From left to right: Daniel Toker, Eileen Mansoorian, Dean Tracy Johnson, Hanna Mikkola, Melissa Sharpe, Alvaro Sagasti, Eric Caldera, Christina Del Carpio, Benjamin Ha, Rana Khankan, Alec Baird, Stephanie Correa (Not pictured: Casey Youngflesh and JoAnn Roberts)
Excellence in Research
Dr. Hanna Mikola • Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology
This research offers great hope to patients who suffer from blood disorders. The publication of this research provides a “road map” of human blood stem cell development, that can guide scientists to create these life-saving stem cells in a laboratory from a patient’s own cells.
Dr. Melissa Sharpe • Psychology
This research provides new insights on how memories are encoded in the brain. Specifically, it demonstrates that prior experience with reward learning can prime the brain’s hypothalamus to encode fear memories, and that the amygdala is not the brain’s sole “fear center”, as commonly thought. More generally, these studies challenge ideas that certain areas of the brain are specialized to encode a particular type of information and that prior experiences determine where and how memories are formed.
Dr. Daniel Toker • Psychology
Findings of this research show that when we’re in a conscious state, the electrical activity of our brain is neither stable nor chaotic, but somewhere in between. This, in turn, supports our brain’s ability to process information during waking states.
Dr. Casey Youngflesh • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Using 7 million community-contributed data points (representing 56 species, accumulated over 16 years) this research quantifies and models how bird migration is responding to changes in the arrival of spring across eastern North America.
Alec Baird • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
This research demonstrates that grasses have shorter and narrower leaves under colder and drier climates, worldwide, and that small grass leaves have thermal advantages and vein development, which explains the abundance of small leaves in cold and dry climates.
Excellence in Educational Innovation
Alvaro Sagasti • Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
Over the last two years, Sagasti completely overhauled his method for teaching Cell Biology to Life Science Majors. He designed a “flipped” course with pre-recorded lectures that students watched before class. Then, in class, students discussed concepts & experiments. In addition to covering what is known about cell biology, the course also discusses the methodologies and experiments that produced this knowledge, which allows students to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how the scientific method advances discovery and our understanding of biology.
Rana Khankan • Life Sciences Core
Dr. Khankan has taught LS 7C (Physiology and Human Biology) to over 1,400 students during the current academic year. For this course, she created a digital educational tool called “the escape room game”. The game helps students learn how CRISPR is used for gene editing in research settings, as well as in treatment of disease. She designed this activity with a focus on teamwork and digital technology. Working in groups, students solve a series of complex gene editing problems that require navigating free, publicly accessible online databases and genome browsers. This creative, problem-solving game engages students and increases their motivation to learn challenging concepts. It also helps students see how these concepts are applied to basic & translational research.
PhD. Candidate :
Benjamin Ha • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
As a UCLA Collegium of University Teaching Fellow, Benjamin designed his own seminar for Winter 2022 called “The History and Racism of Biology Research: Working towards an Anti-Racist Science Future”. In this seminar, Ha discusses multiple aspects of racism that permeate our recollection of biological research. For example, when discussing the traditional history of Darwin’s influence on evolution, he includes the untold history of John Edmonstone, a former enslaved man who taught Darwin taxidermy; he also discusses Henrietta Lacks’ stolen cells that were paramount to establishing the field of cell biology. Ha has also been actively involved with CEILS, through which he has designed and implemented several workshops for UCLA faculty on anti-racist approaches to education and learning.
Excellence in Promoting Diversity & Inclusion
Stephanie Correa • Integrative Biology and Physiology
Professor Correa’s leadership in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have had a wide impact on the UCLA community. She has served on 13 university committees or programs with major goals of furthering excellence at UCLA and beyond, through increased DEI. Correa has developed research and career lectures for Research Deconstruction courses at Glendale Community College, Santa Monica Community College, and Fresno State University. She serves as DEI Advisor for the MBI, is on the Faculty Advisory Committee for the Chicano Studies Research Center, on Life Sciences Diversity Advisory Committee, and is Chair of her department’s Anti-Racism Taskforce. Correa is also recognized as a strong advocate for normalizing motherhood in academic spaces.
In her laboratory, Dr. Correa has recruited and mentored 14 trainees from marginalized, racial or ethnic groups, since 2016.
Nationwide, Correa was Chair of the DEI Committee for the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology, from 2019-2021. In this capacity, she organized inclusive mentorship workshops, a town hall on sexism, and designed two scientific symposia that highlighted the work of Black, Latinx and LGBTQ neuroendocrinologists. In 2020, she was recognized as 1 of 100 Inspiring Hispanic/Latinx Scientists in America by Cell Mentor/Cell Press & Science Signaling Technology.
Eric Caldera • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
As a first-generation Latinx Ph.D., Dr. Caldera was committed to “paying it forward” to the next generation. As a postdoc, he has done an exceptional job using his research program as a platform for mentoring and inspiring students from diverse backgrounds.
Dr. Caldera has mentored 10 students in The Diversity Project, a UC-HBCU funded program, focused on diversifying graduate students. Of the 10 students he mentored (all Black or Latinx) 7 are currently in graduate school. To provide similar pathways to community college students, Dr. Caldera developed a parallel program at UCLA, called Marine Science Pathways Program, that provides marine research opportunities & supports community college students’ transition to 4-year colleges. He has also participated in UCLA’s Bruins in Genomics Summer program, mentoring diverse students who are interested in research using bioinformatics and big data. Similarly, he has mentored students from PEERS, UCLA’s largest program supporting diverse STEM majors.
Dr. JoAnn Roberts • Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS)
Dr. Roberts has exhibited an exceptional commitment to teaching excellence and to equity, inclusion and justice in STEM; as an IRACDA postdoctoral fellow, a Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) scholar; and currently as the inaugural CEILS postdoctoral scholar. As a CIRTL scholar, Dr. Roberts secured UC-HBCU grant funding to sponsor HBCU undergraduate students for both year-long mentorship and summer research internships. As a CEILS postdoc, Dr. Roberts has led the Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusivity (JEDI) antiracism program. She has spearheaded a series of workshops on Becoming an Anti-Racist Educator, a collaboration between DGSOM and CEILS, which will now also be offered to the Life and Physical Sciences faculty. Dr. Roberts also co-leads UCLA’s Black Scholars in Bioscience, a group focused on creating a safe and supportive space for Black Scholars at UCLA.
As a postdoctoral scholar for the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Alliance Award, Dr. Roberts provides mentorship to the diverse cohort of UCLA Aspire Interns, who are postdoctoral scholars seeking to obtain teaching positions in the area. Together with collaborators at regional institutions, she mentors UCLA future faculty through the process of applying for competitive internship programs and teaching positions at 2-and 4-year institutions in the area.
Christina Del Carpio • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
As a 5th year Ph.D. student, Del Carpio has made many contributions to improving DEI at UCLA. They have provided invaluable leadership as their department’s Faculty-Student Liaison; served on the EEB Anti-racism Task Force, advocating for better support of trans & non-binary students and ensuring that language used in departmental reports is inclusive; been a strong advocate for first-generation Latinx and LGTBQ students; and involved in developing a pipeline program for URM undergraduates who want to pursue a graduate degree in Ecology.
Tina has also served as a board member of the UCLA SACNAS chapter and has been a speaker and panelist for prospective URM graduate students at events hosted by Graduate Division’s Diversity, Inclusion and Admission office and other departments across the Life Sciences. Additionally, they helped to make access to Counseling & Psychological Services and Financial Wellness Center Resources transparent and easier to navigate for their fellow graduate students.
Life Sciences Administrative Staff Excellence Award
Life Sciences Administrative Staff:
Eileen Mansoorian • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Eileen has made significant contributions to the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology this past year.
Here are some of her exemplary accomplishments over the past year:
- Successfully facilitated EEB’s graduate recruitment and admissions cycle under the pressure of a rapidly changing environment that saw a pivot to remote instruction and recruitment in late December, after the university had closed for the winter break, and staff were unavailable until they returned in January.
- Took over management of the instructional schedule and assisted instructors and students with the unexpected transition to remote learning in the winter quarter. Once we returned to campus in late winter quarter, she worked tirelessly to support her staff and our faculty and students in their return.
- Successfully supported faculty in their recruitment and planning efforts to bring back EEB’s Field Biology and Marine Biology Quarters.
- Took over advising for EEB Graduate students while continuing to oversee undergraduate advising for EEB’s very large cohort of majors.
- Assisted with the search for a new Chief Administrative Office for EEB.
- Led the search efforts for two new Student Affairs Officers.
- Provided invaluable institutional knowledge and support to the Interim Chair and Interim CAOs.
- Took over the management of EEB’s Teaching Assistant Hiring.
- Took over the management of EEB’s Block Grant Allocation.