Introducing New PhD Students: Alexis Camacho and Jessica Wagner

Our interdisciplinary Rehabilitation Science PhD program, which offers students a unique opportunity to participate in cutting-edge Musculoskeletal Biomechanics and Neuroscience research, welcomed two new candidates this year: Alexis Camacho and Jessica Wagner. A Q&A featuring both PhD candidates is below and featured in our 2023 Year in Review: Expanding Horizons.

Alexis Camacho: Rethinking Prosthetics and Wearable TechnologiesAlexis Camacho

Alexis Camacho earned a BS and MS in Exercise Science from California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests are prosthetics and wearable technology that assist patients throughout the various phases of gait rehabilitation.

Q: What was your path to pursuing a PhD?

A: I joined the Movement Science Lab during my last year of undergrad, and this was where I was first introduced to biomechanics research. During my time in the lab is where I found my passion for research, and I decided to apply to the masters’ program. I was offered a teaching assistant position and found that I enjoyed teaching so much that I spent four years in the Human and Evolutionary Biology department at University of Southern California as a lecturer before I applied to the PhD program here at UCSF. Taking the time off between my MS and PhD gave me the opportunity to explore my research interests more before deciding which program would be best suited for me.

Q: Why did you choose UCSF?

A: The lab that first piqued my interest at UCSF was Dr. Rob Matthew’s Biorobotics group. Not only were they investigating osseointegrated prosthetics, but they were also looking at the use of exoskeletons in spinal cord injury rehab. I want to be a part of a lab group that builds and implements effective technology that can make a difference in a patient’s health. I was able to visit the campus and meet other students and faculty during the interview process. After meeting with everyone, it was apparent that if I was admitted into the program, I would have an incredible support system and would have an incredible opportunity to work with some of the best experts in the field. I’m so excited to be here for my PhD!

Q: Could you share something about yourself outside of work? What do you like to do for fun?

A: I’m a fall person and love the cozy feeling you get watching movies and sipping pumpkin spice drinks. My dog and I love to go to the beach. I also enjoy weightlifting – it’s one of the best ways to relieve any stress.

Jessica WagnerJessica Wagner: Seeking Understanding of Biomechanics

Jessica Wagner is from San Diego and played collegiate golf at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, where she received a BS in Sports Medicine with a minor in Biology. She returned to California to get her DPT from San Diego State University. After working at the VA Medical Center in San Diego as a physical therapist, she realized her passion lay in research rather than the clinic. Jessica is excited to pursue a PhD in Rehabilitation Science at UCSF and plans to focus on expanding her knowledge of biomechanics and movement dysfunction.

Q: What was your path to pursuing your PhD?

A: I’ve always loved science and math and learning about the human body. Health science made sense and I loved helping people, so I decided to pursue a DPT, which I completed in 2021. After one year of working in the clinic, I questioned my role as a clinician. I found that my favorite part of being in the clinic was patient education and figuring out the ways to explain biomechanically what was happening. If a patient came in for knee pain, for example, I enjoyed explaining why their muscles were tight in certain spots. I enjoyed looking up research. I realized I wanted to gain more expertise.

Q: Why did you choose UCSF?

A: I have family in Oakland and my mom grew up in SF. The faculty, the lineup, everyone is so impressive – I feel honored to learn from them. Dr. Souza was also so open to chat with me even before the application process started.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

A: I love biking, baking and being outside with my dog Daisy.

For more information about the UCSF Rehabilitation Science PhD program, including admissions, student life and faculty, please visit this page.