Blaire Van Valkenburgh

Associate Dean of Life Sciences for Academic Programs
Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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Ph: (310) 794-9398

Blaire Van Valkenburgh is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Associate Dean for Academic Programs in the Life Sciences. Her research focuses on the evolution of form, function, and behavior in vertebrates, with an emphasis on large, predatory mammals, both fossil and living. As Associate Dean, her current initiatives include major revisions of the quantitative training curriculum for life science majors to create mathematics and statistics courses that better reflect the needs of 21st century biologists. She is also working on integrating more biology into the chemistry and physics series taken by life science students, as well as trying to create more flexible requirements for life science majors that allow them to customize their training. In keeping with her role as Associate Dean, she interfaces directly with the Faculty Advisory Committee and Director for CEILS to ensure this campus unit champions teaching, assessment, and scholarship as its mission and serves as an effective advocate for academic programs that promote student learning and persistence in life science majors.

Erin Sanders

Director of CEILS
Adjunct Assistant Professor & Academic Coordinator, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics

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Ph: (310) 825-1783

Erin Sanders is an accomplished leader in the development and assessment of innovative strategies for undergraduate STEM education both in the classroom and laboratory. Dr. Sanders earned her B.S. in Chemistry from DePaul University in Chicago, IL in 1998 and her Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry from UCLA in 2005. Her research interests and experience span a variety of life sciences disciplines including molecular systematics of plastid genes in green algae, mechansims of site-specific DNA recombination in bacteria, and composition studies of bio-energy relevant microbial communities. As a faculty member and Academic Coordinator in UCLA’s Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics, Dr. Sanders pioneered the development of an innovative state-of-the-art curriculum for MIMG undergraduates and coordinated the creation of new upper division courses that provide authentic research experiences for all MIMG and Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology majors. Dr. Sanders is the author of a popular textbook about this curriculum, has published on her assessment-informed curricular reform efforts, and is a recognized leader and scholar in STEM education. As the founding director of CEILS, Dr. Sanders works with the Associate Dean Van Valkenburgh and the Faculty Advisory Committee to coordinate CEILS activities to meet the needs and interests of participating faculty in departments and interdisciplinary programs responsible for instruction of undergraduate courses in the Life Sciences. By conferring with CEILS participants, leadership, and cross-campus units, Dr. Sanders helps promote and support education initiatives that strengthen the teaching community at UCLA.

Debra Pires

Instructional Consultant
Academic Administrator, Department of Life Sciences Core Education

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Ph: (310) 825-0376

Debra Pires is an instructor for the introductory biology curriculum at UCLA, teaching courses in evolution, ecology and biodiversity (LS1), cells, tissues and organs (LS2), and molecular biology (LS3). Dr. Pires is a long time Bruin, earning her B.S.A. in Biology and later her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA. Her research focused on population genetics, conservation genetics, and the behavior of an insectivorous Central African bat, Hipposideros ruber. Dr. Pires continued her academic career by becoming an innovative instructor, with campus leadership roles in STEM teaching, learning, and community college outreach programs. Her pedagogical interests and skills include using online instruction, active learning, and classroom technology to achieve student learning outcomes in her courses.  As a CEILS Instructional Consultant, Dr. Pires coordinates and leads STEM teaching workshops, consults with faculty and teaching assistants on course and curricular issues related to teaching and assessment, and provides teaching demonstrations for faculty interested in incorporating instructional technology such as clickers into their courses.

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Erik Zepeda-Flores

Administrative Assistant

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Ph: (310) 825-1783

Erik Zepeda-Flores is a UCLA undergraduate majoring in Psychology.  Mr. Zepeda works directly with CEILS Director Sanders, providing administrative and clerical support, assisting with programming logistics and scheduling, creating content for websites and other media, and helping with communication strategies for CEILS-related projects. His academic interests include research on brain disorders including Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Outside of the classroom, he is a current member of the UCLA marching band.