Johnny J. Saldate, Chair

I am originally from Tucson, where I completed a B.S. in Psychology at the University of Arizona in 2011 (Bear Down!). I then moved to Ann Arbor and earned a Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of Michigan in 2018 (Go Blue!). My postdoctoral research focuses on identifying the mechanisms of synaptic maintenance and plasticity in sensory cells of the vestibular system. Outside of work I am an avid runner, live music enthusiast, and traveler.  As Chair of the PDA I am enthusiastic to strengthen and serve our postdoctoral scholar community. I am driven to coordinate our efforts to meet the diverse needs of our postdocs. I highly value perspective and feedback, and intend to represent us within and outside of our organization with the overall goal of enriching the professional and social lives of postdocs at UCLA.

Leslie Sedgeman, Vice Chair of Operations

I am originally from Argentina, and I received my B.A. in Chemistry from Vassar College in New York, and my PhD in Molecular Physiology from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I am currently a postdoc in the Tarling-Vallim lab in the Cardiology department at UCLA, where I study in vivo intestinal and hepatic physiology. Outside of work, I enjoy cooking, travelling hiking and exploring Southern California.  As Vice-Chair of Operations I am looking forward to learning about the needs of our diverse postdoc community and to supporting programming and resources to enrich both the personal and professional lives of postdocs.

Amrita Pal, Vice Chair of Advocacy and Campus Relations

I am originally from Kolkata, India where I completed a B.Tech. in
Biotechnology in 2008. I worked in industry as a software engineer for
a year before coming to the University of Texas at Arlington in 2009
and earned my Masters in Biological Sciences, 2011. After conducting
research with a systems biologist for six months, I worked in
community colleges as a biology instructor for a couple of years,
before starting my Ph.D. in computational neurobiology in 2014 at
University of North Texas (UNT), Denton. My dissertation was on using
functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy to study the impacts of exercise
on cognition. I earned my Ph.D. in 2018, while simultaneously working
as a research assistant and then a Post Doc in the Behavior Analysis
Department at UNT working with EEG on reinforcement learning based
paradigms including treatment for Tinnitus. I then moved to UCLA this
April 2019 for my second postdoc in Nursing Department where I work on
Brain Research using MRI including work on Pediatric HIV and
Obstructive Sleep Apnea. I love music, meditation and I am a
philosopher. As Vice-Chair of Advocacy and Campus Relations, I look
forward to utilizing my diverse past and current experiences to
advocate the needs of the Post Doctoral Community. I am grateful to be
here at UCLA, and I look forward to serving and uplifting the
experiences of our postdoctoral community.

Portia Mira, Vice Chair of Community Engagement

Portia is a California native, she grew up in Merced and became a UCLA UPLIFT Fellow in 2018. She received her A.S. in Chemical Sciences from Merced College (2011), B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Merced (2013) and Ph.D. in Quantitative and Systems Biology from UC Merced (2018). Her dissertation work focused on microbial evolution. In particular, understanding the impacts of sub-lethal concentrations of antibiotics on the evolution of bacteria. She has experience on a variety of planning committees and advisory boards during her time at UC Merced. Being the Vice-Chair of Community Engagement, she hopes to strengthen and help connect UCLA’s diverse postdoc community through a variety of social and family events. She is a mother of three and understands the challenges being a parent in academia and the importance of having a sense of community.

Daniel Velez-Ramirez, Vice Chair of International Affairs

I have been interested in microbiology since I have memory, and for me, the path to become a researcher was clear since high school. I obtained my BSc majoring in Biology and my PhD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the best public university in Mexico and one of the best ones in Ibero-America. Now, as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics (MIMG), my research focus on the flagellum of Trypanosoma brucei, a unicellular eukaryotic parasite, causative of the sleeping sickness, a neglected tropical disease in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Having moved from my home country to California for my postdoctoral training, represented a huge challenge for me, and my family; and as the PDA Vice-Chair of International Affairs, my goal is to help other international postdocs to solve their particular issues.

Luis A. Garcia, Vice Chair of Communication

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida, where i received my B.S. and M.S. in Computer and Electrical Engineering at the University of Miami. I then moved to Piscataway, New Jersey, where I completed my Ph.D. in Computer Engineering with a Cybersecurity track at Rutgers University in May 2018. My postdoctoral research focuses broadly on the safety and security of machine learning in the context of cyber-physical systems, e.g., self-driving cars and drones. Although computer engineers are rarely synonymous with socialites, I have found myself to be very enthusiastic about promoting social wellness within my community. I will carry this enthusiasm into this position and find creative and effective ways to best engage the PDA community. I envision a very synergistic PDA where all committees are collaborating to promote wellness in all facets of a postdoc’s life. There’s more to life than just research!