2019 Incoming Grad Series: Steven Gomez

by Daina Tagavi, Professional Development Peer
Tuesday, September 24, 2019 8:00 AM

The 2019 Incoming Grad Series continues, featuring backstories and fun facts on 8 students who are part of our most diverse incoming class in recent memory.

Steven Gomez is coming to UCSB from LA to pursue his Ph.D. in Materials. Steven did his undergrad at UCLA and hopes to continue in academia after graduate school. Steven is excited to begin his studies at UCSB, where he hopes to help advance technology that will lead to the creation of robust quantum devices.

Read on to learn more about ​Steven's ​background and how he recreated a meme for a paper he published.


Steven's story starts with both sides of ​his family who came to the United States from México and El Salvador. They made it possible for him to be a first-gen engineering graduate and very soon a first-gen Ph.D.! Steven was born in Pasadena, CA, and grew up in the city of Diamond Bar. Since high school, he knew that he wanted to use chemistry in his career. He majored in Chemical Engineering at UCLA and, through a great research project at NASA-JPL, he found out that he really enjoyed electronic materials research. While at UCLA, he had the chance to serve as the TA and, eventually, the lecturer for ​his chemistry summer bridge course for underrepresented minority students in engineering, which helped him realize that he enjoys education and outreach as much as his work in the lab. Now, as he is getting his Ph.D. with the support of several fellowships, he plans to continue to use ​his career as a platform to pay it forward to the next generation of scientists and to let his community know: “¡Sí se pudo!” Maybe someday, he tells us, "I’ll be the professor helping with the undergraduate research programs (like UC LEADS!) that helped me get to where I am today." Stay tuned!


When Steven approached his undergraduate research mentor, Professor Bruce Dunn, about ​his applications to graduate school, as soon as he mentioned UCSB, ​Dr. Dunn stopped ​him short and said, “Santa Barbara. You should go there. I think you’d really get a lot out of the program.” And so, after doing ​his homework on the programs available in materials, UCSB became his dream school right away. When he got his letter of acceptance, he called to invite just about all of his friends and family (and even his dog) to share in the celebration. When he visited campus, the warmth of the graduate students, the faculty, and the beach made attending UCSB a no-brainer for Steven.


At UCSB, Steven will be working in the Stemmer group on a subset of quantum materials called "topological semimetals." These materials host exotic electronic states which may, in the future, enable people to make robust quantum devices such as relatively high-temperature quantum computers. A classic example of this type of material is the 2D material graphene, but his lab is focused on the 3D Dirac semimetal cadmium arsenide. Steven's work seeks to engineer these states in thin films to understand how they affect the bulk electronic properties of the material. By doing so, ​Steven's lab hopes to shine light on the fundamental physics behind these phenomena and identify opportunities to implement them in novel quantum devices. Beyond engineering, Steven is interested in effective and inclusive STEM education, particularly by implementing research-based teaching and learning practices. He enjoys seeing teaching as an iterative research process.



Music is a big part of Steven's life. He told us that he has been playing guitar since he was in 4th grade. He loves performing live music with his friends in various settings, from high school rock bands that played backyard gigs and even the House of Blues, to winning 2nd place last year at the Mission San Juan Capistrano “Battle of the Mariachis” with UCLA’s Mariachi de Uclatlán. Steven has also recently started dancing salsa and bachata.

In terms of fun facts, Steven published ​his first paper in Chemistry of Materials with him recreating the Drake meme as the table of contents graphic. No, really, see it here. His first concert was U2 with his dad at the age of 4, and he's seen them on every tour since then. Steven was taught guitar by the (ex) guitarist of Megadeth and he is deathly afraid of being tickled.

Welcome, ​Steven!

Be sure to subscribe to the GradPost and check back each day until the start of classes for the continuation of our Incoming Grad Series. Last but not least is Aizhan Adilkhan, who is coming to UCSB from Kazakhstan to pursue her studies in the Technology Management Program.