37: Maya Weeks


Geography Graduate Group

Program and year of study

PhD, 1st year 

Previous degrees and colleges

BA Language Studies (Spanish), University of California, Santa Cruz

MFA Poetry, Mills College

Where did you grow up?

In a small town in San Luis Obispo county here in California

Where do you live now?


What's your favorite spot in Davis?

The redwood grove in the Arboretum

How do you relax?

Ideally surfing, but I haven’t gotten to the coast that much since starting classes, so mostly by running, swimming, painting, and hanging out with friends

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl (fiction) by Andrea Lawlor and The Easy Body (poetry) by Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

What TV show are you currently binge-watching?

I am so bad at TV.

Research interests

I work on oceans, gender, logistics, waste, and militarization. This has primarily taken the form of studying imaginary and material effects of trash in the ocean (marine debris). I also hope to study marine nuclear waste before too long. 

Dissertation title or topic

My tentative topic is the gendered effects of waste that circulates in the oceans (primarily the Pacific and the Arctic) due to political-economic conditions such as state support of fossil fuel products.

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

I first became obsessed with this research when I learned that roughly 90% of the waste in the oceans is microparticles (mostly microplastics) that don’t “stay put” in the world’s garbage patches (of which there are at least five major ones and many smaller ones). I became further obsessed when I learned that contaminants from these particles disproportionately affect bodies sexed female at birth. 

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

My poetry professor at UC Santa Cruz, Gary Young, recommended that I do an MFA in writing, which felt pretty nutty, because I am a first-generation college student. Javier Arbona suggested UC Davis to me for my PhD when I was considering geography programs.  

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

I’m reading Elspeth Probyn’s Eating the Ocean right now, and it’s blowing my mind: the way she synthesizes a wide variety of theories into a comprehensive thesis in graceful, fleshed-out language makes the academic writing a pleasure to read. And even though it is beautiful, the aesthetics don’t take precedent over the concepts. I feel really seen by this book. 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

My advisor Julie Sze’s (American Studies) work on environmental justice, Diana Davis’ (Geography) work on arid lands, Javier Arbona’s (American Studies and Design) work on infrastructure, and Tim Choy’s (Anthropology) work on pollution is all tremendously exciting to me. 

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

Both the ability to prioritize research while still doing creative work on a flexible schedule and meeting other people doing super interesting work! 

What's the worst?

Scrounging for funding

If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?

Still being a freelance writer and artist  

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What will you do for field work?

I plan to get on more boats to sail with natural scientists researching trash in the ocean to understand how they conceptualize and represent marine debris! 


—February 2018


Are you a grad student in the Division of Social Sciences at UC Davis? Do you enjoy answering questions? If so, .