Writing Specialists

Our writing specialists are professional tutors who hold advanced degrees in their areas of expertise.
They have extensive training and experience in the tutoring and teaching of academic writing.

Chris Bickford, STEM Writing Specialist and Lecturer

Ph.D., Biology, University of New Mexico

Chris joined Caltech after teaching plant biology and scientific writing for 10 years at Kenyon College. He invites Caltech students and community members to work with him to develop and refine their scientific writing and communication skills.

Chris earned a B.S. in Botany from the University of Oklahoma, an M.S. in Forestry from Northern Arizona University, and a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico. After postdoctoral work in the field of plant physiological ecology at Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) in Lincoln, New Zealand and the University of New Mexico, Chris joined the faculty at Kenyon College. At Kenyon, where he was an associate professor of biology, his research focused on the role leaf structural traits play in modulating photosynthesis. His pedagogical interests center on facilitating student awareness of their writing process to improve writing and communication skills. He looks forward to working with and learning from members of the Caltech community as they bring their ideas, data, and perspectives into written form.

Erin Burkett, STEM Writing Specialist and Lecturer

Ph.D., Geophysics, UC Davis

Erin welcomes opportunities to collaborate with members of the Caltech community wishing to become better writers and communicators, particularly within STEM disciplines.

Erin earned a B.S. in physics and a minor in art from the University of Delaware while also serving as a Writing Fellow tutor for undergraduate peers.  In 2010, Erin completed a Ph.D. in Geophysics at the University of California, Davis, where she conducted computer modeling research of plate tectonic processes.  Erin continued geodynamic modeling during postdoctoral research at Caltech while exploring a growing interest in outreach and communication.  Outreach collaborations led to a Staff Scientist position with the US Geological Survey where she worked to help improve communication of natural hazards science and earthquake early warning technology.

Through her varied background in both research and communication, Erin has acquired insights and skills that are valuable in working with diverse audiences and disciplines.

Nareen Manoukian, Generalist Writing Specialist

Ed.D., University Southern California
M.A., English, California State University, Northridge

As a multilingual writer, Nareen is attuned to the many different ways in which people approach writing. She is committed to supporting writers at all stages of writing development. She has worked with writers both as a lecturer and in writing centers at the University of Southern California, Azusa Pacific University, in the California State University system, and various community colleges, as well as internationally at the American University of Armenia as a summer research associate.

Nareen holds an Ed.D. from USC's Rossier School of Education, an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and an M.A. in Literature from California State University, Northridge. Outside of academia, her writing interests include narrative nonfiction and memoir.

Josh Schneiderman, Generalist Writing Specialist

Ph.D. Candidate, English, City University of New York
M.A., English, University of Georgia

Josh is trained as a scholar of literature and the visual culture but looks forward to working with and learning from Caltech writers from across the disciplines. He previously taught writing and American literature at Hunter College, CUNY, where he also served as Assistant Coordinator of English 220, one of Hunter's core first-year writing courses.

Josh holds an M.A in English from the University of Georgia and is completing a Ph.D. in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. An archival reassessment of the New York School, his dissertation examine the ways in which post-1945 poets and artists used "old media" to resist the literary, sexual, and economic imperatives of Cold War American culture. Josh edited 
The Correspondence of Kenneth Koch and Frank O'Hara, 1955-56 (Lost & Found / The Center for the Humanities), and his writing has appeared in Art in AmericaContemporary LiteratureJournal of Modern LiteratureASAP/JPublic Books, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Peer Tutors

Our peer tutors are undergraduates who are passionate about the importance of writing and who receive ongoing training in the tutoring of academic writing.

Maria Azcona-Baez, Avery

Maria is a sophomore chemical engineering student. She is currently working in the Greer Group to investigate the finer details of 3-D printing metal structures. She is passionate about discussing writing techniques and hopes to help students navigate this space with as much fun as possible. In her free time, she likes reading fantasy/science fiction, writing short stories, and playing video games.

Nachiket Bhanushali, Venerable

Nachiket is a junior majoring in physics. He currently works in the Caltech Precision Timing Lab and is investigating the light output of certain particle detector modules. As a tutor, he hopes to share his writing experiences so he can support students in achieving their writing goals, while also improving his own skills as a writer. In his free time, he enjoys watching films, hiking, and reading.

Emily Choe, Venerable

Emily is a junior majoring in computation and neural systems. She loves the process of writing, from brainstorming, to writing the first draft, to editing and finalizing the piece. She hopes to be an approachable and resourceful peer tutor. Apart from academics, she likes yoga, earrings, and diving. 

Adnan Contractor, Bechtel

Adnan is a senior majoring in math. He hopes to get to know students by reflecting on their writing and literary interests. He is drawn to readings of scientific realism and the philosophy of scientific law. Adnan's favorite pastimes are watching basketball and eating medjool dates.

Reggy Granovskiy, Dabney

Reggy is a senior in History and Computer Science with an interest in physics. They believe that a humanistic perspective is vital to working in the sciences, and that writing is particularly essential not only for communicating effectively but also for developing one's ideas and working through complex topics. Being a part of the Hixon Writing Center has been a great opportunity for them to reflect on different writing processes and engage with a variety of interesting ideas. They like to spend their free time playing board games, watching horror movies, and drawing.

Bella Hurvitz, Page

Bella is a senior majoring in bioengineering. Writing holds importance in her life as a means of effective communication and as a creative outlet. As a tutor, Bella seeks to sustain her interest in writing by supporting students as they develop effective communication skills in both scientific and non-scientific writing efforts. In her free time, Bella likes to paint, play soccer, and spend time outdoors.

Nico Jimenez-Lozano, Page

Nico is a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. He tutors at the writing center to help other students better understand themselves as writers so that they can more effectively communicate their ideas. In his free time, Nico likes to listen and play music, go outdoors, and cook/bake.

Shalini Kurinchi-Vendhan, Blacker

Shalini is a senior studying astrophysics. Currently, she is researching how black holes lead to the death of galaxies using cosmological simulations. But she also loves literature and writing, and hopes to share that passion with others at Caltech. Other than exploring her secret door to Narnia, her favorite books are Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, and anything by Lemony Snicket.

Grace Liu, Page (social Avery) 

Grace is a senior student majoring in biology and English. She currently does research in the Arnold lab on using machine learning to characterize protein interactions. She believes that all scientists need to also cultivate strong communication skills so that their work can be shared with other scientists and the general public. She enjoys creative writing as a way to relieve stress from academics. She spends her free time reading, listening to music, and learning to become a better cook. 

Aramis Mendoza, Avery and Ricketts

Aramis is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering. She is currently working as part of Caltech's NASA Big Idea Challenge 2022 Team in mechanical design for aerospace applications. She is passionate about connecting with others through writing and exploring identity through creative writing pieces. In her free time, Aramis enjoys listening to music, watching movies, and late-night driving in the city.

Geoff Pomraning

Geoff is a senior majoring in physics and mathematics, with an emphasis on plasma physics and combinatorics. He thinks that the secret to great science is in becoming a great scientific communicator. His summers researching with the Bellan Plasma Physics Group and the Wisconsin Plasma Physics Lab have instilled an appreciation of technical writing and reporting. He is very excited to be working to support students on their writing journeys. 

Daniel Quintana, Lloyd

Daniel is a senior majoring in computer science. he believes that strong communcation and writing skills are critical to every student at Caltech for both their STEM and non-STEM efforts. Through peer tutoring, he hopes to help students hone these skills, as well as improve his own. In his free time, Daniel likes reading, sleeping, and playing video games.  

Isabelle Ragheb, Avery

"Izzy" is a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in aerospace engineering. In addition to her interest in rocket propulsion systems, Izzy is also passionate about literary analysis and creative writing. Given her diverse writing experience, she is excited to bring a unique perspective to students coming to the HWC. By striving to be an approachable and welcoming tutor, Izzy hopes to demonstrate the power of effective writing to as many of her peers as possible. In her free time she enjoys baking vegan desserts, swimming, painting and drawing, going on runs, and reading.

Lily Randall, Page

My name is Lily Randall, and I am a sophomore in Geochemistry. Writing has always been something I both enjoy and used to struggle with. As a tutor I hope to help others understand the ways they struggle with writing and help them find ways of getting passed that to create a paper they're satisfied represents their ideas. I also love running, music, and drawing in my free time.

Heidi Redmond, Venerable

Heidi is a junior majoring in Chemical Engineering on the Biomolecular Track. She's fascinated by the process of writing, especially when considering that effective writing isn't necessarily the result of a formula, as students are sometimes taught, but is instead the creative application of rhetorical tools. Heidi believes that good writing lures a reader into considering its ideas and perspectives, and loves helping others unlock this power within their own writing. In addition to being a rhetorical enthusiast, Heidi plays Double Bass in the Caltech Symphony Orchestra and in her free time loves to crochet, read, and listen to her Oldies playlist.

Maggie Sui, Lloyd

Maggie is a senior majoring in bioengineering and English. She values writing as both a means of communication and an art form. As a peer tutor, Maggie hopes to help others develop their voice and writing process. Outside of writing, Maggie enjoys nature, philosophy, and dark chocolate. She plays violin for the Caltech chamber music program.

Alexis Wang, Avery

Alexis is a junior studying Computer Science. Reading and writing have been a longtime love of hers, from poetry to articles on Medium. As a tutor, she hopes she can help others find their voice and passion in the things they wish to communicate and share. Outside of HWC, she enjoys walking, traveling, watching movies, swimming, and, as a native New Yorker, exploring her hometown. 

Leo Williams, Lloyd

Leo is a junior majoring in bioengineering. He is currently researched enzyme replacement therapies in the Chou laboratory. Writing has been an integral part of his life for many years, and he hopes to help spread his passion for writing with Hixon. In his free time, he is on the basketball team and enjoys cooking. 

Tao Zhang

Wentao is a junior majoring in biology with an emphasis in neuroscience. He is currently researching nuclear pole complexes at the Hoelz lab. He hopes that he can help students enjoy writing a little more and better communicate their scientific ideas. He spends his free time swimming and reading high fantasy novels.

HWC Administrators

Susanne E. Hall, Director

Ph.D., English, UC Irvine

Dr. Hall began her work at Caltech in Fall 2012. At Caltech, in addition to her work directing the Hixon Writing Center, she regularly teaches Introduction to Academic Writing for Multilingual students (Wr 1), Introduction to Academic Writing (Wr 2), Principles and Practices of Academic Writing (Wr 4), and Writing About Science (En 84).

Dr. Hall's research interests are in the field of writing studies. She is a Co-PI in an NSF-funded study of text recycling in scientific research writing. Her broader interests include learning transfer and how writing centers can promote it, particularly across the boundaries between the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. She has recently presented her work at the International Writing Center Association Convention, the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and the Council of Writing Program Administrators Conference. She is an editor of Prompt, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to college writing assignments. You can find links to her published writing via ORCID.

Leslie Rico, Office Administrator
B.A., English, University of LaVerne

Leslie is the Office Administrator for the Hixon Writing Center. She brings to our Center over 25 years of Caltech experience. Leslie has worked for the Caltech Libraries, the Earthquake Engineering Research Library, and the Divisions of Geology and Planetary Science and Engineering and Applied Science. In addition to Leslie's Caltech experience she brings to our office great enthusiasm and a team-building spirit.

Leslie earned a BA from the University of LaVerne in English with a minor in Creative Writing. Leslie enjoys being a part of the Caltech Community and especially being a member of the Hixon Writing Center team.

Affiliated Staff

Robyn Javier, STEM Communication Specialist and Lecturer in Engineering

Ph.D., Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco
M.S., Biomedical Engineering, UCLA

Robyn Javier is a member of the division of Engineering and Applied Science who specializes in spoken communication in STEM. Dr. Javier teaches courses, offers consultations, and presents workshops on topics related to STEM communication. Check out her website to learn more about the support she offers to the Caltech community.