2 UCSB Ph.D. students educate lawmakers on why graduate research matters

By Patricia Marroquin, Graduate Division Communications Director
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 12:19 PM

Assembly member Katcho Achadjian, center, met with UCSB Ph.D. students Deborah Barany, left, and Christopher Heckman in Sacramento. Courtesy photoCalifornia lawmakers are getting their own education in Sacramento today about why graduate research matters – not only to the state, but to the nation and the world. Helping to enlighten them are two UC Santa Barbara Ph.D. students: Deborah Barany of Dynamical Neuroscience and Christopher Heckman of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

The meetings at the state Capitol are part of the seventh annual University of California Graduate Research Advocacy Day.

"Many people have an image of a Ph.D. student as someone who is closeted away in a library or lab, far from the concerns of everyday life,” UC Irvine Graduate Dean Frances Leslie, who co-chairs the day, said in a University of California news release. “In fact, UC’s 26,000 master's and doctoral students are at the forefront of many of the most pressing issues – and most revolutionary advances – in health, transportation, energy, the environment, and other areas.”

UC President Janet Napolitano is joining the delegation of graduate deans, including UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, and at least two graduate students from each UC campus in meeting with the legislators.

Deborah Barany works in the UCSB Brain Imaging Center with an MRI scanner. Courtesy photoAmong the legislators Deborah, Christopher, and Dean Genetti will be meeting with are Assembly member Katcho Achadjian (35th Assembly District) and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Senate District 19).

Deborah will be explaining her research, which focuses on how the brain controls goal-directed action. She uses both behavioral and neuroimaging methods in conjunction with kinematic and pattern classification analyses.

Christopher will tell lawmakers about his work using a computer model to research how the vast variability in soil water storage across the Sierra Nevada will affect vegetation’s response to climate change. His studies will help forest managers design a more balanced approach to conserving forest health and downstream water supplies into the future.

For more information about this year’s UC Graduate Research Advocacy Day and a photo slideshow of the graduate student participants, see “Grad students make the case for why their research matters” on the University of California website.