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Grad Student Seeks Answers, Ph.D. and a Little Bit of Down Time

May 25, 2007

Grad Student Seeks Answers, Ph.D. and a Little Bit of Down Time

Don’t call Gyami Shrestha a tree hugger.

Sure, she loves hiking, is a vegetarian and avoids driving when she can. But Shrestha said she’s simply an environmental scientist trying to find truth and solutions to a global problem.

“I guess I’m a little bit of an idealist,” she said.

Shrestha is a Ph.D. candidate at UC Merced, focusing on black carbon in the environment - specifically, she looks at the amount of black carbon left by forest fires and car emissions and its possible effects on the soil, air and water. The goal is to find ways to repair the damage.

“We are not telling people “don’t have a barbecue,” but there are other ways to cut back on combustion activities in daily life,” she said.

Born and raised in Nepal, Shrestha said she was destined for a life of scientific problem-solving.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I asked too many questions,” she said.

She pursued an undergraduate degree in environmental science, writing her thesis on rainwater-harvesting technologies. Then she decided to earn a master’s degree in Wyoming and try to figure out long-term solutions.

The interdisciplinary graduate program at UC Merced and the chance to be a part of a growing campus brought Shrestha to California to pursue her doctorate.

During her two-and-a-half years at the Merced campus, Shrestha said she has taken each opportunity presented to her to help build up the graduate department for future students.

She is a member of the Graduate Student Association, sits on the Student Affairs Advisory Committee and served on the search committee that chose Chancellor Steve Kang.

“He said he really wants to work with graduate students,” she said.

With her oral exams out of the way, maybe Shrestha can relax for a little bit and take in a movie with her husband, who finally moved from Wyoming to Merced after a year of separation.

But her Ph.D. work is never really on the back burner.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job,” she said, “and we are always thinking about our research.”