Learning from the Best

At UC Santa Cruz, undergraduates have the opportunity to engage in in-depth learning while pursuing research and scholarship with leading figures in their fields. Below are biographies of a few of our extraordinary faculty.

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Lawrence Andrews
Professor, Film and Digital Media

Lawrence Andrews is a nationally recognized filmmaker and artist whose interests include installation, media art, and documentary. His works have been displayed at the Whitney Museum and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, as well as the Museum of Modern Art and the Capp Street Project in San Francisco. He has received various grants awards and fellowships in support of his work, including a Rockefeller Intercultural Documentary Fellowship, and two National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowships.



Mark Akeson
Professor, Biomolecular Engineering

Professor Akeson leads the UC Santa Cruz nanopore group, which is developing technology to analyze DNA strands as they pass through a tiny pore in a membrane. In 2014, his group received $2.29 million over three years from the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) to support its research. Professor Akeson has published extensively on nanopores and other biomolecular engineering topics.


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Rebecca Braslau
Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Professor Braslau runs a synthetic organic chemistry research lab, focusing on the synthesis of novel nitroxides for a variety of uses. In the realm of materials science, her research group prepares architecturally interesting polymers for applications in nanotechnology and biomedicine. A current focus of the Braslau Lab is on the development of a safer plastic without the problematic molecules phthalates, which can mimic hormones and cause health problems.



Rebecca Covarrubias
Associate Professor, Psychology

Professor Covarrubias runs the Culture & Achievement Collaborative, which conducts research on issues of identity, culture, health, and education. More specifically, the Collaborative examines how the dominant representations of race, gender, and social class in health and school contexts shape the daily experiences and self-understanding of underrepresented and diverse individuals, including ethnic-minorities and working-class people. Professor Covarrubias has published extensively, including articles on minoritized students’ experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Sharon Daniel
Professor, Film and Digital Media

Dr. Daniel is an Internet artist and activist who works with members of disenfranchised communities to give them a voice. She is a winner of a 2008 Media Arts Fellowship from the Tribeca Film Institute for artists “whose work is innovative, creative, and pushes boundaries.” In 2007 she was named an Official Honoree in the Activism category at the 11th annual Webby Awards, which have been described as the “Oscars of the Internet” by the New York Times.



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J.J. Garcia-Luna-Aceves
Professor, Computer Engineering

Professor Garcia-Luna-Aceves specializes in computer communication and holds the Baskin Chair of Computer Engineering. He has coauthored the book Multimedia Communications: Protocols and Applications and has published more than 240 technical papers. A former Center Director at SRI International, he has consulted for Sun Labs as a visiting professor and as a Principal of Protocol Design for Nokia Wireless Routers.



Carol Greider
Professor, MCD Biology

Professor Greider is an eminent biologist and advocate for diversity in science. She shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her pioneering work on telomeres, critical structures that maintain the ends of chromosomes, and the discovery of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomere length.



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Craig Haney
Professor, Psychology

Professor Haney, who holds both a Ph.D. and a law degree, is an expert on incarceration and capital punishment in the U.S. whose testimony has proven critical in numerous court decisions. He has taught at UC Santa Cruz for over 25 years, and students have honored him with both the Excellence in Teaching Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award.



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David Haussler
Professor, Biomolecular Engineering; Scientific Co-Director, QB3

Professor Haussler leads the UC Santa Cruz Genome Bioinformatics group, well known for the computer assembly and analysis of the human genome and comparisons with other genomes. These can be viewed at the UC Santa Cruz Genome Browser. He is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a consulting professor for Stanford Medical School, and an adjunct professor in the UCSF Biopharmaceutical Sciences Department. Professor Haussler received the 2004 Allen Newell Award from the Association for Computing Machinery and was named R&D magazine's 2001 Scientist of the Year. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences.


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Isaac Julien
Professor, Art

Distinguished Professor of Art Isaac Julien’s work is held in collections that include: Tate in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He is co-founder of UC Santa Cruz’s Isaac Julien Lab.



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Michael Mateas
Professor and Chair, Computational Media

A lead faculty member in UCSC's computer game design program, Dr. Mateas is a leading researcher in the area of artificial intelligence for computer games. He is considered a pioneer for his work as codeveloper of Façade, hailed as the first in a new genre of interactive games that involve computer-controlled characters with rich emotions, dialogue, and interactions with their environment. Dr. Mateas is the chair of the new Department of Computational Media at UCSC.


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Claire Max
Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics

Professor Max is a pioneer in the field of adaptive optics, a technology that removes the blurring effects of turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing telescopes on the ground to see as clearly as if they were in space. She directs the Center for Adaptive Optics, a Science and Technology Center funded by the National Science Foundation and headquartered at UCSC. In 2008 Professor Max was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of her distinguished achievements in original research.



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Raquel Prado
Professor, Applied Mathematics and Statistics

Dr. Prado is a statistician whose research deals with developing sophisticated Bayesian models and methodology to analyze data that arise in various biomedical applications. She is currently working on statistical genetics and non-stationary time series modeling. Her areas of application include studying the effect of natural selection in DNA sequences from malaria antigens that are candidates for vaccine development, and modeling biomedical signals such as electroencephalograms.


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Daniel Press
Olga T. Griswold Professor, Environmental Studies

Professor Press is an expert on environmental politics and policy. As a member of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, one of the nine regional boards that oversee water quality protection in California, Professor Press is directly involved with complex environmental issues in the Santa Cruz area. The author of Saving Open Space: The Politics of Local Preservation in California (2002), he also won a Social Sciences “Golden Apple” Distinguished Teaching Award for 2008.



J. Xavier Prochaska
Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics

Professor Prochaska's research sheds light on early cosmology and structure formation in the universe, including the formation and evolution of galaxies. Three times in the previous decade (2011, 2014, and 2015), his discoveries have been recognized by the editors of Physics World, Science, or Astronomy as among the top scientific breakthroughs of the year. He received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences in 2017.


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Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz
Professor, Astronomy and Astrophysics

A theoretical astrophysicist, Professor Ramirez-Ruiz is developing the conceptual framework needed to understand the observational data coming from new telescopes and astronomical surveys. In 2008, Professor Ramirez-Ruiz won a prestigious Packard Fellowship to support his work, which was followed in 2009 by a National Science Foundation CAREER Award, and a fellowship at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute in 2014. He is also the founder and director of the SLUG lab (supercomputer lab for undergraduates).


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Shelley Stamp
Professor, Film and Digital Media

Professor Stamp is an expert on silent films and women filmmakers who was named a 2003 Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her publications include the book Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture After the Nickelodeon (2000), which was named as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. She also co-edited “Women and the Silent Screen” (2006), a special issue of Film History, with UCSC Assistant Professor Amelie Hastie.


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Susan Strome
Professor, MCD Biology

Professor Strome is a leading authority on the development of germ cells, the cells that give rise to sperm and eggs. Her research over the past 35 years has led to major advances in the understanding of how certain cells in the developing embryo become germ cells. She discovered "germ granules," distinctive structures that confer germ cell identity on the cells that carry them. Her lab has also made important findings in the field of epigenetics, which refers to heritable changes in gene activity that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence of genes. A dedicated teacher, Professor Strome also won the 2015 Outstanding Faculty Award at UCSC.


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Terrie M. Williams
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Professor Williams is a comparative wildlife physiologist and the Director of the Center for Marine Mammal Research and Conservation at UCSC. For the past 30 years her research has investigated the physiology of large mammalian predators. Specifically, Dr. Williams and students are trying to understand “how animals survive” in a world that is constantly changing. Her publication credits include over 100 scientific articles and a recent book, “The Odyssey of KP2” (Penguin Press) detailing her efforts to save the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.


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Karen Tei Yamashita
Professor Emerita, Literature
Co-director, Creative Writing Program

Professor Yamashita is a well known author as well as a professor. Her research and literary interests include history and anthropology of Japanese immigration to Brazil, Asian American literature, modern fiction, and playwriting. She was honored with a California Book Award and a gold medal in 2011 for her novel I Hotel, which also received a nomination for the 2010 National Book Award. Professor Yamashita is the author of four previous books, including Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990), which received the American Book Award, and Brazil-Maru, named by the Village Voice as one of the 25 best books of 1992.



Erika Zavaleta
Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

A Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, Professor Zavaleta is a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and the Ecological Society of America. Dedicated to mentoring future leaders in ecology and conservation, she directs the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at UCSC and the Center to Advance Mentored, Inquiry-based Opportunities (CAMINO), a program to increase student access to research-based field courses and internships at UCSC. Professor Zavaleta has been appointed to the California Fish and Game Commission.