By Andy Fell
UC Davis this week welcomed six new faculty members recruited through the CAMPOS Initiative, hosting a reception for them Monday afternoon (Nov. 21) in the Yocha Dehe Grand Lobby of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.
The CAMPOS Faculty Scholars program is part of the ADVANCE institutional transformation initiative at UC Davis. Established through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the UC Davis ADVANCE program aims to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities in academic careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, including social sciences.
“Diversity in STEM is not just the right thing to do, it is essential for excellence,” Interim Provost Ken Burtis said. “Scientific research is conducted by teams working together, and teamwork and diversity go hand in hand. Diversity is essential for success.”
Maureen Stanton, vice provost for Academic Affairs, underscored the importance of CAMPOS in building a community of scholars from diverse backgrounds.
“For much of my career, the image of a scientist was a white man, in a white coat, in an ivory tower, thinking deep thoughts,” she said. “We need to get away from that image.”
Other speakers: Chancellor Emerita Linda Katehi, principal investigator for the ADVANCE program; Shannon Horrillo, associate director of the UC Davis 4-H program; and two faculty from previous CAMPOS cohorts, Professor Mariel Vazquez, Department of Mathematics, and Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics; and Alexis Patterson, assistant professor in the School of Education.
"This diverse and multicultural group of scientists can excel in their individual disciplines, bring about as much innovation as any traditional structure, while serving as role models for our diverse student body and paving the way for future generations,” Vazquez said.
Patterson said that CAMPOS had provided her with a community, support network and resources.
"The greatest impact that I believe CAMPOS has is with our K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students. For them, we represent an existence proof, an example of what it possible," she said.
Mary Lou de Leon Siantz, professor of nursing and founding director of the CAMPOS initiative, served as the emcee.
Transformative thinking and unique perspectives
The CAMPOS Faculty Scholars were selected for their transformative thinking, unique perspectives, interdisciplinary approaches, and leadership potential to impact their discipline in profound and enduring ways.
The new hires bring the program to a total of 18 CAMPOS Faculty Scholars recruited since the 2014-15 academic year. Here are profiles on the six new hires:
Samuel Díaz-Muñoz, assistant professor, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, who studies the social lives of viruses. His research focuses on the evolution, ecology and molecular mechanisms of virus-virus interactions using genomics, experimental evolution and environmental microbiology. He’s a UC Berkeley Ph.D. and did postdoctoral training at UC San Diego. Prior to UC Davis, he was a Faculty Fellow at New York University. His outreach efforts include Ciencia Puerto Rico, a nonprofit organization promoting science education, outreach, research and careers in Puerto Rico and among Latinos in the United States. More information about his research is available online.
Rebecca Hernandez, assistant professor, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. She holds a Ph.D. in earth system science from Stanford University, a master’s degree in biological science from California State University, Fullerton; and a bachelor’s degree in geography from UCLA. Her research includes the study of ecology, energy and global environmental change particularly in water-limited ecosystems and human environments, and has received media coverage in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, National Geographic and Scientific American. She is a graduate of the community college system and the first in her family to graduate with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Maureen Njoki Kinyua, assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her research focuses on livestock-, human- and other solid-waste treatment, and nutrient and energy recovery for communities, especially those in developing countries. Her research assists in improving public health and the environmental and economic status of communities, which also increases their quality of life. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida in Tampa and did postdoctoral research at Columbia University. She was the recipient of the 2014 W. Wesley Eckenfelder Graduate Research Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists.
Verónica Martínez-Cerdeño, associate professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine. She studies the origin and pathology of autism spectrum disorders, with the goal of discovering new treatments. She also studies the role of stem cells in the development, evolution and diseases of the mammalian cerebral cortex. Martínez-Cerdeño trained at the Complutense and Autónoma universities in Madrid, and at Columbia University, UC San Francisco and UC Davis. She created and directs the International Conference on Cortical Evolution and serves as the chief executive officer of the non-profit Ventricular Foundation. Her outreach activities are focused on increasing diversity among faculty, staff and students at the university. She also volunteers as an outreach teacher at Hispanic Integration Schools in the greater Sacramento area.
Jeanette Ruiz, lecturer with potential for security of employment, Department of Communication. She specializes in strategic communication with a specific interest in emerging practices and concepts in digital and social media. In addition to her appointment in the Department of Communication, she has served as a human resources and public relations consultant for various nonprofit, managed health care and finance organizations. Her research focuses on public health communication and the internet. Ruiz examines media advocacy campaigns in public health and has used network analysis and other methods to examine parental opposition to childhood vaccination. She has also focused on the globalization, structure and ownership concentration and regulation of the international internet.
Jesús M. Velázquez, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry, who is developing a research program centered on the rational design of materials at the meso- and nanoscale. These materials have immediate applications in nanoelectronics, energy conversion devices and environmental remediation. Characterization of the properties of these materials involves a combination of microscopy, spectroscopy, electrochemistry and synchrotron-based methods, and will facilitate materials design. Velázquez holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey and a Ph.D. in chemistry from State University of New York, Buffalo, and then transitioned to a postdoctoral appointment in the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech.