Campus Life

octopus illustration

Octopus illustration by Diana Neacsu

Water Colors

“Pictures really do paint a thousand words, regardless of the language you speak or your scientific knowledge. The pictures, [they’re] universal,” Diana Neacsu says of her scientific illustrations. A graduate student researcher and artist, she was part of the inaugural 2023 cohort supported by a new scientific illustration grant of the SF State Estuary & Ocean Science (EOS) Center.

Last year, the EOS Center offered three one-year fellowships to student researchers studying marine sciences and expressing a penchant for art. A $10,000 grant from the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation funded the program. Inspired by student enthusiasm, the EOS Center gathered additional funds to support a fourth student.

Neacsu designed a colorful 24-page manual bedecked with illustrations of squid, octopuses and other organisms studied by her research adviser’s group. Her goal was to help incoming students joining the group. There’s a steep learning curve for students learning research, she explains.

“A lot of people are afraid of science or don’t like science or were belittled. I am totally sympathetic. I can understand how academia is very gated,” Neacsu says. She hopes to expand her illustrations to help captivate non-expert audiences and grade-school children.

“I think illustrations are a great way to break that barrier,” she adds. “Who doesn’t [prefer] a pretty picture [instead of] a block of text that’s full of jargon and heavy? It turns people off.”


silhouette of a planetarium with a red horizon in the background

Photo by Juan Montes

Star Power

Seeing a show at SF State’s Charles F. Hagar Planetarium is a unique experience. Forty-five seats huddle around a central star projector displaying the night sky across the domed ceiling, providing the only light in the dark room. The experience almost feels like you’re telling stories around a campfire, says Planetarium and Observatory Technician Jim Gibson.

The planetarium just celebrated its 50th anniversary and received $1.5 million to renovate the facilities. Currently, the on-campus planetarium offers free shows and is frequented by the University community, the public and grade-school classes. Years ago, Gibson began offering a one-unit workshop to train students to become planetarium presenters, partly to help meet demand for popular planetarium shows.

“It’s like choreographing a theatre presentation. You’ve got the sets, the lighting and sound, the story and the direction and choreography,” he explains, noting that there’s also an element of improv. Although juggling these different components became second nature to him, teaching these skills to student presenters gave him a new appreciation for all that goes into these shows.

For Physics & Astronomy graduate student Shvetha Suvarna Chynoweth, the workshop’s influence extended beyond academics. It helped her convey her scientific passion to her family.

“This class helped me figure out how I can start tying things together — the things that [my family members] are interested in versus what I am interested in — to bridge the gap,” she says.


students in a radio station doing a recording

Photo by Corinne Allen

Embracing the Chaos of College Radio

With the quarantine of 2020 long in the rear-view mirror, students are back to developing skills and making friends the old-fashioned way — in the flesh. Better yet, an energy has emerged in the new George and Judy Marcus Hall for the Liberal and Creative Arts, the media arts hub of campus. Online radio station KSFS boasts top-of-the-line equipment and spaces that enable students to go beyond the terrestrial, producing captivating podcasts and even live music recitals.

Based in the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) Department, KSFS represents the best of college radio with programming as diverse as SF State itself. Students have the freedom to play and say pretty much whatever they like, leading to talk shows and podcasts on a range of topics and avant-garde playlists from all music genres.

Cyberpunk and cyber hip-hop are getting major airplay on the station, and funk is enjoying a renaissance, KSFS General Manager Jenna Venuti says. Many of her peers are just beginning to take advantage of the station’s vast collection of vintage vinyl records and the dual turntables. They can plug in their own digital turntables with a laptop, but most just connect their phone to the audio board with an auxiliary cord.

Venuti, Samantha Ferro, Jennifer Gee, Alexandra Lopez and Briana Keys have hosted the talk show “Crave Radio,” airing every Wednesday. Each brings her own perspective and passion to her segment: Ferro focuses on the culture of her home country of Italy. Gee explores soul searching. Lopez offers commentary on the San Francisco 49ers. Keys serves as a mental health advocate. Recent in-studio guests have included the consul general of Italy and a candidate for U.S. Senate.

two students doing a podcast

Photos by Kevin John Perez

a student reading a book in a library with shelves full of vinyl records

“The BECA program has provided me with hands-on experience that you just can’t get outside of college,” Gee says.

Ahbree Innis, an Environmental Studies major and host of “Green Piece,” enrolled in KSFS this spring for her pursuits in conservation and her dream to host her own program on public radio. In between songs, she discusses environmental issues accompanied by nature sounds, creating a relaxing, ambient tone. 

“I place myself as if I’m in the ocean, with sounds of waves in the background, and talk about pollution and plastics in the ocean,” Innis says, describing a segment. 

In a format similar to the National Public Radio “Tiny Desk” concert series, bands sometimes perform live on air inside the station, right in front of the shelves of vinyl. It’s the same space where students can often be found taking Polaroid selfies or taking a nap on the couch.

“I call it controlled chaos,” says the KSFS adviser, Professor Jeff Jacoby. “This is college radio.”

Listen to KSFS 24/7.