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Juliana Hernandez: Graduate Student

What research are you working on right now?

Someone from the Raymond Carr Lab came and visited us asking to see if there was anything we could do to help them speed up the process of looking at sea urchin gut contents so they could automate the process and free up a person to be able to do other research. So, what they do is they collect sea urchins from the ocean, then they cut them open and empty their contents onto a plate and take a picture of that. So what they want is a program to identify what the sea urchins ate. They’re studying the health of the kelp forest and apparently sea urchins like eating the kelp forest. Ever since the sea otter population has seen losses due to hunting, the sea urchin population has been out of control and they started overeating the kelp forest. So they want to monitor them and know what they’re eating. I’ve been making scripts for an open source software program that I could install into their computer and they’ll be able to run the program and it will do the analysis for them and spit out an excel file with all the information they want.

What do you like about Baskin Engineering?

I like that there’s a sense of community here. I also like that it’s very interdisciplinary. Collaborating with biologists keeps me on my toes because I have to learn biology and all these other things, which is kind of nice because it makes you more interdisciplinary and that’s one of the reasons why I decided to stay at UC Santa Cruz for grad school. I like working with the coastal campus. People do things because they want to help the environment or other people but I feel like I make tools so people can help other people.

I also like all the mentoring opportunities. When I was an undergrad, they had mentoring for transfer students and now they have a mentoring program for women and they pair you up with someone in the same subject that you’re studying. So I really like that about this school. Whatever it is you’re looking for mentoring for, they have it.

What other research are you working one?

Part of my PhD project is to build the multi-focus structured illumination microscope. It’s a combination of two different types of microscopes. One is the multifocal microscope and it’s a regular microscope that has a diffraction grading in the image path which separates one image’s focal plane into 25 images with 25 focal planes so you can kind of get an instantaneous 3D image. The other portion is the structured illumination, which is added to the illumination path and what that does is it down converts higher frequencies that can’t really go into the objective because it has a diffraction limit and with some computation on the images you’re able to get the super resolution images. I built the multifocal portion with the help of our high school interns and our collaborator from Belgium and I built the structured illumination part and the next step is to combine them.

Do you have any advice for students?

One thing I hear often is that if you’re not sure if you want to go to grad school, you shouldn’t go. But I feel like that’s bad advice especially if you like doing your own projects and concentrating on one thing to get it done, it’s nice being in grad school as opposed to being in industry. It’s more independence and your own work instead of having a manager tell you to take a break on a project and work on something else. I feel like you can have more control over how your career is shaping.

What do you do for fun?

I like Brasilian Jiu Jitsu.The academy has a sense of community and the people are almost like family. Also, it’s exercise and I like being active. And it makes me feel more confident when I do Brasilian Jiu Jitsu. I noticed I started speaking up for myself instead of being shy. I also recently started getting into photography because taking good photos should kind of come intuitively to me since our lab does a lot of imaging with both hardware and software so I’m trying to get more into that.

Electrical and Computer Engineering
Degree Program: 
Ph.D., electrical engineering
Place of Birth: 
Los Angeles
Undergraduate Institution: 
UC Santa Cruz
Graduate Institution: 
UC Santa Cruz
Sara Abrahamsson