. Register now!

The evening will feature alumni panelists whose collective experiences will highlight the ways that their professional careers have fulfilled their interests and skills in independent and critical thinking honed during their time in graduate school. This event will shed light on the broad array of career opportunities before you, help guide you through the next stage of your professional development, and provide an opportunity for some networking with like-minded graduate students and alumni.

Lisa Adamiak 

Lisa Adamiak, PhD (Senior Scientist, Roswell Biotechnologies)

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. 

Micaela Smith

Micaela Smith, PhD (Development Manager, Foundation for the Children of the Californias)

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.

Min Zhang 

Min Zhang, PhD (People Research Scientist, Facebook)

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. 

Eugene Sato

Eugene Sato, PhD (Project Manager, Tricorder Development Program, UC San Diego)

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.

See the grAdvantage website for additional info.

Careers for PhDs: Inside and Outside the Academy

May 14th, 2020

Virtual Zoom Event

When: May 14, 2020 05:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada) 

Register in advance for this meeting at this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Career Night Panelists: 

Sowparnika Balaswaminathan, PhD '18

Postdoctoral Fellow at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Sowparnika 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.

Landon M. Klein, PhD '18

Senior Consultant at California State Assembly Privacy Committee

Tara-Lynne Pixley, PhD '18

Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University

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 & Research; Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly; HuffPost; ESPN Magazine; Nieman Reports; Newsweek; New 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.

Erik G. Shipton, MS '07, PhD '11

Physics Research Scientist, Facebook 

Kara N. Wentworth, MA '12, PhD '16

Managing Director of Impact Strategy at TPT - Twin Cities PBS        

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 Career Night, May 16th, 2019

Natalie Nady, Ph.D.
Scientist, Takeda 

Natalie 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.

Teresa Kruckenberg, Ph.D.
Director, Research & Development, Collins Aerospace
Ms. 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.

Joseph Murray, Ph.D. 

Principal Scientist, FICO
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, MBA
Operations and Engineering Manager, San Diego Gas & Electric
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 Career Night, March 1st, 2018 

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 Career Night, November 29, 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.

August 23, 2018 Career Night Panel

Jeff Lievense, Mallory Collins, and Claudia Mowery

Jeff Lievense

Senior Advisor to CEO


Bio: 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

Sr. Business Manager

Red Door Interactive

Bio: My interest 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

Chief Engineer/Technical Director

General Atomics

Bio: 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.

Naomi Handly is a Scientist at Octant, Inc., a biotech startup using NGS to develop a multiplex platform to cheaply scan thousands of drugs against hundreds of receptors simultaneously. Naomi joined Octant in 2017 and was the second full-time employee hired to set-up the lab and develop the first prototype. 

Naomi graduated from Brigham Young University and received her PhD in Biochemistry from University of California, San Diego in 2017. Her thesis work focused on how mammalian cells communicate with one another immediately following a wound at the single-cell level using quantitative fluorescent microscopy. 

Lara Hochstein is a Lead Curriculum Designer at IXL Learning, an educational technology company based in San Mateo, CA that is currently used by 1 in 9 students in the U.S. Lara has been at IXL for 3.5 years and currently leads the development of English Language Arts content for grades Pre-K through 2. Her team designs interactive and engaging skills that help students learn and explore grammar, vocabulary, phonics, reading, writing, and more. Lara also works closely with engineers, writers, editors, illustrators, and voice talent to ensure that her team's final product is of the highest caliber. 

Lara received her bachelor's degree in French and Italian from Princeton University in 2008 and her PhD in Linguistics from UCSD in 2014. As a doctoral student at UCSD, Lara studied child language acquisition, and her dissertation research focused on pragmatic language development in typically-developing children and children with autism spectrum disorders. 

Dr. Thuy Vo Dang is the Curator for the Southeast Asian Archive at UC Irvine. She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego and a B.A. in English and Asian American Studies from Scripps College. She began working at UC Irvine in 2011 as the Inaugural Project Director for the Vietnamese American Oral History Project, now Viet Stories. Outside the university, she serves on the Board of Directors for Arts Orange County and the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association, both nonprofit arts organizations. Vo Dang is co-author of Vietnamese in Orange County, published in 2015, and is currently working on A People’s Guide to Orange County (forthcoming, UC Press), a book project that foregrounds hidden stories of the region through a social justice lens. Part of a research team awarded an IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian grant in the community anchors category, she researches the intersection between ethnic studies theory and community archives practice. 

Ali Crawford is a Senior Scientist in Illumina’s Applied Genomics Product Development team. Illumina scientists work on many diverse applications such as oncology, reproductive health, forensics, microbiology, agriculture, complex disease and translational research. Ali joined Illumina in 2013 to aid in development of Illumina’s Undiagnosed Disease offering. She currently leads the Transplant Diagnostics product development team. 

Ali graduated with honors from the University of Florida and received her doctorate in Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. Her thesis work focused on the molecular cues driving axon guidance and synapse formation in the developing nervous system. As a postdoctoral scholar, Ali focused on the genetic causes of pediatric brain disorders.

Nathalie Becker began her career in the USAF as a Personnel Specialist, where she had the opportunity to be stationed in Germany and Florida before transitioning into the civilian world. She spent her first 7 years in the agency domain before moving to an in-house Corporate Recruiter role for T-Mobile where she focused on recruiting for the CFO’s organization. After 5 years working for T-Mobile and seeing the company grow from 3K employees to over 30K employees as the Manager of Talent Acquisition, she made the move to Microsoft where she worked in Corporate Staffing and the Server and Tools Business. Nathalie moved to San Diego in 2012 and took a role at Illumina’s headquarters and currently drives all of Talent Acquisition for Finance, Global IS, Facilities, Global Business Performance and Legal.

Dr. Alex Guazzelli is currently leading a data mining and engineering group for in San Diego. Prior to that, he was the Chief Scientist at Opera Solutions, a company focused on extracting value and insight from Big Data. He was also the Chief Technology Officer at Zementis, a company focused on predictive analytics standards. As a result of his work at Zementis, Dr. Guazzelli has taught a course on open-standards as part of the data mining certificate at UCSD Extension.

Dr. Guazzelli has a bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science. He attained both degrees in Brazil where he grew up. He arrived in the US in 1994 to pursue his PhD in computer science at the University of Southern California where he studied and contributed solutions to the problem of how systems learn and apply such knowledge to navigate in the world. He went on to pursue a Postdoc in electrophysiology at the University of Washington.


Melanie Havey grew up in San Diego and started here HR career in Carlsbad at an Autism therapy agency, where she recruited clinical, education and administrative professionals. She came to NuVasive about two years ago to further her recruiting experience and make an impact at the medical device company. NuVasive has granted her the opportunity to recruit for sales, engineering, supply chain, technical and executive roles. She has a particular passion on impacting the company’s sales organization and funneling the best talent into the nationwide sales teams.


Lesley Blankenship-Williams is a tenured instructor at Palomar College in San Marcos where she teaches lower-division Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, Microbiology and Biology of Marine Mammals courses.  

During Lesley’s Ph.D. program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Lesley taught as an adjunct instructor or lecturer at multiple colleges in the San Diego area.  These rewarding experiences convinced her to pursue an academic career that focused on teaching rather than research. She is now tenured and happy (or happily tenured) as a full-time instructor at Palomar College. Lesley’s achievements include (1) winning the 2012 Distinguished Faculty of the Year award, (2) co-developing and writing a documentary on sea otter conservation that won five regional Emmys, and (3) writing and self-publishing a book to help unprepared nursing students succeed in their courses. Lesley is excited to discuss the opportunities for teaching in higher education, which range from an moonlighting gig to a full-fledged rewarding career.

Sabine Hadida, Ph.D. - Senior Director and Head of Chemistry at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in San Diego. Since joining in 2002, Sabine has led the chemistry efforts on Cystic Fibrosis that discovered multiple drug candidates including the approved medicines, KALYDECO and ORKAMBI. In 2013, her team was named Heroes of Chemistry by the ACS. Sabine received her PhD in Pharmacy from the University of Barcelona and spent two years conducting postdoctoral research at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jon Gonzales is a Business Consultant for ZS Associates in the San Diego office. He is part of the ZS Medical Affairs Leadership Team, as well as a contributing member to the R&D Excellence Practice Area within ZS. During his time at ZS, Jon has worked exclusively within the Medical Affairs/MSL consulting practice area. Jon has supported these Medical Affairs projects across the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry, deriving insights by leveraging his scientific research background and analytical skills.

Prior to joining ZS, Jon worked as a Medical Writer where he was responsible for crafting the scientific message for educational materials for several pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Jon received a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from Colorado State University. He also holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he received the 2012-2013 Outstanding Dissertation Award for the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program.

Amber Mace, PhD is Deputy Director of the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) and is a Policy Fellow with the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy. Mace devotes her time to building new and revitalizing existing programs and organizations that are dedicated to increasing the impact and value of science-informed decision-making.

Prior to this, Mace served as the Associate Director of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy. She also served as the executive director of the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and assistant secretary for coastal matters at the California Natural Resources Agency. In this role she applied her background in ocean policy and marine ecology and collaborative leadership skills to guide the state in developing policies that promote the sustainable use of California’s ocean ecosystem. Prior to that, she served in the dual roles of science advisor to the OPC and executive director of the California Ocean Science Trust, a non-profit whose mission is to provide objective, high-quality science to decision makers.

She learned firsthand about the challenges of public policy-making at the federal level as a Knauss Fellow in the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and at the state level as a California Sea Grant state fellow at the California Natural Resources Agency. Amber was recognized as a Coastal Hero by Sunset magazine in 2011 and her California coastal research experience includes piloting a submersible with the Sustainable Seas Expedition. She earned a bachelor of arts in geography from UC Berkeley and a doctorate in ecology from UC Davis and the Bodega Marine Laboratory.


Ken Lau is the Technical Marketing Manager at BioLegend, a biotech company that produces antibodies, recombinant proteins, and multiplex reagents for assays like flow cytometry, microscopy, ELISAs, and western blotting. As the Technical Marketing Manager, Ken oversees tech support to ensure customers are both happy and educated on how to use BioLegend’s products. On the marketing side of things, Ken utilizes his scientific background in immunology to generate creative content for brochures, flyers, ads, and webpages. He also trains both local and international teams on the company’s newest product line releases. He received both his B.S. and Ph.D in Microbiology and Cell Science from the University of Florida. His graduate career focused on immunology, specifically the interaction between gut bacteria, Th17 cells, and Type 1 Diabetes onset. 

Katrina Oko-Odoi is the Founder and Chief Editor of EditingWorm, a writing and editing company that works with entrepreneurs, businesses, and scholars. After years immersed in academia, Katrina channeled her passion for words into entrepreneurship, launching EditingWorm in 2012. Based on Katrina’s own experience navigating the chasm between the higher ed. and business worlds, one of her company’s primary goals is to bridge that gap through high-level research, analysis, and content development strategies. An avid writer and researcher, Katrina has published numerous journal articles, poems, and cultural and literary essays and is a regular guest blogger for several higher education and business websites. 

Katrina received her B.A. in Spanish Literature and International Studies and her PhD in Literature from the University of California, San Diego. She is passionate about supporting graduate students to achieve success in their fields, and offers a monthly webinar series that provides guidance on different stages of the doctoral process. She is also committed to educating graduate students regarding the reality of the academic job market and the many alternative careers available to PhDs. She strives to spark a deeper discussion surrounding how graduate programs can better prepare their students for diverse professional opportunities post graduation, including cultivating transferable job skills that are applicable for employment in the private sector.


Elizabeth Vu is a Co-Founder and Implementations Lead for Learning Equality, a start-up non-profit organization dedicated to enabling universal access to high quality open educational resources by creating tools optimized to work in areas where Internet access is lacking or costly. As Implementations Lead, she supports the use of KA Lite, an offline version of Khan Academy, in over 160 countries. She uses her research background to understand how students and teachers use educational software in varied formal and non-formal educational contexts. Dr. Vu has a B.S. in Environmental Science from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.