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Cozy Campus, Research Opportunity Benefit Engineering Major

November 10, 2011


Coming from a private high school in Sacramento, Ian Donahue knows a thing or two about small class sizes.

The 21-year-old UC Merced senior from Jesuit High School has been having flashbacks to his high school days of late, especially in courses for his materials science and engineering major, which often have as few as 10 students per class.

The small size of the newest UC campus was a major reason for Donahue’s decision to attend UC Merced, along with the people.

It just seemed like a place where you could succeed and everyone wanted you to succeed and wanted the best for the school,” Donahue said. “It was so small, and that was definitely a plus. It’s so one on one, and the classes are so small. I feel like if I went somewhere else, I would be just a number.”

The close interaction with faculty members that has become a hallmark of the UC Merced experience has paid off for Donahue. A week before summer school began this year, Donahue walked into Professor Valerie Leppert’s lab and asked if he could have a position doing research.

Donahue had taken classes with Leppert earlier in his time at UC Merced, but he was surprised to find her willing to bring him into the lab on such short notice.

I couldn’t have done that at any other school,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I love UC Merced.”

Donahue, who plays intramural basketball when not busy with his 17 units of coursework, is helping Leppert with health-related research that could lead to major developments in drug delivery. They are testing the ability of human lungs to absorb tiny particles called silica, which could be used to effectively transport medicine through the body.

In the lab, Donahue has had a number of jobs, from conducting tests to gauge the pH levels of silica to fixing a vacuum pump and cleaning lab materials.

It’s just a nice learning experience, being able to work in that environment,” Donahue said.

Now nearing graduation, Donahue said he hopes to find a job in his field of study or pursue graduate school. Wherever he ends up, he knows UC Merced helped set him on the right path.

The school itself is such a nice place to go,” he said. “I’ve been so happy with the professors. It seems like all of them care, like everyone wants you to succeed. The tools to succeed are right in front of me. I just have to go to school and be involved.”