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Academic Studies

Students at all levels find plenty of academic challenges and passions at UC Merced.

UC Merced faculty members are dedicated to nurturing an academic culture that fosters interdisciplinary research. Faculty areas of research strength cover an array of fields, including applied math, literature, political science, artificial intelligence, bioengineering, climate change, cognitive science, solar and renewable energy, and water quality and resources.

Through rigorous classroom and laboratory experience, UC Merced graduate students receive a world-class education. Learn more about graduate programs available.

Applied mathematics involves the use of analytical and computational mathematics to solve real-world problems. Its core is based on modeling, analysis and scientific computing. The Applied Mathematics graduate program at UC Merced offers opportunities for students interested in multidisciplinary mathematics projects at the interface with life sciences, physical sciences, engineering and social sciences. Coursework provides training in the fundamental tools of applied mathematics, including ordinary and partial differential equations, asymptotic and perturbation methods, numerical analysis and scientific computing. An explicit goal of applied mathematical sciences is to contribute significantly to other disciplines. Hence, the objective of applied mathematics is to foster multidisciplinary research and education. Master of Science (M.S.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are offered.

The Biological Engineering and Small-scale Technologies (BEST) graduate group offers a multidisciplinary research and training program for master-level and doctoral students who want to be at the forefront of the modern revolutions in bioengineering and/or nanotechnology. The program encompasses two themes. One, with an emphasis on bioengineering, seeks to discover and formulate design principles behind the structures and modes of operation of living matter at various length scales, ranging from biomolecules and cells to full organisms. The other, with an emphasis on materials science and engineering, applies the tools of nanotechnology to create transformative nanomaterials with exciting new properties. Both themes include among their interests the implementation of nanoscale and/or bio-inspired devices for applications in human health, green energy, artificial intelligence and environmental sensing. BEST students will be exposed to, and benefit from, a thoroughly multidisciplinary training that synergistically incorporates elements from engineering, physics, chemistry and biology. M.S. and Ph.D. degrees with emphases in Biological Engineering and Small-scale Technologies (BEST) are offered.

Chemistry and Chemical Biology is research-based and offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in four emphasis tracks: physical chemistry, organic chemistry, computational chemistry and chemical biology. Successful graduates from this program will possess the fundamental knowledge needed to understand and critically evaluate current research in their chosen subfield of chemistry; communicate fundamental concepts in their field as well as their own research effectively, in both written and oral form; conduct themselves ethically and responsibly in science-related professions; be proficient in laboratory, theoretical, and/or computational techniques necessary to contribute to knowledge in their chosen subfield of chemistry; and identify new research opportunities, plan effective strategies for pursuing these opportunities, and conduct research that makes a new contribution to knowledge in their chosen subfield of chemistry.

The Cognitive and Information Sciences (CIS) Ph.D. program offers students interdisciplinary training in cognitive science with an emphasis on computation, technology and applications. This emphasis distinguishes it from other cognitive science graduate programs. UC Merced researchers view intelligent behaviors not just as emerging solely from neural processes, but from interactions between brain, body and environment. Thus, intelligent behaviors may also emerge from group and social interactions situated in their economic and technological milieu. The word “information” in CIS denotes our multi-scale perspective on cognition, and our emphases on computational approaches and applications toward developing technologies that foster — and even aspire to emulate— intelligent behavior. Our award-winning faculty members specialize in a variety of areas that intersect at this nexus, including computational modeling, complex systems theory, distributed cognition, categorization, psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics, visual perception, cognitive engineering, service science, artificial intelligence, reasoning, computer vision, philosophy of mind, cognitive neuroscience and bioinformatics.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Merced is for students ready to engage in cutting-edge research that crosses disciplines. Our faculty members and students actively seek to uncover new knowledge in related areas covering everything from robotics and mechatronics to computational neuroscience and animation. EECS emphasizes research and prepares students for leadership positions in industrial labs, government or academia. M.S. and Ph.D. degrees with emphases in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are offered.

The Environmental Systems graduate program trains students to tackle the most challenging problems facing our planet — water, soil, climate, energy and resources. Through understanding the Earth as an integrated system of atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere that intersects human society, ES students are uniquely poised to address critical research needs of the environment and its sustainability. Graduate students in the ES program are prepared for careers in academia, research, government and industry that integrate expertise from across engineering, natural sciences and social sciences. Master of Science (M.S.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are offered.

The Interdisciplinary Humanities graduate group is an innovative graduate program that incorporates anthropology, the arts, history, and language and literature to offer individualized, research-based courses of study that explore cultures in their local manifestations and in a global context. Students explore and apply the methods by which historians, literary scholars, anthropologists, artists, philosophers, scholars of cultural studies, and other humanists and social scientists examine societies and cultures. The program exposes students to many humanities professions and trains students to engage the public. Master of Arts (M.A.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are offered.

Mechanical Engineering (ME) graduate studies at UC Merced are dedicated to the education of a new generation of mechanicists and researchers of areas related to mechanical engineering who aim to master the fundamentals of the mechanical sciences — which include disciplines such as continuum mechanics, fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, energy conversion and others — while being exposed to the forefront of research techniques, methodologies and equipment to solve problems that are relevant to modern society. Master of Science (M.S.) and& Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in engineering with emphasis in Mechanical Engineering degrees are offered.

Physics graduate studies spans the traditional disciplines of physics, as well as related interdisciplinary areas. Emphases include atomic, molecular and optical physics, condensed-matter physics, biophysics, materials physics, nanoscience and energy science. Physics graduate students are trained in a broad foundation in the fundamentals of physics; experimental, theoretical and/or computational skills necessary to conduct independent research; new, interdisciplinary research areas; and communication of physics concepts and scientific results for expert and non-expert audiences. Master of Science (M.S.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees are offered.

The Political Science program offers students quantitatively focused graduate training intended to prepare them for research careers. The program is distinguished from other political science Ph.D. programs in a number of ways. First, the program does away with traditional subfield boundaries that restrict innovation and interdisciplinary research. Instead, our program trains students in two broad areas: political cognition and behavior and political institutions and political economy. Second, the program provides one-on-one research training for all students starting in the second year of study. Third, the program is intentionally small to ensure that all students receive the financial support, attention and mentorship necessary for successful careers. The program is research intensive, innovative and tailored to students’ individual interests within the field. Ph.D. degrees offered.

The Psychological Sciences program supplies students with a strong base of coursework, including methods, statistics and a one-year professional seminar covering the breadth of psychology. This foundation is supplemented by more specialized work in one or more of these three areas: developmental psychology, health psychology and quantitative psychology. Students are actively engaged in research from the start of their graduate training through to the end of their doctoral work. This research emphasizes close work with faculty mentors, with increasing independence over the years of training. Ph.D. degrees offered.

The Quantitative and Systems Biology (QSB) program offers quantitative training to suit students’ preparation and needs, an interdisciplinary cohort of students and faculty members to build each student's confidence in working in collaborative cross-disciplinary teams, and the opportunity for students to master the concepts and technology of modern biological research. As the defining focus of a biology graduate program, QSB aims to accelerate the pace at which paradigm-shifting discoveries transform biology. The program has strengths in four particular areas within biology: molecular and cell biology; ecology and evolutionary biology; systems and synthetic biology; and quantitative biology and bioinformatics. Master of Science (M.S.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees offered.

The graduate emphasis in Social Sciences — Public Health offers graduate students individualized training with our diverse faculty members who mentor students to conduct transdisciplinary, community-based research to address health issues that are important to vulnerable populations in rural areas. Some examples of current research areas include chronic-disease prevention, reducing health disparities, environmental health, Latino health, cancer, and health promotion and behavior change. These areas of study are part of our emphasis in prevention sciences, a transdisciplinary course of study that gives students the skills and training they need to address pressing public health problems. Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with an emphasis in Public Health degrees are offered.

The UC Merced graduate program in Sociology is distinctive in that it provides intensive mentoring and personalized attention to small cohorts of accepted students. Our faculty members study a unique combination of topics, including social inequality (race, class, gender, sexuality), political participation and social movements, health, immigration and education, all of which are synergistic and relevant to contemporary issues facing the nation and beyond. Students receive extensive training and experience in social theory, multiple research methods and advanced statistics. Ph.D. degrees offered.