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Get to Know Us

Our dynamic team brings a lot of diverse experience and expertise to the table. Hear more about why empathy and compassion are important to us in the video above and learn more about our individual team members below.

Meet our Team

  • Cinnamon Bloss, PhD

    Cinnamon Bloss, PhD

    Center Director

    Directing the Center for Empathy and Technology is Cinnamon Bloss, PhD. Dr. Bloss is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and in the Division of Health Policy within the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. She holds a joint appointment as a policy analyst at the J. Craig Venter Institute and is a licensed clinical psychologist. 

    Dr. Bloss' current research focuses on the individual and societal impacts of emerging biomedical technologies. Her background is in clinical psychology, statistical genetics, genomic medicine, biomedical eithics and health policy. She has conducted both candidate-gene and genome-wide association studies of neurocognitive phenotypes, as well as empirical work on biomedical ethics topics in the areas of genetic testing, genome sequencing, and wireless sensors. 

    Contact Cinnamon

  • Marla Sklover

    Marla Sklover

    Finance and Operations Manager

    Marla is the Finance and Operations Manager for the T. Denny Sanford Institute, Center for Empathy & Technology as well as the Bloss Lab within Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health.

    Her passion is to elevate JEDIA principles in all aspects of professional and personal communities.

  • Ramya Rajagopalan, PhD

    Ramya Rajagopalan, PhD

    Associate Director, Training, Evaluation, and Qualitative Research

    In addition to her role with the Center, Dr. Rajagopalan is an Assistant Professor in the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science. Her work examines questions of access and equity in the use of genetic technologies in clinical risk assessment and diagnosis, and in the assessment and prevention of chronic disease. Her specific areas of focus include health equity, algorithmic and data ethics, and bias in healthcare. Her work incorporates both conceptual and applied approaches, bringing a qualitative and social scientific lens to better understand practice needs in medicine and public health. Past projects have examined the intersections of genomics and race as a social category of identity, and the impact of emerging tools in precision medicine on medical research and health care practices. Dr. Rajagopalan holds a PhD in genetics from MIT and completed post-doctoral fellowships at UW-Madison in Science and Technology Studies, Sociology, and Bioethics. 

    Dr. Rajagopalan leads the design and implementation of new education initiatives within the Center, including the Seq2Care Program (formerly Precision Health Scholars), as well as core research and evaluation projects in mission-aligned topic areas.

    Contact Ramya


  • Taylor Berninger, MS, MA, MEd, CGC

    Taylor Berninger, MS, MA, MEd, CGC

    Associate Director of Engagement

    Taylor has over 10 years of experience as a clinical genetic counselor providing prenatal, cancer, cardiology, neurology, and general adult consultations. Taylor received her master’s in Genetic Counseling and master’s in Medical Humanities and Bioethics from Northwestern University in 2011 and 2015, respectively. She also holds a master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and was a member of the Teach For America St. Louis Corps from 2009-2011. In addition to her role with our center, Taylor is the San Diego-based Associate Director for the Augustana-Sanford Genetic Counseling Graduate Program (ASGCGP) and provides patient consultation for the Family Cancer Genetics Program at UC San Diego Health.

    As the Associate Director of Engagement, Taylor leads the coordination of center events, collaborations, and outreach activities. She also developed and instructs the Seq2Care program (formerly Precision Health Scholars), is actively involved in select research and education projects, and contributes to Institute-wide projects and events as needed.

    Contact Taylor

    Twitter: @TayJaneGC

  • Melissa Karnaze, PhD

    Melissa Karnaze, PhD

    Associate Director of Measures and Methods

    Dr. Karnaze received her Ph.D. in Psychological Science from UC Irvine. She has over 10 years of experience conducting research with a focus on emotional experience and regulation, and beliefs about emotion. She is interested in how emotional experiences, such as empathy and compassion, can foster social connections and wellbeing. She is also interested in physiological correlates of reactivity to, and recovery from, stressful life events.

    She is currently working on projects that investigate how dispositional empathy and compassion relate to wellbeing and prosociality, including feelings of allyship with minoritized groups, loneliness, and compassionate as well as uncompassionate responding to one's unpleasant emotional experiences. She is also working on a qualitative research project assessing facilitators and barriers to compassion, which includes interviews with UC San Diego faculty, staff, and trainees about their experiences in a compassion cultivation training.

    Contact Melissa

  • Natalie Gonzalez, BA

    Natalie Gonzalez, BA

    Research and Engagement Coordinator

    While Natalie has a passion for public health issues in general, she has focused most of her career on health care improvement and prevention in underserved communities. In the last 5 years she has ranged her work in everything from community engagement for local clinics to teaching Comprehensive Sexual Health Education for teens in East San Diego. Prior to joining the Center for Empathy and Tech, Natalie was a research coordinator for UC San Diego’s Division of Biomedical Informatics. Natalie’s research focuses on high quality health care services to marginalized communities and ensuring accessibility and understanding of the ever-growing world of biotechnology. 

    As a new team member of the Center for Empathy and Technology, Natalie is excited to get started on some new research fields but will primarily be supporting and planning the engagement initiatives. She will be coordinating outreach events and community engagement for the Center, as well as helping promote the center within and outside of UC San Diego. 

    Contact Natalie

  • Caryn Kseniya Rubanovich, MS

    Caryn Kseniya Rubanovich, MS

    PhD Candidate, Graduate Student Researcher

    Caryn Kseniya Rubanovich is a PhD candidate in the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology. Caryn’s research focuses on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies in clinical care as well as the societal-level impact of technology more broadly. She obtained her M.S. in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University, and her A.B. in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. In her free time, you can find her trying out a new recipe, treasuring that first sip of coffee, or tweeting on @MedEmpathy, a handle she founded aimed at “connecting clinicians, patients & caregivers, one story at a time.”

    Caryn is currently leading a scoping review on the impacts of ancestry testing on individuals, families, and communities. She is also working on her dissertation which characterizes health privacy attitudes among individuals in the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Contact Caryn

    Twitter: @carynkseniya

  • Deepa Manjanatha, MPH

    Deepa Manjanatha, MPH

    Clinical Psychology JDP Student, Graduate Student Researcher

    Deepa is a PhD student at the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego (SDSU/UC San Diego) Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Clinical Psychology on the Behavioral Medicine track. Her research interests are oriented around improving population mental health with an emphasis on addressing health disparities and using a social determinants lens that incorporates positive health, prevention, and innovation. In particular, she is interested in studying the potential and risks posed by technological innovation on health and wellbeing, and translating evidence-based findings into policy and practice. Prior to the JDP, she completed an MPH in Social and Behavioral Science (with a concentration in Women, Gender, and Health) at Harvard University and a BA in Economics (with a minor in Public Policy) from UC Berkeley.

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  • Nicole Pippard, MPH

    Nicole Pippard, MPH

    Public Health JDP Student, Graduate Student Researcher

    Nicole’s research focuses on mental health across a life course. She received my Bachelor of Science in Public Health from UC San Diego and a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan. She is currently a 2nd year doctoral candidate in the Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health between UC San Diego and San Diego State University.

    As a new research assistant and epidemiologist for the Center, Nicole is currently assisting with the NCATS gene drive project to understand preferences in public engagement in gene drives and other technological health innovations. She hopes to further collaborate on additional projects as she becomes more integrated into the Center.

    Contact Nicole

  • Alison O'Daffer, B.A.

    Alison O'Daffer, B.A.

    Clinical Psychology JDP Student, Graduate Student Researcher

    Ali is a Ph.D. student at the San Diego State University/University of California San Diego (SDSU/UC San Diego) Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Clinical Psychology on the Behavioral Medicine track. Her research interests include dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices, improving digital mental health services and promoting physical and mental well-being through behavioral medicine, particularly in underserved and chronic illness populations. Before joining our team, Ali worked in mental health research for teens and young adults with serious illnesses at Seattle Children's Research Institute. She obtained her B.A. in Psychology (minors in Bioethics and Sociology/Anthropology) from the University of Puget Sound.

    Contact Alison

  • Kimberly Center, M.A.

    Kimberly Center, M.A.

    Research Project Manager 

    Kim received her M.A. in Psychology with an emphasis in physical and mental health research. Prior to joining the Center for Empathy and Tech, Kim has worked for the past 10 years as a senior program evaluation manager UC San Diego’s Health Services Research Center (HSRC), overseeing large-scale public mental health programs with a focus on community capacity building through social connectedness and health and wellness promotion within underserved and marginalized communities. Her research interests focus on the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to health and wellbeing within vulnerable communities.

    Kimberly joined the Center for Empathy and Technology (Tech Center) in November 2023 as the Research Project Manager, and is excited to support the research and strategic aims of the Center, as well as manage Dr. Bloss’s RO1: Stakeholder Perspectives on Social Media Surveillance in Schools. She brings a wealth of project management expertise and experience supervising large mixed-methods projects and teams, as well as support grant proposals, publications and reporting.