Meet Dr. Alicia Hall, a postdoc in the laboratory of Dr. Tallie Z. Baram in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology. She currently studies mechanisms of epileptogenesis in order to block epilepsy development. She earned her Ph.D. at University of Alabama at Birmingham studying neuronal hyperexcitability in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Alicia attended University of California, Davis for her undergraduate studies.
Alicia is starting her second year of leading the UCI Postdoctoral Association (PDA) serving as co-chairman. She has made significant contributions to increasing the support and visibility of postdocs here at UCI, including organizing the first UCI Postdoctoral Research Symposium in September.
Meet Postdoctoral scholar Dr. Rishi Jajoo who conducts research in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Rishi is re-engineering the mitochondrial genetic code to produce new proteins with functions not found in nature. He is also planning to speed the evolution of mitochondrial DNA to allow evolution to draw on that increased number of building blocks to produce new proteins that could be used as novel therapeutics, or for fuels or biomaterials. In recognition of this promising research, Rishi was recently awarded a three-year postdoctoral fellowship by the Jane Coffin Childs (JCC) Memorial Fund. Rishi earned his Ph.D. in 2015 at Harvard University; he worked with Johan Paulsson studying the control of mitochondrial DNA copy number, yeast polarity and RNA polymerase dynamics. He received an A.B. in physics at Harvard College in 2007.
Meet Dr. Houman Yaghoubi who works in Dr. Shane Ardo’s laboratory in the Department of Chemistry. Houman’s primary area of interest spans the field of clean energy, namely solar energy conversion and harvesting, solar fuel production, and synthesis and characterization of nanomaterials for energy and environmental applications. His work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a $1.3 million grant with collaborators in Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Prior to coming to UCI, Houman worked as a research scientist in a start-up company in Tampa, FL where he developed a route to use novel catalysts for converting landfill gas to clean fuel. Houman earned his BS from Amirkabir University of Technology, his Master’s degree at Sharif University of Technology and his Ph.D. from the South University of Florida. The results of his work have led to 12 scientific articles and a book chapter. Houman was recently awarded the 2016 Tom Angell Award for Excellence in Mentoring Graduate Students here at UCI.
Dr. Adolfo Sequeira works in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in the School of Medicine. His lab explores the genetic and molecular basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. They focus on major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. They also study the involvement of stress response alterations at the molecular level in suicide. He started working in a lab during his first year of college and never left! So becoming a professor was a natural progression and joked, “[…] seemed obvious after his soccer and professional sports fisherman careers failed.” He loves research and finds working on important medical and public health problems particularly motivating. Getting funding has been his biggest challenge as a junior faculty. He explains, “Research involves complex politics as well as hierarchical and managerial challenges. With support from my mentors at UCI, I was able to develop a line of research that allowed me to be independent and innovative enough to be competitive to get research grants.”
He attributes his productivity, in terms of research papers and conference presentations, as a major factor in acquiring his position. But also points to his involvement in the UCI PDA as an extremely helpful experience. He notes, “We focus too much on the lab work as scientist and neglect other aspects of being in academia such as politics, career advancement goals, grant writing and particularly networking. My involvement with the PDA certainly helped me get a good grasp on all those issues. For instance, I attended grant writing seminars and eventually after getting my own grants I was involved in the first series of post-doc oriented grant writing seminars organized by the PDA.” He advises post docs to get involved in other aspects of academic life outside the lab. “Professors spend a lot of their time writing grants/articles, reviewing grants/articles, working on committees, mentoring and networking. Getting involved in the PDA, or other campus organizations, is extremely helpful for your immediate career but also to secure future positions after your post-doc life.”
Dr. Mahul Chakraborty is a Postdoctoral Scholar working in the lab of J. J. Emerson, in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. Mahul’s primary interest is the genetics of adaptation, studying how new biological functions evolve at the molecular level and what evolutionary forces facilitate origin of such functions. He uses genomic approaches to address these questions and, when necessary, he focuses on the evolution of single gene or mutation.
Mahul received his Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Rochester, where he researched about the evolutionary significance of a mutation that helps fruit flies breed in presence of ethanol-rich food but becomes harmful when ethanol is absent.