Current Sociology Students


Berty Arreguin

Key words: social inequalities in health, type II diabetes; socioeconomic status, race, sex/gender, and aging; theory, mixed research methods.

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Berty Arreguin is a Mexican-American woman, a first-generation college graduate, and the first in her family to gain acceptance into a doctoral program. In past research, she analyzed variations in how people in California self-rate their health based on their socioeconomic status, education, race, sex, and age. She wants to expand this research to include chronic disease, specifically type II diabetes, in the San Joaquin Central Valley where she grew up. Although type II diabetes can affect many people, some groups face a higher risk—specifically Mexican-Americans women. She wants to investigate how this chronic disease affects the way Mexican-Americans women self-rate their health condition, and to understand whether they practice self-care after a diagnosis. If not, what prevents them from participating in self-care behaviors? She can be contacted at [email protected].


Sarah Blake, MPH, MSc

Keywords: adolescence, sexual and reproductive health, health disparities, postcolonial feminist theory, critical global health, qualitative methods

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Sarah’s work focuses on the social and structural drivers of adolescent reproductive health in low resource contexts. She explores the interaction among global health and development discourse and practice, national policy, community social norms and processes, and programmatic interventions as they relate to adolescent girls’ education and health. Sarah has more than a decade of professional experience in international and domestic sexual and reproductive health related research, programming and advocacy. She currently supports the Population Council’s efforts to promote evidence-based, girl-centered programming in Sierra Leone, and with communities of practice working with and for girls affected by emergencies and economic inequity across various settings. Sarah holds a Master of Public Health (MPH), with a certificate in Sexuality, Sexual, and Reproductive Health from Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health; a Master of Science (MSc) in Gender, Development, and Globalization from the London School of Economics; and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Religious Studies from Pomona College. Email: [email protected]


  Chuck Cloniger


  Jennifer Templeton Dunn, JD

Keywords: reproductive justice, abortion, contraception, respectful maternity care, health disparities, race/class/gender, intersectionality, and ethics.

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Jennifer Dunn, JD, is a doctoral student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, with a concurrent faculty appointment in UCSF’s Department of Family Health Care Nursing. Jennifer’s research and advocacy focus on contraception, abortion, and respectful maternity care. She is teaching faculty in the UCSF Global Health Sciences program, affiliated-faculty with the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium, and serves as the UC Hastings Faculty Ambassador to the UC Center on Women’s Health, Gender & Empowerment. Jennifer also serves as the Director of the California Alliance for Abortion Care. She can be contacted at [email protected].


  Thais Forneret

Keywords: qualitative methods, theory, race/class/gender, mental health

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Thais /ty-EES/ is a doctoral student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research focuses on how social forces affect the mental health of various social groups, particularly that of mixed-race individuals. Thais is interested in qualitative methods of research, especially ethnography and in-depth interviews, and sociological theory. Thais earned her Bachelor's degree in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Master's degree also in Sociology from the California State University, Sacramento
Email: [email protected]


  Nicole Foti

Keywords: politics of bioscience; sociology of scientific knowledge; gender/race/class; feminist theory; science, technology & medicine

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Nicole is a PhD candidate interested in research that focuses on bioscience within the context of social, political and cultural structures. She is interested in the relationship between biomedical research and interlocking systems of power, including gender, race, class and sexuality. Her work is informed by the understanding that scientific knowledge both influences and is influenced by systems of power and oppression. Her current research focuses on health social movements and counter-hegemonic biomedical projects. Nicole has bachelor's degrees in Biology from Oregon State University and in Women’s and Gender Studies from University of Oregon. Prior to UCSF, she worked at a HIV/AIDS nonprofit organization serving nonmetropolitan areas in Oregon. Email: [email protected]


 Carmen Green

Keywords: Birth equity, Black femme theory, Reproductive Justice applications, sexual & reproductive health, gerontology & aging, social policy

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Carmen Green is Vice President of Research & Strategy at National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC), creating solutions that optimize Black maternal and infant health through training, research, policy advocacy and community-centered collaboration. Her research priorities are in operationalizing anti-racist frameworks and Black feminist theory in healthcare, policy, and culture. She is also interested in gerontology and access to long term care and end of life services. She is a former Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, State Policy Fellow. Then, based at Louisiana Budget Project in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Carmen focused on health policy, long-term care support and predatory lending protections for low and moderate-income families. She created Hazel Green, LLC in 2017 to provide grant writing assistance for Black-owned community-based programs and family serving nonprofits. She has earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Wake Forest University, and master's degrees in maternal and child health and community health education from Tulane Universities. Carmen is a writer, reproductive justice activist and doula in training, whose continued commitment is to Black families experiencing wellness and joy.


  Luis Gutierrez-Mock


  Jessica Harrison

keywords: reproductive health, mental health, gender, biomedical ethics, qualitative methods

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personal website:
[email protected]


  Abou Ibrahim-Biangoro

Keywords: Immigration, second-generation immigration, identity, race, social medicine, public health, mental health

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Abou Ibrahim-Biangoro is a PhD candidate at UCSF in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She identifies as a Cameroonian American, and her research focus is on the health (mental and physical) outcomes of second-generation immigrants. Her goal after finishing her doctoral degree is to utilize her research to build the foundation of improved healthcare for immigrants through a lens of social medicine. Her previous work was in nonprofit, educational program management, as well as coaching. Many of her experiences shaped her interest in mental health, mindfulness, and public health. She has done talks and lectures on these subjects and is always eager to learn more. Abou received her Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis, and completed her Master's in Public Health from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her personal website is


  Jhia Jackson

Keywords: youth, aging, chronic illness, communication practices, body politics

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Jhia’s research interests stem from her experiences as a professional dance artist, a commitment to life-long learning, and her personal experiences. Her work routinely addresses questions such as: How do we know what we know? How do we communicate what we know? How are we understood by others? She enjoys hands-on opportunities to work with and among the very populations that inspire her, and she looks forward to delving deeper into research and program development for these communities.

Email: [email protected]


Cristin Kearns


Natalie Keller


  Melanie (Mel) Jeske, MS

Keywords: biomedicalization, science and technology studies, translational medicine, emergent biotechnology, political economy of biomedical research, illness experience, qualitative methodologies

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Situated at the intersection of sociology of medicine and science and technology studies, Melanie’s research has focused on how developments in science, medicine, and technology shape the ways we come to know and understand our social identities, beliefs about human difference, and experiences of health and illness. Her research critically examines the social, political, and economic drivers of emergent technologies and knowledge systems. Mel's work has been published in BioSocieties, Social Science and Medicine, and Engaging Science, Technology and Society.        email: [email protected]


Erin Johnson, PhD (cand)
  Erin R. Johnson, MPH


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Erin Johnson is a PhD candidate at the University of California San Francisco, where she has been a Cota-Robles and Rosenberg Hill Fellow. She specializes in mixed methods research and evaluation, with a particular focus on increasing access to care for disadvantaged populations. Erin earned her Masters of Public Health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, where she worked on several community-based HIV prevention projects. Since that time, Erin has worked at American Institutes for Research as a Research Associate and at Behavioral Health Concepts, Inc., as a Data Analyst. Erin’s research seeks to understand how our social construction of the “female” body as fertile and the valorization of motherhood as the ultimate feminine virtue affects health policy, medical practice, and personal experience around menstruation, contraception, and abortion. She is particularly interested in the ways socio-political systems punish individuals assigned female at birth who reject (or even appear to reject) motherhood, how they prioritize the health of potential future children over the health of patients capable of becoming pregnant, and how individuals and communities work to resist these oppressive systems.



 Selam Kidane

Keywords: race/ethnicity, immigrant mental health & health disparity, global health systems, qualitative methods

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Selam Kidane is an Eritrean-American, she is interested in further analyzing issues related to mental and physical health amongst the East African diaspora and communities of color. Her interests draw upon her work as a licensed clinical social worker. Selam currently works with dialysis patients who live with chronic kidney disease. Her work with patients of color and immigrants has helped her recognize the significant barriers that exist with navigating the healthcare system. She hopes her work can guide future policy and program development to better understand and serve immigrant populations and communities of color. Selam earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in ethnic studies from Saint Mary’s College of California and her master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern California. She can be reached at [email protected].


Kate LaForge


  Maya Manian

Keywords: reproductive health care, health disparities, race/class/gender, intersectionality, law and society

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Maya’s research focuses on access to reproductive health care and the relationship between reproductive rights and gender equality. She examines how the law resists reforms aimed at gender equality and how this resistance differentially impacts women along lines of race and class. She is interested in exploring how abortion laws and policies filter into clinicians’ provision of women’s health care. Maya is a Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco School of Law. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Her USF Law School faculty website is She can be reached at [email protected].


  Amina Massey 


  Tessa Nápoles, MS

Keywords: residential instability, gentrification and displacement, homelessness, food insecurity, chronic illness and comorbidity, structural violence, race/class/gender, US urban health safety net, qualitative methods

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Tessa Napoles, MS is a Doctoral Student and Research Analyst in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences. Since completing an MS at UCSF, Tessa has worked with over ten interdisciplinary, mixed methods studies examining chronic illness and comorbidity (HIV, HCV, diabetes, breast cancer), food and housing insecurity, and poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area. She currently supports the UCSF SocNet study (PI: Janet K. Shim) which is exploring the social network dynamics of chronic care management program patients in the US urban health safety net. Email: [email protected]


Kourtney Nham


  Jeff Nicklas

Keywords: Politics of storytelling, mental health, game studies, sociology of knowledge, ethnography, qualitative methods, science & technology studies

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Jeff Nicklas earned his Master of Science in Medical Anthropology from the Boston University School of Medicine where he conducted ethnographic research on forced migration and healthcare in the United States. Prior to joining UCSF, Jeff supported multiple studies examining eHealth and chronic care management at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Broadly, Jeff’s research interests focus on the politics of storytelling and how biomedical and scientific mental health knowledge is conveyed and taken up within emerging and existing forms of media. He is especially interested in the social and cultural implications of how mental health knowledge and stories are constructed, narrated, and responded to within video games. He currently supports the UCSF SocNet study (PI: Janet K. Shim) which is examining social networks and chronic care management within the US urban health safety net. Email: [email protected]


Dimpho Orionzi


  Ashley Perez

Keywords: Sexual minority health; health disparities; racial/ethnic minorities; intersectionality; HIV prevention

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Ashley Perez is a Graduate Dean’s Fellow and a doctoral student in sociology. Her primary research interest is sexual health and behavior among minority populations, particularly looking at the intersections of race/ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. Ashley has worked on HIV prevention projects in the U.S., China, and Brazil. Ashley holds a BA in Public Health and ScM in Social and Behavioral Health Sciences from Brown University. She can be contacted at [email protected].


Giselle Pérez-Aguilar

Keywords: Latinx immigrant health, indigenous healing, racialized health inequities, mental health

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Giselle Pérez-Aguilar is a first-generation Mexicana Indigena doctoral student, inspired by her Boyle Heights roots, Zapotec ancestors, and educational endeavors at UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan School of Social Work. She was introduced to health research in 2010 and has worked closely with her mentors Dr. Nancy S. Wu, Dr. Alejandra Casillas, Dr. Rebecca Dudovitz, and other scholars, to address health inequities and deepen our understanding of adolescent substance abuse, adolescent mental health, and barriers to electronic health records for BIPOC communities. Giselle’s main interest lies in bridging indigenous healing practices with western mental health, using psychoanalytic approaches, spirituality, and environmental justice, to help undocumented women of color heal from complex trauma, reclaim their power, and become earth stewards. During her doctoral journey, Giselle hopes to use her clinical social work skills to give back to the communities that have uplifted her throughout the years and move health research in the direction of humanistic/liberation approaches. She currently collaborates with Dr. Stacy Torres and Dr. Jennifer James at UCSF and can be reached at [email protected]



  Brittney Pond

Key words: Aging, Alzheimer's disease, emotion work, death and dying, caregiver trauma, qualitative methodologies, ethnography.

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Brittney Pond is a Doctoral Student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology in 2018 and completed a thesis in which she used ethnographic methods to study formal caregivers working with people who have Alzheimer's disease. Currently, she is a Graduate Research Assistant for UCSF studying tobacco use and lung cancer. Her main research interests focus on perceptions of aging, "dying well," and elder agency, especially for those with Alzheimer's disease. She is engaged in questions regarding emotion work, caregiver burnout, and qualitative methodologies.


Adrienne Shatara
  Adrienne Shatara, MPH

Keywords: Social determinants of health, trauma informed care, adverse childhood experiences, mental and behavioral healthcare, healthcare design research; maternal, child, and adolescent health (MCAH); children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN)

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Adrienne Shatara, MPH is a PhD student in the UCSF department of Sociology and Behavioral Sciences, and a Research Manager at the Family Health Outcomes Project in the UCSF department of Family and Community Medicine. Her interests are around the Social Determinants of Health and Trauma Informed Care, and how these two concepts can be addressed together to inform policy and person-centered healthcare and mental healthcare design for vulnerable populations. She can be contacted at [email protected]


 Keridwyn Spiller

Keywords: maternal health care; patient experience; sex and gender; race; intersectionality; feminist theory; sexual and reproductive health; social inequalities in health

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Keridwyn (Keri) Spiller is a sociology doctoral student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Women's & Gender Studies from Texas A&M University in 2019. Her interests include maternal health care and labor and birth experience, with a focus on how gender, race, and other identities impact maternal health. Keridwyn is currently finishing a coauthored sociological paper connecting traumatic birth experiences and sexual assault, based on primary research of forced, coerced, and pressured medical procedures during labor and birth in The United States. She hopes to continue researching people’s experiences in maternal health care and work with individuals in the healthcare industry to develop solutions that can help people have more empowering, less life-threatening, and less traumatic, labor and birth experiences. She can be contacted at [email protected].


Megan Visser
 Megan R. Visser (Dowdell), MA

Keywords: Religion/Spirituality, coping, chronic illness, intersectionality, spiritual care, interpretive phenomenology.

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Megan is a PhD candidate interested in religion/spirituality, coping and chronic conditions. Megan is a Unitarian Universalist minister, serving a small congregation in Santa Clarita Valley and brings a chaplain’s heart to her research interests in medical sociology. From 2010-2020, she was a professor at a small theological school. She holds a BA in Society & Health from Simmons College in Boston and a MA in Ethics and Social Theory from the Graduate Theological Union. Her doctoral dissertation project is a phenomenological study on the religious/spiritual experiences of women of color with heart disease. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Her personal website is .


  Rebecca Wolfe

Keywords: race/class/gender, body and embodiment, religion, eating disorders

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Rebecca is a doctoral student in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF. She is interested in the intersection of race/class/gender, religion, embodiment, and eating disorders. She is currently focused on the impact of the protestant evangelical movement known as “Purity Culture” on the development of eating disorders in young women raised within that movement. She is also currently working with Dr. Kristen Harknett on the Shift Project, looking at work schedules and family health. She earned her B.A. in Sociology from Seattle Pacific University in 2016. She can be reached at [email protected].



If you are a current student of the UCSF Sociology Doctoral program, we would love to feature your profile on this page. Please send an email to [email protected] that includes:

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  • A short paragraph describing your background, interests, current research, etc. that is 200 words or less, written in 3rd person narrative.
  • Optional – email for contact and/or your personal website