Heather K. Barr

Degrees: B.S. Health Sciences: Community Health Education, California State University, Sacramento, 2017; M.P.H.: Epidemiology, University of Nevada, Reno, 2019

Professional Interests: Mental Health, Animal-Human Interaction, Suicide Prevention

Background/Interests: In grad school, Heather interned with a Medical Examiner on suicide prevention projects and developed a passion for mental health. After completing her degree, she worked for UC Davis Medical Center as an epidemiologist and has taught epidemiology at CSUS since 2020. Coming back to graduate school, she returned to mental health research. Now, her focus is on animal-human interactions and how it can promote well-being and build community as well as the cost-effectiveness of animal-assisted programs. Find her around campus, you might get to pet a dog.

Advisors: Carolyn Dewa, M.P.H., Ph.D. and Jeffrey Hoch, Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2021


Bozhidar (Bobby) Chakalov

Degrees: B.A. in Economics from Sonoma State University, 2017; M.A. in Economics from San Francisco State University, 2019

Professional Interests: Policy Evaluation, Health Disparities, Health Inequities, Socioeconomic Determinants of Health, Vulnerable Population Health

Background/Interests: Bozhidar began pursuing his interest in health care research while earning his B.A. at Sonoma State University. While earning his M.A. at San Francisco State, Bozhidar’s research included the long-term health outcomes of the New Deal program and applying text analysis to the #MeToo movement. After graduating, Bozhidar taught Biostatistics in the M.P.H. program at SFSU and continued doing research at the Health Equity Institute. Bozhidar aims to become a university professor and a researcher addressing health disparities though policy and evaluation. When not working, he enjoys hiking, exploring new cuisines, and being with his loved ones.

Advisor: Michelle Ko, M.D., Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2020


Maria Cruz 

Degrees: B.S., Biology Concentration in Physiology, San Francisco State University, 2019; M.P.H., Community Health Education, San Francisco State University, 2021

Professional Interests: Latine Community, Health Equity, Social Determines of Health, Health Disparities, Low Income Communities 

Background/Interests: Maria Cruz became interested in Public Health while completing her BS at San Francisco State. Maria has experience working in health disparities research with the Health Equity Research Lab and the Health Equity Institute at SFSU. As an NIH-SF BUILD-funded student, Maria has gained experience as a researcher with a UCSF Lab in the biomedical field. Maria additionally, enjoys mentoring students so she can help them as her mentors have done for her. 

Advisor: Shani Buggs, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Entry Year: 2021


Sandra Flores

Degree: B.A., Comparative Literature and French, University of California, Berkeley, 2014; M.P.H., University of San Francisco, 2017

Professional Interests: Culturally appropriate interventions, Substance use, Mental Health, Maternal and Child Health, Preventative Care, Health promotion, Community Care

Background/Interests: For the past three years, Sandra has worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF conducting research in addiction medicine as part of a study implementing patient navigators in emergency room settings. Working with patients that have opiate use disorder has taught Sandra about patient centered care and the complexities of navigating the medical system. While at UC Davis, Sandra aims to use what she has learned to research mental health predictors among children and adolescents. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, their two dogs and two cats.

Advisor: Julie Dang, Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2021


Andrea Guggenbickler

Degrees: B.S. in Global Disease Biology, University of California, Davis, 2018; M.P.H., Epidemiology Emphasis, University of California, Davis, 2021

Professional Interests: Comprehensive Sexuality Education Disparities; Sexual Health Equity; Sexual Assault Prevention, Education and Advocacy; Women and LGBTQIA+ Health; Mental Health; Health Disparities

Background/Interests: Andrea is a Super Aggie; obtaining her BS in Global Disease Biology and her Masters of Public Health, and now pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences, at the University of California Davis. She has engaged in a breadth of research, from menstrual hygiene product access to understanding sexual health on college campuses and adolescent pregnancy rates and comprehensive sex education disparities. Through her work in her Ph.D., she has demonstrated an interest in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and plans to integrate both into her future research. Andrea’s goal is to one day work in a research and teaching capacity.

Advisor: Marius Koga, M.D., M.P.H.

Entry Year: 2021


Caroline Abbott Joyce

Degrees: Bachelor of Science, International Health, Georgetown University (2015); Master of Science, Nutrition for Global Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2016)

Professional Interests: Global nutrition, maternal and child health, dietary assessment, micronutrient deficiencies, climate impacts, climate adaptation

Background/Interests: Caroline has over ten years of experience in international health research. Through her Masters and a Research Assistant position at Kaiser Permanente, Caroline honed her skills in project management, data collection and analysis, manuscript writing, and presentation development. Her academic journey at UC Davis has primarily focused on dietary assessment and micronutrient deficiencies. Caroline’s field experiences in Tanzania and Chile cultivated an deep understanding of the significance of culturally tailored health solutions, enriching her approach to addressing global health issues. Her dedication to health improvement is underscored by a portfolio of published papers and presentations, contributing to the collective knowledge in global health.

Advisor: Christine Stewart, Ph>D., M.P.H.

Entry Year: 2020


Zoe Baysdorfer Kaplan

Degrees: B.A., Music, Boston University, 2012; M.P.H., Brown University, 2018

Professional Interests: Epidemiology of autism and developmental disabilities, cultural influences on mental illness

Background/Interests: Zoe Kaplan first became interested in studying mental health in a public health context while working in special education. She completed her M.P.H. in 2018 at Brown University, where she conducted her thesis research on technology use among adolescents with autism. Since graduating, Zoe has worked as a research associate at the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, CA. Her work focuses on the epidemiology of alcohol use disorder and the spatial analysis of DUI arrests. While at UC Davis, Zoe aims to use public health research to improve health outcomes among people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Advisor: Rebecca Schmidt, Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2020


Charlotte Lorraine Kerber

Degrees: M.S. in Agriculture: Nutrition and Food Science, Cal Poly Pomona, 2014; B.S. in Food and Nutrition: Nutrition Science, Cal Poly Pomona, 2010

Professional Interests: Charlotte's research spans across nutrition, food Insecurity, cancer prevention and care delivery, health policy, health disparities, community engagement, implementation science, program evaluation, and health services research.

Background/Interests: Charlotte has over a decade of experience working to improve health equity and reduce disparities in underserved communities. She previously taught Nutrition at Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly Pomona, and developed and managed National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trials for Children’s Oncology Group. Charlotte serves her UC Davis community as the Primary Leader of the Public Health Sciences Graduate Student Organization, and her California community advocating for better food access as Chair of the Board of Directors for the state-wide nonprofit, Nourish California. Her research uses community-engaged methods to explore social determinants of health, cancer care delivery, behavior change, and program development and implementation. Charlotte hopes to support evidence-based

policy and practice transformation to improve nutrition access and cancer prevention outcomes.

Advisor: Laura Fejerman, M.Sc., Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2020


Pauline Martinez

Degrees: Bachelor of Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 2008; Master of Arts, Gerontology, with an emphasis on Health Wellness and Aging, San Francisco State University, 2010

Professional Interests: Gerontology, healthy aging, Alzheimer’s, and health disparities

Background/Interest: Pauline Martinez brings a decade of experience managing programs to improve quality of life for older adults and caregivers.  For the past 6 years, she managed education for the Alzheimer’s Association in Northern California. In addition, she consults with cities and counties to implement the WHO Age Friendly Cities Initiative; her work led to nomination as a pilot site in the Dementia Friendly America Initiative, announced at the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. Martinez taught Gerontology part-time at San Jose State and Oregon State Universities.  She is the recipient of the 2018 Scan Foundation - Innovation in Health Care Award and the 2012 Archstone Foundation - Award for Excellence in Program Innovation.

Advisor: Heather Young, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N.

Entry Year: 2019


Javier A Morla Estrada

Degrees: B.A., Economics and International Relations, Northeastern University, 2006; M.S. Development Management, American University, 2013

Professional Interests: Occupational and Environmental Health, Migrant Health, Program Evaluation, Health Policy, Social Behavior Change Communication, Global Health.

Background/Interests: Javier has eight years of experience evaluating the impact of global health programs and policies related to infectious disease and occupational health. Javier recently worked in Central America where he managed research activities of a national study on the impacts of discriminatory gender norms on gender-based violence in Honduras and a U.S. Department of Labor project aimed at improving occupational health and safety of agricultural migrant workers in the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. With a Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences, he hopes to become a university professor and researcher focusing on migrant workers’ health through policy and translational research.

Advisor: Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2021


Ani Movsisyan

Degrees: UC Davis: Psychology, B.S., 2015, Stanford University: Community Health and Prevention Research (CHPR), M.S., 2018

Professional Interests: Health Disparities, Refugee/Immigrant health, and Cancer Epidemiology

Background/Interests: Ani Movsisyan graduated from UC Davis in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and with minors in Professional Writing and Studio Art. Shortly after, she worked at the UC Davis MIND Institute as a Research Coordinator and decided to focus her career in providing quality healthcare and research opportunities to families from underrepresented communities. She studied Community Health and Prevention Research (CHPR) at Stanford University, and interned at the Stanford Tobacco Cessation Program. She currently works with the California Cancer Reporting and Epidemiologic Surveillance (CalCARES) branch of the UC Davis Institute for Population Health Improvement (IPHI). With her education in public health, she hopes to develop reliable health care systems in local communities in California, as well as in her home country of Armenia. In her free time, she enjoys landscape painting, reading, and spending time with her family and friends.

Advisor: Theresa Keegan, Ph.D., M.S.

Entry Year: 2019



Kristi Henricksen Perry

Degrees: B.S., Electrical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1994; M.B.A., Entrepreneurship, University of Arizona, 2002; M.P.H., Climate Change and Health Equity, California State University, Sacramento, 2023

Professional Interests: Climate change, Health equity, Social-ecological determinants of health, Environmental health, Environmental justice

Background/Interests: With over a decade of healthcare administration and climate change non-profit leadership experience, Kristi merged her interests in the field of public health. She attained her MPH with research topics spanning climate change and health issues such as respiratory illness, heat-related illness, vector-borne illness, food insecurity, and mental health. In 2022, she studied in Costa Rica, focusing on nature-based and built environment solutions that mitigate and adapt to climate change while improving health. With a Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences, Kristi would like to create and teach climate change and health curriculum as a university professor and researcher.

Advisors: Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2023


Melissa Pighin

Degrees: M.P.H. Epidemiology, University of California, Davis (2016); B.A. Environmental Studies, University of Washington (2012)

Professional Interests: Biomedical Informatics, Data Quality, Neuroepidemiology, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, Cancer Epidemiology

Background/Interests: Melissa has spent three years working as a quality control (QC) analyst for healthcare systems and research institutes. Her work focuses on the standardization of patient data collection and QC processes in compliance with The Joint Commission and other regulatory agencies. She is passionate about using biomedical informatics to improve data quality and to facilitate the real-time dissemination of quality of care findings to stakeholders for clinical practice improvement. Her background emphasizes neurological disorders and diseases with additional exposure to cardiovascular disease and oncology. She is excited to return to UC Davis and to further improve clinical data quality with a Ph.D.

Advisor: Amparo Villablanca, M.D.

Entry Year: 2020


Lucy Rios

Degrees: B.A., Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz, 2018; M.P.H., San Francisco State University, 2021

Professional Interests: Latinx Health, Prevention Science, Health Equity, Healthy Aging, Federally Qualified Health Clinics, Hearing Loss, and Technology and Medicine.

Background/Interests: Lucy (she/her) is a Ph.D. student in Public Health Sciences at UC Davis. Her research interests include addressing cancer disparities, health inequities, and Latinx health. Her dissertation focuses on understanding the barriers and facilitators to lung cancer screening. Under the mentorship of Dr. Moon Chen, Lucy is currently the project manager for the Enhancing Lung Cancer Screening through a human-centered approach (ELFE) study funded by the V-Foundation. Lucy earned a master’s degree in public health from San Francisco State University, and her undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of California Santa Cruz. As a first-generation scholar who comes from Latin roots and was Oakland raised, Lucy is passionate about supporting, mentoring, and training the next generation of public health scholars. 

Advisor: Moon S. Chen, Jr. Ph.D., M.P.H.

Entry Year: 2021


Tamara Solorzano

Degrees: B.S. Human Biology, UC Santa Cruz, 2013; Masters of Public Health, UC Davis, 2017

Professional Interests: Global Health Disparities, Infectious Disease, Environmental Health, Climate Change, Preventative Care, Mental Health

Background/Interests: Tamara is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer that served in Ghana from 2014-2016 as a Science High School teacher. She then worked in creating an international medical school summer program for a non-profit volunteer organization that displayed the difference between Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese and American health care systems. Tamara then worked in disaster emergency management at FEMA from 2017-2020 where she worked with State, Tribal and Territory governments on their disaster housing plans in steady state and worked with disaster survivors when deployed. Tamara in her free time likes to play videogames, try out new cooking recipes, and go bowling.

Advisor: Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D.

Entry Year: 2020



Nan Wang

Degrees: B.A., Public Health Administration, Fujian Medical University, 2015; M.A., Social Medicine and Health Management, Zhejiang University, 2018; M.S., Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, 2020

Professional Interests: Workplace Violence, Tobacco Control, Mental Health, Chronic Disease Prevention, Marijuana Use, Health Inequities, Social Determinants of Health

Background/Interests: In the span of the last eight years, Nan has been deeply involved in a diverse array of research projects, all with a central focus on probing health equities and fostering health promotion. Her predominant research endeavors have been directed towards the domains of risk behaviors, mental health conditions, Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia, as well as demography. Armed with a Ph.D. in Public Health Science, her aspirations encompass both the roles of a university professor and a dedicated researcher, with the intention of confronting health disparities head-on.

Advisor: Elisa Tong, M.D., M.A. and Melanie Dove, M.P.H., Sc.D.

Entry Year: 2021











Graduate Studies has forms for Qualifying Exams,  Advancement to Candidacy (Plan B), Designated Emphases, and Dissertation/Thesis Filing. The Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences is a Plan B program. You an see a full list of forms on the Graduate Studies website.

Welcome to the UC Davis Graduate Group in Public Health Sciences!

Congratulations on joining a new generation of health professionals focused on improving the lives of the many through the practice of public health.

The Ph.D. Student Handbook is your comprehensive reference guide to the administrative aspects of the Ph.D.


Public Health Sciences Ph.D. Student Handbook