College of Science and Engineering

Speakers share stories of personal transformation at Commencement

SF State ‘can be your rock,’ said Jayshree Ullal, president and CEO of cloud networking company Arista Networks, at the May 26 event

San Francisco State University celebrated the Class of 2023 at its annual Commencement ceremony Friday, May 26, at Oracle Park. More than 4,000 graduates and more than 31,000 people attended the event, which featured technology business leader Jayshree Ullal as keynote speaker. Ullal talked about the challenges she faced coming to the U.S. from her native India to attend San Francisco State in 1977. 

“While I was pursuing electrical engineering, I was only one or two of 100 female students in a class of 100,” said Ullal (B.S., ’81), who studied electrical engineering at SF State and went on to become president and CEO of cloud networking company Arista Networks. “This made cutting class difficult, as we were conspicuous by our absence!” 

Despite being a trailblazer in a then mostly male field — and a “very shy, quiet introvert” to boot — Ullal said her Engineering professors and fellow students were supportive.   

“This great San Francisco State institution shaped me and guided my future,” she said. “And it can be your rock just like it’s my foundational rock.” 

Two honorary California State University degrees were also conferred at Commencement: legendary Rolling Stone writer and editor, author, DJ and TV host Ben Fong-Torres (B.A., ’66) was honored with a Doctor of Fine Arts, while activist, filmmaker, author and psychotherapist Satsuki Ina received a Doctor of Humane Letters.  

“Actually I didn’t attend my Commencement. Hey, it was the Sixties. We forgot, man,” Fong-Torres joked to the crowd. “But I have never forgotten this university’s impact on me. … I got that [Rolling Stone] gig, I think, because of the freedom that we had to experiment with journalism here at SF State, and the lessons learned from that freedom.” 

During Ina’s speech, she encouraged the Class of 2023 to make the world a better place through empathy and action. 

“I urge you to bring with you something that has always been inside of you, even before college, and that is your compassion,” she said. “We need all that you bring, and more than ever in this world of conflict, violence, injustice and suffering, we need your compassion. We need you to care and love family and friends, of course, but also the stranger, the other, the foreigner. Reach out beyond your comfort zone, welcome the outsider. It is compassion that can mend the fractures, heal the wounds and bring us together.” 

Other speakers included SF State President Lynn Mahoney, Associated Students President Karina Zamora and Associated Students Chief of Staff Iese Esera. Two student hood recipients, among 12 graduates honored for their academic and personal achievements, also shared their stories. 

“I began my journey in higher education as a homeless first-generation college student with a baby on my hip and another in my belly. I did not have support, money, guidance or a place to call my own. But what I did have was a dream,” said undergraduate speaker Nicole Bañuelos. “I had a dream that I would earn my degree in Biology and go on to study medicine and save human lives. This dream carried me through my most trying times. I learned how to study through morning sickness and nausea, how to hold a textbook in one hand and a baby in another, how to hold my head up high when I felt like the world was looking down on me. But most of all I learned how to never give up in the face of adversity and that after every dark night there is a brighter day.” 

Graduate student speaker Hasti Jafari, who was born in Iran, reflected on the Iranian women’s movement and the important lessons the Class of 2023 can learn from the brave activists there. 

“As someone honored to have called both countries home, I encourage you to see their fight as your fight, as the basic rights of women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ and disabled communities are under threat in this country as well,” Jafari said. “And in this deeply interconnected world, none of us are free until all of us are free.” 

Learn more information about SF State’s 2023 Commencement. 

‘The Last of Us’ for amphibians: University researchers trace emergence of fungus threatening African amphibians

SF State professor, students describe how a deadly fungus began spreading among amphibians in Africa over the last 165 years

For the past few years, how a virus triggered a global pandemic has dominated conversations. Now, thanks to the TV show “The Last of Us” (about an apocalypse triggered by brain-eating ’shrooms), fungi have infected popular culture. The focus has been on pathogens that cause human disease, but what about those affecting nonhuman species? San Francisco State University scientists are among the many concerned about a fungus that has been detrimental for amphibians worldwide and is contributing to a loss of biodiversity.

In a new Frontiers in Conservation Science paper, San Francisco State researchers detail the relatively recent emergence and spread of a deadly fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd) among amphibians in Africa. Eight of the co-authors are former SF State students who were in a seminar class led by senior investigator Vance Vredenburg, a University Biology professor.

“When [amphibian] skin starts to change thickness, it basically creates a condition where they can’t maintain their internal processes and they die,” said co-author Eliseo Parra (B.S., ’14; M.S., ’17) about how the fungus attacks. “If infecting a mammal, it might affect your fingernails or something you wouldn’t even notice, but amphibians (frogs, salamanders) use their skin to breathe. It’s a very critical part of their body.”

The fungus is lethal for many amphibian populations but not others, Vredenburg says. His lab wanted to understand where the fungus is, how it got there and why it’s deadly for some amphibians, particularly in Africa where it has been under-studied.

In 2016, Vredenburg’s class, eager to get involved in conservation research, read papers about Bd and evaluated previously published data. In parallel, Vredenburg’s lab, in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences, assessed the infection status of amphibian specimens from Africa. These two approaches gave the project nearly 17,000 records for analysis and a 165-year view of how this fungus interacts with amphibians across the continent.

The team reports low Bd prevalence and limited spread of the disease in Africa until 2000, when the prevalence increased from 3.2% to 18.7% and Bd became more widespread geographically. Vredenburg notes that not only is the fungus infecting amphibians but it is causing negative (often deadly) consequences versus being dormant.

The researchers also found two lineages of the fungus in Africa. One was a global lineage — considered the most dangerous version of the fungus — while the second was previously believed to be more benign, though the SF State team found evidence that it may also be destructive. Using their data, the team created a model that predicts that eastern, central and western Africa are the most vulnerable to Bd.

“We’re trying to extend our findings and make predictions about what could happen in the future. It’s the best way to make our study worth the work,” Vredenburg said.  “There are nearly 1,200 amphibian species in Africa. We wanted to say where are the riskiest places for outbreaks. Those will probably be the places where you have the most hosts in one place.”

“It’s very important to note that Bd didn’t spread worldwide without humans helping in one way or another,” added co-author Hasan Sulaeman (B.S., ’16; M.S., ’19). “It’s not the first pathogen that affects hundreds of species worldwide and it’s not going to be the last.”

The team points out that this project does not fit the traditional molds for science research papers or literature reviews. The fact that a scientific paper resulted from research done in a class is rare too, Vredenburg explains, attributing the feat to students’ talent and motivation.

Both Parra and Sulaeman participated in the project as students in the seminar class and as researchers in Vredenburg’s lab. They are among the students who continued to be involved for some part of the five years after the initial semester-long project. Through this experience, they gained valuable insight into the scientific publication process — something that is not trivial or quick — early in their careers.

Sulaeman is currently working on CDC-funded national SARS-CoV-2 studies, while Parra studies animal behavior in rainforests as a Ph.D. student at UCLA. Both alums recall the research environment that Vredenburg fostered that brought together undergraduate and graduate students with a variety of cultural and scientific backgrounds and levels of expertise. They both note the power in diversity and how it improves science.

“When you have a lot of really smart people in a room sitting at a table regularly, it is possible to do a lot. Maybe we didn’t understand that at the time or maybe this was a big lesson for us [students],” Parra said. “But Vance definitely knew that you could actually walk away from a class with an important piece of published research.”

Visit the Biology Department’s website to learn more about classes, research and more.

Helping hands: how undergrad research experiences open doors

Undergrad Lauren Gan’s work on an exoskeleton glove won her a prestigious award and changed how she viewed her own potential

When undergraduate engineer Lauren Gan was at community college, she applied for a summer research internship at San Francisco State University. She never anticipated the opportunities that would arise from that summer.

Now Gan — who transferred to San Francisco State early 2023 from Skyline College — has won the Undergraduate Student Award at the 2023 Pacific Southwest section of the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) for her work on an exoskeleton glove that helps people with limited mobility.

“It opens up doors for you. I’m saying that from first-hand experience,” Gan said of her research and engineering conference experiences — both of which were firsts for her. They’ve allowed her to really apply fundamentals she’s learned in courses and network with like-minded individuals.   

She first came to SF State as a community college student participating in the summer internship program S Smart in 2022. She was one of several students joining Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering David Quintero’s lab to work on an exoskeleton glove project under the guidance of a graduate student already in the lab. Now an SF State Mechanical Engineering major, Gan is continuing to work in Quintero’s lab doing independent research to optimize the group’s latest iteration of the exo glove. Their device provides structural support for patients with hand weakness due to injuries or disabilities like paralysis from spinal cord injury or stroke.

Their robotic hand is comprised of a soft material (a golf glove) for comfort that’s attached to a soft 3D-printed exoskeleton that moves using a motor. A cable-driven pulley system mimics tendons to assist with hand motion. The team hopes this design will be more comfortable than other rigid and clunky gloves and cheaper than devices made with pricier materials. Gan estimates that their glove can lift items that weigh less than 400 grams, like a bottle of water.


Lauren Gan wearing exo glove (right) and close up image of exoskeleton glove (left)

On the left, Mechanical Engineering student Lauren Gan wears her exoskeleton glove. On the right is a close-up image of her research project. 


At the ASEE conference — held on the University of Southern California campus in April — Gan not only presented a poster about her research but learned how she can combine mechanical engineering with an exciting field she wasn’t familiar with: humanitarian engineering.

Humanitarian engineering focuses on engineering that helps people in equitable, sustainable ways. The conference ignited Gan’s interest in applying that philosophy to her research, and she took the idea to Quintero, who is still her research adviser. He says they’ll work on making that happen, perhaps through collaborations with actual patients, for her senior project.

“The support that you get from your professors — it’s been a lot for me and it has helped me move forward even when I feel like I’m not doing enough,” Gan said.

She is also collaborating with another SF State research team to integrate a computer interface into their device. Doing this would couple the glove with sensors that detect a patient’s nerve signals to control the robotic arm.

Gan never expected to be this deep in research or win an award for her work. When she signed up for the summer research opportunity she admits she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do.

“At the time I was actually struggling a lot with what I wanted to do with school. Over the last fall semester [at community college] I was even debating just dropping out or taking a gap semester,” she said. After enjoying her summer in Quintero’s lab, she asked if she could continue volunteering on the lab’s work during the school year. She also took a lighter school course load to focus on self-care and reassess her interests.

“I kind of got a better sense of what I wanted to do and got my life together a little bit more,” she said, adding that these experiences contributed to her transfer to SF State.

She’s now enrolled in the SF State Scholars program, an accelerated pathway for undergraduate School of Engineering students to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously. This summer, she’s also going to be a student mentor for new community college summer interns. She hopes she can give budding engineers advice as they navigate their own academic paths.

“Maybe keep your doors open because I didn’t expect myself to be going this route transferring to SF State, to be wanting to get my master's even … ,” she explained. “Don’t be afraid of asking questions. The opportunities are there. You have to reach out for it and not give up.”

Learn more about the School of Engineering to discover student research opportunities and academics.

University celebrates student research with college-wide showcases

Students across campus have been sharing their research at various student project showcases

As the academic year comes to a close, SF State’s colleges are celebrating the scholarship, research and creative activities of the University community with multiple student project showcases. In April and early May, undergraduate and graduate students from across campus shared their work through research posters, presentations and performances. Students, staff, faculty and community members saw everything from student-built prototypes of engineering projects to the exploration of evolution through dance to presentations on the history of global fashion.

This year, the Colleges of Liberal & Creative Arts (LCA), Science & Engineering (CoSE), Ethnic Studies (CoES) and Health & Social Sciences (CHSS) all had research events. While the LCA and CoSE showcases have become annual campus traditions, CHSS’ Research & Creative Works Showcase (held at the Seven Hills Conference Center Thursday, May 4) was the college’s first. The College of Ethnic Studies Student Showcase, also on the newer side, was held Thursday, May 11, on the fifth floor of the Administration Building.

“When I found out about the CHSS Undergraduate Research & Creative Works Showcase I knew I had to participate. Research has been such a key component of my SF State experience,” said Nathan Burns, who is graduating this semester with a degree in Sociology and a minor in LGBTQ Studies. “For my senior seminar last semester I created ‘SURV(IO)LANCE,’ a textual and visual zine where I incorporated academic research and my personal experience as a queer, trans, disabled person to discuss surveillance. For the CHSS Showcase I was able to print a few copies of the zine to share with people in attendance. It was so exciting to be able to not only share my research with other campus members, but get to see just how much incredible work is being done across campus that I otherwise might not have heard about.”

Eduardo Hernandez, a senior Criminal Justice Studies major, also participated in the CHSS showcase. His work explores how the overlapping interests of the prison industrial complex, the U.S. military establishment and law enforcement lead to mass incarceration. He says that his project represents his solidarity with individuals who have been exploited in prisons.

“My research experience at SF State enabled my academic potential to be significantly developed by showcasing my research project for fellow peers, scholars and visitors. I am honored to have been recognized and have granted the privilege to participate in the CHHS Undergraduate Showcase with scholars at SF State. Presenting at the event, I experienced a great sense of joy and relief knowing nearly six months of research and preparation allowed me to represent SF State in its highest light possible: an incredible research facility in the SF Bay Area,” he said.

In total, hundreds of students participated in these college showcases. The College of Science & Engineering — which has been holding showcases since 1999 — had approximately 230 posters presented by more than 400 students, with more than 80 judges from academia, industry, government and other fields participating.

Two male students showing a robotic arm to a male judge

Students Ryan Scott and Fazliddin Hotamov demonstrate their gesture-controlled robot arm to a judge and alumnus Robert Gray (B.S., '98) at the CoSE showcase. Photo by Paul Asper

While the Lam College of Business doesn’t have a project showcase, its students were able to showcase research in a different way: at the college’s annual Innovative Pitch Competition in April. Students developed and pitched business projects to seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and faculty, and three teams shared $10,000 in cash prizes. Earlier this year, students from all colleges also participated in the campus-level San Francisco State University student research competition for a chance to participate in the CSU-wide student research competition.

“San Francisco State provides amazing opportunities for students and faculty to work together on research and creative projects. Participating in these collaborations — whether it is a course-based research project or an independent study builds career skills — creates community and contributes to improving life on campus, in the Bay Area and beyond.” said Biology Professor Gretchen LeBuhn, who is Chair of the University Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Council. She is also co-director of SF State Creates, an undergraduate research office launching this fall to facilitate these types of hands-on student opportunities.

Learn more about Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities at SF State.

‘Not So Soft’ panel explores mental health among men of color

Five SF State students to discuss mental health challenges at a public panel May 12

Mental health discussions are hard and are layered by issues of culture, gender, age, economic status and more. Five San Francisco State University students — all men of color — are leading a public virtual panel called “Not So Soft” on Friday, May 12, at 6 p.m. to talk about mental health in their communities. The event is a partnership with One East Palo Alto, a community-based organization that serves youth and families from marginalized communities and provides mental health and substance use programming.

“The ‘Not So Soft’ title actually stemmed from a conversation we were having in class where we were talking about my uncle telling me all the time that our generation is soft and that we’re not the same as men were back then,” said Biology major Victor Gutierrez, who is speaking at the event. “The reason why we called this ‘Not So Soft’ is because we wanted to show that it’s OK for men to talk about their mental health and deal with those things.”

The five panelists — Gutierrez, Naeem Seif Hopkins, Antoine Evans, Jason Shin and Adriel Evaristo — are covering underage trauma, cannabis/substance use, Asian mental health, community health education on depression and mental health among youth with disabilities. Each student conducted research on different topics based on their personal experiences and interests.

Gutierrez, who is new to exploring his mental health, is part of the Latino community in the Bay Area and is going to speak about underage trauma. Hopkins, a Studio Art major, is going to tackle cannabis use among youth.

“We’re still youth ourselves and we’re figuring out manhood and debunking things from our past — and we’re all men of color. Taking into context our cultural context, as well, our view of masculinity and manhood might look different [depending on] each background that we come from,” Hopkins said. He and his classmates are still learning about their own mental health and what they need, he adds.

The five student panelists met while taking “Research with Communities,” an upper-division San Francisco State Biology course exploring the biological and social determinants of health and improving the well-being of communities. This semester’s class focused on the Community Health Needs Assessment for San Mateo County to make it more useful for community members. The students were mentored by Tania Perez, a health-equity consultant and special consultant at the University, and Professor of Biology Leticia Márquez-Magaña.

Gutierrez, Hopkins and the other three panelists were brought together by their interests in behavior and mental health. While this group is doing a public panel, other students in the class worked on community health education projects, provided public comments at board meetings and more.

Hopkins and Gutierrez credit their course instructors for giving them space in a class to explore mental health in their own communities, grow from these conversations and encourage a healing environment.

“I like to speak about [these topics] because I have gone through some things in my life,” Gutierrez explained. “I’ve never really dealt with them until this class or talked about them or seen how many people in the world actually go through the same things as us. It kind of made me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Register to watch the free “Not So Soft” virtual panel.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn about mental health resources at SF State.

SF State alumna hired as Sausalito’s first sustainability manager

Catie Thow Garcia (M.S., ’22) credits her experiences at the University’s EOS Center for her newly minted government position

The coastal city of Sausalito is no stranger to the impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise. Now San Francisco State University alumna Catie Thow Garcia (M.S., ’22) has been named Sausalito’s first resiliency and sustainability manager to help mitigate the potential consequences of climate change.

In this new role, Thow Garcia will work on projects related to climate change, energy efficiency, shore habitat protection and sea level rise. The job will require her to work closely with government agencies, community groups, nonprofit organizations and local experts in energy and waste reduction, solar implementation and more.

“It’s one of the reasons why I was really interested in working at the local level rather than at the state level …,” Thow Garcia said of all the collaborations in her future. “I’m excited to see where it takes me, but I recognize that there’s still a lot of learning to do on my part.”

It’s the type of integrative and collaborative work that originally brought the New England native to the Bay Area. She was drawn to SF State’s Estuary and Ocean Science (EOS) Center’s master’s program in Interdisciplinary Marine and Estuary Sciences (IMES). As a graduate student, she also collaborated with San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) where she began working on coastal resilience. An environmental field scientist by training, she didn’t want to just learn about marine biology but wanted to know how it intersected with botany, water-land interactions, social science and economics.

Catie standing in a marsh with a bucket (left) and Catie in a canoe on the water (right)

Catie doing field research as an EOS graduate student. Photos courtesy Catie Thow Garcia

“It’s why I drove 3,000 miles across the United States to come study here,” added Thow Garcia, who is originally from Rhode Island and was living in Colorado before moving to the Bay Area. After graduating, she was named a 2022 California Sea Grant State Fellow and worked with the California State Coastal Conservancy to support Bay restoration efforts. She plans to channel all of this training into her new position while expanding her knowledge in sustainability and resiliency.

Sausalito is in Marin County just like the EOS Center so Thow Garcia is familiar with the needs and environmental issues in the area. She also believes her experiences in sea level rise adaptations helped her get the position. She’s particularly interested in nature-based adaptations incorporating live organisms, something she learned about as an undergraduate but first saw in practice at the EOS Center.

“For nature-based solutions, there’s a scale we call green to gray. Gray being just the hardened sea wall and green being something purely green, like oysters [or] grass beds,” Thow Garcia  explained. “To me nature-based solutions mean finding somewhere on that spectrum that’s not purely gray.” An example of this could be a horizontal levee that is wider than a traditional levee, allowing migration space for plants and animals as sea level rises.

Though she decided to stay local, Thow Garcia says she’s aware of EOS Center alumni who work in local, county, state and federal government jobs throughout the United States.

“That spread of knowledge is really special and it all started with this little tiny marine science campus in Tiburon,” said the alumna proudly.

Learn more about the University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center.

A master’s degree despite detours: one alum’s inspiring story

Science communicator Yimy Antonio Villa (M.S., ’21) tells today’s students it’s never too late to finish what you started

In 2020, science communicator Yimy Antonio Villa returned (virtually) to his alma mater, San Francisco State University, to speak to students about his career. His main message: you have to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Not long afterward, he got a chance to practice what he'd preached. 

Villa had been offering advice via Zoom to students in San Francisco State’s California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) Bridges to Stem Cell Science program — a graduate program Villa himself had to first drop out of nearly a decade ago. After his talk, he got a message from the University’s CIRM Bridges Director Lily Chen.

“Lily Chen reached out to me and said, ‘You know that regret that you have [about not completing your master’s degree]? It doesn’t have to be a regret,’” Villa said.

Programs like the University’s CIRM Bridges — which was recently renewed for another five years — and the new undergraduate program CIRM COMPASS (Creating Opportunities through Mentorship and Partnership Across Stem Cell Science) train students in stem cell biology and expose them to a variety of career paths. And Chen wasn’t giving up on Villa.

At the height of the pandemic, he reenrolled in the University’s Cell and Molecular Biology master’s program with an emphasis in Stem Cell Biology, completing his graduate degree in 2021 — almost 10 years after he originally left the program.

The long delay for Villa resulted from family obligations. He came to SF State to get a master’s degree as preparation for a Ph.D. and managed to complete one year of the program before deferring for a year because his mother was experiencing health problems. Although he tried to return, he left again when he had to help his mother — an undocumented immigrant from Mexico — as his family’s primary breadwinner. He worked jobs outside of science, like as a receptionist for a pharmacy benefits management company, but always itched to return to the field he loved.

In 2016, SF State Biology Professor Carmen Domingo — at the time the University’s CIRM Bridges director and now dean of the College of Science & Engineering — forwarded a job opportunity at a nonprofit organization called Americans for Cures. The group educates the public about stem cell research and its impact on medical therapies. Villa snagged the job and started down a new career path.

The experience offered him a new way to apply his training as a scientist and taught him the art of sharing science to non-expert audiences. He also worked closely with patients and advocates who gave him a new perspective on medical research.

“It really highlighted to me the importance as a scientist or as anyone that is trying to propose a therapy or market some kind of a treatment … what makes it more important is that personal connection,” Villa said.

Around the time he returned to SF State in 2021, he was also working at CIRM as a marketing communications manager. After completing his master’s, he started a new position as manager of executive communications at Stanford Medicine, where he focuses on social media content and strategy for executive leadership.

Through it all, his mother — who did not have educational opportunities herself growing up — remained his biggest supporter. Now he’s a master’s degree recipient and an integral part of a larger communications team  — and she’s a legal U.S. resident planning on applying for citizenship later this year.

“Don’t be afraid to do a career change or to explore something else that you may want to do,” Villa said he now advises students. “Also understand that’s perfectly normal.”

Learn more about the University’s CIRM Bridges to Stem Cell Science program.

Headshot of a Yimy Villa smiling

Estuary and Ocean Science Center opens marine lab to public April 30

After a three-year hiatus, the EOS Center’s open house welcomes the community to its scenic locale for family-friendly fun

What does an oceanographer do? How are scientists using oysters and eelgrass to save San Francisco Bay? Want to meet “slug bunnies”?

Answers to these questions and more can be found at San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science (EOS) Center’s free Marine Lab Open House Sunday, April 30, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Community members can meet local marine scientists and San Francisco Bay critters and learn how EOS Center scientists collaborate with nature to conduct research and mitigate impacts of climate change.

“We miss welcoming the community to the EOS Center. Hearing what our community asks, what they don’t understand and how they would like to be involved makes us think and helps us be better scientists and communicators,” EOS Center's Interim Executive Director Katharyn Boyer said.

The EOS Center is located at San Francisco State’s Romberg Tiburon Campus (3150 Paradise Drive, Tiburon, California). This will be the first in-person open house EOS Center has hosted since its 2019 event, which drew over 1,000 attendees.

Boyer has noticed that the community has shifted its focus to wanting to understand the issues facing the local Bay ecosystem. Many EOS Center researchers work with onsite partners from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and National Estuarine Research Reserve to make advances in nature-based solutions to local climate change.

“The EOS Center is the only marine lab on San Francisco Bay. We do the on-the-ground, in-the-mud, under-the-water, in-the-lab research that reveals how the Bay functions,” Boyer added, pointing out that the Center has trained students and scientists for nearly 45 years. “Our deep and immersive (pun intended) understanding of this ecosystem means we are often the first to notice when those functions have gone astray.”

At the open house, the public will have access to nearly 100 active marine lab scientists who will be showcasing their work and are eager to talk to the community. The family-friendly event includes a variety of activities that range from a touch tank with Bay creatures and listening to whale and dolphin sounds to more informational activities about underwater plants that reduce ocean acidification. There will also be a food truck and oyster bar.

“One of my favorite things to do at our open house is point out the slug bunnies on the eelgrass in our tanks,” Boyer said, explaining that they are a type of sea slug called eelgrass sea hares that vaguely resemble a green, striped rabbit. More importantly, these little creatures promote eelgrass growth by eating algae on eelgrass blades — and this growth can calm shore water, store carbon and reduce ocean acidification. Boyer finds that the slugs are a great way to draw children and adults alike into larger science and conservation conversations … until they are distracted by the environment surrounding the EOS Center.

“A true open house story: a small grey whale breached right along our shore while I was waxing poetically about how sea hares are climate change heroes, and I quickly lost my audience,” Boyer said, highlighting EOS Center’s scenic and significant locale overlooking the water. “But I hope that the wonders of the slug bunnies had already sunk in, showing that the little things in the Bay deserve our attention too.”

Register for the free Marine Lab Open House and learn more about the EOS Center.

Department of Energy appoints SF State School of Engineering to lead expanded pathways to clean energy jobs

The University will partner with other minority-serving institutions to improve student training and manufacturer energy efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded San Francisco State University $3.75 million to establish and lead the new Western Regional Center of Excellence to train a new generation of clean energy engineers and improve energy efficiency among manufacturers. This new center, housed within the School of Engineering, will be one of five regional Centers of Excellence in the nation and the only one in the West.

Over the next five years, San Francisco State’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) will partner with four other minority-serving institutions — San Jose State University, San Diego State University, Laney College and Cuyamaca College — to promote renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, reduce manufacturer emissions, improve industrial assessment methods and more in a multi-state region including the western United States, Hawaii and Alaska.

“This award recognizes SF State as a leader in advanced energy technologies and engineering education. The Center of Excellence will expand our best practices to other existing and new IACs, in order to promote the development of diverse energy engineers who can meet the high workforce demand in this field,” said Ed Cheng, professor and associate director of the School of Engineering, who is leading this project.

Based out of SF State’s IAC, the new program will be a regional hub for IACs to collaborate with government, nonprofit, labor and industry partners. Building upon services and training opportunities already provided via IACs, the center also will support training at other minority-serving institutions, establish programs in tribal communities and address environmental justice issues. This includes development of new curricula and best practices for IACs and other organizations.

Since 1992, SF State’s IAC program has provided Central and Northern California manufacturers free assessments of energy use, waste generation and water consumption. These assessments are mainly conducted by SF State Engineering students under the supervision of University faculty. The SF State IAC’s clients are usually within 150 radial miles from San Francisco, though the team has traveled to Humboldt and Fresno Counties and even other states such as Arizona.

“From the manufacturer’s standpoint, the IAC provides benefits in terms of energy and associated costs savings. But important co-benefits of this reduced energy consumption are reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and industrial pollutants that can negatively impact populations in historically disadvantaged communities,” explained Cheng.

The DOE currently funds 37 university-based IAC programs in 28 states. In over 40 years, these programs provided more than 20,000 assessments at small- and medium-sized manufacturers — more than 90% of the nation’s manufacturing base — typically finding more than $130,000 in potential annual saving opportunities for manufacturers.

Establishment of these regional centers of excellence is part of a combined $18.7 million in funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The DOE also announced a $54 million funding opportunity to expand IAC programs to community colleges, trade schools and union training programs and establish new building training assessment centers at higher education institutions. These efforts support President Joe Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which directs 40% of benefits of certain federal investments (clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, sustainable housing, etc.) to communities marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution.

Visit SF State’s IAC for more information about student training opportunities and how to request an energy assessment.

Gilead Foundation awards SF State $3.5 million for future science building

The grant funding will provide labs with state-of-the-art equipment and boost student training opportunities

SAN FRANCISCO — March 16, 2023 — The Gilead Foundation, the philanthropic nonprofit organization from Bay Area biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Inc., awarded San Francisco State University $3.5 million in grant funding for the University’s new Science and Engineering Innovation Center (SEIC) slated for completion in 2024. The grant moves the University closer to its Catalyze the Future campaign goal to raise $25 million in private funds for research equipment and student support related to the new building.

“We thank Gilead and share their conviction that their generosity will inspire other companies to follow their extraordinary example,” said San Francisco State Dean of the College of Science & Engineering Carmen Domingo. "Gilead’s generous investment in the building and our students’ success is also a tremendous investment in the Bay Area’s unparalleled STEM workforce. Their support allows the University and our exceptional faculty to further strengthen SF State’s proud record of helping fuel a highly qualified and diverse regional workforce pipeline.”

The funds will outfit SEIC’s labs with state-of-the-art equipment and furnishings that will train students in essential skills required for biopharma, biotech and engineering careers. For example, SEIC houses a fluids and process control lab with a wind tunnel to evaluate wind turbines and vehicle aerodynamic efficiency as well as a biophysical and chemical analysis lab where students can conduct sophisticated experiments.

Rendering of students in lab working with wind tunnel and other equipment

Rendering of fluids and process control lab.

“All students should have access to state-of-the-art equipment, a quality education and the opportunity to prosper as they enter the workforce,” said Andrew Dickinson, Chief Financial Officer of Gilead, and member of the Gilead Foundation’s Board of Directors. “Our relationship with San Francisco State University will help to expand the robust science and engineering education and research at the University for years to come and help it continue to provide students with the education they need to thrive. We hope that our grant will inspire other funders, particularly those in the biotech sector, to do the same.”

Gilead Foundation is also committing to student success by investing in new summer and academic programs for STEM students. Their investment will also help finance fellowships for undergraduate and master’s students in research labs.

The College of Science & Engineering (CoSE) has steadily grown and this new 125,000-square-foot science building will help sustain this expansion and support the University’s role as leaders in fueling the workforce of the Bay Area. It will be prominently visible on 19th Avenue and is anticipated to benefit more than 7,000 CoSE students annually.

More information about the Catalyze the Future campaign can be found on SEIC’s website.




About San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University is a public university serving students from the San Francisco Bay Area, across California and around the world, with nationally acclaimed programs that span a broad range of disciplines. More than 25,000 students enroll at the University each year, and its nearly 287,000 graduates have contributed to the economic, cultural and civic fabric of San Francisco and beyond. Through them — and more than 1,900 world-class faculty members — SF State proudly embraces its legacy of academic excellence, community engagement and commitment to social justice. For more information, visit

About Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company that has pursued and achieved breakthroughs in medicine for more than three decades, with the goal of creating a healthier world for all people. The company is committed to advancing innovative medicines to prevent and treat life-threatening diseases, including HIV, viral hepatitis, inflammation and cancer. Gilead operates in more than 35 countries worldwide, with headquarters in Foster City, California. For more information, visit

About Gilead Foundation

Gilead Foundation strives to achieve health prosperity for all through our three giving programs:  Giving Together, Community Donations and the Creating Possible Fund. Through our initiatives, the Foundation creates spheres of impact — in our company, in our neighborhoods and in society  by encouraging a culture of giving, engaging in our local communities and exploring innovative approaches to complex social issues.

The Gilead Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, endowed by Gilead Sciences, Inc.

For more information, visit