MERCED, CA — Gifted young scholars often seek the leading edge of civilization in search of the sheer joy of discovery and accomplishment. The academic adventurers who lined up at the doors of UC Merced this fall are no exception. Eleven graduate students will begin coursework and research at the new university Monday, before there is even an official physical campus to call home.
Outstanding faculty, cross-disciplinary research and the campus' Merced location are among reasons cited by the students for their decision to pursue their studies here, along with the chance to blaze a new trail.
“Like many grad students, I had a choice of graduate programs,” says Glenn D. Shaw, who studies hydrology in pursuit of a Ph.D. under professor of engineering Martha Conklin. “I feel like it will open up a lot of opportunities for me in the future, having been involved with UC Merced at its genesis.”
Shaw has lived in Merced with his wife and children since August 2003, when he began his research as a staffer. He has found some opportunities already, including an internship this past summer with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The grad students and their faculty advisers are working for now at the university's facility at Castle Aviation and Economic Center, where labs and offices have been established over the last several years. They will move to the new Merced campus as space becomes available, beginning next year.
Location was a key element in the decision of Ph.D. student Don Schweizer, a National Parks Service employee at Yosemite involved with vegetation management and ecological restoration. He now studies under professor Sam Traina, who also directs the Sierra Nevada Research Institute (SNRI).
“Living and working in Yosemite is wonderful, and the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. so close to home was just too good to pass up,” he comments. Schweizer hopes to stay on with the Park Service and advance to increasingly better positions after completing his doctorate at UC Merced.
The students will prepare for the future in individualized graduate programs in the schools of Natural Science and Engineering. Interdisciplinary graduate courses to be offered this fall are Hydrology and Climate, Environmental Systems Seminar and Current Topics in Quantitative Biology.
“I came to work with the faculty at UC Merced, which I knew was a first-class group, and to avoid getting pigeonholed into a narrow specialization,” says Ph.D. student Rob Root, who studies geochemistry under professor Peggy O'Day. “The emphasis on interdisciplinary research here was a big draw for me.”
Root and his wife purchased a home in Merced when they arrived in January and are already having a positive impact in the community. Missy Root, who has a Master's degree in early childhood education and stays home to care for 2-year-old Addie, leads a children's story time every other Friday morning as a volunteer at the Merced County Library.
“It took a pioneering spirit for these students to come on board. They will be rewarded with their places in history as the first students and graduates of the tenth campus of the University of California,” says Keith Alley, Vice Chancellor of Research and Dean of Graduate Studies at UC Merced. “Students who will follow in their footsteps will be grateful for the contributions these founding students made to the campus and community.”
Graduate Program applications are now being accepted through the Online Graduate Application system. Students interested in applying to the UC Merced Graduate Program for the Fall 2005 semester are invited to file an application. Applications are being accepted for M.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the following areas of concentration:
- Environmental Systems
- Quantitative and Systems Biology
- Molecular Science and Engineering
- Social, Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences