Andrea Mercado has a knack for finding opportunity. She left her hometown of Lake Arrowhead in Southern California for college in Seattle, but a year later, her horizons opened up in a different direction.
Mercado, a 2010 graduate, majored in applied mathematics  with an emphasis in engineering mechanics and a writing minor. But that's only the start of Mercado's accomplishments at UC Merced. She also served in the Associated Students of UC Merced Senate and helped found the UC Merced chapter of Lambda Alliance, an organization that helps to represent the interests of LGBT students and faculty on college campuses nationwide.
Mercado remembers her experience with Lambda as particularly strengthening and inspiring. While at UC Merced, she came out as a lesbian.
"It was challenging, not because I faced hardships at UC Merced or in the community, but because I had to do most of the overcoming," Mercado said. "UC Merced's welcoming and encouraging environment helped me flourish."
Mercado also worked as an intern with UC Merced Facilities, implementing improvements on the Central Plant and developing the Energy Performance Platform (EPP). During her internship, she worked on mapping the specifications of the EPP and developing metrics to monitor energy efficiency in UC Merced's buildings. The work was subsidized by a grant from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
After her graduation from UC Merced, Mercado began working at LBNL as a research associate in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division.
"My internship with (UC Merced Director of Energy and Sustainability) John Elliott was what landed me the job here at LBNL and prepared me for the tasks ahead," Mercado said. "Now I'm testing the EPP for accuracy so it can be deployed to the UC Merced campus as a reliable means of monitoring the sustainability of our buildings."
In her job, Mercado researches energy sustainability methods in buildings, including developing metrics, modeling and classifying and interpreting building data. In addition to working on the EPP, she is organizing a large database that will store data from buildings nationwide.
"I love the location, my colleagues, the projects I work on, knowing that I am helping the environment by helping make buildings more sustainable, and giving back to UC Merced by staying involved," Mercado said.
Mercado plans to pursue a graduate degree at UC Berkeley, then a career in energy sustainability. While she eagerly anticipates that future, she also looks back with pride on her years at UC Merced.
"I am proud to have graduated from UC Merced, to have had the opportunity to leave a footprint and encourage its good reputation with my career," she said. "It hasn't been that long since I left, but I'll remember it forever the way I remember it now."