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Undergraduate Researchers Find Opportunities for the Asking at UC Merced

November 14, 2005

Undergraduate Researchers Find Opportunities for the Asking at UC Merced

With UC Merced’s excellent faculty-student ratios, undergraduates are finding opportunities to participate in faculty-directed research projects. Some are exploring different options for their futures, while others dig deeper into their favorite subjects.

Before he even arrived at UC Merced, Nolan Noble got to know Professor Shawn Kantor by e-mail. Eventually, he ended up as Kantor’s assistant on a project studying the economic outcome of government spending on higher education.

I’m learning how to handle the data to ensure that they make sense as a whole, Noble says about his work on decades of survey results.

Maria Avila’s work with Professor David Ojcius on Chlamydia research fits her interests in cellular and molecular biology as well as her passion for women’s health issues.

This project makes a huge difference in my education, she says. It provides application of the concepts I learn in class, and that completely reinforces my learning experience. Avila hopes to become a professor or researcher herself.

Isabel Brasil has known for years she was interested in psychology and is now exploring specialties that interest her through research.

I wanted to find out if I would like this kind of work, she says. I was worried about landing in a field I would not enjoy for my career. Her research with Professor Will Shadish, analyzing the methods of psychological experiments, is going well so far; she hopes to continue working with him through the rest of her time at UC Merced.

Before beginning college, Chris Butler worked in construction, where he became interested in water contamination. So when he decided to come to UC Merced, he contacted the water experts on campus. He found a place working with Professor Tom Harmon, preparing low-cost, easy-to-deploy sensors that monitor soil and groundwater.

This has been a very hands-on experience, just jumping into the project and learning to make it work, Butler says of his position as the sensor guy on Harmon’s team.

Hands-on experiences like the ones these undergraduate researchers are finding at UC Merced go a long way toward preparing them for future endeavors in academia and in other careers.