School:University of California Davis

From University Innovation Fellows
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Meet our fellows

Julia Morris is an incoming fourth year majoring in Science & Technology Studies (STS): the study of how society, politics, and culture impact scientific R&D and technological innovation, and how these forces in turn affect society, politics and culture. More specifically, her interests lie within sociotechnical governance and a sub-field of STS called Sociotechnical Imaginaries: imagined forms of social life and social order that center on the development and fulfillment of innovative scientific and/or technological projects (as well as the ethical implications of these developments). On campus, she's President of the Science & Technology Studies Club and a member of Design for America. She's also part of the EQUIP Program out of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, and has become an intern for Venture Catalyst, the branch of the Office of Research that facilitates the translation of University research and technology by providing the resources and tools for university entrepreneurs to successfully launch startups. In addition to her efforts on campus, she works as a video editor for Davis Media Access, with a special interest in documentary filmmaking. When she's not working, she spends her free time playing the piano, reading, hand-building clay miniatures, playing video games, and going on walks to visit the cats that live on her street. She's half Brazilian, has a fat black & white cat named Nina, and is also an identical twin (so don’t be alarmed if you come across another very similar-looking profile...).

Livia Morris is an undergraduate student at UC Davis double majoring in Cognitive Science and Science & Technology Studies, the latter of which is an interdisciplinary major that explores the relationship between scientific knowledge, technological systems, and society. She recently reinstated the Science and Technology Studies Club alongside her identical twin sister (who is also a part of the UC Davis UIF team) and a handful of other STS Students. The club will play a key role in one of the UIF projects Livia is most excited about; a future-focused speaker series. Professionally, she works as a video editor at the community media center in town. She's also a part of the Entrepreneurship Quest: Undergaduate Internship Program (EQUIP) on campus. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, browsing Reddit, baking, and playing video games (and yes, it was difficult to write this bio when the one right above is so similar... twin problems).

In addition to being a University Innovation Fellow, Lisa Illes is a fourth-year Biological Systems Engineering undergraduate, a Genentech intern, and entrepreneur. She has co-founded a company and the BioInnovation Group at UC Davis, the only undergraduate-run research group on campus. Lisa is particularly interested in using her time as a Fellow to improve the entrepreneurial opportunities available to undergraduates on campus, especially in biotechnology.

Project outlines

Project 1: STS Club / Speaker Series

Project lead: Julia Morris (co-leading STS Club with Livia Morris)

What it is: a futures-oriented speaker series that will bring together experts from academia, government, and industry to discuss new and emerging fields of research and employment. The STS Club would be the springboard for this event.

The talks will take two forms:

  1. A one-on-one between a professor and an industry professional/public servant
  2. A panel of professors and industry professionals/public servant.

Each pair will be matched based on how well their areas of interest align (i.e. a cognitive science professor who studies artificial intelligence could be paired with someone who founded an A.I. startup).

Professors and industry professionals will answer the same questions, but from different frameworks (ex. the lens of an academic vs. the lens of a startup founder, or the lens of an academic vs. the lens of a public servant); professors and industry professionals will also have the chance to interview each other.

  • Currently considering an additional series to go along with the industry/academic series: a student-specific speaker series that assembles a panel of recent graduates (within the last 3-5 years); college graduates come back to Davis to share tips, tricks and advice on securing jobs or academic placements.

Why it matters:

  • Goals are twofold: informational/educational, and inspirational.
    • Informational/Educational: students will…
      • Learn about emerging fields of research and employment.
      • Gain exposure to the kinds of research being done in academia.
      • Gain exposure to the kinds of jobs being created by entrepreneurs.
      • Learn about the ways in which science and technology are restructuring work, reorganizing our society, and influencing government/other fundamental sectors.
    • Inspirational: students will…
      • Be exposed to people who have done/are doing extraordinary things (“been there, done that”).
      • Witness the various paths these individuals have taken to arrive at their current careers.
      • Gain relevant advice on diving into graduate programs.
      • Gain relevant advice on diving into the professional world.
      • Learn about the connections between academia and industry.
      • Gain insights on how post-graduate studies can precede and complement careers in industry.
      • Gain insights on how professional experiences can precede and complement post-graduate studies.
    • Additional networking will be available to those helping to organize the speaker series.
  • The speaker series will also better harmonize UC Davis with the network of startups in the Sacramento Region and Bay Area.
  • More importantly, the speaker series will set an important precedent for the UC Davis community at large: that UC Davis, as a top-tier institution pushing the boundaries of scientific R&D and technological innovation, is committed to bringing humanities and liberal arts scholarship into close contact with STEM research and traditional startup practices. STS represents a shared, collaborative vision between the humanities and sciences, and this could be a strong hook for our campus.
    • The speaker series is an initiative that is futures-focused, socially conscious, and multi-disciplinary.
    • Innovation doesn’t have to just be synonymous with startups – there’s a need for systems thinking and innovation initiatives in industries beyond the private sector (i.e. in government).
    • Startups shouldn’t just be comprised of individuals in STEM, business, and design/marketing; there is a huge gape that needs to be filled by scholarship in the social sciences and humanities.
    • Although social innovation is effectively materialized through startups, research and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities should play a more substantia role in informing and guiding these efforts. o When creating a company or developing a new piece of technology, adopting an STS perspective leads to more robust understandings of what kinds of negative externalities could be produced as a byproduct of fast-paced business/development practices.
    • There is strategic value in using STS as a framework as opposed to a purely STEM approach. STS is a great middle ground when it comes to tech-based or biotech-based entrepreneurs – it serves as an intellectual framework for collaboration between STEM and the humanities.
    • UC Davis’ innovation efforts would be greatly enhanced by introducing initiatives that seek to bring the humanities in contact with STEM. As such, the UC Davis startup ecosystem should better harmonize technology with the social sciences and humanities.

Key tactics required to bring this project to life:

  • The STS club would be the springboard for this speaker series, responsible for defining the scholarly themes of these talks and handling logistics (reserving a venue, securing speakers, managing funds, etc.).
  • The STS Department (faculty, the chair) will tap into their network to find Professors that represent a humanities perspective.
  • Recruited STEM Professors will need to have demonstrated an interest and dedication to the values upheld by Science & Technology Studies • Students in the club – particularly those in management positions – will use whatever resources/contacts/networks they have to find whatever top-tier professionals/public servants they can find.

Potential Topics for the Speaker Series:

  • 3-D Printing
  • Advertising (Data Collection for Advertising, Content Marketing)
  • Agri-Tech (Food Technology, Clean Meat and Cellular Agriculture, Applications of Technology to Agriculture)
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Biotechnology (Genomics, Longevity and Anti-Aging (+ the growing number of elderly), Bio-Terrorism)
  • Cognitive Science and Psychology (Childhood Development, Behavioral Economics, Social Psychology and Technology, Human Memory, Consciousness and Ethics, Gamification, Breakthroughs in Neuroscience/Psychology)
  • Cryptocurrency and Fintech
  • Cyber Security (Personal Security, National Security, Cyber Warfare)
  • Data Science (Big Data, Data Mining, Computational Social Sciences, Agent-Based Modeling)
  • Defense Industry
  • Design (Speculative Design, Human Centered Design, UX/UI, Service Design)
  • Diversity (In Industry & Academia)
  • Drones
  • E-Commerce
  • Ed-Tech
  • Future of Work and Automation (Gig Economy, Displacement, Universal Basic Income, The “Voluntourism” Industry, Retraining, Skilled Labor vs. Social Labor (i.e. Human Services like Counseling and Caretaking), Co-Working)
  • Green Energy
  • Housing
  • Internet of Things
  • Law (as it pertains to future trends such as A.I.)
  • Media and Videogames (Film/TV Industry, Content Streaming, Innovative Media, Journalism, Copyright Law, Supporting Creators, Safeguards against Fake Video, VR and AR)
  • Medicine (Medical Technologies, Medical Breakthroughs, Medical Marijuana, Public Health and Healthcare Companies, Preventative Medicine, Exo-Skeletons, Assistive Technologies for disabilities, Drug Development)
  • Policy (particularly as it pertains to future trends, such as A.I. governance)
  • Robotics
  • Science Fiction (How SF explores ethics and values, dystopia vs. utopia)
  • Self-Driving Cars
  • Sharing Economy
  • Smart Cities
  • Smart Homes
  • Social Capital and Altruism (Social Services for Underserved Communities, Reimagining Welfare, Effective Altruism)
  • Social Media
  • Technology and the Human Body (BCI’s, Wearable Technologies, Cyborgs)

Project 2: Student Facilitated Course on Individual Majors

Project lead: Livia Morris

Most students are unaware that individual majors are even an option. This low-unit, low-stress course will help students who desire a more individualized educational path become aquainted with the Individual Major Program at UC Davis.


  • Start out with 50 min 1x a week (potentially 2x a week). 
  • Quarter-long workshop on how to create an individual major, from start to finish.
  • Final project: create a mock individual major proposal (that you can officially submit the next quarter if you so choose).

For the first 8 weeks – class is divided into two sections:

  1. First 20 minutes: discussing an assigned weekly reading (selected articles on interdisciplinary studies, alternative education, college majors, etc.).
  2. Last 30 minutes: informational sessions on how to create an individual major.

During the last 2 weeks – in-class work time for creating your individual major: work with your peers, collaborate and discuss your ideas, prepare your final individual major prototype.

Informational sessions will include:

  • Deadlines to keep track of – mark your calendar + “Why choose an individual major?” (first class material?).
  • Determining if an individual major is right for you – how might this fit into your individual career plans? 
  • Going through the individual major handbook – what it all means.
  • Basics of variable unit courses: internships, special study, group study (to complement your interdisciplinary education).
  • Ins-and-outs of online classes – incorporating them into the individual major, getting credit through special study.
  • How to identify faculty you could possibly work with.
  • Titles + how to communicate to employers what your individual major means.
  • Q&A panel from students who have successfully created their own majors.


  • Write a list of the top 5-10 subjects/disciplines you find interesting (no more than 10, no less than 5) – they don’t need to be specific to any particular school. Then, refine that list to the top 2-4.
  • Practice pairing subjects together: write out various combinations of subjects using your list, briefly explain how and why they could go together.
  • Write a list of all the majors you find interesting at UC Davis (minimum 5).
  • Write a list of majors from other schools that you find interesting (minimum 5) – the majors can’t be offered by UC Davis.
  • Make at least three different intuitive connections using the lists of majors from your school and other schools (each connection should involve 2 or 3 different majors/minors); explain why these subjects complement each other, or how they build on top of each other. Also explain why these combined subjects are more beneficial than a double major, or a major and minor(s). 
  • Submit 2-3 different ideas for an individual major.
  • The final assignment (mock individual major proposal) will include:
  1. A cover sheet.
  2. A personal statement.
  3. The final major proposal (which includes the check list of specific classes to be included and written major description, as well as the form showing a side-by-side comparison of similar programs). *Does not include faculty advisor evaluation forms.

Key tactics:

  • Find a professor who will be the "instructor on record" (they will be responsible for assigning grades). This professor will also vouch for the academic rigorousness of the course.
  • Find a department that will be supportive (STS department seems like a good bet due to the flexible nature of the STS Program). Get course approved by any internal subcommittees.
  • Take a quarter-long course to prepare your course and prepare you for teaching. Course number is 199FA.
  • Figure out how to effectively advertise the class:
    • Online: UCD Facebook page, UCD Reddit, etc.
    • Posters/flyers in advising centers.
  • Find all course readings in advance - doing so will raise the chances of course approval.
  • Document everything rigorously, so that another student can teach the course at a later date in a similar fashion.

Project 3 - Lightning Talks

Project lead - Lisa Illes


  • The critical super basics
    • How to participate in a professional email chain
      • When to reply all
      • What to put in your email signature
      • How to politely ask for something
    • Dressing in the STEM field
      • Interviews will rarely be in a laboratory space-- but can always ask if you need to wear specific clothing if it is
      • Here is a bare bones interview outfit that works in the California context for all genders
      • Ask whether or not you will be doing lab work, and if you need any special clothing
  • The overall roadmap of career building as an undergraduate
    • Participate in student projects and organizations
      • Pick a specific student organization to focus on, and put extra time into it. Good way to learn a lot of stuff quickly and develop leadership skills.
    • Start informational interviewing
      • Informational interviewing is where you ask someone for 20-30 mins of their time either over the phone or in person to tell you about their career or what they know about your industry of interst
      • Can find people to interview using LinkedIn
      • Always ask who else you could talk to
    • Seek out opportunities from the various admin-run orgs on campus (see change model canvas for a few ideas)
    • Obtain a student position on campus in line with some of your interests
    • Leverage learnings from student projects/orgs, student position, and network for a SMALL or MEDIUM sized company
      • Will also go over how to find these types of companies
    • Leverage learnings and network to secure internship or laboratory position aligned with your interest that may be more selective
    • Repeat cycle until you have graduated
  • Finding companies you are interested in
    • Using LinkedIn
    • Subscribe to publications
    • Use Google
    • Use your peers
  • How to use LinkedIn to build your network
    • Asking for an internship straight out the gate doesn’t work
    • Ask for informational interviews
    • If given an appropriate opening, mention that you are looking for a job or internship
      • Ask if they know of any openings
  • How to succeed in an internship
    • Checklist of things to do on your first day
    • Dealing with minimal management
    • Dealing with micro management
    • Networking at your internship
      • Ask if you can conduct informational interviews within the organization!
    • Checklist of what to do on your last day

Project 4 - Student Led Course on Innovation through Websites

Project lead: Michaela-Hope Poblete


  • Teach a student-led course about learning how to code a personal website while combining innovation and entrepreneurship in the class discussions to coach freshmen and sophomores in professional development and design thinking
  • The class
    • Overall class project consists of learning to code and deploy personal website
      • Students can learn to code over the course of the quarter (10 weeks) and submit website as final course assignment
      • Learning to code HTML/CSS is easy and fun
        • With diligence, learning to build websites is doable, fun, and rewarding
        • Students can show employers an extensive resume as well as display their website as a project
      • Students get online resume through building personal website
        • Students can give potential employers a 360 degree view and can stand out amongst job applicants
      • Students learn get exposed to design principles
      • Students get exposed to code and technology application
    • Class will also have discussions on:
      • Professional Development
        • Resume writing and critiques by experienced upperclassmen
        • Interview practice and feedback
        • Communication practice in a professional setting
        • Learn how to write emails
      • College Career Development
        • Get input on how to make the most of college years from experienced upperclassmen
        • Learn how to stand out from other students in search of job opportunities during college
      • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
        • Students hear from guest speakers from UC Davis
          • Liz Tang of UCD Engineering Student Startup Center
          • Cyrus Aram of UCD Graduate School of Business
          • Mat Magno and Charles Chen of JAPA - a successful startup founded by students
          • Genesia Ting - a student designer, Design Director of SacHacks, Forbes 30 under 30 fellow
        • Students can discuss startup ideas, problem-solving and design thinking

Related links