USC Ph.D. Alum Discusses New Book on California’s Inland Empire

A University of Southern California Ph.D. alum, Dr. Genevieve G. Carpio, recently released a new book about California’s Inland Empire. Dr. Carpio says the book, Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race is her answer to a series of puzzling contradictions she witnessed growing up in the multicultural area where a diverse population often clashed over race, memory and place making.

“What I found is conflicts over cultural belonging have materialized over the meanings, practices, and policies attached to mobility across the 20th century,” said Dr. Carpio. “This realization motivated me to work towards making sense of relational histories of race-making in this diverse place, where effective movement across the region shapes power in sites as different as bicycle ordinances, immigration policy, incarceration, traffic checkpoints, and Route 66 heritage.”

Dr. Carpio is currently an Assistant Professor in UCLA’s César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies. She completed her Ph.D. in American Studies and Ethnicity at USC. Her new book is based on the interdisciplinary work she did as a Ph.D. candidate at USC.

“As someone who grew up at the crossroads of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, studying in Southern California was a huge advantage” explained Dr. Carpio. “It allowed me to complete the project in ways that felt right to me—for instance, by maintaining my connections to community-based organizations engaged in the practice of connecting the past and the present.”

Dr. Carpio has carried much of her research with her to her role at UCLA. Her current work focuses on how people of color have navigated, accommodated and resisted barriers to their free movement. She has a few different projects going on including a piece about African American mobility in postwar Los Angeles and a piece on the movement of Latinx inspired architecture in 1920’s Los Angeles to places like Australia and New Zealand. Dr. Carpio says the courses she teaches investigate how space changes over time and how that impacts power in multiracial places.

Dr. Carpio knows the trials and tribulations of life as a Ph.D. student and encourages people currently in the process to take time for themselves.

“Sleep and eat and foster your social relationships now,” said Dr. Carpio. “It doesn’t get any easier down the line and these are vital skills.”

Dr. Carpio has an Instagram account (@DrGenaGarpio) where she talks about academic life for graduate students and junior faculty.

You can find her book on Amazon or at Powell’s Books.

PhD Student Helps Graduate Students Improve Mental Health

Graduate school often feels like a test of your ability to juggle class, research, work, family, and friends. Sometimes the process is incredibly rewarding. Other times, it’s overwhelming and you feel like there are not enough hours in the day to complete everything. While trying to master the art of the graduate school juggle, it’s imperative that students emphasize their mental health and well-being and seek assistance when they feel overwhelmed, anxious, or down.

A PhD student at the University of Southern California is now leading the charge to improve the resources available to graduate students seeking mental health support. Gulnaz Kiper, a PhD candidate in Social Psychology, is working to expand TrojanSupport to graduate students. TrojanSupport was started last year by a team of undergraduate students and offers free peer-to-peer counseling to students, as well as mental health related talks and events. TrojanSupport is currently recruiting volunteer peer counselors and will start to assist graduate students in spring 2020.

Gulnaz Kiper, PhD Student and member of TrojanSupport

“The more I talked with my graduate student friends, the more I realized just how widespread mental health problems were,” said Kiper. “I noticed that there was a fundamental problem in the system and felt the urge to do something about it. I just did not feel comfortable going about my day and pretending this was all normal when I saw so many wonderful people around me suffering while trying to do good things for their careers and for the world.”

Kiper says she is deeply passionate about human psychology and wanted to do something to raise awareness about mental health, create a safe space and offer guidance on improving well-being.

“I am so happy I found the TrojanSupport organization when I did because what TrojanSupport will offer to grad students truly resonates with my values and passions,” said Kiper.

Gulnaz Kiper with other members of TrojanSupport

Kiper is helping to build TrojanSupport while in the midst of research for her PhD. Her work focuses on motivation and mindsets. She says she is currently studying a specific difficulty mindset called “difficult-as-sanctifying.” This is the belief that overcoming difficulties can build character and purify the self. Kiper says she is investigating how the endorsement of this mindset can improve performance on tasks by increasing resilience, add to a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and how it may change based on daily experiences. Kiper anticipates completing her PhD in May 2022. For more information on TrojanSupport visit their website or follow the organization on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to get involved and become part of TrojanSupport, you can apply on the website.

USC also offers the following regular drop-in workshops to facilitate stress relief:

  • “Let’s Talk” on  Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in STU 422
  • “Well-being Wednesday” every Wednesday from 6-7 p.m. in TCC 222
  • “Thriving Thursdays” every Thursday from 12 – 1p.m. in TCC 222

If you are in need of urgent mental health assistance, walk-in to USC Student Health at Engemann or Eric Cogen Student Health Centers or call 213-740-WELL.

Debating Advanced Technology at the 2019 USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminars

Here is a difficult question—Do you think it is okay to insert a chip in someone’s brain if they have suffered a brain injury or have experienced a loss in brain function? Is it ethical to give that person a ‘chip in the brain’ or brain implant? 

Professors from USC posed these questions to a group of Ph.D. students to spark a dialogue during the annual USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series on Friday, September 27. The topic of this particular seminar was “Narrative and Neural Implants: A Workshop on the Ethical Portrayal of Advanced Technologies” led by Professor Dong Song from the Viterbi School of Engineering.

USC Graduate School Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series
Photo by: Steve Cohn © 2019

The USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Micro Seminar Series is a one-day event featuring workshops taught by faculty members from the Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism, School of Cinematic Arts and Viterbi School of Engineering. The micro-seminars are designed for new and returning Annenberg Fellows. The seminars discuss special topics in communication, digital media research and creative practice and encourage collaboration between students and disciplines. 

Professor Hernandez leads a discussion during the Micro Seminar.
Photo by: Steve Cohn © 2019

Professor Dong Song’s seminar was unique because he included two other professors to help him discuss the implication of virtual reality technologies and how they can be used across different disciplines. The two other professors were Marientina Gotsis from the School of Cinematic Arts and Robert Hernandez from the Annenberg School for Communications & Journalism. Together, the faculty members shared their research and expertise on advanced technologies and the implications in their fields. 

Professor Dong Song is a Research Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and the co-director of the USC Center for Neural Engineering. He has worked on technology to aid people with injuries to the hippocampus. Professor Marientina Gotsis is Associate Professor of Practice at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the director for the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center. She has worked with people who have suffered spinal cord injuries and has used virtual reality technology to help people with Parkinson’s. She has also worked on creating multi-sensory environments for people with severe dementia. Professor Robert Hernandez is Associate Professor of Professional Practice at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He is using virtual reality and advanced technology to tell stories and shape the future of journalism. 

Professor Gotsis and Professor Song answer student’s questions during the Micro Seminar. Photo by: Steve Cohn © 2019

Students from all three schools attended the seminar and discussed the merits and pitfalls of advanced technologies. Students shared their thoughts on the power advanced technology has to help or hurt society. 

Professor Dong Song’s seminar is just one example of the many interesting seminars offered. Other workshops offered included When the Dog Catches the Car: Getting and Using Data from Games taught by Professor Dmitri Williams of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Outrage & Empathy in Creating Media taught by Professor Pablo Frasconi of the School of Cinematic Arts, Post/Human/Cinema taught by Professor Holly Wills of the School of Cinematic Arts, AI, Networks and Society taught by Professor Myank Kejriwal of the Viterbi School of Engineering, and Fake News, Real Harm – Multiple Perspectives on Disinformation taught by Saty Raghavachary from the Viterbi School of Engineering.

Erin Brown, a student in the Strategic Public Relations program at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, attended the Outrage & Empathy in Creating Media seminar and said there were some important lessons from the discussion. 

“What I took away from the seminar is that it’s very difficult to be empathetic and it is something we all need to work on. No matter how good we feel we are at it or how much we connect with people, there’s always work that can be improved upon to increase our levels of empathy,” said Brown. “It’s not something that comes naturally to us, so it’s really something we need to focus on as people so that we can connect with each other better.”

Students from all seminars have the opportunity to follow-up with the professors throughout the school year and are encouraged to meet again in groups to discuss topics that came up during the seminars. 

The 2019 DIA JumpStart Program

This summer, the Graduate School welcomed eighteen undergraduates as scholars in the DIA JumpStart Program. As part of USC’s Graduate Initiative for Diversity, Inclusion and Access (DIA), the program gives talented undergraduate scholars from outside institutions the opportunity to participate in summer research projects in various labs at USC. The program provides academic, financial and professional support, and opportunities for students who want to pursue a PhD degree after their undergraduate studies.  

“We provide exposure and access for our scholars to USC faculty, staff and resources,” said Ashley Brooks, Program Specialist for Diversity, Inclusion, and Access at the Graduate School. “Their research with faculty hosts are coupled with professional development workshops that address topics such as graduate admissions, fellowships, conducting research and Ph.D. student life.” 

Partnering with USC schools and programs, DIA JumpStart provides summer research opportunities that range from lab-based research to mentored participation in faculty projects. After the 10-week experience, students are expected to present their research. This year, the research projects covered topics such as neuroscience, cancer and child development.

“The goal of the program is to give our scholars a preview of the Ph.D. experience and to prepare them for the graduate admission process,” said Brooks. 

Kristelle Cefre

Many scholars in the program are from local institutions. However, the positive reputation of the DIA JumpStart program has reached students across state lines. Kristelle Cefre, a student majoring in psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, traveled to Los Angeles this summer to participate in the program. Cefre was hosted by the A-Z lab in the Brain and Creativity Institute and conducted research on dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder. 

“I loved the opportunity to immerse myself in a laboratory setting,” said Cefre. “I saw this as a chance to learn more about different topics, specifically in the neuroscience and the neurocognitive department.”

Through social and behavioral research, Cefre examined how the brain perceives and executes instructions by testing subjects’ motor and communication skills. As a team member in the Brain and Creativity Institute, Cefre had a hands-on experience and networked with professionals in her field. Exposure through the program helped Cefre define her career goal of becoming an occupational therapist. 

“USC is very influential, especially in occupational therapy. This realization helped me sharpen my drive to become an occupational therapist,” Cefre said. “I’ve felt inspired and passionate. It made me want to give my best and make sure the given expectations were fulfilled.” 

Giselle Ortez

Giselle Ortez, a student majoring in child and family studies at California State University Los Angeles, researched the influences of music on children’s brains. Hosted by Dr. Assal Habibi, Ortez studied social and cognitive brain development in the lab. She was also responsible for interviewing parents and administering assessments.  

“DIA JumpStart empowered me to pursue my next career goal. Whether it’s in the same field or not, the experiences and skills from this will translate.” Ortez said. “The program helped me with my own personal research goals. It made me think about how I would like to give back to my own community and collaborate in the future.” 

Scholars were not limited to the labs at the University Park campus. Diego Velarde, a student majoring in biochemistry at California State University Long Beach, worked closely with Dr. Ite A. Offringa in the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at the Health Sciences Campus. 

“It was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had in my life because I’ve been exposed to an entirely new set of research,” Velarde said.  “At USC, the research is at a higher caliber and the amount of passion and dedication is refreshing.” 

Diego Velarde

Velarde conducted research on non-small cell lung cancer, a cancer that patients are treated for within the center. Having access to technology, research and mentorship helped Velarde pinpoint some of his career goals within cancer research which include becoming a professor and creating a research publication. 

“This program showed me how a research lab works and got me mentally prepared for a Ph.D. program because I now know what will be expected at a competitive level,” Velarde said.

Ph.D. Candidates Recognized for Outstanding Academic Careers

Ph.D. Achievement Award Reception. Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019

Six outstanding Ph.D. candidates at the University of Southern California have been selected to receive the 2019 Ph.D. Achievement Award. The annual award recognizes students from across the University who have exceptional academic profiles and have excelled in their field. Each recipient’s faculty advisor is also recognized with a Graduate School Ph.D. Mentoring Award.

“When I think about the Ph.D. Achievement Awards, I think, Yes! This is what we do here,” said Vice Provost for Graduate Programs Sally Pratt. “The Ph.D. Achievement Awards are a beacon. This really shows what a USC Ph.D. can be. It is very special.”

Ph.D. award winners at the Ph.D. Achievement Awards reception. (From left: Shanyuan Niu, Rebecca Peer, Aroussiak Gabrielian, Pragya Goel, Maria Francesca Piazzoni and Jennifer Candipan.) Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019.

This year’s Achievement Award recipients are Jennifer Candipan, Aroussiak Gabrielian, Pragya Goel, Shanyuan Niu, Rebecca Peer and Maria Francesca Piazzoni.

Ph.D. Achievement Award recipient Jennifer Candipan. Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019.

Jennifer Candipan is part of the Department of Sociology at USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Her research explores the link between neighborhoods and schools and how that can contribute to inequality in children’s education. Specifically, Candipan explores how gentrification simultaneously segregates schools and integrates neighborhoods and the problems that arise from this new paradigm. Candipan’s primary faculty advisor is Ann Owens, Associate Professor of Sociology.

Candipan’s work has been published in top sociology and urban studies journals. She will receive her degree in May and will start a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in the fall.

Arroussiak Gabrielian with Vice Provost for Graduate Programs Sally Pratt. Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019.

Arroussiak Gabrielian is a Ph.D. candidate in the Media Arts & Practice Ph.D. Program at the School of Cinematic Arts. Over the past five years, her work has focused on questions of environmental justice, health and ethics. Her dissertation project is called “Encounters in the Anthropocene: Synthetic Geologies, Diegetic Ecologies and other Landscape Imaginaries.”

“My work aims to torque our imaginaries to get us to rethink our interactions with both human and non-human agents on the planet,” said Gabrielian. “I use technology to amplify the energies of the living world using various different creative projects.”

Holly Willis, the Associate Dean of Research in the Media Arts & Practice Division is Gabrielian’s primary faculty advisor. Upon completion of her Ph.D, Gabrielian will stay in the Trojan family and teach in the landscape program at the USC School of Architecture.

Ph.D. Achievement Award recipient Pragya Goel. Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019.

Pragya Goel is a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular and Computational Biology at USC Dornsife. She says she is broadly interested in neuroplasticity and how remodeling specialized connections between neurons can influence memory, behavior and cognitions. Specifically, her research focuses on how neurons in the brain communicate with each other and what can go wrong in neurological diseases. Goel has been a key member of her faculty adviser, Dr. Dion Dickman’s, laboratory.

Goel has published and co-authored multiple papers throughout her time at USC. By the time she completes her degree, she is expected to have at least nine first author publications. Goel has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University.

Ph.D. Achievement Award recipient Shanyuan Niu. Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019.

Shanyuan Niu is a Ph.D. candidate in the Materials Science Program at USC Viterbi. Niu says his research focuses on developing new materials to solve problems like renewable energy generation and efficient light emission detection. Niu’s faculty advisor is Jayakanth Ravichandran, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering – Electrophysics. Niu has multiple offers for postdoctoral fellowships and will make a decision on which to accept soon.

Rebecca Peer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her research focuses on energy and water systems. Her dissertation looked at cooling water and water requirements for electricity systems across the United States. Peer says she focuses on understanding and quantifying the relationship between the water and electricity sectors by combining elements from computational modeling, data analysis and statistics.

Rebecca Peer with her faculty advisor Kelly Sanders (left) and Vice Provost for Graduate Programs Sally Pratt. Photo by Steve Cohn © 2019.

Kelly Sanders, Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering serves as Peer’s faculty advisor. Peer will start a position as a postdoctoral researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University in June. In 2020, she will join the University of Canterbury as a Lecturer (equivalent to Assistant Professor in the United States).

Ph.D. Achievement Award recipient Maria Francesca Piazzoni. Photo by: Steve Cohn © 2019.

Maria Francesca Piazzoni is a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning at the Price School of Public Policy. Piazzoni is about to earn her second Ph.D. She completed her first Ph.D. in Architecture at the University of Venice in 2014. Piazzoni’s research focuses on how planners can make cities more inclusive through urban design.

“I work on issues of immigrants in cities specifically in the built department,” said Piazzoni. “My research was on the immigrant street vendors in Rome, looking at the ways in which transformations of the built environment can help to create cities that welcome everybody.”

Piazzoni’s faculty advisor is Tridib Banerjee, Professor and the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning. Piazzoni’s first book, The Real Fake: Authenticity and the Production of Space was published by Fordham University Press last year. Piazzoni will join the University of Liverpool as a Lecturer in Landscape Architecture and Urban Design in the fall.

All six Ph.D. Achievement Award winners and their advisors were honored during a reception hosted by USC Graduate School. Congratulations to all the recipients on their remarkable academic careers.

The 2019 USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Research and Creative Project Symposium

Throughout the past year, Annenberg Graduate Fellows combined creativity and research to explore various topics in communications. Last week their work came to fruition at the annual USC Annenberg Graduate Fellowship Research and Creative Project Symposium where Annenberg Graduate Fellows showcased their innovative and cutting-edge communications research.

Ph.D. students preparing for E-poster presentation.

The Annenberg Symposium is the final event in a yearlong program for Annenberg Fellows in the School of Cinematic Arts, the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the Viterbi School of Engineering. Throughout the year, Annenberg Graduate Fellows have collaborated on projects and research.

“The symposium is important because it gives students a chance to collaborate with other students outside of their discipline,” said Kate Tegmeyer, Assistant Director of Graduate Programs. “This gives them a chance to bring outside perspectives and expertise to a project they might not have had otherwise.”

In their collaborative efforts, Ph.D. students presented research in film and animation screenings, as well as E-posters. A wide array of topics were displayed, ranging from the implications of “Google Doodles,” to examining the effects of music on human emotions. Students were proud to present their research to attendees, as they learned about various topics.

One project titled “Paper Crowns,” was a short film by Sean Smith (School of Cinematic Arts) and Briana Ellerbe (Annenberg) that analyzed the diversity in children’s media. Inspired by Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem “Life doesn’t frighten me at all,” the film tells a story of a girl named Charly Gold, who must decide if she will fight for her dream of being a poet or let it die in the “land of broken dreams.”

“Growing up we never saw television or film characters, superheroes or lead actresses, that reflected our image,” said Smith. “We need more diversity in children’s media and creative ways to tell those stories. It’s not just about putting minorities on-screen, it is also about creating positive images and experiences that represent us as more than a stereotype.”

Sean Smith presenting “Paper Crowns.”

There were many powerful projects like “Paper Crowns.” Students worked for the majority of the school year in preparation for the symposium. Many students, both undergraduate and graduate, attended the symposium to see their peers’ research. It also gave attendees the opportunity to ask any questions about pursuing a Ph.D.

“The symposium is also a great opportunity for students across the university to come see their student colleagues’ research, whether it is an undergraduate who is considering a masters or Ph.D., or a current Ph.D. who is curious about the research being conducted outside their discipline,” said Tegmeyer.

The “Snap Yourself” photo booth.

The symposium ended with a light reception, and presenters and attendees took home photos from the “Snap Yourself” photo booth.

Where in the World Will Your Ph.D. Research Take You?

Ph.D. research doesn’t have to keep students tied to a single university in a single city. In fact, there are many funding opportunities to help students explore and take their studies abroad. During the course of their Ph.D. research, students from USC have found themselves interviewing children in South Korea, combing through archives in France, working with the government in Peru and more. 

View in South Korea taken by USC Ph.D. student Stephanie Kang.

Each year, the University of Southern California helps graduate and undergraduate students apply for and receive funding from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It is sponsored by the U.S. government and allows U.S. citizens to travel, study and work abroad. About four to five Ph.D. students typically apply for Fulbright awards in any given year. USC is encouraging more Ph.D. students to consider a Fulbright award and is providing resources to help students during the application process.

Depending on your field, a Fulbright award can help you dive deeper into your research and take advantage of resources you might not otherwise be able to access. Natalia Lauricella, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History, received a Fulbright for the 2018-2019 academic year to conduct archival research in Paris. Lauricella says her dissertation looks at the networks of master lithographers, avant-garde painters and art dealers who produced color prints, posters and books in the late 19th and early 20th century in France. The Fulbright award is allowing her to examine archival material housed in libraries in Paris for nine months. Lauricella says the length of the Fulbright gave her a unique opportunity to immerse herself in the research.

Natalia Lauricella, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History

“One of the central figures in my dissertation is a master lithographer who opened his own atelier in the 1890s. The atelier still operates in Paris, and during my time here, I have spent many afternoons visiting the shop and speaking with the printers and artists working there today. Because of the Fulbright grant and the length of time I am in Paris, I have had the opportunity to return multiple times to the atelier and cultivate relationships with these printers. Some of the most important developments in my project have come from my discussions and observations in the print atelier,” said Lauricella.

Another Ph.D. candidate’s research has taken her to South America with a Fulbright award. Hai-Vu Phan is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations. Her research focuses on renewable energy policies. Through Fulbright, she was able to work with the energy regulator of Peru. She says she visited wind farms and solar farms as part of official state visits. She also traveled to isolated communities in the Amazon to check on distributed solar energy systems.

Hai-Vu Phan, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations

“I highly recommend that students apply for Fulbright,” said Phan. “It is a generous award. You are offered many resources in the host country and you forever belong to an alumni network of distinguished people that can help your career in the future.”

Stephanie Kang’s research took her to South Korea. Kang, a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations, says her research focuses on the design and implementation of security commitments between countries and how such commitments affect the likelihood of conflict. She says the U.S.-South Korean military alliance is the ideal case study for her dissertation project. She says she her Fulbright award has allowed her to interview people at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, the U.S. Combined Forces Command and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Stephanie Kang, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science and International Relations

“The Fulbright program provides a unique opportunity to establish academic and professional relationships with scholars outside the U.S.,” said Kang. “These avenues for transnational research cooperation are important for PhD students who conduct research on international topics or have area interests in which the perspectives and work of scholars and professionals from other countries is essential.”

Kang says aside from the academic opportunities, one of her most memorable experiences in South Korea was having Thanksgiving dinner at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Seoul, complete with turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving dinner in Seoul, South Korea

Katie Capra, the Associate Director of Academic Honors and Fellowships, says Ph.D. students who are interested in applying for a Fulbright should attend one of USC’s Fulbright Writing Workshops or watch the workshop online. She also encourages students to think about how the timing of a Fulbright will enhance their dissertation. Once students decide to apply for Fulbright, they need to participate in advising during the summer with Academic Honors and Fellowships staff. Students can find detailed information on the application process and resources here.

Cancer Research Becomes A Work of Art

When you think of cancer, you hardly think of beauty. You likely think of a destructive disease that wreaks havoc on the body and causes heartache and suffering for millions of people around the world. However, if you look at the process of diagnosing cancer from a purely aesthetic perspective, you could confuse it for art. The colorful tissue biopsies and stains that are used to identify, subtype and select treatments for cancer can look a lot like photographs, water colors or oil paintings intended to hang on a wall.

Rishi Rawat, an MD-PhD student at the University of Southern California, encountered the striking aesthetics during his research to develop digital pathology. Rawat submitted an image taken during his examination of cancer cells to the USC Graduate School’s annual “Deck Our Halls” competition. The competition is designed to showcase student research and creative work in its many different forms. Students submit their projects and those who are selected display their pieces on the walls of the graduate school office for one year. Rawat will exhibit an image of a slide that is part of his cancer research.

“This is a picture of the natural fluorescence of 35 pieces of cancer tissue without any dyes and stains, just the intrinsic, naked fluorescence of the cells,” said Rawat. “As a person, looking at this image gives me the chills because if I didn’t know it was cancer, I’d think it was beautiful.”

Rawat is working on groundbreaking research that could revolutionize the way cancer is diagnosed and treated. The idea behind digital pathology is to use technology and artificial intelligence to analyze cells and tissue and detect abnormalities. It has major implications in cancer research as a computer is able to recognize cell patterns more quickly than a human. Rawat says digital pathology could reduce the amount of time it takes to diagnose a disease and allow patients to start treatment faster. It can also be used in situations where doctors are not readily available to diagnose cancer.

“If you go to places where they barely have the technologies to take the biopsy and perform the simple stains, they don’t have the expertise to look at that biopsy and give you a deep comprehensive analysis. But, a computer could do that,” said Rawat. “A computer could learn patterns from the tissue, patterns that it learns on its own automatically and patterns that we teach it from the expertise of pathologists, and we could democratize pathology.”

Digital pathology has the potential to improve our understanding of cancer. Rawat says a computer can learn from far more data points than a human, meaning a computer has the potential to learn patterns and discrepancies that go beyond our visual understanding of cancer.

“It could teach us things that we don’t know,” said Rawat. “The more we study cancer, the more we realize it is an extremely complex disease. Computers are going to be able to help us synthesize all of the knowledge that exists into a framework that we can use to think about it more intelligently.”

Interdisciplinary research is central to Rawat’s work. He currently has four mentors at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering who come from a variety of backgrounds: David Augus, a professor in both the medical and engineering schools; Dan Ruderman, a professor at the Keck School of medicine who has a background in physics; Fae Sha, a professor at Viterbi who specializes in artificial intelligence and machine learning; and Michael Press, a professor in the Department of Pathology at Keck and an expert in breast cancer pathology.

Rawat earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkley and says he decided to continue his education at USC because of unparalleled access to the best professors in each field. “This particular project and this program not only connected me to the best medical people, but to people in other fields who could help me grow in a multidimensional way,” said Rawat.

Rawat’s image of cancer cells will be displayed in the USC Graduate School offices through the year alongside the work of about 30 other USC graduate students. In February, USC Graduate School and the Office of Undergraduate Programs hosted a reception and invited the USC community to see the new creative works decorating the walls.

We Love Our Global Fellows

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about showing love for your significant other, family, friends, or even yourself! USC Graduate School wants to take this day to show our appreciation for our global fellows, many of whom moved thousands of miles to continue their education at USC. Incoming students from China, India, Brazil, Taiwan, Mexico and Chile are eligible for the fellowships that are funded collaboratively by their home countries and USC. These opportunities help to ensure that international PhD candidates have access to everything they need to successfully conduct their research.

We’re excited to introduce some of our global fellows from Taiwan and Chile and to share their groundbreaking research.

Camille (Hsu-Yu) Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Programs in Biomedical & Biological Sciences (PIBBS) at Keck.  She joined PIBBS because of its diverse and collaborative faculty members and the opportunities to explore sciences in different disciplines. Chen’s research focuses on HIV gene therapy, specifically targeting the latency of the infection. Through her research, Chen aims to eliminate HIV latency. Within her program, Chen works closely with experts in HIV and gene therapy research.  Their collaborative efforts has supported her goal to eliminate HIV latency.  The USC Taiwan Global Fellowship is funded in part by the Republic of China (Taiwan) Ministry of Education. The fellowship has provided Chen with the opportunity to stay up to date with the latest research pertaining to HIV.

“The USC Taiwan Global Fellowship has not only supported my study at USC, but it has also provided a travel award to attend conferences to learn about the most advanced findings in the field,” said Chen.

Li-Ping Chen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture program at Dornsife and is also funded in part by the Republic of China (Taiwan) Ministry of Education. The global prestige of USC and the diverse intellectual community encouraged Chen to become a Trojan. Her research examines East Asian, Sinophone and Asian Diaspora literature.  Chen says her dissertation explores the cultural identity and national consciousness of Taiwanese writers in postwar Japan and North America, and how their literary writings responded to nativist models of ethnicity, language and homeland in the age of global capitalism and postcolonial displacement.

Kun-Hao Yu is a Ph.D. candidate and USC Taiwan Global Fellow in the Civil and Environmental Engineering program at Viterbi. Cardinal and gold are familiar colors to Yu. In 2017, Yu graduated from USC with a Master of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering with a concentration on structural engineering. His experiences in the program encouraged him to return as a Ph.D. candidate.

“The experience volunteering in Dr.Qiming Wang’s lab during my M.S. degree at USC had established my strong interests in structural and mechanical engineering field,” said Yu.

Yu’s research focuses on mechanics and additive manufacturing of self-healing polymers. Recently, Yu and his colleagues developed analytical theories to explain their research on self-healing mechanics of dynamic polymers.  Their works have been published in the prestigious Journal of Mechanics and Physics of Solids.

“These theories are the first set of analytical model in the field to mechanically explain the healing performance of the self-healing polymers,” said Yu.

Yu’s career goal is to become university faculty in Taiwan.

Ariel Calderon is a Ph.D. candidate studying Mechanical Engineering in the Viterbi School of Engineering. Calderon’s research is focused on robotics. In his soft robotics work, Calderon is designing systems that can mimic muscles in animals. A current project is a soft robot inspired by the way earthworms move. You can check out this video to see Calderon’s work in action. The robot contains artificial muscles that can contract and expand so the “worm” can move. In Calderon’s micro robotic work, he creates tiny robots. It’s is a meticulous process that involves using a laser cutter to cut shapes out of materials like carbon fiber and then manually assembling the shapes under a microscope. Recently, Calderon created a robotic bee that can flap its wing and fly. The bee is about the size of a penny.

Calderon is one of USC’s Global Chile Fellows. He chose USC because it has one of the few labs in the world that can fabricate the kind of technology he is working on. “The Autonomous Micro-robotic Systems Labe in the AME Department was a great opportunity to learn and design robots that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid,” said Calderon.

Rodrigo Riveros is a Ph.D. candidate in the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and another one of USC’s Global Chile Fellows. His research focuses on understanding how adolescents develop life goals. He primarily focuses on Latino and East-Asian teenagers. As part of his research, he conducts interviews and analyzes behavioral and neuroimaging data. Riveros also studies the effects of art-based social emotional intervention on adolescents and adults. Riveros says this work has inspired him to transfer his lab and community research into objective recommendations for social betterment.

Riveros says he chose to pursue a Ph.D. at USC because of the opportunity to work with Dr. Immordino-Yang. “I felt deeply connected with Dr. Immordino-Yang’s scientific approach, conducting research that acknowledges the multiple levels and dynamics of human development with the highest standard of quality and rigor,” said Riveros.

Black History Month: Campus Resources That Support Students of Color

February is recognized as Black History Month. Since 1976, February has been designated as the annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans and their prominent role in American history. Black history is not limited to one person, country or experience. Many schools and universities develop programs to educate their students about the richness of Black history, as well as using the month as an opportunity to showcase current achievements within the Black community.  Here at USC, the Center for Black Cultural Student Affairs (CBCSA) partners with student organizations, resource centers and local community leaders to coordinate events for Black History Month. Though CBCSA coordinates these events, its main role is to serve as a resource for Black students on campus.

CBCSA was created in 1977 through the work of student activists who recognized the need for services and resources for Black students at USC. Since its creation, the primary goal of CBCSA has been to retain Black students at USC by giving students the opportunity to develop academically, culturally, socially and professionally.

“I think it’s important because students need to be able to see people that look like them, especially at places like USC,” said Dr. Rosalind Conerly, director of CBCSA.

Dr. Rosalind Conerly, Director of CBCSA

A Southern California native, Dr. Rosalind Conerly, has passionately served students in CBCSA since 2012 beginning as the assistant director.  She is a first-generation college student with a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Conerly also has a Doctorate of Education degree from USC Rossier. She leads the center with Assistant Director Dr. Theo Fowles.

“We provide a safe space for students to have conversation and get feedback from one another where they may not be able to do that in the classroom,” said Conerly.

CBCSA also has a legacy of involvement with the Black community here in Los Angeles.  The first director of CBCSA, Mr. Willis Edwards, established the Beverly Hills chapter of the NAACP.  Because of Edward’s legacy of involvement, CBCSA works hard to keep their bond with the Black community in Los Angeles through events and by supporting Black owned businesses.

Student’s enjoying CBCSA’s annual Labor Day BBQ

In her role, Conerly sits on many committees at USC advocating and sharing the narrative of Black students. She and her team work tirelessly to empower students, advocate on their behalf, educate administrators on students’ needs and provide the necessary resources for students.

“I’m also able to do what I call consulting with a lot of faculty and administrators in academic units who are trying to figure out how to better engage with their Black students,” Conerly said.  “Because we are not attached with an academic discipline, we are able to see students across disciplines.”

CBCSA provides a large assortment of student development, engagement and cultural programs for Black students. The Black and Latinx New Student Symposium is a one day orientation for all incoming students, undergraduate and graduate, to learn about campus involvement opportunities and resources.  Weekly “Real Talk” is a facilitated discussion hosted in the center for students to openly discuss topics like social justice and campus climate. Through these programs, CBCSA aims to create and maintain a space for Black students to feel included, confident and secure.

Sistah Circle’s End of Semester Brunch

In addition to their programming, CBCSA supports student organizations for Black graduate students. The Black Graduate Student Network (BGSN) focuses on connecting Black graduate students across departments and disciplines.  Grounded in Black feminist thought, Sistah Circle provides a space for Black women in various graduate programs. There are also academic and department specific Black graduate student organizations such as the Black Graduate Business Leaders, Black Law Student Association, Black Social Work Caucus and Rossier’s JENGA.

“There are more black graduate students than undergraduate students,” Conerly said. “We work hard to figure out ways to support graduate students knowing that they can’t make it to the center and events all the time.”

During Black History Month, CBCSA partners with its undergraduate counterpart organization, the Black Student Assembly (BSA) to put together one calendar of events for February.

Graduates waiting to cross the stage at CBCSA’s African American Cultural Celebration.

“It also encourages other students to come out to these events because they are not just for the black community, they are for the USC community,” Conerly said.

This year, CBCSA hosted their second annual F.R.O. (films representing ourselves) Fest, a film festival that gave black filmmakers a chance to showcase their work. Other events for the month include a gala, basketball tournaments, lectures, panels and game nights.

“We make Black history month very impactful by showcasing our Black community here at USC as well as our alumni,” Conerly said. “It’s our launching pad for everything else planned later in the semester.”

For more information about CBCSA, please click here.

The 2019 Black History Month.