2021 Cohort

Heather K Barr

Degrees: BS Health Sciences: Community Health Education, California State University, Sacramento, 2017; MPH: Epidemiology, University of Nevada, Reno, 2019

Professional Interests: Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Environmental Justice

Background/Interests: In grad school, Heather interned with a Medical Examiner on suicide prevention. This work exposed her to a very personal level of mental health research and ignited a passion for mental wellness. After completing her degree, she worked for UC Davis Medical Center as an epidemiologist. reporting hospital acquired infections and leading COVID reporting to HHS. She has taught epidemiology at CSUS since 2020. In 2021, she rejoined the mental health workforce with UCSF evaluating crisis programs throughout California. As we look forward to a post-pandemic future, she intends to continue supporting the mental wellness of Californians.

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Carolyn Dewa and Dr. Jeffrey Hoch

Entry Year: 2021



Nancy Chen

Degrees: BS Public Health, University of Washington, 2017; MPH Epidemiology, University of California, Los Angeles, 2019

Professional Interests: Lifecourse and Aging Epidemiology, Health Disparities

Background/Interests: Nancy recently served the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as a data analyst where she processed and analyzed COVID-19 outbreak data using SAS. Previously, she worked as a data specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she collected and managed large patient registries. Through her experiences, she solidified her interest in studying the cognitive and physical challenges faced by older adults living in disenfranchised communities. She aspires to conduct research that informs health and financial policy decisions and to provide meaningful resources that can improve the lives of those who have been historically marginalized.

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Rachel Whitmer and Dr. Jay Beaumont

Entry Year: 2021


Maria Cruz

Degrees: BS, Biology Concentration in Physiology, San Francisco State University, 2019; MPH, 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.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Miriam Nuno

Entry Year: 2021



Javier A Morla Estrada

Degrees: BA, Economics and International
Relations, Northeastern University, 2006; MS 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 PhD in Public Health Sciences, he hopes to become a university professor and researcher focusing on migrant workers’ health through policy and translational research.

Faculy Advisor: Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto

Entry Year: 2021



Sandra Flores

Degree: BA, Comparative Literature and French, University of California, Berkeley, 2014; MPH, 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.

Faculty Advisor: Dr Julie Dang

Entry Year: 2021



Andrea Guggenbickler

Degrees: BS in Global Disease Biology, University of California, Davis, 2018; MPH, Epidemiology Emphasis, University of California, Davis, 2021

Professional Interests: Sexual Health Equity, Women and LGBTQIA+ Health, Health Disparities, Global Public Health

Background/Interests: Andrea first became interested in public health through her undergraduate degree in Global Disease Biology, after which she obtained her MPH degree. She has engaged in research concerning HSV-2 vaccine development, menstrual hygiene product access, sexual education improvement, and sexual assault prevention and education. Andrea has had the opportunity to focus on epidemiological aspects of research and methodology, which she hopes to continue and apply to her future research in health disparities. Through the PhD program in Public Health Sciences, Andrea is pursuing her goal of becoming a university professor and researcher focused on sexual health equity and health disparities.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Marius Koga

Entry Year: 2021



Lucy Rios

Degrees: BA, Anthropology, University of California Santa Cruz, 2018; MPH., San Francisco State University, 2021

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

Background/Interests: Lucy is a proud Oakland native with Latin roots who is passionate about improving health outcomes in her community. Over the past seven years she has worked as a Development & Communications Manager for a non-profit that provides social services and family healthcare to low-income families. While earning her MPH, Lucy was a research scholar through the Health Equity Institute and examined the role of HPV self-testing technologies has on cervical cancer prevention. By earning her PhD, Lucy aims to address health inequities by becoming a NIH funded scientist with a faculty position in a university with a strong health disparity program.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lisa Miller

Entry Year: 2021



Dilpreet Sahota

Degrees: BA, Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley, 2017;
MSc, Community Health & Prevention Research, Stanford University, 2018

Professional Interests: Health Analytics, Digital Health, Health Equity, Behavioral Health, Health Policy

Background/Interests: Dilpreet is a digital health professional with years of experience at the intersection of technology and healthcare. His expertise includes data analytics, digital health commercialization, and digital behavioral health programs. His past work also includes studying community-level health disparities at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital. In the next wave of digital health innovation, Dilpreet is excited to be joining the UC Davis PhD in Public Health to ensure that these technologies are equitable and accessible for all. Born and raised in the Fresno region, Dilpreet will now focus on the unique needs of the Central Valley.

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Nick Anderson and Dr. Prabhu Shankar

Entry Year: 2021

Nan Wang

Degrees: BA, Public Health Administration, Fujian Medical University, 2015; MA, Social Medicine and Health Management, Zhejiang University, 2018; MS, 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 and mitigating health disparities head-on.

Faculty Advisors: Dr. Elisa Tong and Dr. Melanie Dove

Entry Year: 2021



2020 Cohort

Charlotte BergheimerCharlotte Lorraine Bergheimer

Degrees: MS in Agriculture: Nutrition and Food Science, Cal Poly Pomona, 2014; BS in Food and Nutrition: Nutrition Science, Cal Poly Pomona, 2010

Professional Interests: Nutrition, Food Insecurity, Cancer Prevention, Health Policy, Health Disparities, Community Health, Implementation Science, Program Evaluation, Health Services Research

Major Advisor: Dr. Laura Fejerman

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest:Charlotte has a decade of experience working to improve health outcomes and reduce disparities in underserved communities. In her recent work, she developed and managed National Cancer Institute-supported clinical trials for Children’s Oncology Group, and taught Nutrition part-time at Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly Pomona. Charlotte serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the California Food Policy Advocates, and her research focuses on program efficacy and nutrition-related behavior change in low-income communities. With a PhD in Public Health Science she hopes to support evidence-based policy and practice transformation to improve nutrition access and cancer prevention outcomes.



Bozhidar ChakalovBozhidar (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

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Michelle Ko

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest: 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. Moreover, after graduating, Bozhidar taught Biostatistics in the MPH program at SFSU and continued doing research at the Health Equity Institute. By earning his PhD, 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.



Caroline JoyceCaroline 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, supplementation and fortification

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Christine Stewart

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest: Caroline most recently worked as a Research Assistant at Kaiser Permanente Colorado. Her past work ranges from adolescent sugar consumption to disparities in lung cancer screening to proteomics for precision medicine. In the past year, she has most enjoyed working on a medically-tailored meals research study that seeks to understand whether nutrition improves health outcomes after hospitalization. During her undergraduate and graduate degrees, her experiences in Tanzania and Chile reinforced her interest in adolescent nutrition and maternal and child health. At UC Davis, Caroline hopes to pursue additional work in these fields, and augment her experience with child supplementation programs.



Zoe Kaplan Zoe Baysdorfer Kaplan

Degrees: BA, Music, Boston University, 2012; MPH, Brown University, 2018

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

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Schmidt

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest: Zoe Kaplan first became interested in studying mental health in a public health context while working in special education. She completed her MPH 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.



Jiyeong KimJiyeong Kim

Degrees: Master of Public Health (MPH), Johns Hopkins University, 2014; Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm), Chung-Ang University in South Korea, 2007

Professional Interests: mHealth, Digital Health, Technologies for Public Health, Infant and Children’s Health, Global Health Policy, Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

Major Professor: Dr. Theresa Keegan

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest: As she has been having aspirations towards helping others in need not only for her community but for the world, she wants to focus on developing sound evidence for the global health policy. Especially, she is interested in 1) implementation of technologies for public health, mainly in LMICs, and 2) cost-effectiveness analysis. She hopes that her past experiences of developing a health educational application based on Artificial Intelligence to reach out to teenagers, as a clinical pharmacist, a pharmaceutical representative at Johnson & Johnson, a chief officer at an E-commerce company will be an asset for her future research.



Melissa PighinMelissa 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

Major Professor: Dr. Amparo Villablanca

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest: 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.



Tamara SolorzanoTamara Solorzano

Degrees: BS 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

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Irva Hertz-Piccotto

Entry Year: 2020

Background/Interest: 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.




2019 Cohort

Shannon Hearney portritShannon Hearney

Degrees: B.S. in Psychology from UC Davis 2016; MPH with a concentration in community assessment, program design, implementation and evaluation, Boston University 2019

Professional Interests: Trauma Informed Care, Resiliency, Reproductive Justice and Firearm violence

Major Professor: Dr. Jeffrey Hoch

Entry Year: 2019

Background/Interest: Shannon recently graduated from Boston University where she found an interest in research working alongside Dr. Michael Siegel on opioid research. Before this Shannon graduated from UC Davis with a B.S. in Psychology. During her masters she was able to work for her hometown contributing to Shasta County’s Health and Human Services Agency by collaborating on their community health assessment. Here Shannon learned the practical applications and use of public health data and worked with the community to better understand their needs. Shannon is excited to join the UC Davis Ph.D. program and continue her research to better our communities.



Caitlin Jones portraitCaitlin Jones

Degrees: M.S. Conservation Medicine, Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (2016); B.S. Biology, University of California, Riverside (2013)

Professional Interests: Health Disparities and Ecological Integrity, One Health, Environmental Health, Climate Change Adaptation

Major Professor: Dr. Kathryn Conlon

Entry Year: 2019

Background/Interest: Caitlin received her M.S. Conservation Medicine at Tufts University, where she focused on an assessment of socio-economic factors and trophic cascades of Tasmanian devil facial tumor disease and devil declines. Caitlin sought to apply her background in One Health studies to public health, initially working in disease intervention at an Iowa county public health office. She then completed the California Epidemiologic Investigation Service fellowship with California Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Investigations Branch, working primarily on wildfire epidemiology. She hopes to continue her work in this area through a Ph.D., to improve adaptive capacity of vulnerable populations and ecosystems.



Pauline Martinez portraitPauline 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, & health disparities

Major Professor: Dr. Heather Young

Entry Year: 2019

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.


Brittany L. Morgan

Degrees: B.S. in Community Health Education, Portland State University, 2016; M.P.H. Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, 2018

Professional Interests: Observing the bi-directional relationship between antimicrobial resistance and observed health disparities

Major Professor: Dr. Beatriz Martinez Lopez

Entry Year: 2019

Background/Interest: Over the past nine years, Brittany has participated in a wide variety of research projects exploring health disparities and health promotion needs of diverse, and historically underserved communities. Recently, she completed the California Epidemiologic Investigation Service fellowship with the California Department of Public Health and worked as a research scientist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Antimicrobial Use and Stewardship Program. Brittany has a varied background, but the recurrent theme has been her deep desire to make a difference by addressing health inequities and connecting with people across cultures - work she hopes to continue at UC Davis.



Ani Movsisyan portraitAni 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, & Cancer Epidemiology

Major Professor: Dr. Theresa Keegan

Entry Year: 2019

Background/Interest: 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.



Jenny Wagner portraitJenny Wagner

Degrees: Master of Public Health, University of California, Davis (2016); Bachelor of Arts, Exercise Biology University of California, Davis (2014)

Professional Interests: Social and Structural Drivers of Population Health Outcomes and Racialized Health Inequities; Neighborhood Effects on Health; Structural Racism Measurement; Residential Segregation

Major Professor: Dr. Michelle Ko

Entry Year: 2019

Background/Interest: Jenny (she/her) is a graduate of the PhD program in Public Health Sciences at UC Davis. Her research interests include the social and structural drivers of population health outcomes and racialized health inequities. She is particularly interested in structural racism measurement and the roles of historical redlining, residential segregation, and neighborhoods change processes in shaping health. Jenny earned her MPH at UC Davis in 2016 and worked in program evaluation for nearly 5 years. In fall 2023, Jenny will start a new position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health at California State University, Sacramento.


2018 Cohort

Laura Farnsworth photoLaura Farnsworth

Degrees: MPH, UC Davis (2017); B.A. International Relations, Anthropology, University of Virginia (2010)

Professional Interests: Nutrition, Chronic disease prevention, and Health disparities.

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lisa Miller

Entry Year: 2018

Background/Interests: Laura currently works as a California Epidemiologic Investigation Service Fellow in the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Division at the California Department of Public Health. Before starting her fellowship she earned her MPH from UC Davis where she created a database to help the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch of the California Department of Public Health build a policy primer. Prior to graduate school Laura served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala where she started a health education program aimed at improving the health of indigenous youth and their families.

Graduate Studies has forms for Qualifying Exams,  Advancement to Candidacy (Plan B), Designated Emphases, and Dissertation/Thesis Filing. The PhD 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 PhD Student Handbook is your comprehensive reference guide to the administrative aspects of the PhD.


Public Health Sciences PhD Student Handbook