UCLA Samueli Launches Mentor Professor Program to Enhance Equity and Diversity


Jul 6, 2021

UCLA Samueli Newsroom

The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering is proud to welcome three new faculty members to its growing roster of nearly 200 full-time professors. The recruitment is part of the school’s Mentor Professor Program, a new initiative designed to hire faculty with a demonstrated record of, or who show exceptional promise for, mentorship of students from underrepresented and underserved populations.

Building upon the school’s commitment to foster a more inclusive and equitable environment, and to promote the success of underrepresented students, UCLA Samueli invited applications for multiple open-rank, tenure-track faculty positions in one or more of its seven departments and computational medicine, an affiliated department with both UCLA Engineering and the David Geffen School of Medicine.

“As a leading public university serving a diverse population, UCLA Engineering has proactively looked at ways in which we can make our community more inclusive,” said Jayathi Murthy.

“As a leading public university serving a diverse population, UCLA Engineering has proactively looked at ways in which we can make our community more inclusive,” said Jayathi Murthy, the Ronald and Valerie Sugar Dean of UCLA Samueli. “I’ve had meaningful conversations with our students and school leadership on how to support our students better. In hiring faculty, we have determined that, in addition to candidates’ research and teaching expertise, we must also take into consideration their track record of mentorship of students traditionally underrepresented and underserved in engineering and computer science.”

Scott Brandenberg, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and the school’s former inaugural associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives, was charged with heading the multidepartment searches. “The department search committees did a great job getting the word out about these searches, and we received applications from an excellent pool of candidates,” Brandenberg said.

UCLA Samueli has identified and successfully recruited three faculty members: Sergio Carbajo, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who specializes in ultrafast photon and particle sources; Regan Patterson, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, whose research combines sustainability, transportation and social equity; and Thaiesha Wright, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, who specializes in the applications of polymer chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics in medicine.

“I am delighted that these stellar scholars, who already have accomplished so much in their young careers, will be joining the school,” Murthy said. “At UCLA Samueli, they will push the boundaries of knowledge in their respective specialties while serving as mentors and role models for our students.”

Following are highlights of the three new faculty members.

Sergio Carbajo

Sergio Carbajo
Assistant Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Sergio Carbajo’s research interests are in novel ultrafast photon and particle sources, as well as their application in ultrafast phenomena for life and energy sciences. He also focuses on developing compact accelerators using a broad range of methodologies. Prior to joining UCLA in the spring of 2021, Carbajo was a principal investigator at Stanford University and served as the department head at Linac Coherent Light Source — a free electron laser facility at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Palo Alto, California.

Carbajo received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Hamburg in Germany, conducting research through a joint program from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron in Germany. He has received several awards and recognitions, including the 2021 SPIE Early Career Achievement Award, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship in 2019 and the SRI 2018 Young Scientist Award. Carbajo is actively engaged in professional service and outreach efforts for underrepresented minorities. He is devoted to promoting equity in educational and professional opportunities, and served as co-chair of the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at SLAC.

Regan Patterson

Regan Patterson
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Regan Patterson’s research lies at the nexus of sustainability, transportation and social equity. She uses air-quality models to quantify traffic-related air pollutant emissions in urban, disenfranchised communities. She is currently a transportation equity research fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington D.C. Prior to working at the foundation, she was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. Patterson will join UCLA Samueli in the fall of 2022.

A UCLA alumna, Patterson received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and became the first Black woman to deliver the Engineering School’s commencement speech at the encouragement of staff in the Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity. She held several leadership positions at the National Society of Black Engineers at UCLA. Among the honors she has received are the Agents of Change in Environmental Health Fellowship from Environmental Health News, the Switzer Environmental Fellowship from the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation, the 2017 Impact Award from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and the STAR Fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency. Patterson earned her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, where she was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Fellowship.

Thaiesha Wright

Thaiesha Wright
Assistant Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Thaiesha Wright combines expertise in polymer chemistry, biochemistry and biophysics. Her research interests are in the understanding of the kinetics and thermodynamics of enzyme-polymer interactions. The research has potential applications in developing agents for gene and drug delivery in the treatment of diseases, as well as in the production of industrial and consumer products. Wright is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in chemical and biological engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the NanoEngineering Department at UC San Diego. She will join UCLA Samueli in the fall of 2022.

Wright received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Spelman College in Georgia and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Miami University in Ohio, where she was the Dissertation Scholar for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. In addition to her doctoral studies at Miami, Wright founded and led the university’s Science Policy Group, which aims to advocate for science-informed policy at the university, state and national levels. Wright also earned a certificate in college teaching through the Center for Teaching Excellence.

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