EXPLORE 2018 Mentors


Dr. Aaron Blaisdell, Ph.D

Dr. Aaron Blaisdell received a B.A. in Anthropology from SUNY Stony Brook; an M.A. in Anthropology from Kent State University; and his Ph.D. in Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience focus) from SUNY Binghamton. He then spent two years as a Postdoctoral fellow in Psychology at Tufts University and became a professor of Psychology at UCLA in 2001. Dr. Blaisdell is currently a Professor with tenure at UCLA and is a participating member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute and the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory. He has previously served as President of the International Society for Comparative Psychology and of the Ancestral Health Society. His lab is interested in animal cognition and behavior, namely describing how animals build and use representations of their world. For this, his laboratory uses Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning procedures to investigate questions at the interface between associative and cognitive processes, related to how animals reason, integrate information and approach problem solving.


Harmony Jiroudek

Harmony Jiroudek is active in the fields of vocal performance, arts education technology, and instructional design. Currently the Director of Academic Relations at Kadenze, Inc., Jiroudek has over a decade’s worth of experience working in higher education, and has managed dozens of relationships with academic institutions worldwide. As a producer & instructional designer for online learning, she consults with faculty using Kadenze technology to design, develop, and scale production of art-focused MOOCs.

Jiroudek, an accomplished mezzo-soprano, has participated in several American and world premiere performances, including Michael Gordon’s What to Wear, George Aperghis’ Sextuor: L’Origine des espèces, and David Rosenboom’s Attunement. Other noteworthy performances include: Igor Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Mavra, Steve Reich’s Music for 18, Bruno Maderna’s Satyricon, J.S. Bach’s Cantata 170 with guest violinist, Elizabeth Blumenstock.

Jiroudek received a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in vocal performance from California Institute of the Arts, where she also served as voice faculty from 2012–2014.


Betty Kassis

Betty Kassis is co-principal of I/O, a Los Angeles based practice focusing on the development of dynamic architectural methodologies integrating design, technology and advanced fabrication techniques. Prior to joining I/O, Kassis gained experience working on numerous award-winning projects for the office of world renowned architect Frank Gehry, where she was project designer on multiple projects of various scales in different cities. She has also worked for the firm of Neil Denari, NMDA, on the award- winning Endeavor Talent Agency in Beverly Hills. Kassis was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles, the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris and the Lebanese American University in Beirut. Her work was exhibited in multiple venues such as the Rotterdam Biennale, Beyond Media in Florence and StudentWorks in Istanbul.


Dr. Van Savage, Ph.D

Dr. Van Savage is a graduate of Rhodes College where he received his Bachelor’s in Physics. He later earned his Doctorate in theoretical particle physics from Washington University, where his training emphasized applied math approaches to problem solving. He is currently the Principal Investigator in the Savage Lab and an Assistant Professor at UCLA and Santa Fe Institute where he teaches and researches in Biomathematics, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology departments. Dr. Savage’s research interests include biological vascular networks and mathematical asymptotic analysis. The major goal of his research is to quantify and understand the possible functions, forms, and interactions of biological systems that result in the extraordinary diversity in nature.


Dr. Pamela Yeh, Ph.D

Dr. Pamela Yeh is an evolutionary biologist and studies how human activities affect the evolution of species, focusing on the evolution of birds in urban environments and the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria in urban and agricultural areas. She is also interested in the role biology plays in public health, and how biological data and insights can both inform public health research as well as public health policy. She received her BA in Biology from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges, her Ph.D in Evolutionary Biology from University of California at San Diego, and conducted post-doctoral work in the Center for Genomics Research at Harvard University and the Systems Biology Department at Harvard Medical School. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the Yeh lab and an Assistant Professor in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Biomathematics departments. She has been at UCLA since 2013.


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