Local Organizing Committee

Sarah Loebman Sarah Loebman is an assistant professor of physics at UC Merced and co-Chair of our CUWiP Local Organizing Committee. She's an astrophysicist whose primary research interests are in galaxy evolution, clustered star formation, and chemo-dynamics in the Local Universe. She uses high resolution galaxy simulations, survey data, and Big Data tools and techniques to conduct her research. She is also a devoted teacher and student advocate, and she is strongly committed to supporting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts in astrophysics.

Kristin Beck Kristi Beck (she/her/hers) is a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). Kristi’s research is in the area of quantum computing, both in designing, building, and testing quantum hardware and in using these devices to perform calculations and simulations. More broadly, she is interested in quantum control, quantum-limited measurement, and laser cooling techniques.  Before moving to LLNL, Kristi spent a few years at the quantum computing startup IonQ and was a Joint Quantum Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Maryland from 2016-2018. Kristi received her Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2016, her M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge as a Churchill Scholar in 2010 and her B.S. in Physics and B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Rochester in 2009.

Shilpa Khatri Shilpa Khatri is an associate professor of applied mathematics, UC Merced. Her research is in fluid dynamics arising in the context of biological and marine phenomena, such as the transport of nutrients, organisms, and pollutants in the ocean. She develops mathematical models and numerical methods - specifically for fluid-structure interactions and multiphase flow - to the point where they can be used to answer scientific questions in the biological sciences. Further, Shilpa runs an experimental lab where the models and the methods are compared to simple experiments. She received her BS in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003 and her Ph.D. from New York University in 2009.

David Strubbe David Strubbe is an assistant professor of physics at UC Merced and co-Chair of our Local Organizing Committee. His research in condensed matter theory focuses on methods and applications of electronic structure calculations, including studies of photovoltaics and 2D materials, and he is a developer of the widely used massively parallel Octopus and BerkeleyGW codes. He received a BS in chemistry and physics from the University of Chicago in 2005 and a PhD in physics with designated emphasis in nanoscale science and engineering from UC Berkeley in 2012, where he was an NSF graduate fellow, and he did postdoctoral research at MIT. David received the Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement in 2020.

Dustin Kleckner Dustin Kleckner is an assistant professor of physics at UC Merced. His lab focuses on the study of structure in fluid and soft matter systems, with a particular emphasis on creating new optical tools to measure or manipulate matter. He earned a B.A. in Physics and Art at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and obtained his Ph.D. in Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Student Representatives

pooja Pooja Chopra is a 6th year graduate student and works with Dr. Bin Liu where they study how size matters for bacterial transport in structured media. As a CCBM scholar, Pooja has had the opportunity to mentor high school and undergraduate students. Pooja has also served as the vice president for the Women in STEM organization in Ohio, having conducted annual mentorship and networking events, career workshops inviting women speakers who facilitate to address impostor syndrome in graduate students and women of color events. Currently, Pooja is an active member of women in STEM organization at UC Merced.

Bamidele Bamidele Onipede is a second year graduate student at UC Merced. He conducts his research in the Hui Cai Lab where he investigates novel behaviour of 2D excitonic insulator materials and has previously worked in the Max Planck Institute of Solid-State Research, Stuttgart, Germany where his master's research was carried out in the department headed by Nobel Laureate Prof. Klaus von Klitzing.


JennyQuin Jenny Quinn (they/them) is a second year graduate student at UC Merced. They work with Sarah Loebman and use simulations of Milky Way-like galaxies to analyze the formation and evolution of spiral structure. They obtained their B.S in Physics and Computer Science at Texas A&M University and are currently a member of UC Merced’s DEI committee.


Sameen Sameen Yunus is a first-year graduate student in the Strubbe Ab Initio Laboratory (SAIL) group at UC Merced working on developing an electronic structure model of matter under extreme conditions. She received her B.A. in Physics and Astronomy at UC Berkeley where she had the opportunity to attend previous CUWiP conferences.

Elsa Vazquez is a UC Merced Alumna who graduated in May 2022 after transferring from Oxnard Community College. As an undergraduate, her research looked at the frictional properties of two-dimensional nanomaterials in collaboration with Professor David Strubbe and then grad student Enrique Guerrero. She will continue working with Professor Strubbe's research group for an additional year, with the Cottrell Postbaccalaureate award. In the future, Elsa hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in physics and gain the skills to serve the communities she works with. Broadly she wishes to serve underrepresented groups within her discipline. She enjoys spending time outdoors, reading, and caring for a small collection of plants and one cat.

Md. Mainul Hasan Sabbir is a graduate student at UC Merced.

Ryan_Keeler Dr. Ryan Keeley is a postdoc in the Physics and Astronomy Department at UC Merced.  He does research in particle astrophysics and cosmology and investigates the nature of dark matter and dark energy.  Currently, he is using observations from the JWST of strong gravitational lenses which are unique laboratories to understand how dark matter is distributed on the scale of the Universe.

Administrative Support

2022-2023: Alisa Kravchuk, department specialist

2020-2022: Mariah Gonsalez, Department Specialist; Tom Martinez, Department Support Supervisor