Biscotti, Dina Louise

Dina Louise Biscotti 

black and white photo of Dina smiling

Dina Louise Biscotti grew up in Claremont, California and graduated from Claremont High School in 1991. She earned her BA in Sociology at UC San Diego in 1996 and her PhD in Sociology at UC Davis in 2010. Dina died in December 2014 due to an aggressive and rare form of uterine cancer. She is survived by her parents, Dr. Louis Biscotti of Claremont, and Shirley Biscotti of Fairfield; her sister Bridget Biscotti Bradley, brother-in-law Kirk Bradley, nephew Keegan Bradley, and niece Grace Bradley of Menlo Park; her brother Michael Biscotti of San Diego; her husband Siva Gunda, from whom she separated in 2012; and her partner Zane Starkewolf, whom she was with since summer 2013.

Dina was an economic sociologist with expertise in innovation systems and inter-organizational relationships and an activist for environmental and social justice causes. A scientific researcher who was also an extremely effective public speaker and communicator of ideas, she had a passion for public service and believed strongly in the importance of economically viable, socially equitable, and environmentally responsible organizations.

Dina’s work focused on implementing California’s landmark climate policy (AB32) as California Policy Organizer with BlueGreen Alliance (BGA), a national coalition of labor and environmental organizations including Natural Resource Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Union of Concerned Scientists as well as ten labor unions, including the Utility Workers Union of America and United Steelworkers.

As part of BGA’s national “Repair America” campaign, Dina advocated for infrastructure investment in our energy transmission, water, communications, transportation, existing natural gas distribution pipelines, rail, and transit systems to create good jobs and address the immediate and long term effects of climate change.

Dina’s crowning achievement with BGA was her contribution to secure the passage of SB1371 (Leno) Gas Pipeline Leak Repair and Emissions Reduction in 2014—a bill that directed the CPUC to develop and implement a comprehensive statewide strategy to reduce emissions and prevent and repair leaks in California’s natural gas pipelines. 

Prior to joining BGA in 2013, Dina was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center, where she led a research investigations on several interrelated projects focused on the diffusion of energy efficiency measures through social institutions and structural barriers to the adoption of energy efficiency technologies and practices as well as strategies and policy interventions for overcoming those barriers.

As a Lecturer at UC Davis, 2007 to 2012, she taught undergraduate courses in economic sociology, organizations, corporations and society, labor and employment, and field research methods. She was active in UAW Local 2865—the UC Student Workers Union—and UAW Local 5810—the UC Postdoc Union—during her graduate and postdoctoral work. Through the UC Berkeley Labor Summer program, Dina worked with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. 

Dina served on the Leadership Council of the Climate, Mind and Behavior Program of the Garrison Institute in New York. In 2011, she organized the first three-day Energy, Organizations, and Society workshop at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management with EEC Director Nicole Biggart and Associate Professor Tom Beamish.

Dina served on the Board of Directors at the Davis Food Co-op from 2010 to 2013 and conceived and organized a distinguished panel of collaborative local Davis visionaries named “Raising Davis” that celebrated cooperatives and participatory organizations that were vital to the cultural development of the City of Davis.

Dina was an active and much loved member of Lutheran Church of the Incarnation. In 2013, she was the impetus for LCI’s decision to participate in the two year GreenFaith Certification Program as a house of worship that protects creation, saves money, and fosters interfaith and intergenerational learning, which was achieved in 2015. Also, she was instrumental in LCI’s Cool Climate Award for Energy Efficiency from California Interfaith Power & Light in November 2015. 

Prior to her life in Davis, she was Division Manager of the Hematology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dina was also a Political Section Intern of the American Embassy in Rome, Italy. She managed a Specialized Center for Research in Molecular Medicine and Atherosclerosis at UC San Diego School of Medicine and coordinated an English Language Program at UC San Diego Extension. 

In 2015, Dina was honored by a Memorial Resolution of the California Legislature and a Proclamation from the Davis City Council for her lasting contributions to the Davis Community and the State of California. She was also honored by the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation with the Dina Biscotti Community Award presented at the “Right Stuff Awards.”

Dina’s dissertation, “Beyond Knowledge Transfer: The Social Construction of Autonomous Academic Science in University-Industry Agricultural Biotechnology Research Collaborations,” analyzed U.S. university-industry agricultural biotechnology research relationships. Drawing from in-depth interviews with over 200 scientists and administrators from nine U.S. research universities and thirty agricultural biotechnology companies, she examined narratives and practices related to the social production of autonomy for academic science. Her work revealed interdependencies between academy and industry, specifically in terms of their shared interest in the status and public credibility of academic science. 

Dina’s scholarly achievements include: 

2013 Fred Buttell “Outstanding Scholarly Achievement” Rural Sociological Society

2009-2010 UC Davis Sociology Department Research Grants

2006 UC Davis Graduate Studies Dissertation Fellowship 2006

2000-2005 UC Davis Floyd and Mary Schwall Fellowship

1998 Betty Tate Memorial Scholarship, UC San Diego

1996 UC Education Abroad Program Merit Scholarship

A small sampling of Dina’s extensive research and publications include: 

“Constructing ‘Disinterested’ Academic Science: Relational Work in University-Industry Research Collaborations,” Politics and Society. 40(2):273-308.

“Political Structures and the Making of U.S. Biotechnology.” Pp. 57-76 in State of Innovation: The U.S. Government’s Role in Technology Development.

"Commercial Science, Scientists’ Values, and University Biotechnology Research Agendas.” Research Policy. 40: 957-968.

“The ‘Independent’ Investigator: How Academic Scientists Construct Their Professional Identity in University-Industry Agricultural Biotechnology Research Collaborations.” Research in the Sociology of Work, Volume 18, “Economic Sociology of Work,” pp. 261-285.

“Close Enough but Not Too Far: Assessing the Effects of University-Industry Research Relationships and the Rise of Academic Capitalism.” Research Policy. 37: 1854-1864.

“Industry Perceptions of University-Industry Relationships Related to Agricultural Biotechnology Research.” Rural Sociology. 72:608-631.

“University Administrators, Agricultural Biotechnology, and Academic Capitalism: Defining the Public Good to Promote University-Industry Relationships.” The Sociological Quarterly. 48:141-163. This paper was awarded Pennsylvania State University’s Roy C. Buck Faculty Award.

“Agricultural Biotechnology and University-Industry Research Relationships: Views of University Scientists and Administrators and Industry.” National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Report 18: Agricultural Biotechnology: Economic Growth Through New Products, Partnerships and Workforce Development, pp. 229-238.

“The State of Street Lighting in California, 2012: A Study of Public Infrastructure and Energy Use in California.” 

Tributes to Dina:

“I remember Dina being such a wonderful light, making difficult meetings with legislators go so well, pushing us to be our best, and really having faith. We worked a lot together defending the state’s clean fuels standard. I always felt lucky to have her by our side as an advocate. So smart and so wise. She walked the path of goodness and inspired me to be at my best.” —Simon Mui, Scientist, California Clean Vehicles and Fuels, Natural Resource Defense Council

“We have lost a colleague who brought grace and dignity to our common missions.”—Eric Emblem, Executive Administrator, Western States Council, International Association of Sheet Metal Air Rail & Transportation Workers

“Dina was highly devoted to public engagement and building community. She had deep personal integrity in her research, teaching community service and interpersonal relationships.”—Nicole Woolsey Biggart, PhD, Director and Professor, Energy Efficiency Center, UC Davis

“I miss Dina so much…I valued her very positive, principled approach to the world and how she met everything with such integrity…in addition, of course, to the joy and love she embodied at all times.”—Vicki Smith, Chair, Department of Sociology, UC Davis

“Dina had amazing integrity that inspired me and many others. She had a harmony among her intellect, heart, soul and body that is profound and rare. It came through in conversations long and short, in her teaching, research, service in her community…she spoke to my seminar class….the students were treated to seeing her strong intellectual and analytical skills being used to support her efforts to build a more just society. To me, this was a great example of how Dina’s values and beliefs were at the core of whatever she did and how she was able to bring her powerful love for others into all aspects of her life, even when to do so is challenging and sometimes difficult to even comprehend. As I struggle to be a more complete and compassionate person, Dina is an inspiration and role model for me.”—Mark Van Horn, Director, UC Davis Student Farm, and Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences

“Dina was a vivacious woman and tireless advocate for everything she believed in, and just an all-around wonderful person.”—Stacey Kennealy, Certification Program and Sustainability Director, GreenFaith

“…your work will not be forgotten and we will continue to build a community of strength and goodness to press back against the forces that say changing ourselves is an impossible thing to ask. It is, in fact, the very thing we can all actually do.”—Chris Granger, Executive Director, CoolDavis

“Our God is well pleased with the work and commitment and energy she has put into making Earth more healthy and beautiful for all of us.”—Allis Druffel, Southern California Outreach Director, California Interfaith Power & Light

“She was so vibrant, bright, and lovely…people like her should live forever, not just in our memories.”—Jim Cramer, Professor of Sociology (retired), UC Davis

“Dina was one of California Interfaith Power and Light’s most loyal and devoted volunteers. Dina gave inspiration and courage to our organization almost from the beginning. We owe her so much.”—The Reverend Sally Bingham, California Interfaith Power and Light

“I am so very thankful for her life and her love and service to God’s good creation.”—Rev. Dr. Johan Bergh, Lutherans Restoring Creation Coach for GreenFaith Certification Program

“I remember Dina’s positive energy, enthusiasm and generosity of spirit. She was an invaluable volunteer, friend and supporter. She labored for the things she cared for—equity, justice, and the integrity of Creation. I so enjoyed working with her and knowing her. Her contributions were significant to our organization and movement. Her intelligence, spirit, energy and kindness will be sorely missed.”—Susan Stephenson, Executive Director, Interfaith Power and Light

“Dina possessed in undue amounts what most people seem to lack as a basic value, and that value is compassion. She excelled at helping people, and was able to take her own experiences and turn them into an opportunity with which to relate to them and connect with them on a human level.”—Lucas H. Frerichs, Legislative Director, Office of Assembly Member Rich Gorden

“She was a kind and gentle spirit and a tireless advocate who never backed down from a fight.”—Kristin Heinemeier, Principal Engineer, UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center

“Her smile, her energy, her positivity and commitment will be with us always.”—Katy Janda, Professor, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University

“She was the one who took the initiative to focus on the welfare and treatment of our staff. We worked together on this initiative and developed a deep respect for each other as colleagues and became good friends. She came to trust me and I her. When I talked about Dina, my wife said ‘she must be special because you don’t let many people into your heart.’ Dina was a special spirit. A spirit truly of openness and love.”—Desmond Jolly, Director, Davis Food Co-op

“She was an amazing advocate: professional and polite, but also firm. I believe now that Dina was brought into my life to inspire me to continue the work of lobbying for environmental protection…firm in my convictions and beliefs…polite but unyielding.” —Victoria Rome, California Legislative Director, National Resource Defense Council

“When Dina and I finally connected on the phone, she was persuasive, funny, smart, alive. Eventually we met at some event, but by then we had talked and emailed often and she always made sure her messages didn’t get lost….she was remarkable and generous, smart and competent, alive…so alive.”—Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club, California

“…we will always remember your smile and kindness…you are such an inspiration to all of us.” —Nasim Tajmand, Co-Founder, Davis Women Energy Associates

“She was the sweetest person I ever knew…if I live to be 100, I will never forget her.”—Ian Fletcher, Business Intelligence Developer, Cardio Dx

“In the brief time I knew Dina, I could tell she was a special person. She was taken much too soon. She was a genuine, authentic person. She was one of the good ones.”—Tracy Dunne, CPA, CFE 

“Dina was my Teaching Assistant and colleague in Italian-American Cinema. I will never forget Dina’s presentation on Martin Scorsese’s Italian American, a docufilm about his Italian roots growing up in Brooklyn. She captured and conveyed to our students and myself the significance of immigration and identity between worlds. She did it with the precision of the sociologist, the creativity of the artist and the passion of the Italian American. We became friends. Dina will forever be a luminous gem in our common migratory identity, a precious bridge between cultures.”—Margherita Heyer-Caput, Professor, UC Davis

“I met Dina through my wife, Jill, and grad school. She was always so loving and gracious. She truly was the most selfless person I know.”—Dale Bewly, Technical Lead – Servers, Pixar Animation Studios

“Dina was the most sincerely enthusiastic and least bitterly alienated person I have ever known. The world is now worse.”—Tim Gutierrez, Lecturer, UC Davis

“I met Dina eight years ago in Davis when I was brand new to this country. I came from India as a new bride. I had no friends, no support system and things were so different for me here. I met Dina and I felt like one of her many missions was to make me comfortable. She drove me to different places, tried to enroll me in book clubs, found Indian friends for me just so I felt at home. She taught me so many things in those few hours I spent with her. She truly was my HERO in those days and will be for being so generous, compassionate and loving.”—Jyothi Tadimalla, Account Manager, Artech Information Systems

“Dina was one of the first friends I made in Davis. She was my friend and big sister ever since. She was kind, generous, my best admirer and my worst critic. I learned a LOT from Dina. She meant SO MUCH to me. I will miss her for all my life.”—Deepa Thalikar, Web Developer, UC Davis

“I first got to know Dina in the new member class at LCI. It was then that I knew she would make a difference in many lives. Her care for others, her natural fit for advocacy, her intelligence, ambition, and potential in making our planet a better place.”—Carol Huegli, Associate Director, Nutrition Services at California Department of Education

“I didn’t know Dina very well, but did have many opportunities to share important times—celebrating her wedding, her work on green jobs, work on political life in Davis. She brought such amazing love and energy to her work that she left a deep joy in my soul. She will be long remembered.”—Chris Benner, Professor, UC Davis

“Dina was an amazing light...force to be reckoned with…a beautiful person with conviction and unbounded energy in forging and transforming justice for our planet and all who live on it. She will be desperately missed. It is too soon.”—Gwynn Benner, Coordinator, Career Services for Master’s and PhD Students and Postdocs, Internship and Career Center, UC Davis

“Dina was enthusiastically kind. She was genuinely fun, smart, and believed in equity—creating a better world for all.” —Ed Clemons, Board of Directors, Davis Food Co-op 

“Dina had such an incredible combination of intelligence, skill, passion and kindness. I was always struck by her incisiveness and how well she could articulate broad and complicated dynamics with such crystal clear precision. She had so much love to give. She made so many people and organizations feel STRONG.”—Lisa Hoyos, Director, Climate Parents

“She was a passionate champion who brought fierceness for winning good, just policies. She was a pleasure and a kick to work with. I will miss her partnership in making this a better world.”—JB Tengco, BlueGreen Alliance

“I feel so lucky to have known Dina. What an impressive woman! She stood out from the very first encounter, such a remarkable bright spark of a person. She had the best ideas and the skills to act on them…and the energy…I miss her but I have to think she was needed urgently for some higher calling.” — Wendy James, CEO, The Better World Group, Inc.

“There is a huge hole in the universe where she once stood. The communities she impacted, and there are many, will miss her dearly.”—Susan Frank, President & COO, The Better World Group, Inc.

“During the short time I knew Dina she was such an amazing influence, a great mentor during my struggles with my dissertation, and a great person to go to for advice. I will miss her. I am still struggling to accept that she is gone.”—Yumiko Henneberry, Senior Environmental Scientist, Delta Stewardship Council

“At a difficult time in my life, as a teenager, Dina listened and talked to me, counseled me, cared about what I was going through and shared her own experiences. I admired her spirit, compassion and desire to do for others, learn, share. She was an agent of change and compassion and I hoped to be like her when I was 15 and continue to.”—Erica Botz, daughter of Pia Botz, longtime friend of Dina’s mother.

“Dina was an absolute joy to be with both professionally and personally. She always brought an uplifting spirit to our meetings. Her death is so tragic because she had so much to offer to make this world a better place. She was universally loved and respected. I will miss her forever.”—Dave Ervin, Professor, Portland State University

“She was my best and dearest friend from college…a friendship that spanned 20 years. I will love and miss her the rest of my days.”—Raquel Parra, San Diego

“I am Dina’s first, but often distant, cousin. Most of my life has been spent away from my cousins in both distance and relationship. In my adult years, I was fortunate to have several opportunities to get to know a wonderfully engaging, intelligent, and beautiful person. I was amazed I was related to such brilliance as I’d rarely encountered. Scarcity is a topic we had discussed in a conversation we had several years ago. It is important because it makes things valuable. So now that I know those rare times spent together are small gifts she has given me. I will treasure those glimpses into a brilliant soul, and make every effort to incorporate her zeal for knowledge and life into my own. She really was exceptional and someone I hope my daughters grow to be like.”—Tobin Whitaker, Revenue Cycle Program Manager, PeaceHealth

“The last conversation I had with Dina was at the Food Co-op where I work. It was a very positive interaction (as every conversation I recall having with Dina was), but I walked away from it with both a great appreciation for Dina and the person she was and a big sense of ‘oh no!’ Dina had a quality of presence that I’ve come to associate with people who instinctively know that their time is short. We expressed gratitude for each other’s dedication to the Food Co-op. I thanked her for her service on the board, and she encouraged me to stay involved with the ‘Treatment of Staff Task Force’ of which she’d been a part. She asked about Sunwise Co-op where I live, and she told me that she loves the fig tree next to our house. She said her cat Oliver was buried under that tree years ago and that he’s part of the tree now. I promised to say ‘Hi’ to Oliver of the fig tree. In the short time we knew each other, it was clear to me that she was an amazing person and truly a light in the world.”—April Damen, Davis Food Co-op

“Dina was the dearest and most loving ‘daughter-in-law’ we ever had!”—Bette and George Starke, grandparents of Zane Starkewolf

“Dina was one of the most wonderful people that have crossed my path in life. She shined! My life would have been less full if I hadn’t met her. We talked many times after lobbying together. They were thoughtful conversations about our lives and the lives of others. She was an amazing woman. If I had a daughter, I would only hope that she could have been as marvelous as Dina. A life well done as short as it was.”—Ron Espinoza, Staff Representative, Sub-director, United Steelworkers

“I worked with Dina on Senate Bill 1371, a landmark statute that will be part of her living legacy. Dina embodied the maxim ‘Philosophers have interpreted the world; the point is to change it.’ This law requires reductions in methane emissions from pipelines. It is a centerpiece of California’s climate change strategy. Dina’s role was to bring together the labor, environmental and environmental justice groups to promote the bill in the public interest.” —Bill Julian

“Dina’s awesome mind, great commitment, and kindness will always be with me.” —Steve McMahon, 

“She was amazingly big-visioned. She brought together a panel on which I spoke, “Raising Davis,” of those who created some iconic institutions in Davis, like the Co-op. She had so much depth, life, enthusiasm, light, she shone bright while with us and I will remember her youthful passion and community caring for history forever.” —Ann M. Evans
“Dina always made such an impression on me; she lit up the room with good humor and genuine concern for individuals and the larger community and world.”—Sheri Hembree Reynolds 

“I remember Dina as funny and kind. She was a delight to work with. She would roll-with-the-punches as work events rarely go smoothly. She carried on professionally and with enthusiasm. I have many fond memories that will comfort me—as her passing came far too soon.”—Valerie Johnson 
“I admired her….my life was enriched by her indomitable spirit. My only regret is not knowing her better and making more time to be in her world. I’ll take that lesson with me—make time for the people and experiences that matter. Do not delay.”—Kelly C

“I only knew Dina a few years, but I am grateful to have loved her as a Sabbath Sister in our monthly dinner group. I loved cooking for her and feeding her, and I really enjoyed spending time with her. Dina was a Rock Star—a huge blessing to LCI and to the world!”—Karen Hamilton, member, Lutheran Church of the Incarnation

“I only knew Dina after she joined LCI. She was a fireball of energy and light. As soon as I met her, I knew I wanted to have her as my friend, because I wanted to absorb the excitement and love and joy which seemed to emanate from her. I will miss her light!”—Ellen Kolarik, member, Lutheran Church of the Incarnation

“The first time I ‘met’ Dina through a conference call, I knew she was different. Her love of life, of her work, her commitment to organizing and improving peoples’ lives, rang through her energetic and enthusiastic voice. As we shared time together, I marveled at her courage, resolve and acceptance. She was such a bright light. She taught me much about myself and my life is changed because of what she gave me.”—Jamie Knapp

“Dina was the kind of person who welcomed you into her life and quickly went to the heart of your shared interests. She was an amazing spark and light.”—Robb Davis

“Dina was so special in so many ways, but I want you to know what a truly gifted sociologist and intellectual she was. She could have had a brilliant academic career, but she worried that it was too solitary a life for her. Given how little time she had, she made the right decision. I will miss her, but I was blessed to have known her.”—Fred Block, Research Professor, Sociology, and Dina’s Dissertation Advisor 

“Dina will always hold a special place in my heart for her fight, passion, fun, insights and deep caring for others and our planet.”—Joe Krovoza, UC Davis Transportation and Energy Efficiency

“There are so many fond memories of our work together and friendship, and her brilliance and kindness.”—Kate Clancy

“It was a joy getting to work with Dina on my thesis and at the Energy Efficiency Center. Her optimism and genuine interest in my work helped me to greater develop my ideas and further my career. She left an important mark on my life and I will always remember her.”—Laura Flynn, JD, UC Davis School of Law

“Dina had a way of making a big world small and a small world big, in so many and positive ways. As the cliché goes, she thought and acted local and global. Her memory and life will continue to shine bright and inspire us to care for each other and the planet and beyond.”—Mark Carlson

“I will miss your smile and warm wonderful spirit dear friend…always so generous, kind, and selfless. I’ll treasure all the memories.”—Christine Jones, Software Engineer, Unix Infrastructure Systems, Pixar

“Dina was like a big sister to me. In the 12 years since we met in grad school, she counseled me through numerous career decisions and boyfriend sagas. Even when I saw her just a month before she died, she was still upbeat and full of helpful advice for me despite everything she was going through. I will miss her generous spirit and devoted friendship terribly.”—Laura Maestrelli