Sam Castañeda, Co-Chair
Sam Castañeda graduated with a B.A. in sociology from San Francisco State University, and has worked for the University of California (UC) — at the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses — for more than 20 years. During this time, he created innovative programs that lent support to international students and scholars. Concurrently, Sam also held leadership positions with the California chapter of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. At the national level, Sam is currently chair of the newly recognized NAFSA Postdoc Special Interest Group and is the institutional liaison between NAFSA and the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA).
At UC Berkeley, Sam was instrumental in the development of the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs (VSPA) Program- the first postdoc office in the UC system and one of the first in the United States.
As director of Berkeley's VSPA Program, Sam is responsible for the oversight of postdocs at Berkeley, who are provided with a variety of professional support systems such as lecture series, networking events, and other tools which help to broaden career and professional development opportunities for Berkeley's 1,500 postdocs. With an extensive international student and scholar background, Sam has won recognition for a variety of customized courses serving the international research community.
Sam is founder and managing editor of UC Postdoc Newsletter, an electronic journal that connects more than 6,500 postdocs with 500 faculty and staff administrators who work together to enhance the postdoctoral experience at UC.
Naresh Sunkara, Co-Chair
Naresh Sunkara is a Visiting Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he was a postdoctoral scientist at UC Berkeley developing novel technologies for delivery of RNA based drugs for treating viral infections. During his time at Berkeley, Naresh founded and chaired the Berkeley Postdoctoral Entrepreneurship Program (BPEP) since 2010. The mission of BPEP is to educate and mentor graduate students and postdocs to bolster their entrepreneurship skills and values for the purpose of transforming university research into startup companies.
Over the last three years, Naresh has worked closely with the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Intellectual Property and Industry Alliances Office (IPIRA) at UC Berkeley as well as with their counterparts at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. As a result, Naresh was designated Special Assistant for Postdoctoral Affairs to the Vice Chancellor for Research. In this role, Naresh has successfully implemented several new initiatives including an internship program for graduate students and postdocs to train them in the evaluation of technologies coming out of UC Berkeley and license them to interested companies at the IPIRA office.
Naresh is also the CEO of a startup company, Nosocom Solutions Inc., which develops technologies to reduce healthcare acquired infections (HAI) in hospitals. He is also serving as an advisor to two other companies, Solfice, and Smartkonnexion.
Naresh received his MS from Tennessee Technological University and PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.