It was 2003, a full two years before the UC Merced campus began its first academic year, when the seeds were first planted for what would become the Frontiers of Science and Technology lecture series.
Founding faculty member Christopher Viney helped forge the connection between UC Merced, the Castle Science and Technology Center, the Challenger Learning Center, the Castle Air Museum and the local chapter of the California Air Force Association. Edie Magerkurth of the Air Force Association and Jay Hawkes of the Castle Science and Technology Center were looking for speakers to celebrate “A Century of Powered Flight” in 2004, and Viney saw a chance to help entrench UC Merced into the community.
“I'm really into community building,” Viney said. “We have a job to do for California. There's some expectation here that we will be not just educating students, but that we can anchor all sorts of good things for the community.”
The first year's series, which mostly focused on the powered flight theme, featured an impressive lineup of some of UC Merced's pioneering faculty members — Viney, Roger Bales, Mike Colvin, Tom Harmon, Gregg Herken, Valerie Leppert, Peggy O'Day, Maria Pallavicini, Sam Traina, Roland Winston and Jeff Wright.
Under Viney's leadership, the series was renamed Frontiers of Science and Technology in 2005 and has been going strong ever since. It routinely features some of UC Merced's top professors and has included representatives from all three schools: Natural Sciences, Engineering, and Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. And in 2009, Chris Ferri became the first undergraduate student to give a talk as part of the series ( view a complete list of past speakers).
Viney managed the series until 2009, when he handed the reins to physics Professor Lin Tian, who now organizes it along with engineering Professor Qinghua Guo. Viney and Tian agreed that the series — which often sees audiences of more than 50 — has served to further understanding and knowledge of science and technology among the surrounding community.
“We do this as a service to our local community and as something we want to contribute to the growth of the next generation of Valley kids,” Tian said. “It helps UC Merced to connect with its local community. It is a positive influence on the next generation of scientifically literate citizens.”
The lectures, which are free and open to the public, are held at 10 a.m. the third Saturday of every month at the Challenger Learning Center in Atwater during the fall and spring semesters.
This year's lectures, which begin Feb. 19, will feature the following speakers:
• Feb. 19: Tom Harmon
• March 19: Lin Tian
• April 16: Erik Menke
• May 21: Teamrat Ghezzehei
• Sept. 17: Christopher Viney
• Oct 15: Mayya Tokman
• Nov. 19: Marcelo Kallmann