Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Underrepresented Researchers of Color (UROC)

Welcome to our student-led organization, Underrepresented Researchers of Color (UROC)! We serve as a pipeline to increase representation of marginalized students in research programs and grad schools, and seek to build a community of researchers of color. As research is an extremely isolating and exclusive process at this institution, we seek to dismantle this. Furthermore, students of color perform low rates of research at this research institution, alongside research programs on campus having low representation and acceptance rates of students of color. In other words, marginalized students receive little to no mentorship and access to resources to conduct their research/projects. We exist to bridge this gap.

UROC events/workshops are open to the public (on or off campus) and held regularly. Part of how we’re cultivating this community is to provide students with necessary tools and resources – such as mentorship, panels/mixers, research methodology workshops, and decolonizing research workshops – for students to envision research that is relevant to their identities and communities with which they’re engaging.

Profile of Diana Ramirez

Diana Ramirez

UROC – Undergraduate Coordinator

My name is Diana Ramirez (pronouns: she/they) and I am a first-generation transfer student majoring in Chicano studies. I am a daughter of Mexican immigrants and was born and raised in East Los Angeles. I am a 2021 URAP Fellow at UCSF with the Fuerte Program, where I work to support newcomer Latinx immigrant youth at-risk for traumatic stress and to increase their knowledge of and access to mental health services and resources. I am also in the process of cultivating my senior honors thesis this year.

Upon transferring to Cal from East Los Angeles College in Spring 2020, I immersed myself in the transfer community at the Transfer Student Center where I serve as a peer advocate lead in our Transitioning to Cal course. Here, I support first-semester transfer students in their transition to a four-year university. Having taken the course myself and now being a student co-facilitator for the course, I realize the profound and transformative impacts that I can continue to make in students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, especially within the transfer community, both as a student leader and as a researcher of color at Cal. My work and research are personal to me: it is a labor of love that centers the voices and experiences of my ancestors and communities. My hope is to continue to create a strong and inclusive community among the students of color at this institution with the goal of decolonizing academia.

Michelle Soto-Melgar​

UROC – Undergraduate Coordinator​

Michelle Soto is an undergraduate student majoring in legal studies and sociology. She is a 2019 Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a 2020 SURF fellow. Her research explores why governments invest taxpayer money and local resources on ineffective and unenforceable legislation, specifically on anti-immigrant day labor solicitation ordinances. As a non-traditional, DSP, and first-generation transfer student of color,  Michelle advocates for educational access, equity, decolonizing educational spaces, and helps students get started in research.

Emelliah Vaught

UROC – Undergraduate Coordinator

My name is Emelliah Vaught (she/her/hers) and I am an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. I am majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology with an emphasis in Immunology and Pathogenesis and plan to minor in African American Studies. In the future, I hope to attend med school to become a Pathologist and base my research on communities of color. As a Black woman navigating a very white, colonist society, I have experienced the racial disparities that continue to taint the medical field today. I hope to eliminate these disparities in the future through my career of choice. I am passionate about encouraging students of color at Berkeley to continue taking up well-deserved space at this institution, and hope to bring a better sense of community and belonging through my work at UROC.

Betsabé Castro Escobar

UROC – Graduate Student Coordinator

Betsabé wears many hats in her personal and professional life. She is a Puerto Rican scientist, graduate student, educator, mentor, coordinator, science communicator, trailblazer, changemaker, and activist. She is a proud Afro-Boricua making her own path in this world. In her personal life, she is a role model and loved one to many, a warrior that has endured countless systemic challenges as a woman of color, a creative and compassionate soul, and a fierce diosa. Wherever she goes, she aims to build and foster inclusive communities.   

As a scientist, she has explored the intersection of ethnobotany, ecology, and evolutionary biology, while studying plant responses to their interactions with people and their environments. Although broadly interested in the tropics’  edible, medicinal, and psychoactive plants, she has studied for her Ph.D. the calabash trees, or “higüeras,” a sacred plant for many cultures in the Americas, including the Caribbean. This work has taken her to conduct multi-sited and mixed methods research in diverse settings, from the lab and the field to natural history museums. Through her academic service and outreach impacts, she has been involved in conversations and actions surrounding the representation and retention of diverse talent within STEM and research fields. She has assumed leadership and mentorship roles throughout her career. Two roles worth mentioning are being the co-founder of a Puerto Rican organization called Boricuas in Berkeley that serves undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley and now serving historically marginalized students on campus through the UROC program. As an active member of the Puerto Rican-diáspora in the Bay Area, she has been more outspoken and passionate about Puerto Rico’s natural ecosystems, our land, our history, our culture, our art, our music, our dances, our food, our science, our legacy, our peoples’ stories, and speaking up about socio-economic-political issues and struggles. Long-term, she aspires to be a leader in her disciplines through research, education, innovation, entrepreneurship, DEIJ, and science communication initiatives.

Jonathan Landeros-Cisneros

UROC – Graduate Student Coordinator​ & SURF Mentor

My name is Joni Landeros-Cisneros (pronouns: he/him/his) and I am a first-generation scholar in the Critical Studies of Race, Class, and Gender in the Ph.D. program in the Education department. I was born in La Piedad, Michoacán, and was raised in Sioux City, Iowa. I completed a B.S. in anthropology and an MA in anthropology from Iowa State University where I was a Ronald E. McNair scholar. My research interests include whiteness studies, asymmetrical and targeted policing in K-12 and higher education, abolition studies, and the prison-industrial complex (school-prison-industrialized labor nexus). I have research experience in biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. For my doctoral studies, I am inquiring how police humanitarianism, a domestic counterinsurgency program, is upheld and reproduced for mental health and drug education initiatives in educational institutions.


Being a target of asymmetrical criminalization has provided me an entry to imagine alternative solutions beyond educational reform and disrupt the hyper-criminalization of ethno-racially marginalized communities. My commitment to undoing these systems and destabilizing power relations is evidenced by my commitment to mentorship and my pursuit of a Ph.D. in education with a focus on critical studies. I intend to join the professoriate and dedicate my work to transformational research that has the power to reshape and make higher education accessible to historically marginalized students while disrupting the mechanisms that uphold targeted criminalization. In my free time, I enjoy road cycling, fútbol, hiking, hanging with friends, listening to corridos and banda, and watching competitive cooking tv shows.

Jackie Lopez Santiago

UROC – Graduate Student Coordinator​ & SURF Mentor​

An alum of the UCSB, Jackie Lopez (she/her) is a first-generation college student from Los Angeles, California. In undergrad, Jackie served as a peer mentor for first-generation college students through the ONDAS Student Center, as well as participated in the McNair Scholars Program. She began her research experience as a second year student in undergrad working on projects related to teacher and practitioner perspective on school supports. Currently, Jackie is a second year student in the School Psychology PhD program in the Berkeley School of Education. Her primary research interest focuses on finding ways to support the academic outcomes of Latine students, particularly through parent education. When not at school, Jackie enjoys sewing, watching Grey’s Anatomy, and taking naps.

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