In-Person Mixer and Networking Event

by Beyond Academia at UCSB

Social Graduate Student Experience

Back to 2022 Beyond Academia Conference

Sat, Apr 16, 2022

4 PM – 5:30 PM PDT (GMT-7)

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Private Location (register to display)




Join us for an exclusive in-person networking event featuring PhDs who are working in a variety of industries all over California. Attendees will be able to interact with panelists and facilitators from this year's conference in a relaxed and informal environment, with a focus on making genuine connections and setting students up for future success. Light refreshments and alcohol will be served in a casual outdoor setting. Registration is required.

Note: proof of full vaccination or a green badge (for UCSB affiliates) will be required for entry
Food Provided (Light refreshments)


Kahkashan Afrin ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Kahkashan Afrin (she/her)


McKinsey & Company

I am an Associate with McKinsey’s Digital Practice, based out of our Southern California office. I work towards bringing advanced analytics and digital capabilities to solve complex business problems, creating change and lasting impact for our clients. Before joining McKinsey, I finished my Ph.D. in Industrial & Systems engineering from Texas A&M University. During my Ph.D., I specialized in using machine learning for clinical applications and building smart wearable devices for chronic diseases such as epilepsy and obstructive sleep apnea.

Sara Rostami ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Sara Rostami (she/her)

Manager, Display Operations

Apple Inc.

Sara joined Apple in 2019 as an operations program manager in the Display operations team. Since then, she has been instrumental in ramping multiple MacBook programs. Sara has recently got promoted to Manager, Display Operations where she leads a team of program managers.

Prior to Apple, Sara worked at GE for 6 years in advanced modeling and program management roles and her work contributed to enhancing GE Aviation and Additive manufacturing product design and performance.

Sara has a PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from UC Irvine and an MBA from UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Ana Besserman ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Ana Besserman (she/her)

Knowledge Engineer


Ana received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Southern California in 2021. She is now a knowledge engineer at Amazon in Santa Barbara, working to help Alexa be more knowledgeable and delight customers.

Priera Panescu ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Priera Panescu (she/her)

Senior ScientistÔÇöPlant-Based Specialist

The Good Food Institute

Priera’s role at GFI focuses on accelerating the plant-based meat industry through analyzing their plant-based protein landscape, identifying emerging technological solutions and bottlenecks, and communicating with other scientists about advancing alternative protein research. Priera has bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and math from the University of California, Santa Cruz as well as a master’s and a doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to joining GFI, Priera spent almost a decade focusing on polymer, formulation, and materials chemistry research. Particularly, she honed these skills for food security applications by creating novel sustainable agriculture materials and compounds.

Aaron Middlebrook ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Aaron Middlebrook (he/him)

Senior Staff Scientist

BD Biosciences

I received a BS in cell biology from UC Santa Cruz and then a doctorate in Immunology from the University of Arizona. My graduate work focused on T Cell development and led me postdoctoral fellowships at UCSF’s Gladstone Institute where I studied thymic reconstitution in HIV. I starting working in R&D at BD Biosciences in 2010. My work at BD involves developing flow cytometry based sample prep tools and analysis platforms. Currently I am the applications lead for our imaging cytometry platform in which I manage a small team and work closely with our hardware and software teams to develop cutting edge cell analysis tools.

Kevin Lin ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Kevin Lin (he/him)

BD Director

Transcenta Therapeutics Inc.

Molecular oncologist by training at Tsinghua University and MBA from USC Marshall. Working experiences were on the business side of biotech industry, including technology transfer, business development, venture investment, and M&A. Current focus is developing partnerships in oncology, nephrology, and bone health.

Bob Lansdorp ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Bob Lansdorp (he/him)


Milo Sensors, Inc.

Bob Lansdorp obtained a PhD the UCSB Materials Deparment in 2015 and founded Milo Sensors in 2016, where he is currently CEO. Milo Sensors has created the first wearable alcohol monitor and aims to do for alcohol what continuous glucose monitors have done for diabetes.

Radhika Raghavan ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Radhika Raghavan (she/her)

TTS Linguist


I have a PhD in Linguistics with special focus on phonological of second language acquisition. I taught undergraduate Linguistics for a bit and am currently working s a TTS linguist training a virtual assistant.

Tepring Piquado ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Tepring Piquado (she/her)

Chief Policy Director

California Issues Forum

Tepring Piquado, Ph.D. is a proud UC postdoc alumna of UC Irvine. After completing her post-doc, she went to Sacramento to complete a science, technology and policy fellowship with California Council on Science and Technology. Currently, Tepring spends time in Sacramento working as chief policy director at California Issues Forum where she provides advisory guidance and analysis on active bills and major issues being considered by state legislators. She also works at home in Los Angeles leading a nonprofit called ADDSTEAM that aims to advance and develop a diverse STEAM workforce (science, tech, engineering, agriculture and math). She earned her B.S. in computer science from Georgetown, and her Ph.D. and M.S. in neuroscience from Brandeis.

Stephanie Witkowski ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Stephanie Witkowski (she/her)

Executive Director

7000 Languages

Stephanie is the Executive Director of 7000 Languages, a non-profit that helps Indigenous communities teach, learn and sustain their endangered languages. She holds an M.A. in Linguistics with an emphasis in Language Documentation and Conservation from the University of Hawai‘i at M─ünoa and completed Ph.D. coursework in Linguistics at the University of Chicago. She has previously held positions in various non-profit organizations as well as in the language education field, and couples her passion for linguistics and language revitalization with her non-profit experience.

Soyon Kim ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Soyon Kim (she/her)


Beyond Meat

Soyon Kim is a Scientist at Beyond Meat, where she works on developing a meat alternative by applying her scaffolding expertise. She got her PhD at UCLA bioengineering department, and her research focused on biomaterials design for bone tissue engineering applications. She expanded her research interest to drug delivery utilizing nanoparticles and scaffold modification during her postdoc at UCLA school of dentistry.

Grace Tang ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Grace Tang (she/her)

Senior Data Scientist


Grace earned her PhD in Psychology from Stanford University, where she studied decision making in the brain. Since graduating in 2014, she has spent time in various companies, including an 11 person startup, Uber, and now Netflix.

Shujing Dong ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Shujing Dong (she/her)

Research Scientist


Shujing Dong has a Master degree in Data Science from UC Berkeley and a PhD in Linguistics from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Shujing has worked in Cornell and USC as visiting scholars. She is currently working as a Research Scientist in Amazon for developing NLP models and ML solutions for product experiences.

Karen Girard ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Karen Girard (she/her)

Lead Content Designer


I earned a PhD in English Language and Literature, with a concentration in medieval literature. My first job after grad school was as a digital writer/editor. I now design content ecosystems for apps and web, and create user experience research plans for pilots of new technologies. I'm currently working on smart speaker content.

Paula Di Dio ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Paula Di Dio (she/her)

Senior Director of Communications and Research Strategist

Interact Communications

Paula holds a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently she works as Sr. Director of Communications at Interact Communications, where she manages several client accounts and creates and develops DEI initiatives.

Tooraj Panah ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Tooraj Panah (he/him)

Engineering Geologist

California Department of Transportation (Caltrans)

Tooraj Panah is an Engineering Geologist in California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). He is a Professional Geologist and Certified Engineering Geologist in State of California who has earned his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Geology and Structural Geology. He has practiced in California for more than 12 years and 17 years overseas. Dr. Panah has more than 29 years’ experience in the fields of engineering geology and geologic hazards, structural geology, relative to siting, design, and construction of civil works projects and environmental geology. He has provided technical expertise, support and recommendations on geotechnical topics. Since 2010, he has been the main and active engineering geologist helping in On-call Geotechnical contact with Caltrans and for some major Design-&-Built projects in Southern California. Mr. Panah has participated in the project planning phase and progressing through the design, construction, and operation phases of the State Transportation System as an engineering geologist in the consultants.

Lee McDaniel ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Lee McDaniel (he/him)

Senior Bioinformatics Scientist


Dr. McDaniel spent 3 years performing DevOPS and high frequency trading R&D at a major bank after graduating with a BS and MSE in Computer Science. After several years performing bioinformatics cancer research at the NIH and University of Pennsylvania, he earned his medical doctorate and worked as a pediatrics resident at Duke University. Prior to COVID, he left Duke to return to bioinformatics, where he has since worked as a bioinformatics cancer researcher in the private sector

Franklin Horn ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Franklin Horn (he/him)

Director of Product


Franklin currently is director of product for the machine learning team at Skillshare, the online education platform for creativity. In the past, he's worked on large scale content personalization and advertising technology at companies like Quora, Whisper, Disney, and The Hollywood Reporter. Franklin graduated from UCSB in 2009 with his masters in cultural anthropology with a quantitative methods specialization, and has a bootcamp certification from General Assembly in Data Science.

Paul Herzog ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Paul Herzog (he/him)


Law Offices of Adam Green

Paul Herzog has practiced immigration law, with a particular focus on serving scientists and scholars, for over twenty years. He earned his juris doctor degree from Tulane University School of Law and his BA degree from Syracuse University.

Lana Smith-Hale ( she slash her )'s profile photo

Lana Smith-Hale (she/her)

Graduate Career Counselor

UCSB Career Services

With over 6 years of career counseling at UCSB, Lana has a pretty good idea of the unique challenges, concerns but overall great potential graduate students face when looking for non-academic jobs. It's not easy, but with a LCSW-trained, expert in career transitions for advanced degrees, higher ed professional on your side, Lana can help make this journey much more enjoyable while maximizing your career options. From her supportive and empathetic, yet practical advice to her breadth of resources, Lana is sure to help set you on the right path towards your future.

Christopher Hunter ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Christopher Hunter (he/him)

Director, STEM101

Ron Brown Scholar Program

Chris Hunter is a recovering academic. He earned a PhD in Comparative Literature and spent the better par of a decade teaching American Lit. and Book History to future scientists at Caltech. He now runs a program aimed at increasing African American representation in STEM.

Don Daves-Rougeaux ( he slash him )'s profile photo

Don Daves-Rougeaux (he/him)

Regional K14 TAP (Technical Assistance Provider)

Bay Area Community College Consortium

K12 educator and UC administrator. My work has centered on educational equity, access, policy reform and innovation. Currently working to strengthen the high school to community college pathways to living wage employment through the strategic deployment work force development funding, policy advocacy and the use of labor market indicator data to identify high wage occupations with severe equity and opportunity gaps.


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