Looking out his bedroom window a mile from campus, incoming freshman David Thatcher has watched UC Merced’s buildings rise in the last two years. But he’s had his eye on the tenth campus in the UC system for a lot longer than that.
When Thatcher moved with his family to Merced in 1997, he was only ten. He remembers the community’s excitement trying to bring the campus here and was thrilled to learn that it would be open for his freshman year in college.
“In my family it was always just assumed that I would go to college,” Thatcher says. “I always knew I needed a college degree to get a high paying job.”
Thatcher’s family has already established the college-going culture that UC Merced is trying to nurture in the region. However, that doesn’t remove all the obstacles to higher education.
“My family doesn’t have a lot of money, and none to spare to send me away to college,” Thatcher says. He’ll be financing his education through scholarships and grants. “I’ll be living at home while I go to school, which will help a lot,” he adds.
As he finished his senior year at Merced High School, Thatcher met with Dean Maria Pallavicini and Professor Anne Myers Kelley of the School of Natural Sciences to learn about what science programs he’d find here. That meeting led to his current job as an assistant in Kelley’s lab, where he is synthesizing gold nanoparticles for use in her pioneering work with raman laser spectroscopy. Thatcher looks forward to a major in chemistry when that program is introduced in the Fall 2006 semester.
Thatcher plans to participate in campus intramural sports, particularly water polo and swimming. Though there’s no pool yet at UC Merced, he may be able to satisfy his aquatic urges through the university’s agreement with the Millennium Sports Club.
He’ll balance those interests with academics as he pursues his education, eventually planning to obtain a Ph.D. and become a medical researcher. For a kid from Merced with goals like that, having a research university in his hometown has made all the difference.