Speaker Series: Leading and Breaking Barriers

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Leading and Breaking Barriers is a dynamic speaker series promoting participation in undergraduate research. With outstanding, diverse speakers from academia and industry, the Leading and Breaking Barriers speaker series will share stories and practices of leadership innovation in STEM fields to inspire students to discover research, and to overturn stereotypes and misperceptions about what research is and who can participate in it.

Events are open to everyone – students, staff, faculty, and the community.

Breaking Barriers in a Big Way in Engineering, Industry, and Higher Ed

Portrait of Gary and LeShelle May

Gary May, PhD

Chancellor, UC Davis

LeShelle May, MA

Senior system/software developer, CNN

Monday, November 6, 2017
4:10-5:00 pm
ARC Ballroom A&B

View the Video of Breaking Barriers in Engineering, Industry and Higher Ed

Gary and LeShelle May have a long history of breaking barriers through pioneering research as well as taking on leadership roles in education and industry. The couple met in Atlanta while tutoring inner-city high school students in math.

LeShelle’s distinguished career as a systems/software developer at CNN has been recognized with awards including a Technology & Engineering Emmy, and two Computerworld Smithsonian awards. LeShelle was chapter president of the National Society of Black Engineers at Boston University, where she earned her BS in electrical engineering. She received her MS in operations research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and has served as a leader of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association, including its student mentoring program. Read more about LeShelle May.

Gary is the seventh chancellor of UC Davis, and the first African American to hold that position. Prior to arriving at UC Davis, he was Dean of the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). He has won numerous awards for both research and mentorship, including the Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring. Read more about Gary May.

Creating NextGen Jane: Breaking Barriers in BioEntrepreneurship and Women’s Reproductive Health

Ridhi Tariyal and Stephen Gire of NextGen Jane, standing on stairs in semiformal attire

Ridhi Tariyal, MBA

CEO and Co-Founder, NextGen Jane
BS, Industrial Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
MBA, Harvard Business School
SM, Biomedical Enterprise, MIT

Stephen Gire, MPH

Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Founder, NextGen Jane
MPH, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Monday, November 13, 2017
4:10-5:00 pm
MPR, Student Community Center

View the Video of Creating NextGen Jane: Breaking Barriers in BioEntrepreneurship and Women's Reproductive Health

A smart what? NextGen Jane, a “smart tampon” that collects biodata through menstrual blood, is breaking all kinds of barriers – from technological breakthroughs to creating a proactive vision for women’s health. Cofounders Ridhi Tariyal and Stephen Gire met in a Harvard infectious disease lab. Fast Company tells the story: “Stunned by the vast number of women’s health issues that go undetected, it seemed clear to them that there was a problem with the way that medical testing worked in women’s health… Together, Tariyal and Gire have been devising a radical new system of testing that will allow women to proactively keep track of their health by studying blood samples in the privacy of their homes. ‘I was thinking about how to get a large enough volume of blood to do this, Tariyal says. ‘Until I realized that we actually bleed quite a bit every month.’” Join us to hear these young, innovative researchers and entrepreneurs share their inspiring stories.  Read more about NextGen Jane.

The Path is Made by Walking: Diverse Paths to Science Fuel Creativity and Help Communities

Image of Rebecca Calisi Rodriguez

Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior
University of California, Davis

Monday, January 22, 2018
4:10-5:00 pm
MPR, Student Community Center

View the video of Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez' presentation "The Path is Made by Walking: Diverse Paths to Science Fuel Creativity and Help Communities"

"Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar." - Antonio Machado

"Traveler, there is no path, the path is made by walking."

Rebecca Calisi Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior at UC Davis. She studies how the brain controls sexual behavior and reproduction, and how stress can affect these processes. However, being a scientist and professor were not originally her intended path. Hear about Calisi Rodríguez' non-traditional journey into research, and how her love of family, community, and diversity inspires her to do what she does. 

Calisi Rodríguez was awarded her B.A. from Boston College in 2001, her M.S. from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2006, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2010. As a postdoc, she was awarded an National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2010-2013) and the University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship (UC Berkeley, 2013-2014). She was a faculty member in the Biology Department of Barnard College of Columbia University from 2014-2015 before being recruited to join the faculty of UC Davis in 2015.  Dr. Calisi is a Faculty Scholar of UC Davis' Environmental Health Science Center and the UC Davis Center for Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives in Science. Her lab is currently funded by the National Science Foundation. You can learn more about her research and commitment to supporting diversity in science at www.rebeccacalisi.org. You can also follow her on twitter at @BeccaCalisi. 

No Longer Hidden Figures: Encouraging Diverse Mathematical Talent

Portrait of Talithia Williams

Talithia Williams, PhD

Associate Professor of Mathematics
Harvey Mudd College

Monday, February 5, 2018
4:10-5:00 pm
MPR, Student Community Center

View the Video of Talithia WIlliams' presentation "No Longer Hidden Figures: Encouraging Diverse Mathematical Talent"

Talithia Williams, PhD is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. She develops statistical models which emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data, and applies them to problems in the environment. Her professional experiences include research appointments at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Security Agency, and NASA. 

Show me the data: In her popular TED Talk, "Own your body's data," Williams demonstrates how asking questions about data can guide critical decisions, even on issues as personal as health. She has done significant outreach with the goal of "rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical or male-dominated but instead a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country."

The first African American woman to achieve tenure at Harvey Mudd, Williams has long been dedicated to breaking barriers for women in mathematics. "As a student at Spelman, I ... realized that there were fewer than 100 African American women with PhDs in math and that given the rate at which we were getting math PhD degrees, if I decided to go to graduate school, I, too, could be in the top 100. I can remember how frustrated I felt when I heard that statistic," according to her Association for Women in Mathematics statement.  

Leading for Equity in Higher Education

Oscar Dubon

Oscar Dubón, PhD

Professor of Material Science & Engineering 
Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion
University of California, Berkeley

Monday, March 5, 2018
4:10-5:00 pm
MPR, Student Community Center

View the Video of Oscoar Dubón's talk "Leading for Equity in Higher Education!

Oscar Dubón is Professor of Materials Science & Engineering, Faculty Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and  Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion at UC Berkeley. His research focuses on understanding the role of crystalline imperfections on the electronic behavior of materials for applications in semiconductor technologies. He received a B.S. from UCLA in 1989 and M.S. and Ph.D. from Berkeley in 1992 and 1996. 

Dubon brings a dual perspective to breaking barriers. "I personally have been in the UC system as a minority student since I was 17 years old. As an undergraduate, I was exploring questions about voice and community....Obviously, I’m an engineer, but I’m an engineer with certain identities and these intersections really do matter. It’s something I’ve thought a lot about over the last few decades when I’ve seen equity and inclusion issues come up over and over again.

"Engineers sometimes give themselves too much credit for solving the problems of society, but oftentimes what we don’t do is really listen to all the voices that need to be at the table in order for those solutions to truly matter. That’s something that’s resonated with me for a long time — having this mindset of solving problems and innovating, but also taking into account who we’re solving problems for and what is their role in articulating the problem and the solution." Quoted in Dubón aims to innovate as new vice chancellor of equity and inclusionBerkeley News, June 22, 2017. 

About the Series:

Leading and Breaking Barriers is a speaker series created by Lolita Adkins, Program Manager in the Undergraduate Research Center and funded by a Diversity and Inclusion Innovative Grant.  The series is a collaborative project by staff in the CAMP, MCNAIR, MURALS, MURPPS, and UC LEADS undergraduate research programs. 

The series is co-sponsored by the Undergraduate Research Center, and receives additional support from Undergraduate Education, and various departments.