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Susanne E. Hall, Campus Writing Coordinator in the Hixon Writing Center

Ph.D., English, UC Irvine, 2008

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), Reading and Composing Academic Writing (Wr 3), 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. Current projects include an inquiry into the ways students use faculty feedback on their writing and a collaborative project on the practice of "text recycling" in academic writing. Her interests also 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 International Writing Across the Curriculum Conference, and the Council of Writing Program Administrators Conference.

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.

Christina Birch, STEM Writing Specialist and Lecturer

Ph.D. Biological Engineering, MIT, 2015

Helping writers in STEM fields gain more confidence in their writing and communication abilities is one of Dr. Birch’s passions. During her graduate studies at MIT, Dr. Birch worked as a Fellow in the Communication Lab, coaching fellow scholars on how to communicate scientific information effectively. In her work as a STEM Writing Specialist at Caltech, she focuses on helping writers understand key genres in STEM disciplines, learn how to communicate complex technical ideas with clarity, identify clear research goals, and communicate about their projects with varied audiences.

During her thesis research at MIT, Dr. Birch worked at the intersection of diagnostic technologies and disease pathology. She developed a new aptamer selection method using inertial microfluidics in order to create a novel class of molecular diagnostic tools for malaria-infected red blood cells. 

At Caltech, Dr. Birch also teaches E 11, Written Technical Communication in Engineering and Applied Science. She has previously taught upper-division bioengineering courses and graduate scientific writing courses at the University of California, Riverside. 

Erin Burkett, STEM Writing Specialist and Lecturer

Ph.D. Geophysics, UC Davis, 2010

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.

Emma Burris-Janssen, Generalist Writing Specialist

Ph.D. in progress, English, University of Connecticut
M.A. English, University of New Hampshire

Emma received her M.A. in English literature from the University of New Hampshire in 2013 and is currently writing the dissertation for her Ph.D. in literature from the University of Connecticut. Her dissertation project brings together her interests in the medical humanities and gendered criminality by exploring the ways in which abortion was represented in British fiction from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

Emma has taught writing at the University of New Hampshire, the University of Connecticut, Manchester Community College, and Northeast Community College. In addition to her work with Caltech, Emma also serves as a Writing Specialist for the Professional and Academic Resource Center (PARC) at Mount St. Mary’s University in Los Angeles. 

Charlyne Sarmiento, Generalist Writing Specialist

Ph.D. in progress, Education, UC Santa Barbara
M.A. English, University of Chicago, Illinois 

Charlyne is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara with an emphasis on Language, Literacy, and Composition.  While pursuing her M.A. at the University of Chicago, Illinois, Charlyne was an Assistant Director of the Writing Center. She has taught writing at UC Riverside, the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Glendale Community College. 

Her current research interests include genre theory, writing research across the disciplines and communities, and civic engagement in the teaching of writing.

Peer Tutors

Our peer tutors are undergraduates who are recommended by faculty and receive extensive and ongoing training in the tutoring of academic writing.

Robin Brown, Fleming

Robin is a junior majoring in Mathematics and Business, Economics, and Management. She realized the importance of writing and the humanities after taking well-taught humanities classes, and hopes to help her peers come to the same realization. In addition to tutoring for the Hixon Writing Center has completed a SURF in the Phillips lab in summer 2015, and is involved with ASCIT. Robin is also on the Caltech Cross Country and Swim and Dive teams. 

Roohi Dalal, Lloyd

Roohi is a junior majoring in Astrophysics and History. She is working on making forecasts of weak lensing missions at JPL while also studying the Russian Revolution with Professor Tracy Dennison at Caltech. Roohi really enjoys tutoring and is also a tutor with the Caltech Y’s RISE program. As a writing tutor, she hopes to show others that writing is the most stimulating and effective way of learning, since you have to convince yourself that every sentence that you put down on paper is correct.

Evan Gunter, Blacker

Evan Gunter is a sophomore majoring in computer science while also studying math and philosophy. Evan has always enjoyed reading and sees writing as a way to express ideas more clearly and elegantly than is possible in speech. At Caltech, Evan has performed in chamber music groups, completed an internship at JPL, and an appreciation for zeugma.

Sirus Han, Ruddock

Sirus Han is a senior from Brooklyn, New York, majoring in Geochemistry and English. He is currently working in the Barton lab on determining the role of DNA charge transfer in nucleotide-excision repair. Sirus is also the president of the Caltech Keytones, an all-male acapella group. He likes romantic comedies, cooking, the Oxford comma, and Star Wars more than Star Trek. Sirus especially enjoys creative writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

Vivian He, Ruddock

Vivian He is a senior majoring in Computer Science. In her freshman year at Caltech, Vivian's experiences in English courses made her realize a passion for literature and writing. In tutoring she hopes to help other students find similar joy in their Humanities classes. Special talents include online shopping and consuming inordinate amounts of tea.

Stephanie Hong, Lloyd

Stephanie Hong is a senior majoring in biology and minoring in English.  Since her freshman SURF, she has enjoyed working in the Bronner lab, studying the role of retinoic acid on neural crest development.  She also actively participates in the Caltech Y, the Health Education Advisory League, and RISE tutoring.  Her passion for writing stems from her experience with an encouraging high school English teacher and has grown after taking Professor Gilmartin's classes at Caltech.  She believes that the ability to effectively convey one's thoughts through prose is a crucial skill, for the humanities and the sciences alike.  Through tutoring, she hopes to emphasize the importance of writing and to show others that it can be both mentally stimulating and enjoyable.

Grace Lee, Fleming

Grace Lee is a senior majoring in Applied and Computational Mathematics and English. She finds it a little ironic that her 17-year old self would have shuddered at the thought of being a writing tutor, let alone studying English in college. For her, taking Prof. Gilmartin’s freshman humanities course was the turning point in her attitude towards writing. As a natural go-getter, she realised that she wanted to become a better writer and that she also wanted to help other international students become more comfortable writing in English, which is why she applied to be a peer tutor for Hixon Writing Center. She has completed two SURFs during her time at Caltech, and she is involved in the SFP House Ambassador programme as well as CURJ. She enjoys recreationally studying philosophy and has a penchant for sarcasm.

Gideon Leeper, Ricketts

Gideon is a sophomore majoring in math. He has always liked writing, but became more interested in writing as a means of conveying analytical ideas after taking a class taught by Prof. Eberhardt at Caltech. Although not quite a scientist, Gideon believes that communication is crucial to the advancement of science, and would like to help other writers and scientists to effectively share their knowledge. This year he is a peer tutor for the Dean's Office, and he has also helped coordinate and grade the Caltech Harvey Mudd Math Competition. 

Suchita Nety, Avery

Suchita is a senior studying Chemistry and minoring in English. She hopes to enable writers to confidently express themselves by making the writing process both accessible and enjoyable. Suchita enjoys volunteering with Reading Partners to teach primary schoolers how to read. She also works with writers as a co-editor-in-chief of the Caltech Undergraduate Research Journal. In the Shapiro Lab, Suchita engineers acoustic protein nanostructures to enable functional ultrasound imaging. In her spare time, she loves to dance.

Alyssa Poletti, Ricketts

Alyssa is a sophomore majoring in Planetary Science. She completed a SURF in the Mechanical Engineering Department about the temperature dependent properties of ferroelectric materials. She is the undergraduate events coordinator of the Feminist Club and a tour guide whenever she can wake up before 10 a.m. She loves fiction and nonfiction writing as well as horror movies, drawing, and strange reality TV shows. 

Ellen Yu, At-large

Ellen Yu is a senior majoring in chemistry. Currently working in the lab of Professor Andre Hoelz, she uses x-ray crystallography to determine the structures of proteins involved in signal transduction pathways. Ellen is also a RISE tutor for the Caltech Y and a peer tutor for the Undergraduate Deans’ Office, experiences that have sustained her belief in the fundamental relationship between communication and learning. She hopes to help writers find the same level of enjoyment in communicating their own ideas.

Madelyn Wang, Page

Madelyn is a sophomore majoring in Computation and Neural Systems. She discovered her appreciation of writing from her high school English teacher and has loved helping others write ever since. As a peer tutor, she hopes to help writers gain confidence and develop effective communication skills. During her time at Caltech, she has interned at Facebook and is involved with the Page House Social Team, Robogals, and Caltech TOTEM. In her spare time, Madelyn enjoys softball, photography, design, and travel.

Support Staff

Leslie Rico, Administrative Coordinator

Leslie is the Administrative Coordinator for the Hixon Writing Center. She brings to our Center over 20 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.