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Stanford Graduate Alumni

Grad Alumni Day

May 19, 2018

Stanford University

Video recordings of the micro lectures from Grad Alumni Day are now available. Browse the videos above to hear from leading faculty and current graduate students on writing, disease detection, biodiversity and more.

An event designed just for graduate alumni, Grad Alumni Day provided the chance to hear about cutting-edge research and meeting fellow alums during a day of learning and networking on the Stanford campus.


12:00–12:30 p.m.


Enjoy light refreshments and pick up your badge.

12:30–2:00 p.m.

General session
Howard Wolf, ’80, President, Stanford Alumni Association
Howard has led the Stanford Alumni Association and its staff since 2001. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology, with distinction, from Stanford in 1980 and his MBA from Harvard in 1985. In addition to his role at SAA, Howard is an officer of the university and part of its senior management team, with particular responsibility for advising the university’s president and the provost on alumni affairs.
Marc Tessier-Lavigne, President, Stanford University
Pioneering neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne became Stanford University’s 11th president on September 1, 2016. He returned to Stanford after serving as president of The Rockefeller University, a graduate biomedical research university in New York City. From 2001 to 2005, he was a professor of biological sciences at Stanford, where he held the Susan B. Ford Professorship in the Humanities and Sciences. He has also held faculty positions at the University of California, San Francisco, and executive positions at biotechnology company Genentech.
Real-Time Biosensor Technology, Tom Soh
Tom Soh is a professor of electrical engineering and radiology. His research lies at the interface of technology and biomedicine, and his laboratory develops novel biomaterials and biosensors, technologies which hold the promise for early detection and personalized treatment for many diseases including cancer, diabetes and neurological diseases. He is a Chan-Zuckerberg Investigator and a member of the National Academy of Inventors.
Cyborg Jellyfish, Nicole Xu
Nicole Xu, PhD ’19, is a bioengineering PhD candidate currently researching the biomechanics, kinematics and neuromuscular control of jellyfish swimming in Professor John Dabiri's lab. She serves as president of the Stanford Women in Fluid Dynamics and teaches Cardio Dance fitness classes through Stanford Aerobics & Yoga. Xu completed her MS in Bioengineering from the California Institute of Technology and graduated summa cum laude with a BSE in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania.
The Writing Workshop: Past and Now, Scott Hutchins
Scott Hutchins is a lecturer of creative writing in English and former Truman Capote fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University. His work has appeared Five Chapters, The Rumpus, The New York Times, San Francisco Magazine and Esquire, and was recently set to music. He has received two major Hopwood awards and the Andrea Beauchamp prize in short fiction. His novel A Working Theory of Love was a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012.
Should Siberian Tigers Seek Exotic Mates?, Ellie Armstrong
Ellie Armstrong, PhD '22, is a biology PhD student whose research focuses on the use of genomic tools to study endangered carnivores in the labs of Elizabeth Hadly and Dmitri Petrov. She is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and also holds an MS in Tropical Conservation and Environmental Science from the University of Hawaii and a BS in Molecular Biology from UC Berkeley. She is also a member of the Program for Conservation Genomics at Stanford.
What Adam Smith Can Teach Us About Inequality, Glory Liu
Glory Liu, PhD ’18, is a political science PhD candidate researching the history of political and economic ideas in American politics. She currently holds a Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellowship at the Stanford Humanities Center, and holds an MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History and Classics from the University of Cambridge. Liu is an accomplished ballet dancer and recently trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance.
Ultimate Recycling: Scrap Wood to Musical Voice, Steve Sano
Stephen Sano is the Harold C. Schmidt Director in Choral Studies and a professor of music. He is a national and international master class teacher in conducting and choral music. Professor Sano has conducted festival, honor and collegiate choirs from twenty states, as well as professional and collegiate choirs from England, Germany, Austria, Australia, Japan and Thailand. Outside of choral music and conducting, his musical interests include kī hō‘alu (Hawaiian slack key guitar) and North American taiko.

2:30–3:20 p.m.

Breakout sessions (attend one):
Making Your Communication Memorable, Matt Abrahams
Ever worry that you might forget what you want to say during a meeting or presentation? Further, you might be anxious that those listening to you or reading your messages might forget what they've learned? In this interactive talk, learn how to make your communication memorable for you and your audience with proper practice and preparation.

Matt Abrahams, ’91, is a lecturer in the Graduate School of Business, teaching classes in strategic communication and effective virtual communication; he also teaches public speaking in Continuing Studies. An energetic, engaging teacher, he also co-founded Bold Echo Communication Solutions, a presentation skills coaching firm helping people become more authentic and compelling presenters. He recently published the third edition of his book “Speaking Up without Freaking Out.”
The Microbiome and Health, Ami Bhatt
Your microbiome is the vast community of trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other tiny life forms that live in and on our bodies. Professor Bhatt will share the role the microbiome plays in our health and wellness, how its changes link to disease and how we can keep our bodies healthy. You’ll find her enthusiasm for these dynamic microscopic ecosystems extremely contagious!

Ami Bhatt is an assistant professor of medicine and genetics and the director of global oncology for the Center for Innovation in Global Health at Stanford. Her research interests lie in the relationship between the microbiome and cancer, inspecting, characterizing and dissecting the microbe-human interface. Professor Bhatt is committed to improving cancer care, education and research in resource-limited settings. She serves as co-founder and co-president of the non-profit organization Global Oncology.
Designing Self-Driving Cars, Chris Gerdes
Are self-driving cars really safer than human drivers? How can we design vehicles to avoid collisions and make good decisions? By working with expert race car drivers, Stanford has developed automated vehicles exceeding human capability in precision and reframed control challenges to illuminate safety on the road. Professor Gerdes will explain the ethical and engineering aspects of automated vehicles and possible approaches to handling the many dilemma situations on the road.

Chris Gerdes is a professor of mechanical engineering and the director of the Center for Automotive Research and the Revs Program. His laboratory studies how cars move, how humans drive cars, and how to design future cars that work cooperatively with the driver or drive themselves. Professor Gerdes recently served as the first Chief Innovation Officer at the United States Department of Transportation and continues to serve as Vice Chair of the Federal Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation.
Biodiversity and Mass Extinction, Jonathan Payne
Has the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history already begun? If so, what lessons does the fossil record offer for how ecosystems will respond to massive loss of biodiversity? Professor Payne will compare past mass extinction events to the current biodiversity crisis using a new database of fossil and living species and discuss the challenge of forecasting future ecosystems.

Jonathan Payne is a professor of geological sciences, and by courtesy, of biology. He researches environmental change and biological evolution in the fossil record with a focus on mass extinction events and the ecological structure of marine ecosystems. Professor Payne teaches courses for undergraduates in historical geology and invertebrate paleobiology and courses for graduate students in carbonate sedimentology, geobiology and paleobiology.
Quad Photography Walk, Bob Siegel
Whether your goal is high art, nature photography or a memorable selfie, walk with Professor Siegel as he shares photographic tips and some of his favorite visions of the Quad (including a few surprises!). Share your own expertise and favorites, as well as create new Stanford memories. Please wear comfortable walking shoes; this tour has some stairs.

Bob Siegel, ’76, MA ’77, MD ’90, is a professor of microbiology and immunology. His current courses focus is on infectious disease, virology, island and desert biogeography, natural history and nature photography. Professor Siegel has received numerous awards for teaching and advising, including the ASSU Teaching Award and the 2011 Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Product Realization Lab Open House
Enjoy an insider’s view of the PRL, where Stanford students have gained hands-on experiences in product definition, conceptual design and prototype creation. Meet students and teaching staff, enjoy demonstrations of manufacturing processes and learn what it takes to transform ideas into products.

3:40–4:30 p.m.

Breakout sessions (attend one):
Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Tom Byers
From global warming to pandemics, from energy to hunger, today's challenges require leaders with a depth of knowledge, a breadth of experience and the imagination to see beyond the present. At Stanford, students discover new approaches to these problems, going beyond the traditional boundaries of science and technology to implement ideas and solutions. How can we ensure that our future leaders have the entrepreneurial skills necessary to solve the world's biggest challenges?

Tom Byers holds the Entrepreneurship Professorship chair in the School of Engineering and is a professor (teaching) in management science and engineering. He has been a faculty director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program since its formation over 20 years ago. Professor Byers is passionate about education regarding high-growth entrepreneurship and technology innovation and a past recipient of the Gores Award, which is Stanford's highest honor for excellence in teaching. A three-time grad of UC Berkeley, he remains confused on who to cheer for at rivalry games after almost 25 years of joyful life at Stanford University.
Resilience and Compassion at Work, Leah Weiss
Toxic cultures are the stuff of news headlines recently, but this kind of toxicity isn't new. In fact, the “dog-eat-dog” culture is something that most workplaces prized until very recently. Can we turn these work environments around? Weiss shares how to build a safe, productive, efficient and mindful culture through mindfulness, compassion and resilience.

Leah Weiss is lecturer in management at the Graduate School of Business. A teacher, researcher, and meditation expert, she specializes in applying mindfulness and compassion in secular contexts. She teaches a perennially waitlisted course, Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion. As principal teacher and trainer for the Compassion Cultivation Training program, founded by the Dalai Lama, Weiss developed curriculum to meet the growing interest in compassion. She recently wrote “How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind.”
Anderson Collection Tour
This docent-led tour showcases an outstanding collection of over 130 pieces of modern and contemporary American art. Explore the breadth of post-war American art and experience the distinctive art collecting vision of the Anderson family. Capacity: 30
Product Realization Lab Open House
Enjoy an insider’s view of the PRL, where Stanford students have gained hands-on experiences in product definition, conceptual design and prototype creation. Meet students and teaching staff, enjoy demonstrations of manufacturing processes and learn what it takes to transform ideas into products.
Speed Networking Stanford Style
We all know it’s important to expand our networks – whether for professional and career growth or to refresh our lives and explore new interests. No matter where you are in your life, whether in transition or just wanting some new inspiration, freshen up your network in real time! Meet at least 20 fellow grad alumni in 50 minutes during this fun and fast paced speed-networking session. No need to prepare for the session, just bring your curiosity and we’ll lead the way. Build connection and meet amazing Stanford grad alumni, who want to meet you too.

4:30–6:30 p.m.

Alumni Center

Reception with Alumni Vintners

Join fellow grad alumni and enjoy hearty hors d'oeuvres and a variety of beverages, including wine selections from Stanford alumni-affiliated wineries. Alumni vintners will be on hand to introduce the wines and mix and mingle with you.