IDRE Fellows are selected through an open call for proposals from postdoctoral researchers at UCLA working in IDRE focus areas including projects involving high-performance computing, GPU and many core-based computing architectures, statistical computing and data informatics, GIS, data visualization, and 3D modeling.
Following are the outstanding postdoctoral researchers who received the 2021-2022 IDRE Fellows award:
From left to right: Dr. Aviv Solodoch, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences; Dr. Bryor Snefjella, Psychology & Linguistics; Dr. Casey Youngflesh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Dr. Ricky Savjani, Radiation Oncology; and Dr. Wenwen Kong, Statistics and the Environment.
Past IDRE Fellows:
- J. Harry Caufield
- Matthew Jacobs
- Masaki Nakada
- Zhi Jackie Yao
- Khalid Youssef
- Omar I. Asensio
- Nikhil Chandra Admal
- Kristine Tanton
- Zhenman Fang
IDRE Fellow Bios
Dr. Aviv Solodoch’s current research focuses on the overturning circulation, which connects all of earth’s oceans in a global highway of currents. Water which cools and densifies at polar regions sinks to great depths under gravity and gets carried thousands of kilometers between oceans as it slowly rises to the surface again to complete an overturning cycle. The overturning circulation has significant implications for the climate as a whole, since it regulates the rate of exchange of heat and of CO2 between the atmosphere and the deep ocean. Dr. Solodoch investigates processes which impact the pathways and variability of the overturning circulation, using numerical models and analyses of observational data. His present research foci are: (1) Understanding how the overturning pathways depend on the regions in which dense water forms around Antarctica. (2) Developing machine learning methodology to estimate the overturning rate based on available ocean observations.
About Dr. Solodoch
Aviv Solodoch obtained a BSc in Math and Physics from Tel Aviv University, and a MSc in Physics from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He later completed a PhD in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UCLA, where he is currently a postdoctoral researcher. During his MSc, Aviv investigated air-sea interaction and heat exchange. During his PhD, Aviv investigated processes causing instability, offshore material exchange, and vortex formation in oceanic currents, using both numerical simulations and theory, with a focus on currents which form part of the overturning circulation in the North Atlantic. Aviv also conducted observational research with UCLA Marine Operations, studying coastal circulation dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico. He is presently studying the overturning circulation in the Southern Ocean, as well as the dynamics of transport of material between the coastal and deep ocean regions.
Text and photo provided by Aviv Solodoch
Bryor Snefjella’s research interests include the “micro” and “macro” scales of word meaning, using a mixture of experimental and observational approaches. Using experimental approaches, he studies word recognition processes and the representation of word meaning in the brain. He also applies emerging natural language processing technologies to model naturalistic language use patterns in social media and other corpora. Currently, Bryor is interested in the application of natural language processing, deep learning, and missing data methodology to model survey judgments about words’ meanings at unprecedented scale.
About Dr. Snefjella
Bryor Snefjella is a postdoctoral researcher in the Psychology Department, Cognitive Area, mentored by Idan Blank, Keith Holyoak, and Hongjing Lu. Before moving to UCLA, Bryor received a PhD in Cognitive Science of Language in McMaster University in Canada. His research on language use patterns in social media has received international media attention. Check him out on his personal website, Twitter, Linkedin, and Research Gate.
Text and photo provided by Bryor Snefjella
Casey Youngflesh’s research takes a cross-disciplinary approach, applying statistical and computational tools to large-scale ecological data. The IDRE postdoctoral fellowship will support research efforts using statistical data integration to quantify how the timing of seasonal ecological events (i.e., phenology) is changing over time, as well as the consequences of these changes. This work is focused specifically on exploring the phenological dynamics in North American migratory birds, a taxonomic group that has declined by nearly 30% over the last 50 years. This work will build upon prior efforts to characterize avian phenological dynamics, using a hierarchical Bayesian approach to integrate a diverse set of data sources within a unified statistical framework. This will take advantage of the wide spatiotemporal breadth of available information, despite considerable heterogeneity and incomplete overlap of these various data resources. This work will have implications for our understanding of how North American birds are responding to environmental change and constraints that may leave some populations more susceptible to the consequences of climate change.
About Dr. Youngflesh
Casey Youngflesh is a quantitative ecologist and postdoc with Morgan Tingley in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. His research seeks to understand how ecological systems function, how they are responding to rapid global change, and what this might tell us about how best to conserve these systems. He has a particular interest in applying quantitative tools to large-scale data derived from a variety of sources, including citizen science projects, satellite-based sensors, remote camera networks, and field-based efforts. His research efforts have taken him across the world, from Antarctica to the Galápagos Islands, though these days he can mostly be found at his computer trying to make sense of his data.
Text and photo provided by Casey Youngflesh
Ricky Savjani’s research involves finding ways to mitigate motion while patients are undergoing radiotherapy for solid tumors within the thorax and abdomen. Mentors Dan Low, PhD and Anand Santhanam, PhD have pioneered a model-based CT approach in which patients undergo several (25) low-dose, fast helical CT scans while they are breathing freely. At UCLA, we now have scanned over 100 patients with this protocol, allowing us to now build inter-patient frameworks to model the dynamics of respiration. Ricky is developing a generative framework that can drive lung volume deformations using an external surrogate marker – a belt the patient wears that measures abdominal distention. With this framework, Ricky is working towards generating 3D volumetric projections of the anatomical motion during radiotherapy, ultimately allowing for better tumor control and fewer side effects. Ricky is also working closely with industry partner Varian, A Siemens Healthineers Company.
About Dr. Ricky Savjani
Ricky Savjani is a resident physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at UCLA. As part of his training, he is conducting research through the American Board of Radiology Holman Research Pathway, in addition to seeing patients clinically to become a radiation oncologist. Prior to joining UCLA, Ricky received BS degrees in Electrical Engineering/Computer Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He then pursued an MD/PhD at Texas A&M College of Medicine where his research focused on structural and functional imaging of the human brain. Ricky loves medical imaging and hopes to continue to use advanced imaging approaches to deliver safer and better radiation to patients. For more information about Ricky and his projects, visit his lab and project website.
Text and image provided by Ricky Savjani
Wenwen Kong is an atmospheric scientist and geographer. She is interested in the behavior of precipitation and temperature over land. Her overarching research goal is to integrate our knowledge of other subdisciplines of Earth science (such as land, ocean, and cryosphere) with atmospheric processes, which, she hopes, allow us to achieve more accurate predictions from weather to climate timescales. Her current research seeks to address these questions: (1) What physical processes shape rainfall’s seasonality, intensity, and spatial extent? (2) What drives the variability of near-surface air temperature over land, and what are the quantitative contributions of different drivers for a specific region? (3) How do these processes behave in the past, present, and future? To tackle these problems, she employs a diverse set of research tools, including observational analysis, theory, and numerical modeling. Wenwen is excited to join the IDRE community, and she hopes to build interdisciplinary collaborations with other IDRE scholars.
About Dr. Kong
Wenwen Kong is currently a postdoctoral scholar at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). At UCLA, she works with Professor Karen McKinnon and Dr. Isla Simpson to explore the role of land surface conditions and atmospheric circulation on continental temperature distribution. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley, working with Professor John Chiang. Her dissertation was on the dynamical linkage between the seasonal evolution of the East Asian summer monsoon and the latitudinal migration of westerlies. Before that, she obtained her M.Sc in Atmospheric Science from Peking University (advised by Professor Yongyun Hu) and a B.Sc. in Atmospheric Science from the Ocean University of China.
Text and image provided by Wenwen Kong
Past IDRE Fellows:
J. Harry Caufield is a postdoctoral fellow in the NIH HeartBD2K Center of Excellence at UCLA, where he works with Prof. Peipei Ping of UCLA’s departments of Physiology, Medicine, and Bioinformatics. Before joining UCLA, Dr. Caufield earned his PhD in Integrative Life Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied microbial protein interactions and developed intuitive methods for working with large protein interaction networks. He continues to have an active interest in learning about biological relationships hidden within disparate data sources, particularly those with a direct impact on human health and disease.
Matthew Jacobs was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He received a B.A. in math at Columbia University in 2011. Then received a Ph.D. in math from the University of Michigan in 2017. His thesis advisor was Selim Esedoglu. For the last two years, he has been a postdoc in the UCLA math department and his postdoc mentors are Stan Osher and Andrea Bertozzi.
Masaki Nakada obtained his Bachelor’s degree in applied physics in 2009 and his Master’s degree in pure and applied physics in 2011 from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. He then obtained his Ph.D. in computer science in 2017 from University of California Los Angeles, and his current research is centered on artificial life to create a virtual human with biomimetic human vision and a neuromuscular control system. His research has led to the development of a biomimetic human system as a bottom up approach, which gives us the ability to realize the complete human system in software and robots.
Zhi (Jackie) Yao is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She obtained the M.S. degree in 2014 and the Ph.D. degree in 2017, both in the ECE Department at UCLA. Her main work during the graduate and postdoc researches is the development of a numerical solver unifying dynamic electromagnetics (EM), nonlinear magnetic spin dynamics, and acoustics. This solver is under progress of licensing and enabling public access, and is one of the key contributions to the sustainability of the NSF ERC center for Translational Applications of Nanoscale Multiferroic Systems (TANMS) headquartered at UCLA. Her work has been funded by sources such as NSF and DARPA.
She has received multiple academic honors, such as the 1st place Best Student Paper in International Microwave Symposium, IEEE Antennas and Propagation Society Doctoral Research Grant, Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship, Outstanding Master’s Thesis at ECE UCLA and 1st place in PhD exam at ECE UCLA.
Khalid Youssef is a postdoctoral researcher with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. His research involves developing new machine learning algorithms, and their application in a variety of interdisciplinary fields such as image & signal processing, robotics, control, fluid dynamics, and medical imaging. Some applications he developed include a new generation of bioreactors that utilize artificial neural networks to dynamically control mechanical forces in cell growth environment, state of the art medical image denoising capable of learning noise statistics from images, and data driven radio frequency transmitter identification. Khalid’s work has pushed the state of the art in 2nd order ANN training algorithms, and his ongoing research targets the implementation of novel 2nd order-based ANN training methods to large-scale and big-data applications.
Iris Chang is a PhD candidate in Professor Jaime Marian’s group in the department of Materials Science and Engineering at University of California, Los Angeles. She uses Molecular Dynamics (MD) and Monte Carlo (MC) method to study particle/laser interactions with materials. Her thesis work focuses on the computational study of resilient self-healing materials for the extreme environment of space electric propulsion and power. She also teaches courses in Science of Engineering Materials and Mechanical Behavior of Materials. Before joining UCLA, she received B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering at National Taiwan University in 2013.
Richard William Sportsman is a PhD candidate in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department at UCLA in the lab of Professor William M. Gelbart. Richard’s thesis research focuses on studying the physical properties of plant viruses and how these properties affect the initial stages of a plant virus infection (yes, plants can catch a virus too!). The study of plant viruses has applications in preventing virus spread and using plant virus proteins as a shell to package genes for therapy in cancer and other debilitating human diseases as well. IDRE offers a unique opportunity to learn about interesting projects across UCLA and potentially acquire new skills and form collaborations which have been very helpful to his research.
Omar I. Asensio, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment & Sustainability and the Anderson School of Management Ziman Center. He uses field experiments and quantitative methods to address innovation challenges related to energy, transportation and urban sustainability. His forthcoming research on energy efficiency strategies in commercial buildings will be featured in Science – Editor’s choice section. He holds a doctorate in environmental science and engineering from UCLA and is a former National Science Foundation IGERT fellow with a topic in clean energy for green industry.
Nikhil Chandra Admal, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow working with Prof. Jaime Marian in the Materials Science and Engineering department at UCLA. He is broadly interested in the multiscale modeling of materials at various length and times scales ranging from the atomic scale to the continuum scale. Currently, the focus of his research is on the study of recrystallization in refractory materials to increase their operating temperature, and development of first-principles strain gradient elastic models to include non-local effects relevant in micromechanical systems, and systems with defects.
Prior to joining UCLA, Dr. Admal obtained his PhD from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Minnesota.
Kristine Tanton, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow and project manager for the collaborative project at UCLA, Paris Past and Present. Working with Prof. Meredith Cohen (PI, Department of Art History) and a team of graduate and undergraduate students, she manages project workflow and serves as a modeler for the project. To date, the team has completed 3D models for about a dozen buildings that were first constructed during the reign of Louis IX (Saint Louis).
Dr. Tanton received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Southern California in 2013. She integrates traditional and emerging methods to study the dynamic relationship among sculpture, architecture, and ritual activity in the Middle Ages. She is especially interested in how new media and information technology can transform research and pedagogy in the field of pre-modern art and architectural history. Using digital tools such as 3D reconstructions, animations to track ritual movements through architectural space, and databases to formally and quantitatively analyze large datasets, she has been able to reevaluate long-held assumptions about canonical sites to gain insights into medieval architectural design and construction methods.
Zhenman Fang, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Computer Science Department, UCLA, working with Prof. Jason Cong and Prof. Glenn Reinman. He is a member of the NSF/Intel funded multi-university Center for Domain-Specific Computing (CDSC) and the SRC/DARPA funded multi-university Center for Future Architectures Research (C-FAR). Zhenman received his PhD in June 2014 from Fudan University, China and spent the last 15 months of his PhD program visiting University of Minnesota at Twin Cities. Zhenman’s research lies at the boundary of big data workloads and systems, heterogeneous and energy-efficient accelerator-rich architectures and systems, and system-level design automation. He has published 10+ papers in top venues that span across computer architecture (HPCA, TACO, ICS), design automation (DAC, ICCAD, FCCM), and cloud computing (ACM SOCC). He received several awards, including a best paper nominee of HPCA 2017, a best demo award (3rd place) at the C-FAR center annual review. More details can be found in his personal website: https://sites.google.com/site/fangzhenman/.