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Local Organizing Committee

Undergraduate Majors:

IMG_9653Emily Payne is the Local Organizing Committee Leader for CUWiP at UCSD. She is a 4th year undergraduate student at UC San Diego, currently pursuing a double major in Physics (with a specialization in Computational) and Mathematics. In the past, she has worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the fields of philosophy and condensed matter physics- but now she is researching numerical approximation methods used in computational physics. In addition to research, Emily’s primary interests are the promotion of women in STEM fields (specifically physics) and building a community amongst the undergraduate physics majors of UC San Diego. Pursuing both of these interests has led Emily to serve as a Senator of the Undergraduate Women in Physics group and as the President of the Society of Physics Students for the 2015-2016 Academic year.

IMG_9610Debby Tran is a third-year undergraduate at UC San Diego studying Physics with a Specialization in Astrophysics and Electrical Engineering. She is currently involved with the calibration of the Gemini Planet Imager, an instrument of the Gemini South telescope in Chile. She is passionate about the promotion of women in STEM fields, leading her to work part-time to teach 5th and 6th grade girls STEM labs to encourage them to pursue a career in science. In addition, she is the Vice President of the Undergraduate Women in Physics at UCSD.

IMG_9622Ayat Amin is a fourth-year undergraduate at UC San Diego studying Physics with a double minor in Computer Science and Humanities. She is currently leading an sustainable engineering project geared towards filtering waste out of rivers. In addition, she enjoys keeping up with current events as a opinion writer and columnist for the UC San Diego newspaper.

IMG_9619 Tharindu Fernando is a second-year undergraduate at UC San Diego from Sri Lanka. He is working towards a double major in Physics-Biophysics and Pure Mathematics, and minors in Theater and Science Education. He desires to explore Neurophysics further before settling with Theoretical Physics. Taking off from a hobby of his childhood, Tharindu worked as a programmer before starting at UC San Diego – and he loves teaching, archery, badminton, and making instrumental covers of songs.

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Chelly Herman is a fourth-year undergraduate at UC San Diego studying Physics (with specialization in astrophysics) and Math. She is currently leading the astrodynamics division of a lunar space mission intended to demonstrate the capabilities of 3D printing technology. She is also actively working to promote interest in STEM fields in young girls as part of an after school intervention program.

IMG_9620Gretel Mercado is a third-year undergraduate at UC San Diego majoring in physics with a minor in computer science. For most of the past year she has been involved in an astrophysics project concerning a brown dwarf companion to a star. In her free time she enjoys reading anything from physics to philosophy and gardening.

IMG_9604Melisa Tallis is a fourth-year Physics major at UC San Diego interested in research topics in the experimental side of quantum computing. In 2014, she researched methods of identifying young brown dwarfs near the sun and earned a Dynes Scholarship for Summer Undergraduate Research. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Melisa has played for the UC San Diego’s women’s soccer team and is an avid bicyclist.

IMG_9644Alina Vorobyova is a third-year undergrad at UC San Diego studying Physics. In addition to physics theory, she is passionate about its ties and applications to Engineering, other sciences, and the arts. She is interested in pursuing studies in Artificial Intelligence and the Environmental sciences, and has worked on, and is also currently working on, projects in these fields.  Alina is the current President of the UCSD Undergraduate Women in Physics chapter.

Faculty and Staff:

headshot_small Adam Burgasser is a Professor of Physics at UC San Diego and an observational astrophysicist who studies cool stars, brown dwarfs and extrasolar planets. He is the faculty advisor for UCSD’s UWIP chapter and chair of the American Astronomical Society Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy.

sm-300-konopacky-8760-300dpiQuinn Konopacky is an Assistant Professor of Physics in the Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences at UC San Diego who uses high-resolution techniques on large ground-based telescopes to study star and planet formation. She earned her Ph.D. in astronomy at UCLA in 2009 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of Toronto before joining the faculty at UCSD in 2015.

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Karin Sandstrom is an Assistant Professor at UC San Diego, and an astrophysicist who studies the interstellar medium and star formation in nearby galaxies through multi-wavelength observations. She earned her Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2009, and has been a Marie Curie Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.


17cdc53Lindsey Faniola is the Assistant Director of Development, Division of Physical Sciences at UC San Diego, and has helped to coordinate industry and community fundraising and participation in the conference. She earned a Masters of Science in Sports Management from Eastern Michigan University in 2002.


franklinTamika Franklin is the Director of Alumni Relations for the Division of Physical Sciences at UC San Diego, and has helped to coordinate fundraising efforts for the conference.


Erin Gerlach is an Executive Assistant Administrator in the Department of Physics at UCSD, and managed travel arrangements for the conference.

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