Research Ambassadors

Sofia Martinez - UROC Co-Director

Sofia Martinez transferred as a sociology major from Santa Rosa Junior College in the fall of 2014. Since transferring Sofia has been conducting an independent research project through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. Her research aims to understand how medical discourse concerning a hormonal condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome perpetuates normative understandings of gender. In the past Sofia has also done research with Dr. Marcin Smietana and Dr. Charis Thompson, on surrogacy within LGBT communities. In her spare time Sofia enjoys spending time with her pets and peer advising at the sociology department. In the future, Sofia hopes to continue her education and continue making the best of her time at UC Berkeley.

Ilexis Xochitl Jacoby

    Ilexis is a Taiwanese, Salvadorian, German-Jewish, Bahá’í feminist, artist, musician, plant caretaker, first generation college student, and soil chemistry researcher. She is majoring in Molecular Environmental Biology, and minoring in Music. She grew up in Fresno, CA with her loving parents and five siblings. The prominent agricultural scene in the San Joaquin Valley has largely influenced her interest in plants, soil, ecology, and environment. Within her field, she strives to be cognizant of the social ramifications that construct the esoteric study of environmental sciences. She is passionate about integrating a critical race and gender framework into her personal and scientific lens and methods of research.

    For the past year and a half, Ilexis has done mainly soil microbiology and biogeochemistry lab work as an undergraduate research assistant under professor Mary Firestone. She also has research experience in plant and algae genetics. Currently, she is working in the Firestone Lab on an independent research project in soil chemistry, in which she will investigate carbon mineral associations in soil. She explains, “Some of the oldest stabilized carbon known is bound to soil minerals. I hope that understanding these carbon mineral bonds may provide a piece of the knowledge we need to explore methods to optimize carbon sequestration in soils, thus reducing atmospheric CO2 levels, and give us a chance in combating climate change.”  

    Alexa Aburto

      Alexa Aburto is originally from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Born to hardworking and kind Mexican immigrants, she is a first generation college student. As a junior majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing, she is an advocate for the influential power of self-expression through the written word. Growing up with a special needs brother, she is deeply passionate about inclusion politics, specifically, disability rights, both inside and outside the classroom. As a self-proclaimed and proud Latina feminist, Alexa’s research focuses on the personal and social effects anti-abortion policies have against the female body, both literally and metaphorically. Other research interests include: examining the consumption of alcohol by Latin American men through a medical/biological anthropological lens; disability studies and cultural studies.

      Istifaa Ahmed

        Istifaa Ahmed is a Bengali, critical race feminist. She's lived most of her life in LA, with her mom and sister, who also goes to Cal (she's trying very hard not to smother her). They're her two favorite people in the world. Her greatest inspiration is her mother. Istifaa wishes to one day be at least half the fiercely independent, strong and intersectional woman her mother is and has been.

        Istifaa is double majoring in 
        Ethnic Studies and Gender and Women's Studies while minoring in Global Poverty and Practice. Traditionally, she is attached to a legacy that commits sexual violence and erasure against her body. In her research, Istifaa centers the body as a site of political violence and markings that scars us all. By projecting her body into public and historical spaces, she demands a decolonial, intersectional visibility of her body that forces questions of her race, gender, class and sexuality, and her interaction with the imperialist, capitalistic, white heteropatriachy. In pursuit of sharpening her internal and external identities, Istifaa strongly engages in issues of art, academia and sexual exploitation, all of which she was subject, actor and agent. Feel free to reach out and/or utilize Istifaa as a resource! She loves passionate people (and really just knowing everyone's business).

        Daniel Felipe Cardozo Pinto
        Daniel was born in Bogota, Colombia and immigrated to the United States at the age of five. In high school, his work tutoring students with attention deficit disorders led him to develop a deep interest in the fundamental workings of the brain. After a summer completing psychology coursework at Stanford, he declared a double major in Psychology and Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley specializing in neurobiology. He has experience in both cognitive neuroscience researching visual working memory using functional brain imaging, and in optogenetics using molecular techniques to characterize neural circuits implicated in animal models of depression and addiction. He is passionate about increasing scientific literacy in the general population and about the inclusion of Latinos and other underrepresented communities in science. If you have questions about finding research opportunities on campus, securing summer funding for your work, or applying to graduate school - or if you are simply interested in psychology, biology, or anything brainy - please get in touch!
        Nawang Sherpa

          Born in the Himalayan region of Nepal, Nawang is the first generation college student from his

          family. He enjoys learning new languages and is fluent in Sherpa, Nepali, Hindi, moderately

          proficient in Spanish and plans on learn Tibetan while at Cal. He transferred from Santa Rosa

          Junior college in the Fall of 2016 and is majoring in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis

          on cell and developmental biology.

          Previously he was a research assistant at Buck Institute working on the mTOR pathway and its

          effect on aging and age related diseases. mTOR is one of the pathway that regulates cap-

          dependent mRNA translation. Understanding the underlying mechanism of translation and how

          it regulates gene expression can open new avenues for diagnosing chronic diseases and have

          greater implications in developing necessary treatments/preventative care.

          He intends on continuing research on aging and is currently in the process of finding a research

          opportunity on campus. This semester he has been involved with the UC Berkeley Global

          Medical Training (GMT). In Spring (2016) he will be joining other students from UC Berkeley to

          provide clinical care and advocate about public health in rural areas of Panama. He is excited

          about the program since it is focused on global health and also gives him an opportunity to

          experience the rich culture and tradition of Panama.

          Nawang is passionate about the clinical and research aspect of medicine, and in the future, he

          intends to pursue MD/PhD.

          Rosario Torres

          My name is Rosario Torres. I grew up in a disadvantaged low-income household. My parents were not given a chance at education to be socially mobile. My father has been a day laborer for over twenty-five years and my mother worked cleaning homes for about fifteen years. They worked hard to provide for my sisters and me. I married young and was married for seven years, and suffered domestic violence. Since leaving this abusive relationship, I decided to go back to get my High School Diploma, and subsequently continued my education at community college.  However, it was a trying time as I am a single parent, and have two children. In order to attend full-time, I worked while going to school to pay for books and childcare related expenses.

          Today, I am a UC Berkeley student, and as I stated earlier, I am a single parent to a ten-year-old son and a five-year- old daughter. Therefore, overcoming these and various other obstacles has made me even more proud of my accomplishments, because balancing school, while being a parent hasn't been easy. That is why, I have been very active in my community to help people realize their educational goals, namely, through my internship at the Undocumented Student Program, my former internship at the Student Parent Center at UC Berkeley, as well as my community outreach to high school students at Oakland International High School through the Dreamers Project. These opportunities have allowed me to set an example for young women and undocumented students, who like me, may not have had a mentor to guide them and encourage them to explore and begin to dream of a career.

          Academically, I intend to get my Bachelor's degree in Anthropology and eventually obtain my masters and Doctorate degree as well. I chose this major because becoming an Anthropologist would equip me with strategies that would enable me to use the knowledge garnered to solve tangible human problems. Therefore, as a Anthropology major, I have taken four Archeology courses at UC Berkeley, and through the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship program (URAP), I have been working in the archaeology lab at UC Berkeley under the direction of Professor Kent Lightfoot. More recently, I have also been working in the McCown Lab also known as the Archaeobotany lab overseen by Professor Christine Hastorf.

          Moreover, I recently applied and was accepted into UC Berkeley’s Haas Scholars Program.  This fellowship fully funded my summer undergraduate research at Wilder Ranch State Park in California, and will allow me to publish the culmination of my undergraduate research as a senior honors thesis. I believe the latter will better prepare me to apply to graduate programs after obtaining my Bachelors in Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Ultimately, my longer term goal is to contribute to the level of knowledge that help researchers and descendant communities discuss findings in terms of contemporary concerns that can influence how state and federal agencies work alongside Native American stewards in implementing better landscape management practices in California.

          However, my children are the biggest driving force in my life. As a child being granted permission to be curious, I want to see the world as my children would, through curious eyes, I want to continue to explore our world together. Therefore, I choose to continue on this journey, pursuing my goal of becoming an Anthropologist.


          If you would like to know more about my research here is a link to the description on the Haas Scholars website for current scholars.

          Andrea Valencia

            Andrea Valencia is a senior and is excited about her research in the Senior Honor's Thesis Program within the Sociology department. When not freaking out over the mountains of assignments she has to complete, she enjoys spending time with her friends enjoying the little things. Her research interests include understanding how racial biases are manifested through healthcare and international foreign aid donations within Sub Saharan Africa. 

            Alé Vazquez

              Alé Vazquez is a transfer student from Cerritos Community College and is majoring in English. He is involved with Latinx Association for Transfers and currently holds an internship at Our Family Coalition. While here, he has participated in the cooperative, poetry, research, and queer communities on campus. He is a current Mellon Mays Fellow which raises diversity in the professoriate and while affiliated he has participated in a research program at University of Chicago as well as a conference at Stanford. He has been mentored by Marcial Gonzalez, Nadia Ellis, and Lynne Gerber. Although he is walking for commencement in Spring 2017, he hopes to study abroad in Brazil to take literature courses, experience a new culture, and practice his Portuguese. After he hopes to move to New York and develop a relationship with the poetry community before getting a PhD in literature. Overall, he is grateful that among the many things he has learned at UC Berkeley, learning how to navigate Google Calendar has been one them.