Berkeley Connect

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Photo: Paul Kirchner Studios

The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM). We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Laura LammersI’m excited to welcome you on behalf of myself and our wonderful graduate fellows to the 2020/2021 academic year for Berkeley Connect ESPM! In these uncertain times it is more critical than ever to find safe and relaxed venues for peer to peer interactions. Our mission is to provide an authentic space to build community with fellow UC Berkeley students who share your enthusiasm for environmental science, policy, and stewardship. We invite students of all stages and ages to teach, learn, and support one another as you gain the tools to access and navigate the incredible resources that the Berkeley campus has to offer. Curious about career opportunities after graduation? Seeking input from peers, grad students and professors on your ideas or educational path? Looking to learn more about environmental clubs on campus? Wanting to develop and hone those communication skills? Berkeley Connect in ESPM is here for you!

Laura Lammers, Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in ESPM

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in ESPM. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students One-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the ESPM majors as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in ESPM is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be in one of ESPM’s majors (CRS, ES, FNR, MEB or S&E) to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students.  They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • One-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in ESPM, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and One-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in ESPM. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussion sessions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within ESPM as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will also meet with your mentor One-on-one at least twice during the semester, once to get acquainted, and a second time just before Tele-Bears, to discuss your plans for completing your major. Your mentor also has Office hours every other week, during which you are free to show up and ask questions, talk over your day or your week, discuss what you are learning in class, or just have an informal conversation.


Laura Lammers

Laura LammersLaura Lammers is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Department. Her research group studies the chemistry of natural processes in the environment that regulate the cycling of nutrients, contaminants, and carbon. Laura relies on a range of experimental and theoretical tools to study how the unique chemical environments at mineral and microbial surfaces affect the transport and transformations of key elements. An important goal of her work is to develop better methods for contaminant immobilization and nutrient recovery to promote sustainable supplies of clean water and energy. For more information check out her group’s website at

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Jacob Bukoski Jacob Bukoski is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

A bit all over, but North Carolina is home.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I went to Tulane University to study archictecture but dropped out after my first year. I then completed an Associate in Arts at Durham Technical Community College. I transferred as a junior to UNC, where I changed majors a few times but ended up majoring in Environmental Studies.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I study how deforestation and forest restoration impact our climate. I mostly study this through mangrove forests, which are a particular forest ecosystem found along tropical coastlines.

Hana Moidu Hana Moidu is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Ottawa, Canada

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

McGill University, Geography and Biology

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I study how intermittent streams change over space and time, and how they can act as a refuge for aquatic species during the dry conditions.

Nina Pak Nina Pak is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Bay Area, California

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

UC Berkeley, Molecular and Cell Biology (Biological Chemistry)

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I am studying the genetic architecture of salt-tolerance and how it has evolved across the fly tree of life.

Sean Perez Sean Perez is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Manhattan but grew up primarily in Long Island, New York.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

I was a Biology major with a Pre-Med concentration at the State University of New York, Oneonta.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

Broadly, my research seeks to understand how insects make defensive chemicals. Specifically, I’m determining the genes that allow Bombardier Beetles to make chemicals that are both toxic and released at boiling temperatures.

Wenjing Xu Wenjing Xu is a PhD candidate in ESPM.

Where did you grow up?

Hangzhou, China.

Where did you go to college and what was your major?

China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, China; majored in Geology/Geography.

How would you describe your research in a sentence or two?

I study migrations of hoofed animals (such as antelopes and deer) in the increasingly fragmented world, especially rangeland ecosystems where humans, livestock, and wildlife co-exist.

Semester Activities

Week Format Notes
Aug 31 Full group


Opening reception: Virtual posting

Introductions: Semester orientation

Sept 7 Sections Skill development I
Sept 14 Office hours Individual meetings: *Required meeting with your fellow
Sept 21 Sections Current Environmental topic I
Sept 28 Office hours Individual check in: Drop in meetings with your fellow
Oct 5 Sections Skill development II (possible faculty visits)
Oct 12 Office hours

Full group

Individual check in

Virtual Field trip Berkeley Art Museum!

Oct 19 Sections Current Environmental topic II
Oct 26 Office hours Individual check in: Drop in meetings with your fellow
Nov 2 Sections Skill development III
Nov 9 Office hours Individual check in: *Required meetings with your fellow
Nov 16 Sections Current Environmental topic III
Nov 23 Thanksgiving No meetings
Nov 30 Sections Closing: Semester wrap-up!
Dec 7 Full group Optional study break activities


To find sections for the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for ESPM 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors).

To help you meet other students who share your experiences and perspectives, Berkeley Connect sections are designated as lower division (first-year students and sophomores), new junior transfers, and upper division (juniors and seniors), but you can enroll in any section that fits your schedule and credit requirements.

How to Sign Up

To participate in Berkeley Connect in ESPM, you enroll in a designated section of ESPM 98BC or 198BC (one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis). Many students chose to enroll for more than one semester. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  Please see the Berkeley Connect Sections listed above under “Schedule.”

**Read the schedule notes carefully—different Sections are designated as primarily for lower-division (freshmen and sophomores), upper-division (juniors and seniors), or junior transfer students.

If you are interested in participating in Berkeley Connect, but course registration is not currently open, you can join the Berkeley Connect Mailing List, and you will be sent more details when the next semester’s information becomes available.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in ESPM, please contact:Prof. Justin Brashares, 13 Mulford Hall, phone: (510) 643-6080, email:

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office  at or (510) 664-4182.

Links & Resources