Research Emphasis Attracts Student Engineer to UC Merced

Research Emphasis Attracts Student Engineer to UC Merced

Anley Tefera goes by "T" among his friends - and even though this is his first year at UC Merced, he seems to have no shortage of them. Maybe that's because by now, he's a pro at major transitions.

Tefera came to the United States from Ethiopia as what he calls an "asylee" - a political-asylum immigrant. He was on his own in his new home in Logan, Utah, where he attended Utah State University as an electrical engineeringmajor. (He had completed high school at age 16 in his home country.)

"It was a big change," he said. "I went from a hot climate where it never snowed to a cold climate with lots of snow, and from a place where everyone was black to a place where almost everyone was white."

He stuck it out for a few years in his initial landing place, and then decided he wanted to change his course again. He had an aunt in California, and he originally thought he'd transfer to UC Davis, near her home in Stockton. But she moved to Livingston, just minutes away from Merced.

"My auntie encouraged me to visit UC Merced, just to look," Tefera said. "Then I went to the Web site, and the school's emphasis on researchcaught my attention."

Tefera had already determined that he ultimately wanted a doctorate in biomaterials. He saw UC Merced's bioengineering majorand knew he'd found his place.

"I talked to some administrators and found out what I needed to do, establishing residency in California and preparing to transfer," he said, "And I did it. And now I'm here."

Just weeks after his arrival, Tefera was approached by classmate Christian Ayeni about starting a club - the UC Merced chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.

"At first I wasnt sure, but then I started to realize that this is what UC Merced is all about," Tefera said. "And the dean was really supportive, meeting with us and encouraging us."

The group now has more than 30 members. Tefera recently traveled to Orlando, Fla., with four other engineering undergrads to attend the national NSBE conference.

"It was great to meet so many people who shared my major, my color, who are doing the same things I'm doing," he said. "One workshop connected ancient technology in Ethiopia with present-day technology in ways I'd never thought about before. That was great."

He started making connections with grad schools, and even found a bioengineering Ph.D. student from Georgia Tech who he thinks will help mentor him. And he helped talk up UC Merced, as well.

"I feel like we're putting UC Merced on the map," he said.

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