Current Master’s Students

Berenice (Alex) Cabrera

Degree: Master’s in Biology, Concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.  

About me

I am originally from Salinas, CA and graduated from SFSU with bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Latino/a Studies, as well as a minor in Chemistry. As an undergraduate, I became involved with SEPAL through the Spectrum program, where I had the opportunity to introduce middle school girls to exciting biology topics through engaging, hands-on activities. This experience evoked both a deep interest in science education and a passion for inspiring women and students of color to pursue STEM careers. In my spare time, I enjoy trying new restaurants, checking out local bookstores, and spending time with family and friends.        

Research Interests

My research will focus on uncovering the ideas and experiences that Biology students have during professor office hours in hopes of identifying the most effective teaching and advising methods, as well as those that are generally counterproductive. Faculty members are charged with the responsibility of mentoring students, though they often receive little to no training in this regard. With the help of the Biology students that I intend to work with, my goal is to help faculty members become more effective advisors that are better-equipped to support students pursuing STEM majors and careers.


Benjamin AA Nelson

Degree: Master’s in Biology, Concentration in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology

Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.



About Me


I am originally from El Cerrito, CA and graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2010 with a BS in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. While an undergraduate, I relentlessly explored the massive UCSC campus, taking in the natural history and botany around me.  Eventually I changed my major to biology (from social science) to start to try to answer the questions that kept permeating my thoughts.  I pursued classes that took me outside and realized I loved field biology.  After graduating I explored an interest that I hadn’t been able to before: education.  I began taking students on educational hikes throughout California with Naturalists at Large, then in North Carolina at the Don Lee Center.  I was sold on the power of education and continued my career at San Mateo Outdoor Education where I gained the role of Naturalist and led students on hikes as well as helped beginning teachers improve their teaching skills.  After 4 years I needed a new perspective and challenge and am at SEPAL to pursue a Master’s in Biology to in hopes that I can improve science education and eventually teach at the college level.  In my free time I enjoy playing basketball, going on hikes naturalizing as I go, and trying to find time to play games and make art.

Research Interests


While my research is yet undecided I do have a couple of focuses that I am eager to explore.  One is: what learning outcomes do non-biology students receive from a general education biology class.  My other interest is: what are the learning outcomes of students attending field courses.  I will keep this posted as my ideas and research unfold.

Parinaz (Pari) Lajevardi 

About me:

I am originally from Fremont, CA and graduated from University of California, Davis with a BS in Biology. I would then go on to obtain a Master’s in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles. I was very much influenced by taking more science courses after I would finish college. I realized how much I missed science and wanted to explore it more, and in turn help others explore it as a community college instructor.

Research Interest:

Currently I am interested about the influence of instructor language on student classroom experiences. I want to know how instructor language affects student outcomes such as a sense of belonging, science identity, and resistance.

Advice for others:

Explore all your interests as much as you can, don’t limit yourself! Whether it’s different classes, different career options, traveling, hobbies, etc., it takes time to find out what really sparks your passion. Also, enjoy your college days, there can be a lot of ups and downs but it’s a unique time in your life when you have a lot of opportunities to explore, and make connections.


Katharine (Kate) Gelinas 

Degree: Master’s in Biology, Concentration in Cell & Molecular Biology
Advisor: Kimberly Tanner, PhD.

About me:

I grew up in Pleasant Hill, CA and graduated from UC Davis in 2017 with a BS in Biology and a concentration in Neurobiology, Physiology, & Behavior. After graduating, I spent a year working as a tutor with Lafayette Academy, teaching high school biology, math, and SAT. This experience helped me realize that my passion is teaching. I was fortunate to find SEPAL and am excited to be a part of this wonderful team of people. In my spare time, I relax with friends and family, play and cuddle with my two cats, and attempt to cook new things.

Research Interest:

My research will focus on how the way instructors speak affects students. We have recorded and analyzed Instructor Talk, or everything an instructor says that isn’t related to content and instead focuses on creating the learning environment. However, we have not yet studied how students think and feel about Instructor Talk. My research will focus on this student perspective in an effort to improve instructor-student communication.