Vanessa Woods

Lecturer with Potential Security of Employment
Psychological and Brain Sciences
UC Santa Barbara


Vanessa Woods received her BS in Biopsychology and her Ph.D. in Neuroscience, with an emphasis in Behavioral Pharmacology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Vanessa was awarded the Harry J Carlisle Award in Neuroscience in 2006. She joined the faculty at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2016. Dr. Woods lab looks at factors that influence student success in academic settings, focusing on psychological factors and resource knowledge and use that impact student outcomes such as feelings of efficacy, as well as more tradition student success measures, such as individual success in a class or overall GPA. In short, the lab studies how various factors (i.e. mentoring, appraisals of academic challenges and threats, resource knowledge and use, and sense of belonging) might impact student experiences and associated success. We have a partnership with the Transfer Student Center (TSC) and conduct research on the Transfer Student Mentorship Program on both student success and will expand to look at processes that are changing in the mentors as well.

Dr. Woods lab is involved in a collaborative project with Dr. Freedman in the Physics department to look at student success factors in the Physics 1 series, including looking at how various active learning techniques are affecting students’ success, overall and by subgroups (i.e women or first generation students). If we can understand which active learning techniques work well for women and men we can increase success of traditionally underrepresented groups in STEM (i.e .women in Physics). Dr. Woods is starting a collaborative project with the SciTrek program on campus to assess the effects of SciTrek on students’ attitudes towards science, and their identity as a scientist. This project is an exciting new project that could provide evidence of concrete ways to increase diversity in STEM fields. Dr. Woods is trained in culturally aware mentorship practices and is involved in training undergraduate mentors on campus through various classes and centers. Dr. Woods has trained mentors for the Opening New Doors to Accelerating Success center and Transfer Student Center on campus, as well as training mentors for the SIMS program which is a freshman orientation aimed at increasing URM success in STEM fields. Dr. Woods also runs a collaborative group with Dr. Walker that brings workshops to staff that explore culturally aware mentorship practices that are important to consider in interactions with students.


UC Berkeley UC Riverside UC Santa Barbara UC Santa Cruz HHMI