Edirin Egbikuadje has been juggling soccer balls for as long as he can remember.
Now, the senior mechanical engineering major is juggling a lot more — engaging classes, hands-on research and much more.
"My experience has been amazing," Egbikuadje said. "I really like the community here. Small feel, everybody knows your name."
The ability to conduct research as an undergraduate has been the most important experience at UC Merced, he explained. Students at other campuses have not gotten the same opportunities to work side-by-side with renowned faculty as he has.
The Modesto native spent the past summer applying mechanical engineering knowledge in Professor Jian-Qiao Sun's lab working on model-based control design systems.
"We are trying to develop a model of the thermal processes in the buildings and based on that model design a control system for HVAC systems," he said. "Optimizing the HVAC systems leads to better energy efficiency in buildings."
As an upper classman, he has a few tips for new or incoming students who want to make the most of their UC Merced experience.
"The first years are the best," he tells incoming students. "Take advantage of the small class sizes. Build personal relationships with professors and TAs, they will help you get internships and jobs and sharpen your skills before you go into the world."
For Egbikuadje, life at UC Merced isn't all research and no play.
Three years ago, he founded UC Merced's intercollegiate men's soccer team with a fellow student, and he has been the team's captain ever since.
"It was a dream of mine to get soccer going here at UC Merced," he said. "It has been experience to watch it grow from something so small."
There are about 20 members on the team with about 60 students trying out each year, which is up from 30 when they started the team.
"I have been playing soccer for as long as I can remember," he said. Perhaps he gained his skills from his family — his older brother and sister played and his parents played when they lived in Nigeria.
When he isn't studying, attending classes or performing research, Egbikuadje enjoys playing bass guitar with other students and community members.
As for soccer, he said "it is my little bit of life that keeps me sane."