Who's new: Introducing our 2016 incoming graduate student cohort

by Shawn Warner, Director of Professional Development
Thursday, September 15, 2016 5:08 PM

UC Santa Barbara welcomes ​769 new graduate students into its ranks next ​week, and this group of incoming students is one of our most diverse ever. Here, we break down the statistics on our incoming graduate student cohort and introduce you to several of our new students.


At UCSB, there are a variety of gender identities represented in our student population. From the current demographic data we have collected on the incoming graduate student class, 52 percent of students identified as men and 48 percent identified as women. Starting with the Fall 2017 admissions cycle, all applicants to UCSB will have the option to choose among six gender identities listed on admissions forms: male, female, trans male, trans female, gender queer/gender non-conforming, and different identity. Additionally, all current UC students will be able to update their gender and sexual identity through the UCSB Registrar if they would like to.

Most of the incoming graduate students are between the ages of 22 and 30, but our youngest incoming student is 20 years old and our oldest is 57 years old. Sixteen percent are first-generation college students, and 25 percent of our new grad students identify as an underrepresented minority.

Our new graduate students are coming from 45 different countries – from China to ​Chile, ​Sweden to South Africa, Mexico to Malaysia – representing nearly every continent. In fact, roughly one-third of incoming students (247, to be exact) are coming from places outside the country. Our U.S. students hail from 43 of the 50 states, but over half of them are California natives.

Distribution of country of origin; map template by GunnMap


Distribution of state of origin for domestic students; map template by Kevin Ross (click image to access interactive version)

The most popular disciplines that our new graduate students chose were Environmental Science and Management (99 new students), the Teacher Education Program (81 new students), and Electrical and Computer Engineering (66 new students). By division, the most new graduate students are in Engineering (​207) and Mathematical, Life, and Physical Sciences (​184), followed by Education (​114) and Humanities and Fine Arts (101).


We asked several of our new grad students to tell us more about themselves, including what degrees they will be pursuing, their favorite things to do, and what they are looking forward to most about graduate school. Read on to find out what we learned.

Vivek Adarsh

Vivek moved around quite a bit growing up due to his father's profession, but he spent most of his childhood in Hyderabad, India. "A new city, a new place every 2-3 years – it helped me adapt quickly and expand my comfort zone," ​he said. "That’s one thing I’ll be carrying with me to Santa Barbara." Vivek holds a Bachelor of Technology degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pune, and he’ll be joining the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at UCSB to specialize in communications and signal processing. ​He explained his research interests by saying, "Today, even though we’re using the Internet at unimaginable speeds, about 60% of the world still lacks basic connectivity, specifically developing nations. Technology in itself is futile if it doesn’t reach the masses. This is what sparked my interest in communications. I envision a future where each and every household ​has standard connectivity."

Vivek said he is looking forward to ​UCSB's amazing research facilities as well as the lovely beaches in Santa Barbara. He enjoys exploring new places, playing the guitar, and reading, and he also ​fancies himself a foodie. ​"I’d like to think of myself as a good cook. Well, sort of…! I tend to experiment with new elements. I try out various fusions between different cuisines."

Alyssa Hufana

Alyssa was born and raised around the Los Angeles/Orange County area. She is a second-generation Filipina American and said that ​her parents taught her "the value of hard work, resilience, and having a sense of humor." She graduated with ​a B.A. in Social Ecology and a Minor in Educational Studies from UC Irvine, and ​earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counseling from Loyola Marymount University. She is joining UCSB's program in Clinical, Counseling, & School Psychology, where she plans to research multicultural and social justice issues in counseling psychology.

​Alyssa said, "I am looking forward to learning from the faculty, working in my research lab, and refining my counseling skills. As for Santa Barbara, I am so happy to be moving and living in a place that aligns with my lifestyle! I am looking forward to taking advantage of all the beautiful beaches, hikes, and water activities this place has to offer." In addition to her interests in traveling, live music, and hiking, Alyssa also has a deep love of corgi dogs. "You can find me on social media looking at corgi dog videos almost every day. I don’t have one of my own (yet!) but I hope to get one in the near future. They always seem to put a smile on my face!"

Jaime Ramírez

Jaime hails from Bogota, Columbia, where the mountains and temperate weather prepared him well for his new season of life in Santa Barbara. He earned a B.A. and M.Sc. in Economics from National University of Colombia, a top university in Latin America. ​At UCSB, he will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Economics with a specialization in Macroeconomics. Jaime said, "I like [macroeconomics] because I'm interested in development and why some countries are richer than others. I am also interested in how emerging markets become vulnerable due to international shocks and how they can prepare for them."

Jaime is looking forward to being part of an excellent academic community where he can both grow as a researcher and contribute as a scholar. He also loves playing group sports (like soccer and ultimate Frisbee) and board games. And what is one thing that people would be surprised to know about Jaime? "I am a foodie! I hope I can try new flavors while on campus from all over the world." Sounds like he'll already have a friend in Vivek!


Shashank Aswath

​Growing up in Bangalore, India, Shashank spent 12 years at The Valley School, which encouraged its students to look beyond books for education and beyond academic excellence to discover a wholesome way of living. Shashank explained, "I was given a lot of freedom to explore all my interests, and it is here that I first developed a liking to music." Over the course of earning his undergraduate degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University, he began to imagine how he might combine his interests in science, technology, and music. He attended New York University where he earned a Masters in Music Technology, and he now joins UCSB's graduate program in Media Arts and Technology. His main research focus will be on spatial/immersive audio and soundscape studies.

Shashank is excited about the beautiful UCSB campus and using Santa Barbara's beaches for musical inspiration. He also loves traveling and being outdoors and says that he "can never say no to a trek in the Himalayas." He has also been involved in a wide variety of non-governmental organizations in different sectors (healthcare, education, and biodiversity conservation) and is passionate about working to better society.

Sandra Auderset

Sandra grew up as an only child with her mother in Bern, Switzerland, and made regular trips to San Francisco growing up to visit her father and his side of the family.​ She said, "It took me a while to understand why people kept asking if it was 'difficult' growing up without my father – I just thought it was the most awesome thing to have a family on two continents!" Her love of languages started at a young age and she ​characterizes her childhood as ​"talking incessantly" and "reading all the books in our school library." She studied Linguistics at the University of Zurich, ​and​ she will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Linguistics here at UCSB. ​Her research interests lie in linguistic typology (the description of common properties and structural diversity among the world's languages), historical linguistics, and statistical methods.

Sandra said that she is really looking forward to living in California, "which is a kind of second home to me, but also foreign territory." Being near the ocean and being surrounded by avocados are also big bonuses for her. For hobbies, she loves to cook, dance, and spend leisurely evenings with friends and drinking gin. She said that others might be surprised to learn that she is a huge fan of electro swing parties, where you dance for hours on end with only a few refueling breaks.​ Sandra said, "I hope I get an opportunity to do that in Santa Barbara as well!"

Pedro Cisneros

Pedro was born in California and moved at a young age to Peru. His entire family is Peruvian, but he will be the third generation to earn a Ph.D. from a UC school (his grandfather ​went to UC Riverside and his father ​went to UC Davis). Pedro studied Electrical Engineering at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and will be pursuing a Ph.D. at UCSB in Electrical Engineering, with an emphasis on Communications, Control, and Signal Processing. Pedro explained, "Since school, I have had an equal love for math, letters, and arts. I thought of engineering as a possible way to combine those three." He is interested in the field of Control Theory, which deals with a considerable amount of math and has a lot of theoretical work, as well as its application to biology, sociology, complex systems, and other applied math studies.

Pedro said that he is looking forward to making Santa Barbara his second home, and he is excited about both the academic opportunities and the fun activities it has to offer. Something you might not know about Pedro is that he has ​created over 27 paintings and has done four public art expositions in Peru. He also plays frontón, a Peruvian sport similar to squash, and he has a basic understanding of Quechua, an indigenous Peruvian language.

Erin Dillon

Erin's love of science started young. Growing up an only child in the San Francisco Bay area, she spent her time adventuring around ​her jungle-like backyard and doing 'chemistry' with household items. Erin said her parents were very supportive of this pursuit and "hosted shark-themed birthday parties, made space for my beach shell and bug collections, and took me on trips to nearby aquariums and museums." Her 7th-grade biology teacher in particular sparked her interest in marine science through hands-on, inquiry-based learning outside the classroom. "I knew from that moment on that I wanted to study the ocean," Erin said, "and the rest was history."

Erin comes to UCSB with a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University and will be pursuing a Ph.D. in the department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EEMB). (Fun fact: she graduated from Stanford on a U.S. Coast Guard cutter in the Arctic!) She is interested in coral reef community ecology and​ has studied reefs all over the world – from Australia to Palau to Panama. She plans to focus on combining the field of paleoecology (where she uses reconstructive tools to study what reef communities were like in the past) with traditional monitoring techniques in order to explore changes in shark communities on reefs over time and space. Not surprisingly, Erin is looking forward to taking advantage of Santa Barbara's proximity to both the ocean and the mountains, and she is also excited to do fieldwork on Palmyra Atoll and Moorea as part of ​her dissertation. In her free time, she ​enjoys cooking/baking, running, hiking, traveling, SCUBA diving, and reading.

Sam del Castillo

Sam grew up an only child (but with lots of cousins!) in various places throughout Mexico. When she was 13, she and her mother moved to Houston, where she lived ​until coming here to Santa Barbara. Sam says that most people are usually surprised to know that ​she is Mexican and that she also speaks four languages (English, Spanish, Italian, and French). She earned a B.A. from the University of Houston and will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology here at UCSB. Broadly speaking, she is interested in interventions, ​LGBTQ mental health, intersectionality, and the effects of immigration and immigration laws on the mental health of Latinx individuals. "During my graduate studies," Sam said, "I will be exploring interventions that will work to improve the mental health of LGBTQ individuals."

​In Santa Barbara, she said she is looking forward to "a fresh start, the nice Pacific breeze, and the ability to go outside without the potential of a heat stroke (Houston is hot!)." She's also excited about her research and teaching prospects and the ability to get involved ​at ​UCSB's Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. ​In her spare time, she enjoys going to museums, taking ​her dog to the park, and visiting places with nice patios. But she also relishes indoor activities as well such as Netflix, movie-watching, and reading.

Siddharth Sahu

Siddharth grew up in the bustling city of Mumbai, India, and he said that he has "always taken pride in being part of one of the most happening places on the world map." He pursued an undergraduate degree in Electronics Engineering at the University of Mumbai and ultimately earned a Masters of Engineering in Embedded Systems from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, one of the elite institutions in India. He then went on to become a senior engineer at Finisar Corporation and ​is now joining UCSB's Technology Management Program. In the program, he hopes to ​enhance ​his technical profile with essential management skills and draw on the broad network of advisors and mentors that UCSB has to offer.

When he's not taking the engineering world by storm, Siddharth loves to travel all over the ​Asian sub-continent, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Macau. "It is indeed a refreshing experience to explore new places and to come across different cultures and some wonderful sects of people and places," he said. He also describes himself as a "fitness freak" and enjoys such diverse activities as ​cricket, badminton, running, cycling, swimming, adventure sports, and trekking.

Welcome to all of our amazing incoming graduate students!