Organizing Committee

Elena Blanco-Suárez is a post-doctoral researcher in the molecular neurobiology lab of Nicola Allen at the Salk Institute. She studies astrocytes, a special cell type in the brain and their role in developing connections between neurons. She is involved in various science education and communication projects, focusing on underrepresented communities. Follow her on Twitter @westboundsigned and Instagram @neurocosas, or check her blog posts in NeuWriteSD.

Masha Evpak loves to communicate science and help scientists and science communicators alike find the confidence they need to pursue their passions and goals. She has been waging a battle against the mental health problems rampant in academia since she realized how stressed out most grad students and scientists are. She tackles these issues through one-on-one coaching, in-person workshops, and online as The Genetics Gal (@thegeneticsgal). Masha is the founder of (@BoldAdulting), where she helps amazing people courageously tackle what life throws at them, even when they're afraid they have no idea what they're doing.

Christian Cazares is a 1st year student in the UCSD Neurosciences Graduate Program. Follow his Tweets (@fleabrained), research ( and articles at NeuwriteSD.

Chris Gonzalez is a second year Neuroscience PhD student at UCSD. He is interested in using computational models and analysis to study neural oscillations and physiology underlying sleep architecture.

Rose Hendricks is a grad student in Cognitive Science at UCSD. She researches the ways that metaphor shapes our thoughts, perception, and emotions. She writes about language, cognition, and grad school on her blog and on Twitter (@RoHendricks).

Xi Jiang is a 4th year student in the UCSD Neurosciences Graduate Program. He writes on NeuWriteSD occasionally and has a cat named Dog.

Samantha Jones is a fourth year Biomedical Sciences graduate student at UCSD. Her thesis work examines the role of RNA, and RNA processing, in neurological development and disease. Although passionate about her work, she is happiest when communicating science to the public and is pursuing a career in science journalism. You can find her freelance work, ranging in topic from marine preservation and medical discovery to science policy, on her blog. In her spare time, she is involved in public outreach through the San Diego Wet Lab and teaches yoga. Follow her on Twitter @jonesfreelance for an up-to-date look at what she’s reading, writing, and (sometimes) fuming about. 

Jarrett Lovelett is a second year grad student in the UCSD Psychology department, where he studies learning and memory. His work focuses on understanding how humans can optimally acquire, retain, and maintain access to information in educational and other real-world contexts. 

Catie Profaci is a third year UCSD Neurosciences graduate student studying the underlying mechanisms of blood-brain barrier breakdown during disease and injury.  Aside from the brain, her passions include running, wine, baseball, spicy food, traveling, cheese, NPR, and Bruce Springsteen.  She feels strongly about the importance of communicating science and loves writing for the UCSD student-run neuroscience blog, NeuWriteSD.  Check out some of her NeuWriteSD blog posts and follow her on Twitter (@cprofaci)!

Drew Schreiner is a second year graduate student in the Psychology department at UCSD studying the neural circuits that underlie actions and decision-making with Dr. Christina Gremel.  When not shining lasers into the brains of mice, he can be found backpacking, hiking, and playing guitar.

Ben Shih is a second year grad student at UCSD in Mechanical Engineering. He studies soft robotics at the Bioinspired Robotics and Design Lab and works on sensors for robot hands, skin, and touch. Ben enjoys climbing and biking and has a dog named Teddy.

Caroline Sferrazza is a second year graduate student in Neurosciences at UCSD. She is working on her thesis in Dr. Lawrence S.B. Goldstein’s laboratory at the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, where she uses human induced pluripotent stem cells to model and study Alzheimer’s Disease. Caroline is a regular contributor to NeuWrite San Diego and is an active organizer of local science outreach events in San Diego, including school visits and science festivals. Outside the lab, she can be found wherever there are cute animals, good music, or tasty beer. Preferably all three.

Melissa Troyer is a graduate student in the cognitive science department at UCSD. Melissa uses human behavior and electrophysiology to study how people access knowledge when processing language. Check out some of her recent blog posts on language and more at NeuWriteSD.