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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), 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 a study of text recycling in scientific research writing, and this research has recently won support from the National Science Foundation. 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. 

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 senior 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. 

Jonathan Chan, Lloyd

Jonathan is a sophomore majoring in Chemistry. He tutors at the Hixon Writing Center because he believes that all great scientists must also be great writers. Over his freshman summer, Jonathan worked in the Gharib Group on a SURF project involving the dewetting of superhydrophobic surfaces for solar desalination applications. As Outreach Coordinator for Caltech’s Chemistry Club, Jonathan is passionate about getting kids of all ages excited about science. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys running, making memes, and binging on TV shows like Black Mirror and Law & Order: SVU.

Roohi Dalal, Lloyd

Roohi is a senior 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.

Ishani Ganguly, Page

Ishani is a sophomore majoring in Computation and Neural Systems with a minor in Computer Science. As a student at Caltech, she sometimes wishes she had the chance to write more outside of her humanities classes. She is excited about peer tutoring because it is a chance for her to sustain her interest in writing while also working with students on writing projects across a variety of fields. In the summer of 2017, she worked in the Shimojo Lab, studying how the brain perceives and organizes audiovisual stimuli. 

Evan Gunter, Blacker

Evan Gunter is a junior majoring in computer science, math and (maybe) 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, done research in biomolecular computation, and an appreciation for zeugma.


Gideon Leeper, Ricketts

Gideon is a junior 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. 

Angela Li, Lloyd

Angela is a sophomore majoring in Computer Science and BEM (Business, Economics and Management). Since starting Caltech, she has vigorously enjoyed being a “scientific sellout” and has worked for Facebook and Latham & Watkins LLP on software engineering and financial legal analysis, respectively. As former President of her high school Speech and Debate team, inventive composition and dynamic argumentation excite her, and she brings that excitement to her approach for tutoring at the Writing Center. In her free time, Angela enjoys working out, talking about working out, being very loud (talking, singing, playing piano), and knowing more about memes than you.

Maitreyi Nair, Avery

Maitreyi is a sophomore majoring in Computer Science. Thanks to an abiding love of reading and some particularly excellent classes in literature, history, and philosophy both in high school and in college, she developed a deep appreciation for the power of effective expression and communication through writing. Outside of her studies and academic work at Caltech, Maitreyi is involved with the California Tech, SWE, and several music and dance groups on campus.

Alyssa Poletti, Ricketts

Alyssa is a junior 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. 

Anise Rau, Ricketts

Anise is a junior majoring in Astrophysics with a minor in Computer Science. She believes that good writing is essential to communicating effectively in science and looks forward to helping her peers reflect upon their work. She has spent the past two summers interning at Google--generating data visualizations, and optimizing machine learning models, respectively. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, cooking, and travel, and she is a member of the Caltech Pipettes.

Tucker Reese, Ruddock/Fleming

Tucker is a Junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, with a minor in English. A combination of excellent teachers and a lifelong love of reading has inspired in him a love for the written word. As a tutor, he hopes to help other students communicate effectively in their academic pursuits and, in the process, develop an appreciation and intuition for good writing. When not studying or tutoring, Tucker can be found trying to understand racecars with Caltech Racing or working on a project with Engineers Without Borders.

Madelyn Wang, Page

Madelyn is a junior 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.