University of California San Diego women’s basketball senior guard Taylor Tanita has been an integral part of the program over the last four years. The Culver City native tied for team-high in assists as a redshirt freshman, earned All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) second-team honors and led the Tritons to the NCAA Regional final as a sophomore, helped win the CCAA regular season title as a junior before suffering an ACL injury, and now has UC San Diego in first place in the CCAA standings (5-0) as a senior. Taylor is also a standout off the court, earning CCAA All-Academic honors every year as a mathematics and computer science major.
As part of her graduate school application, Taylor conducted a research project over the summer using stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG) test data, and presented it at the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) Annual Meeting in Phoenix. SEEG is an invasive surgical procedure used to identify areas of the brain where epileptic seizures originate. Taylor used data provided by hospital MRI and CT scans in an attempt to automate the process of locating electrodes placed in targeted areas of the brain, as the existing method is very error prone. Ultimately, her research will help perform more large-scale analysis on SEEG recordings, and help us understand where certain functions originate in the brain.
We caught up with Taylor for the latest Triton Q&A to discuss her rehab from a knee injury, the challenges of being a mathematics and computer science major and what she enjoys most about Christmas.
Q: What are your thoughts on the season so far?
Taylor: It’s going really well. We had a couple close games in the preseason we wish we could have won, but ever since then I think we’ve figured it out. We’ve been doing well in conference (play).
Q: Why did you begin playing basketball?
Taylor: Both of my parents play basketball, my dad especially. When I was little I actually didn’t want to play at all, but I really wanted to wear a uniform. So my parents signed me up and I’ve liked it ever since.
Q: What was it like rehabbing after ACL surgery in February?
Taylor: It was really hard because last year we were doing so well, and when I got injured, it kind of threw things off a little bit. Since it was my second knee injury I sort of knew the process, and that made it a little easier. At this point, it’s just a matter of being confident in myself and the process and trust that it will all be OK. We have everything we need already, so I just contribute what I can and set the team up in good positions. I feel good.
Q: Why did you decide to major in math and computer science?
Taylor: I always was sort of a numbers person. I thought about economics, but one of my teammates during my freshman year, Rachel Marty, was into computer science and it was something I had my eye on. I took a couple classes and I really liked it.
Q: What’s the most challenging part about your major?
Taylor: The hardest part is just the time that it takes. Some of the classes require about 20 hours a week, which is not really ideal during the season. Also, sometimes your code will not work, and it takes persistence to figure it out. It’s very frustrating, but when it gets working, it’s very rewarding. It’s like a puzzle.
Q: What was it like presenting your SEEG research at the BMES Annual Meeting in Phoenix?
Taylor: The conference was a really cool event. There were people from all around the country presenting their research. If you got accepted, you made a big poster and put it up. People just walked around, and if your research pertained to their interest, you talk to them about it. I met a couple really cool people from colleges around the world and talked about my research and how it aligned with theirs.
Q: What is your ultimate career goal?
Taylor: It’s something I’m still thinking about. Graduate school will be a PHD program, so that will take five years. I’ve applied for a few computational neuroscience programs, so that’s one career path I’m thinking about. I would also really like to go into data analysis for sports analytics, so that’s another field I’m looking into.
Q: What do you enjoy most about attending UC San Diego?
Taylor: For me, it’s the perfect balance between academics, athletics, weather and culture in general. It really has allowed me to pursue all the things I want to pursue, while also playing basketball and having fun with that. The overall experience is probably the best part.
Q: If you could go anywhere for vacation, where would you go?
Taylor: I’ve never been to Europe so that’s the next destination I would go to. I’d also really like to visit Australia and South America because I’ve never been. I’ve already been to a couple places in Asia, Africa and around the United States.
Q: Who’s a celebrity you would like to meet?
Taylor: Sterling K. Brown, who plays Randall on my favorite show This Is Us. I don’t know if it’s him I like or just the character he plays, but Randall is the best TV personality I’ve ever seen. He’s my favorite character.
Q: Do you prefer watersports, or outdoors activities?
Taylor: I definitely prefer the beach and watersports because I’m not really much of a nature person. I like to be in the water and at the beach.
Q: Do you prefer to eat pizza, burgers or taco shop?
Taylor: Being in San Diego, I have to say tacos. But burgers are a very close second.
Q: Who’s your favorite athlete?
Taylor: Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul. I love watching him and I got to work at his camp here. I got to know him and his family a little bit, and just seeing how he interacts with his family and how he treats basketball as a leader on the floor is something I really look up to and I’ve always admired about him.
Q: Who’s your favorite music artist?
Taylor: I’m a die-hard Taylor Swift fan, but I also really like Adele and Justin Bieber.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to watch?
Taylor: I watch a lot of TV. I really like This Is Us, and I’ve also been watching Grey’s Anatomy forever as well as Scandal.
Q: What’s your favorite fruit?
Taylor: I really like acai bowls. Also mangos.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Christmas?
Taylor: I’d say Christmas morning. My mom always makes breakfast, so I wake up to the smell of food. Then we all gather around the tree and open presents.
Q: What’s the best Christmas gift you’ve ever received?
Taylor: A Vitamix blender from my parents. Mainly because I wasn’t expecting it.
Q: What’s your goal for the rest of the season?
Taylor: We have really big goals for the rest of the year. We want to go undefeated in conference, win our conference tournament, host the NCAA Regionals, go to the Elite 8 and win a national championship. We’ve set our bar really high, and we know we can get there. It’s just a matter of the discipline day in and day out.
Previous Triton Q&A Features
11/16/17: Arman Momdzhyan (Men's Water Polo)
11/11/17: Ella Verhees (Women's Cross Country)
11/1/17: Katie O'Laughlin (Women's Soccer)
10/23/17: Adam Navigato (Golf)