Credit: Laurel Hungerford Photography

Katy Rodriguez Wimberly is a 3rd year graduate student studying astrophysics. She wants to answer how and why smaller galaxies stop forming new stars particularly when those galaxies become satellites of larger galaxies. She credits her love of astrophysics to Star Trek: Voyager. Though she loved astronomy as a child, she had no idea that being an astronomer was a real thing until deep into watching Voyager in her mid-twenties; she swooned over Captain Katherine Janeway – who was not an astronomer but a researcher and lead Katy to find/reignite her passion. Because of Star Trek, she realized she wanted to become an astronomer and started working toward her bachelor’s degree in physics. Post PhD, Katy’s goal is to stay in academia doing research full time. She wants to earn a postdoc position at a research university/institute and then attain a tenure track faculty position at a similar university/institute. Throughout all of this she plans to continue doing outreach and mentorship regardless of where her full time career takes her. Outside of physics, Katy’s hobbies are “the extremes of activity.” She loves rock climbing, hiking, and camping as much as she loves binge watching TV (specifically anime and silly sitcoms) and playing video games. To maintain a good work/life balance she tries to be really organized to make sure that she is exercising regularly, eating somewhat healthy, and scheduling fun activities with her husband (like going for a hike and then binge watching anime on a Saturday.)

Katy helped create the PACE program with fellow student Arianna Brown. PACE is the Physics and Astronomy Community Excellence program. It is a collection of peer mentorship programs that aim to normalize a holistic approach to success as a UCI physics student and to strengthen our student community. In each program, PACE uses a holistic approach to success that focuses on mental health and spreading awareness of non-cognitive resources and best practices – all presented in an equitable and inclusive way. Katy wanted to start the PACE program as a response to the results of various surveys conducted in the department. As part of the Inclusive Excellence Committee, Katy volunteered to address the concerns of the graduate students who wished to see more mentorship within the department. Prior to this, she completed the Grad Division’s Mentoring Excellence Program and served as a peer mentor in programs such as Competitive Edge, the departments 1st year mentoring program, and in WiPA’s grad-undergrad peer mentoring program. With so much mentoring experience, and having some excellent mentors of her own, Katy was very excited to use her experience to help out in the department. Her goals for PACE are to help create a vertical mentoring ladder within the department, where everyone has a network of mentors to feel fully supported and everyone has opportunities to serve as a mentor if they wish. PACE focuses on peer mentorship amongst grad students (Fire Up Fridays and the Exceleration program) and grad-undergrad mentorship (Stride). PACE has also partnered with the Resonance program to incorporate undergrad peer mentorship into the larger program. In the future, PACE plans to start a postdoc-grad program. Katy says she would love for every student to feel like they are a part of an inclusive and diverse community who cares holistically about their success in the department and feels fully supported from the moment they begin their career at UCI.

The Student Spotlights are a series brought to you by a collaboration between the UCI Physics and Astronomy Blog Team and the Physics Graduate Caucus at UCI