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Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 4:32 pm | Rain Fog/Mist 53º


Who’s New at UCSB? Meet Several of the Incoming Graduate Students

UCSB is welcoming 758 new graduate students into its ranks this week. These incoming students are diverse in many ways, such as their ages, countries of origin and fields of study. Here, we break down the statistics on our incoming graduate student cohort and introduce you to several of our new students. All infographics created with Piktochart.


There is an almost even split of men (51 percent) and women (49 percent) in the incoming class. Most of the students are between ages 20 and 30, but 10 percent of them are 31 and older. Our youngest incoming student is 20 years old, and our oldest is 65 years old.

Our new graduate students are coming from 35 countries — from China to Chile, Saudi Arabia to Serbia, New Zealand to the Netherlands — representing nearly every continent. In fact, roughly one-third of incoming students (280, to be exact) are coming from places outside the U.S. Our U.S. students hail from 43 of the 50 states, but over half of them are California natives.

The most popular disciplines that our new graduate students chose were Environmental Science and Management (103 new students), Electrical and Computer Engineering (90 new students) and the Teacher Education Program (79 new students).

By division, the most new graduate students are in Mathematical, Life, and Physical Science (163), followed by Education (125) and Humanities and Fine Arts (108). One-third of incoming students are pursuing a Ph.D., but a sizable number are also pursuing a Ph.D./M.A., Master of Environmental Science and Management (M.E.S.M.), Master of Science, or M.A. degree.

We asked several of our new grad students to tell us more about themselves, including what degrees they will be pursuing, their favorite things to do, and what they are looking forward to most about graduate school. Read on to find out what we learned about them.

Fernanda Figueiredo grew up in Brasília, the capital of Brazil. Brasília boasts the biggest urban park in the world — as well as a plethora of waterfalls, hikes, and biking trails close to the city center — so it’s only natural that Figueiredo, the daughter of a biogeography and ecology professor, would go on to specialize in environmental science and conservation.

Fernanda Figueiredo has traveled around the world. She is pictured here, from left, in Santa Barbara, Berlin and San Francisco.

Having graduated with her bachelor’s degree in geography from Universidade de Brasília, she comes to UCSB through a Science Without Borders scholarship to study geographic information systems, landscape modeling and remote sensing in the Geography Department.

“I was always interested in environmental conservation since my childhood when my parents took me to visit some National Parks and do some trips that I could see different biomes and habitats in Brazil,” Figueiredo said.

She also participated in Girl Scouts as a child, where she “learned about protecting nature, [and the] importance of discipline and working in groups.” At UCSB, she hopes to become an environmental specialist and learn conservation techniques that she can take back to Brazil.

Figueiredo is excited not only about the beautiful scenery in Santa Barbara but also the healthy lifestyle — including eating organic food, practicing sports and cycling everywhere — that many adopt here. She enjoys cycling, hiking, and photography as well as music, cooking, and crafting. One of her favorite places here in the U.S. is Yosemite National Park, which she visited recently. Figueiredo said that she fully expects her time here in Santa Barbara to be “awesome.”

Jennie Kim
Jennie Kim always knows how to capture the moment.

Jennie Kim grew up in Toronto, Canada, before moving to San Diego in high school.

She recently received her bachelor of arts degree from UCLA, where she majored in political science with a concentration in international relations. She will be pursuing an M.A./Ph.D. in political science here at UCSB. Kim says that her research interests are focused on international security – particularly counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

“I’m looking forward to being in a new environment and starting a ‘new chapter’ of my life," Kim said. "I want to be able to develop close relationships with professors, as well as peers within various graduate departments at UCSB, and hopefully fulfill my dream of becoming a professor teaching in the realm of political science. It’s always amazing to meet individuals from all walks of life and see everyone come together to provide their own insight and wisdom about a subject he or she is passionate about.”

Not only is Kim looking forward to the bonds she will form on campus, she is also excited to learn how to surf.

“I feel like it's necessary to at least try whilst at Santa Barbara,” she said. She is already versatile in a variety of sports and activities, including archery, yoga, and hiking. “I also really enjoy cooking; my favorite dish I've made is a miso-glazed salmon.”

In addition to athletics and cooking, Kim also has her motorcycle license.

Cady McLaughlin throws herself headfirst into whatever she is pursuing, whether it be a particularly intense gaming session, left, one of the many crazy colors she has dyed her hair, center, or a death-defying climb up the Great Wall of China.

Cady McLaughlin grew up in rural Ohio, where “the closest shopping mall was about a 20-minute drive and the closest big city — Pittsburg — was 45 minutes away.” She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she double-majored in modern languages (with emphases in French and Mandarin) and Asian and Pacific studies. At UCSB, she will be pursuing an M.A. and then a Ph.D. in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, where she will focus on issues of media and sexuality.

McLaughlin told us about her connection to each part of her research interests.

“My interest in media has no strong foundation, but rather builds from the fact that today's society is so media-heavy," she said. "[Media] impacts our daily life so heavily but still silently, so to study the change of media through time is fascinating. My interest in sexuality stems from being a queer person myself and because the strongest community I found as a new student in college was through the university GSA [Gender Sexuality Alliance]. My specific interest in studying East Asia has always been innate, even when I had no concept of the differences between the countries. Despite growing up in a heterogeneous community, whenever I found something Asian-inspired I was drawn to it — from food to language to entertainment.”

In coming to UCSB, McLaughlin is excited to be a part of the academic community.

“I was raised by a single mother who worked as a high school and college educator and I was babysat frequently by my grandparents and great-grandparents," she said. "I always loved school and I blame that on my family constantly reading to me as a child. Education has been a huge part of my life and personal identity, so to have the chance to further mine is the aspect I look forward to most.”

In her free time, McLaughlin enjoys everything related to sci-fi and fantasy as well as video games and board games.

“I'm not one to do nights out on the town and would prefer to sit at home," she said, "and marathon a TV show like Dexter or Breaking Bad.”

Ehsan Omidi
Ehsan Omidi comes from a "rather tall family," as he put it; here he is stooping to get into a picture at his cousin's recent wedding.

Ehsan Omidi comes to UCSB all the way from Tehran, Iran.

He earned both a bachelor of science and a master of science in electrical engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. He will be entering the Ph.D. program in electrical and computer engineering with a concentration in control, communication, and signal processing.

Both of Omidi’s parents were schoolteachers, and he has always excelled in academics. Growing up, he had many of the same hobbies as his friends, including soccer, cartoons and video games.

“But,” he said, “my real hobby started when we had a computer in our home and I started programming with it. Since then, programming has been my main entertainment.”

When he realized that computer programming didn’t challenge him enough, he began to study electrical engineering in order to figure out what goes on inside a computer. He also worked on his university’s robotics team in creating a simple robot that could do funny tasks such as playing with a golf ball.

Omidi is very excited to be studying at UCSB, which is among the top 10 engineering schools in the world (Academic Ranking of World Universities). It also doesn’t hurt that Santa Barbara is, in Omidi’s words, “totally a perfect city.” He said, “Living in an always-sunny city with beautiful landscapes wherever you look and doing your desired research is what every grad student dreams.”

Omidi’s hobbies include soccer, violin and chess, and he hopes to add hiking and surfing to the list when he moves to Santa Barbara.

John Retterer-Moore is always up for some fun. Here he sports a handmade feather hat for a puzzle hunt, left, soaks in the beauty of San Clemente, center, and enjoys his last day in Pittsburgh atop the number garden at Carnegie Melon.

John Retterer-Moore grew up in Concord, Mass., and has been making his way — slowly but surely — toward more hospitable climates ever since then.

He earned a bachelor's degree with double majors in computer science and discrete math from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Penn., before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science in the much more mild locale of Santa Barbara.

Retterer-Moore said his “main research interests mostly lie in the intersection of computer science and math. I'm interested in complexity theory (studying what fundamental limits exist on our ability to compute certain things), cryptography (studying how to securely encrypt various types of messages and protect them from various types of attackers), and computational social choice (applying ideas from computer science to solve problems that arise in humanities research, like designing voting systems and dividing goods fairly).” He is excited about working with great professors to try to answer interesting research questions in the field of theoretical computer science.

Retterer-Moore is understandably looking forward to enjoying the scenery of Santa Barbara by doing things like hiking, swimming, and reading papers on the beach. He also enjoys all kinds of gaming, including board games, card games and computer games, and he is “definitely looking for fellow gamers at UCSB to hang out with.” At Carnegie Mellon, he competed in and also helped run a lot of puzzle hunts, and he said that he would love to start one here with some like-minded individuals.

A fervent rock music fan (some of his favorite artists are Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen and Modest Mouse), Retterer-Moore also plays the drums and dabbles in creating mashups. (You can check out some of his mashups on YouTube.)

Shyam Sriram in his element: hiking in various locales (left and right), and visiting the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Shyam Sriram had a unique childhood. Born and raised near Chicago, he moved with his family to their heritage country of India when he was 9 years old. He then migrated back to the U.S. after high school to pursue a bachelor's degree in political science from Purdue University and then a master's degree in political science from Georgia State University. At UCSB, he will be pursuing a Ph.D. in political science with a focus on American politics.

In his earlier studies, Sriram’s research interests vacillated among a variety of topics, including Jewish studies and black politics. Eventually, one of his professors, Dr. Robert Melson, asked him, "Shyam, is it possible that you are so interested in these other communities because they are leading you to study your own community?"

From then on, Sriram began to focus his research on the area of Asian Pacific American politics, with emphases on issues of identity, citizenship and nationalism. Sriram is excited to work with the outstanding professors in UCSB’s Department of Political Science — particularly Dr. Pei-te Lien — and is looking forward to the interdisciplinary nature of graduate school, where he can take many classes across the curriculum.

Sriram will definitely take advantage of the natural beauty of Santa Barbara as he regularly trains for a variety of competitive athletic events, such as the Bataan Memorial Death March in White Sands, N.M., happening in March.

And, if you ask him nicely, he might even show you his tattoo of William Faulkner, which he believes is the only one of its kind in the world.

— Shawn Warner-Garcia is a linguistics Ph.D. student and the professional development peer for the UCSB Graduate Division. She also writes for The Graduate Post.

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