Sponsored Student Spotlight 


Name: Alfredo Giron Nava

Year in Program: 5th year

Country: Mexico

Home institution: Universidad Autonoma de Baja California

Sponsoring Agency: UC Mexus-CONACYT

Field of Study: Fisheries Oceanography     

Majors and Minors: Biological Oceanography

Research projects:

  • Fisheries management for human and environmental well-being
  • Nonlinear dynamics modelling to predict fisheries yields and improve management.


Why did you decide to study in the U.S.? What made you choose to come to San Diego?

I just really wanted to study at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and I would have moved anywhere it was located at.


How did you become interested in UC San Diego and your program? What do you hope to gain out of your experience here, academically and personally?

Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the leading oceanographic research institutions in the world. People around the world look up to it, and it was just natural for me to at least try to come here to pursue my Ph.D. Once I made it here, I realized that it was the right choice, and I work every day to learn the most out of the classes, the researchers and my exceptional graduate student fellows.


What challenges/difficulties did you meet while preparing your stay in the U.S. or adapting to your new setting in San Diego? How did you overcome them?

The first challenge was to speak in English every day and all the time, it was very exhausting during the first couple of months. The next challenge was to get a house without a credit, which fortunately I was able to overcome thanks to other students that helped me to figure it out. In general I feel that the students’ community is very supportive, and most of the challenges that I have faced have been solved through asking around for advice.


How do you find the academic climate at UC San Diego and within your program? Describe any highlights and/or challenges.

When I first came to the U.S., I was ‘warned’ by several people about the really competitive environment, and how that sometimes could drag you into toxic dynamics. However, as soon as I came here, I realized that such comments couldn’t be farther away from the truth. At least at Scripps, I have been surrounded by students and professors that are always open for conversations and to exchange ideas. I always feel motivated to reach out for people whenever I feel stuck. 


Do you participate in research? If so, describe your project/lab. Why did you become interested in this topic?

Yes, as a Ph.D. student, I am developing my own research projects and contribute to the broader research agendas of Dr. Octavio Aburto and Dr. George Sugihara. I am broadly interested in studying marine fisheries as social-ecological systems. In particular, I aim to use my research to propose management strategies that ensure both social and environmental sustainability. As such, my research projects involve both, the development of new theoretical frameworks to manage resources, and the elaboration of concrete proposals that are voiced to fisheries managers. I became interested in this topic as an undergrad in Baja California, when I came to work with researchers that either worried only about the ecological half of the problem or the management side of it. Once I came to Scripps, my advisor encouraged me to pursue both.


What extracurricular activities do you participate in? Are you a member of any student organizations?  What is the best experience you’ve had so far? How do you spend your free time in San Diego?

My hobbies include dancing and climbing, and San Diego is a great place for both of them. The dancing scene, especially for salsa, is thriving, and there are many good dancers and schools around. Regarding climbing, there are many indoor gyms in the area, but there are also several options for weekend trips to climb outdoors. Being a graduate student, these two activities have greatly helped me to keep my mental health and life balance. During my time in San Diego, I have had several amazing experiences. However, the best experience that I had during my Ph.D. was on a field trip to the Gulf of California, where I was able to swim with giant mantas and dive with beaked whales!


What was a defining moment in your academic career that shaped who you are now?

During the first year of my undergrad, I met my current advisor for a couple of minutes at the airport. During that brief talk I showed him a couple maps and analyses that I had made with data that he had collected. After that, I became part of his research group to some extent and started working on projects that I still work on today.


What have you accomplished during your studies at UC San Diego that you are most proud of? How has this impacted you?

I am very proud of two grants that I was able to get to establish collaborations with other graduate students around the world. These grants have allowed me to develop a professional network that I am sure that will be the base for my research projects in the near future. For example, I collaborate a lot with economists and anthropologists in order to address social-ecological problems related to fishing communities.


How will your experience here in San Diego fit in your educational/professional plan/future career?

The knowledge and skills that I acquired throughout my Ph.D., as well as the research network that I developed will be the most valuable assets that I take to my next job. Additionally, the two hobbies that I started in San Diego (dancing and climbing) will be with me forever, as they have changed my lifestyle and I cannot live without them.


What is one thing you would tell aspiring sponsored students?

San Diego is a wonderful city, full of places to explore, both man-made and natural. In particular, UCSD is an excellent academic institution, with people from all over the world and where you can learn from excellent professors and students. Come to study here! You won’t regret it