Friday, November 6, 2020

Graduate students honored as mentors, leaders


Two Jacobs School of Engineering graduate students were honored with Community Awards from the UC San Diego Graduate Student Association for their contributions to graduate student life. The Community Awards celebrate faculty, staff and students who go out of their way to make being a graduate student at UC San Diego a little bit easier.

Structural engineering PhD student Adrielly Hokama Razzini was selected as the Peer Mentorship award recipient, and computer science PhD student Maryam Pourebadi was recognized with the Graduate Student Leader award. Learn more about both students below.

Adrielly Hokama Razzini

Razzini, a structural engineering PhD student, was recognized with the Peer Mentorship award for her work with graduate, undergraduate and even high school students. In addition to her role as a teaching assistant, she’s volunteered as a mentor for the Jacobs Undergraduate Mentoring Program through the IDEA Center, and has also mentored students through summer programs including Research Experience for Undergraduates and Enlace. Razzini also mentors undergraduates and a masters student in her research lab.

“In an informal capacity, I try to help my peers navigate school bureaucracy, chat about their research projects, and advise them based on my previous experiences as an international grad student,” she said.

“I've had really good mentors during my undergraduate and graduate studies, and also in industry. They've shared their knowledge and skills and helped me become a better person and professional. Being a mentor is a way of sharing my knowledge and giving back to the community, in hopes of enhancing the experience of my colleagues at UC San Diego.”

Razzini’s PhD research is in the area of structural health monitoring—the process of implementing damage detection and a characterization strategy for various structures. Her goal is to be able to monitor the wings of an airplane and assess its structural integrity in real time, using an optimal sensor placement and data interrogation process. This involves a lot of finite element modeling, signal processing, and machine learning.

“This award honors a graduate student at UC San Diego for their outstanding peer mentorship, and I feel extremely grateful to receive it. It is very nice to know that I had a positive impact on other people's lives,” she said.

She encourages any student who wants to take a more active role as a mentor to get involved in the IDEA Center’s JUMP or TEAM programs, and ask about additional opportunities within their departments.


Maryam Pourebadi

Computer science PhD student Maryam Pourebadi received the Graduate Student Leader award, given to a graduate student who has tirelessly advocated on behalf of graduate students, significantly improving their lives at UC San Diego.

She served as a leader in both the Graduate Women In Computing (GradWIC) group, and the Computer Science andEngineering Department’s diversity, equity and inclusion community.

For the past three years, I was actively involved in creating an inclusive community for masters and PhD students in the CSE department, and providing services to them.”

Pourebadi has been a member of the student admissions committee, helping review graduate student applications, and has also helped organize the PhD orientation panel for new CSE graduate students to help them get acclimated to life at UC San Diego. She also co-organized a workshop on Imposter Syndrome to make students aware of this phenomenon, and provide them with resources to combat it. Also at the department level, Pourebadi led several CSE social events, including the inaugural and second annual Waffle Social Hour, which drew more than 100 computer science students, faculty and staff.

 Through GradWIC, Pourebadi was elected as the coordinator of the group’s mentorship program, managing a group of mentors serving over 110 mentees. She also led GradWIC’s K-12 outreach program, which brought UC San Diego computer science students and staff to the Girls in STEAM Symposium at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School to share their research and experience in computer science.

 “I not only dedicated my time and energy to support my graduate fellows, but also worked toward identifying K-12 students from underrepresented minorities and encourage them to pursue their education in the STEM fields.”

 To that end, Pourebadi volunteers as an IEEE fellow judge for the SumoBot competition at UC San Diego, and as a judge for the VEX Robotics Competition; she helped open this opportunity up to other computer science graduate students as well.

 “It gives me great joy and happiness to help others and see them happy, to raise self-awareness and social-awareness, to significantly increase others' involvement in these activities, and to give back to the community by providing leadership and services in promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion in this department in a similar way that this community supported me once,” she said.

 Her PhD research focuses on building physical robots and virtual avatars that can realistically express human-like expressions and neurological impairments. This would enable platform-independent expression synthesis methods for robotic systems, and yields new modalities for interaction. Her work also has the potential to provide a realistic training tool for clinical students to better understand the expressions of patients and interact with them appropriately, which has the potential to significantly reduce the impact of patient harm.

 Her advice for students who want to take a more active leadership role?

“Think good, say good, and do good. Wherever you are and whatever your role is, do good deeds as little or as big as you can. And believe that putting all those good deeds together makes the world a better place.”