Meet Vivian Hoang (CCS Biology ’22): The Visionary Behind the CCS Biology Alumni Seminar Series (C-BASS)
CCS Alumni enthusiastically participate in Fall 2020 launch of C-BASS
Vivian Hoang (CCS Biology '22) is a first-generation student, a curious biologist, and passionate about diversity and inclusion in science, which led her to launch the CCS Biology Alumni Seminar Series (C-BASS) in Fall 2020.
C-BASS stemmed from an analytical assignment in a CCS Writing & Literature course that Vivian took in Spring 2020—"STEM Stories" taught by CCS Faculty Karen Lunsford—which left her concerned about diversity and inclusion in the scientific community. Over the summer, after a discussion with CCS faculty and other students, C-BASS was born.
"The course assignment was to analyze how stories are used in a specific STEM artifact. Vivian chose to analyze the biographies of STEM faculty off the website and was dissatisfied with what she found. So, she decided to do something about it. She not only wrote the analysis for the course, but went on and wrote a proposal to CCS to support C-BASS. I am proud of what she has accomplished."
- Karen Lunsford, CCS Writing & Literature Faculty
Vivian and the vibrant CCS biology students she recruited for the team went to work at the start of the academic year. “We invited CCS alumni in academia, research, and industry as well as alumni pursuing graduate degrees to help us launch this effort by asking them to share with current CCS students their accomplishments, their doubts, their failures, and how their tenacity has helped cultivate diversity in the larger scientific community,” said Vivian.
CCS Biology Alumni Seminar Series (C-BASS) is a seminar series that highlights the narratives of biology alumni beyond their time at CCS – their accomplishments, their doubts, their failures, and how their tenacity has helped cultivate diversity in the larger scientific community.
C-BASS logo created by Charin Park.
"Many minority students feel there is no place for them within the science community. As an underrepresented minority in science myself, I can relate to the feelings of many of those students...Instead of putting our alumni and people we admire on pedestals, we ought to understand that they are not too dissimilar to us.”
- Vivian Hoang (CCS Biology '22)
“The 2016 CCS Commencement speech by CCS alumna and Nobel Laureate Carol Greider (CCS Biology ‘83) had an influence on C-BASS,” said Vivian, “specifically, Dr. Greider’s emphasis on sharing holistic accounts of scientists.” In selecting the C-BASS speaker roster and panel of graduate students, the team prioritized the gathering of a diverse group of alumni whose stories of personal and scientific discovery represented a wide variety of backgrounds. Vivian shared: “My hope with C-BASS was that biology students would be able to relate to and find parallels in their own lives with at least one of the alumni speakers. Additionally, these narratives, which often included pitfalls as well as triumphs, offered an alternative to the perfectly catalogued facts that one can find online.”
CCS Dean Gerardo Aldana welcomed this student-led effort: “I became aware of the C-BASS initiative when I had just been appointed dean in July. This student effort immediately reinforced one of the top reasons I was interested in the college: CCS students following their curiosity and seeking out experiential learning to advance their understanding. Vivian and her team took it up a notch further by taking an idea and turning it into a meaningful opportunity not only for themselves, but for their peers as well through our student-led colloquium. C-BASS is an incredible effort at a time when diversity, equity, and inclusion are forefront on all of our minds at CCS as well as at UCSB and in higher education overall.”
The weekly seminar series took place remotely via a Zoom webinar and was fully organized by the C-BASS team of students, including a logo created by Charin Park (CCS Biology ’22). Enthusiastically, Vivian commented: “I am so proud of the team and what we have been able to accomplish. Even though C-BASS was originally my idea, it was improved and refined through constant collaboration with the team and it was only possible as a collective effort.
Because of the pandemic, all the planning was done virtually through biweekly meetings during the summer. The C-BASS team received leadership and guidance from CCS biology faculty. “Many CCS biology faculty suggested alumni for the seminar series; Stu Feinstein provided tremendous help at the beginning of the process, helping me to refine my earliest conception of C-BASS; and John Latto helped greatly with the logistics of creating a seminar series, helping the team sketch out the structure of C-BASS,” recalled Vivian.
"One of the joys of CCS for me is helping students to get things started and then seeing what they can achieve, like Vivian and the C-BASS team. This serves as a model for other majors as these students showed that there can be advantages to our new remote environment and that it is possible to bring together speakers to illustrate the often convoluted path that successful scientists might take in their careers."
- John Latto, CCS Biology Faculty
The C-BASS Team
Like any start-up and in traditional CCS hands-on learning style, the C-BASS team of five members experienced the ups and downs of launching a new venture by doing it together.
Caroline Hemphill (CCS Biology ’23)—Moderated talk by Nitzan Soffer (CCS Biology ‘05)
Vivian Hoang (CCS Biology ’22)—Founder, moderated talk by Ron Vale (CCS Chemistry and Biochemistry ‘80)
Charin Park (CCS Biology ’22)—Graphics designer, moderated talk by Danna Staaf (CCS Biology ‘04)
Adriana Ramirez Negron (CCS Biology ’21)—Moderated talk by Richard Jefferson (CCS Biology ‘78)
Alanna Stull (CCS Biology ’21)—Moderated talk by Amber Kaplan (CCS Biology ‘06)
For Caroline Hemphill (CCS Biology ’23), who moderated a talk by Nitzan Soffer (CCS Biology ’05), “C-BASS was a valuable experience in many ways. I am most grateful for getting to know the rest of the team, all upperclassmen in CCS biology, who gave me amazing insights and made me truly feel more prepared for the rest of my time at CCS. It was fun to meet alumni and see all the incredible things they've done as well as the many directions they've gone after leaving CCS. I learned a lot about putting on a seminar series: from the intricacies of the Zoom webinar format to the importance of advertising; there are so many steps to take to put on a virtual seminar series. Doing C-BASS virtually seemed daunting, yet despite everything, we made it work! I am happy with the way the talks turned out and never could have known what a great time I would have.”
It was great meeting CCS alumni! hearing about the various directions that they have taken their careers, from science writing and communication, to academia, to industry, to advising and philanthropy, has once again shown me the value of CCS in igniting individuals towards work that they are passionate about. I’m excited to attend future seminars to hear more advice and words of wisdom from inspiring scholars!
– Michelle Chiu (CCS Biology ’21, C-BASS student participant)
Vivian moderated a talk by Ron Vale (CCS Chemistry and Biochemistry ‘80). As Vivian is interested in science communication, she would like to see C-BASS continue in future years by engaging further alumni with students. Vivian who is humble regarding her idea and the impact it has had, said: “Personally, it has been very fulfilling to see the first-ever C-BASS come to completion in the Fall. Last spring, it was just a silly little idea and now it has become something I am so proud to share with the rest of the College. I have enjoyed the process of planning the series almost as much as the actual talks itself. What I have enjoyed the most are the interactions between students and alumni that this initiative has facilitated. Meeting with other students and alumni to discuss our mutual interests in biology as well as the alumni personal stories of professional scientific development have helped me keep alive my passion for science in a time [due to COVID-19] that has been very difficult." Due to the success of C-BASS, College leadership will refer to it as a model for further engagement with alumni for the other 7 CCS majors.
"C-BASS helped CCS biology students visualize what their future could be like. There was a wide variety of alumni who presented, and it was really interesting hearing about what they pursued post-CCS and how they got where they were now. It was just cool hearing from CCS alumni directly. I feel like, even in a normal year, there are not many opportunities to connect with CCS alumni and this series made it a lot easier to do that, albeit in a distanced way.”
– Caroline He (CCS Biology ’23, C-BASS student participant)
Charin Park (CCS Biology ’22) was the C-BASS graphics designer and moderated the talk by Danna Staaf (CCS Biology ’04) in late October. “A fun challenge…” is how Charin described the experience on the team designing the layout and overall aesthetic for the C-BASS announcements. Charin recalled, “As the C-BASS seminars focused more on personal journeys and areas of growth for the scientific community, I wanted the announcements to feel a bit more organic than the sleek, vector-style templates that are often used for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) talks. For that reason, Charin opted to hand-draw each announcement using a raster graphics illustration app called Procreate. For Charin, “Creating graphics this way was excruciating, but also super rewarding! I came out of that experience with a better sense of what I’m able to achieve as a person who loves both art and science.”
“The more I got to know these worldly, open-hearted, persistent, and vivaciously-quirky scientists [CCS alumni], the humbler and more appreciative I became.”
- Charin Park (CCS Biology '22, C-BASS team member)
By interacting with the alumni, Charin recounted: “The more I got to know these worldly, open-hearted, persistent, and vivaciously-quirky scientists [CCS alumni], the humbler and more appreciative I became.” As a moderator, Charin was honored to have an opportunity to introduce Dr. Staaf to the student attendees, and learned from the experience new skills, including writing narratives, interviewing, and detangling the technical difficulties of Zoom. Charin summarized one of the key take-aways from the experience: “I was naïve to what it really meant to ‘work as a group’ as it doesn’t just mean cooperating with the people in our team, but also dealing with tons of listservs, alumni, faculty, and our student attendees. With most of our communication occurring remotely due to COVID-19, there was definitely a sense of ambiguity and separation that proved disorienting at times. In that regard, our chemistry as friends as well as fellow C-BASS members was a real blessing.”
Working on a project with a group of people remotely was a first for Adriana Ramirez Negron (CCS Biology ’21). Adriana contributed: “I'm proud of what we have accomplished with C-BASS. It came with challenges, such as setting up the Zoom Webinars, but it also was a learning experience to work in a group as amazing as the C-BASS team as everyone was diligent and collaborative, and excited about the project.” The C-BASS team organized Zoom meetings with each of the speakers prior to the seminars that allowed everyone to meet one another and discuss seminar logistics and expectations.
“The pre-meetings were wonderful because it felt more personal and the alumni speakers were able to share with us their stories. With Dr. Jefferson, our pre-meeting ended up being two meetings about an hour long each. It was an amazing experience to interact with someone as amazing as he is, and to get to hear his insights and perspectives on career paths and more. Because of C-BASS, I was even able to benefit from a mentor relationship with one of the alumni speakers which would not have been possible otherwise,” commented Adriana who continued to say, “I believe the students who attended benefited greatly from this seminar, and I'm so glad we were able to make this possible.”
“I believe the students who attended benefited greatly from this seminar, and I'm so glad we were able to make this possible.”
- Adriana Ramirez Negron (CCS Biology ’21, C-BASS team member)
Alanna Stull (CCS Biology ’21) moderated the talk by Amber Kaplan (CCS Biology ’06). Alanna echoes having a similar experience as voiced by her C-BASS team members. "As my other team members have mentioned, we all had an incredible experience with C-BASS. I am thankful for this opportunity and to meet Dr. Kaplan, whose talk I moderated. We all benefitted tremendously due to Vivian's vision and guidance."
In summary, Vivian's vision for C-BASS was possible due to the teamwork and hard work by each of the C-BASS team members. Though there were new collaborative challenges due to COVID-19, the team used the remote environment as an opportunity to learn from the experience and see what was possible.
The Alumni Participants
"As I acquaint myself with our alumni, I am humbled by the positive impact they are having in their professions and communities, including at CCS.”
- Gerardo Aldana, CCS Dean
C-BASS included 5 weekly seminars with individual members of the CCS alumni community and a panel with several alumni pursuing graduate degrees throughout the world.
“I—along with the C-BASS team and the CCS faculty—am grateful to the CCS alumni who made C-BASS a success by sharing their stories and offering a unique mentoring and leadership experience for our Biology students,” said Dean Aldana.
Alumni who participated in the C-BASS weekly seminar series events included:
Richard Jefferson (CCS Biology ‘78)
Nitzan Soffer (CCS Biology ‘05)
Danna Staaf (CCS Biology ‘04)
Amber Kaplan (CCS Biology ‘06)
Ron Vale (CCS Chemistry and Biochemistry ‘80)
Alumni who participated in the C-BASS graduate student panel included:
Nicole Bush (CCS Biology ’16)
Andrea DeRogatis (CCS Biology ’16)
Katie Feerst (CCS Biology ’19)
Maia Kinnebrew (CCS Biology ‘14)
David Lowe (CCS Biology ’19)
Duncan Proctor (CCS Biology ’17)
Theora “Theo” Tiffney (CCS Biology ’14)
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Stay tuned to witness wonderful things from Vivian and the C-BASS team as they continue their studies, go on to graduate school, venture into professional careers, take leadership positions, and have impact in their communities. All of us at CCS are so proud of each of them for taking on this project, especially given the pandemic and working remotely. A true accomplishment!