Biological Engineering Welcomes First PhD Students

Monday, September 12, 2022

This fall marked a big moment for the UC Santa Barbara Biological Engineering program, when it matriculated its first six doctoral students. Five of the six are women, including Gianna Gathman, who earned her BS in Bioengineering at Santa Clara University, specializing in biodevice engineering; Shaylee Larson, who received her BS in chemical engineering from the University of Utah; Elana Muzzy, who did her undergraduate work in Bioengineering at UC Santa Cruz; Zsofia Szegletes, who earned her BS in Biological/Biological Systems Engineering at Cornell University; and Lauren Washington, who studied Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of San Diego. The group also includes UCSB alumnus Samuel Feinstein, who earned his undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and Statistical Analysis.

The students will be able to take advantage of a pair of training programs, both of which count as credits toward the PhD — the NIH T32 in Quantitative Mechanobiology and NSF Data Driven Biology Predoctoral Training Programs. Both provide focused coursework and professional development, while supporting them to “undertake research rotations in multiple labs so that they begin right away to build a network and community, not only of potential faculty mentors and labs to join, but also collaborators, colleagues, and peers,” said Beth Pruitt, director of UCSB Biological Engineering. “The program is designed around the idea of having the flexibility to explore different labs to help them decide on their PhD paths and projects.”

Enrolling PhD students is an important step in the process required to become a full-fledged department, the seventh in the UCSB College of Engineering (COE). “We are very excited about it,” Pruitt said. "We’ve been building the curriculum and all the pieces for years, and this fall, we officially start up!”

Professor Beth Pruitt (back row, center) poses with the first six PhD students of the program.

Professor Beth Pruitt (back row, center) with the first PhD students in biological engineering (clockwise from top left): Zsofia Szegletes, Samuel Feinstein, Gianna Gathman, Lauren Washington, Shaylee Larson, and Elana Muzzy.